Gear review: Osprey Levity 60L backpack

Recommended Price: £240
Weight: 0.9kg
Capacity: 60 litres

When backpacking, excessive weight on your back can easily destroy your enjoyment. It’s obvious you need to minimise the weight whilst still carrying all the things you really need and when you’re trying to save every gram, it’s rather galling to see that the weight of many larger backpacks exceed 2kg. One of my favourite items amongst all the kit I’ve ever owned was the original GoLite Gust minimalist pack, based on Ray Jardine’s designs. This radical piece of kit really reduced design features to an absolute minimum, cutting the weight of a large pack down to just 0.6kg. It wasn’t for everyone though; it had no side pockets, no padding on a very minimal hip belt, and no internal structure – so packing it properly required great care; weight was distributed lower on your back just by the curved shape. Most radically it had no lid – just a floppy top with a drawcord, which for me was its most annoying drawback. Whilst you wouldn’t have wanted to carry more than 10kg or so (who would?) – I was more than happy to take all those compromises to save so much weight. The Gust was discontinued years ago now, and GoLite as it was then liquidated in 2014.

Photo: David Lintern

So I was pretty excited to see this new minimal ultralight pack from Osprey. Like the Gust, the back length on a Levity pack isn’t adjustable – instead the pack is available in three different back lengths (there’s also a 40l version); removing any adjustment mechanisms saves complexity and thus weight. Whilst it’s a little heavier than the Gust, the design of the Levity is much more fully featured like a normal pack – with a proper lid (including a top pocket), side pockets as well as a rear pouch, and properly padded shoulder straps and hip-belt. The inclusion of two metal wire bars means that the Levity also retains a proper shape, maintaining a ventilation gap (the Airspeed back system – with mesh against your back rather than padding); it packs much more like a normal rucksack, with zig-zag compression straps down the sides. It even has a pouch for a hydration bladder, which I wouldn’t really expect to have on such an ultralight pack. One thing it does lack is ice-axe loops, so isn’t suitable for winter use.

Photo: David Lintern

Wearing the pack on a couple of different trips with backpacking gear, keeping the load to around 10kg, I’ve found the Levity to be a supremely comfortable carry. Ventilation is excellent – a huge improvement on my old Gust, and the pack has pockets in all the places you really want them. It doesn’t require any special attention with the packing like my old GoLite bag. So how – besides removing unnecessary features – have Osprey achieved such a light weight? They’ve actually used two different fabrics in the Levity. The parts of the pack that are likely to take punishment – the side and rear pocket areas, the base and the main part of the lid are made from NanoFly Ripstop – a very tough nylon. The parts that get less wear – the layers between the pockets and the inner, and the sides and parts under the lid – are made from a very thin siliconised nylon; whilst still very resistant to ripping, this fabric is much more susceptible to abrasion. If you are a climber or going scrambling, regularly scratching your pack against the rocks – the pack may wear quickly, and given the high price, it isn’t the pack to choose. For three-season lightweight backpacking, it’s certainly what I’ll be wearing in the future. It may be pricey but this is one of my favourite bit of outdoor gear I’ve reviewed this year.

Likes: very lightweight, comfortable carry for lightweight loads, omits unnecessary features
Dislikes: expensive, no ice axe loops, parts of the pack susceptible to wear if not used with care

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