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Ultralight pack with a tensioned mesh back

Ultralight packs have been slowly creeping into the mainstream for the last few years as more established companies start making them. Now Osprey, one of the biggest names in packs, is launching its first ultralight packs, the Levity 45 and 60. These will be available in the shops from February. I’ve had a Levity 45 since last summer and so have been able to test it thoroughly in advance of the launch. It weighs 760 grams (Medium size) and so really is ultralight.

The Levity 45 is made from two fabrics. The main body is thin 30D ripstop silnylon. The pockets that surround this along with the base and the top of the lid are made from a tougher 100D ripstop nylon. So far the fabrics have proved durable.

The design is similar to other ultralight packs with open-topped front and side pockets. These aren’t the usual mesh however but solid nylon. This means they protect the lighter main body fabric, especially as there’s no gap between them. However it also means they don’t stretch, limiting the amount you can squeeze into them. The side pockets have lower side openings so you can extract a water bottle from them while wearing the pack. Care has to be taken that smaller items don’t fall through these gaps. The pack also has side compression cords.

Unlike many ultralight packs the Levity has a lid with a roomy zipped pocket on it. This pocket is fixed in place. It doesn’t extend and won’t cover the main compartment fully if you overstuff it. That compartment closes with a drawcord and a compression strap. There’s a hydration sleeve inside with an opening for a hose at the top.

So far the Levity is not unlike other ultralight packs. The big difference comes in the back system. Most such packs have body hugging backs. The Levity has a curved sprung frame and a tensioned mesh backband so there’s a big air gap between the pack and your back. I haven’t seen this in an ultralight pack before. It does mean a less sweaty back (though not a completely dry one), which is good in hot weather, but also means the wind can whistle through and cool your back when it’s cold.

The thin wire frame runs right round the pack and makes the back quite stiff top to bottom. There is some sideways flex. The shoulder straps are thickly padded. The hipbelt is rather minimal though, with thin padding that doesn’t come far round the hips. Both shoulder straps and hipbelt are covered with mesh for breathability. There are top tension straps on the former.

I’ve used the Levity for overnight trips in mild weather and as a daypack in winter conditions. The 45 litre capacity is fine for both light compact backpacking loads and bulky winter day loads. With a weight up to 10kg it’s comfortable. Above that and I could feel the weight pressing a bit too hard on my hips. I think if the hipbelt was a bit more padded and a bit bigger the pack would handle quite a bit more weight. Stability is good for a pack with an air gap. The fabrics have so far proved waterproof but I’d still pack anything water sensitive in a waterproof stuffsack. The pockets are roomy – the front one has a slight bellows – but I’d still rather have stretch ones so I could really stuff gear in when necessary and also to make extracting items easier.

The Levity 45 is well-made, as you’d expect from Osprey, and should last well. As long as your loads won’t exceed 10kg and your gear isn’t bulky it’s worth considering for ultralight backpacking.