The Osprey Levity 45 ultralight backpack is like a prizefighter, ruthlessly cutting weight.
It is the lightest weight pack that I have seen that retains the look and feel of a traditional backpack. The pack is also extremely comfortable with a fantastic amount of back ventilation built in. The lack of weight, however, comes at the cost of functionality and durability.
- Lots of back ventilation
- Significant pack sway
- Less durable than other packs
When I was in my early 20s, my friend invited me on a 50-mile backpacking trip through the Sawtooth Mountains of Central Idaho with his Boy Scout troop.
After a couple of days, we were tired of the scouts, and my friend was excited to get back to his fiancé, so we ditched the group and ended up hiking out the last 25 miles in one day. It was my first 20 plus mile day and I was unprepared for it.
I remember eating pizza in Stanley, Idaho afterwards and not being able to lift my hand to my face because I was too sore. I spent the next 25 years shaving weight off my pack to keep my shoulders happy so I could eat pizza after long days on the trail.
One of the things I have found is that lightweight backpacks are not for everyone and not for every situation.
If, however, you are tired of not being able to eat pizza and need to shave some weight off your gear, a lightweight backpack like the Osprey Levity is a great place to start.
Hands-on Review of the Osprey Levity 45
The Levity has a total of 45 liters of capacity distributed between the main pack, a large back pocket, and two large side pockets. This is the perfect size for my trips for up to 6 days in moderate conditions.
The Levity is comfortable when carrying loads up to 25 pounds and becomes increasingly less comfortable as the weight increases. This pack is not for you if you routinely carry loads over 30 pounds. It weighs 1.852 pounds, making it one of the lightest packs I have tested. The Gregory Focal, for example, comes in at 2.54 pounds with similar features.
The pack is white with light blue and grey accents. I’m not a big fan of the color scheme and the pack looked dirty after one trip through the burnt-out forests of central Idaho.
I prefer a smaller pack because it helps me make better discissions on what to pack, but if you need more volume, it also comes in a 60-liter version. Osprey also makes a woman’s specific version called the Lumina that also comes in 45- and 60-liter versions.
I am 5’ 10” and weigh in at about 170 pounds. The size medium fits me perfectly.
Outdoor Empire Score: 5/5
The main pack is made of 30D Cordura Silnylon Ripstop with accents, and the bottom is made of NanoFly 210D nylon. The theme of this pack is weight savings over everything, and it shows here.
The 30D Silnylon of the main body feels super thin and I was afraid I would puncture or rip it at any moment. It didn’t happen while I was testing the pack but I was always nervous about it.
The pack has no waterproofing and will require an insert like a trash compactor bag or a pack cover if it looks like it’s going to rain.
The Levity, despite being lightweight, is well made and the construction is mostly well thought out. This is expected from a company with a reputation as good as Osprey.
The main pack is basically a giant sack with no dividers and only one access through the top. Zippered access panels, found on other bags, add weight and this pack has no room for that nonsense.
The top has an extended tube and closes via a draw cord. There is a top pocket that provides a certain amount of vertical compression. Not having dividers makes organizing gear a little tricky, but it can be done with a bit of practice and forethought.
To further help regulate the pack’s volume, it uses a paracord to zigzag back and forth across the side of the pack to add compression. This system seemed to work just fine, and I was able to manage the volume inside the pack.
However, being a lightweight paracord, the system did not give me as much confidence as the standard webbing systems found on packs like the Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50.
As mentioned above, the Levity 45 has a top pocket and that makes me happy. Other lightweight packs like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Junction 2400 forgo this pocket.
I like separating stuff like my keys, headlamp, and other small items that don’t fit other places. Plus, it allows easy access throughout the day without digging through the main pack. The top pocket is well thought out and big enough to fit the stuff I want to put into it.
The pocket, it should be noted, is sewn into the pack and cannot be removed or extended. Most top pockets on packs, like the Gregory Focal, can be.
The outside edge of the top pocket is made with an elastic bungee. This is great because sometimes I am too lazy, I mean efficient, to want to open the main pocket. So I will place items like Chacos or a small jacket under the flap. The elastic helps seal these items making them more secure.
Side and Back Pockets
The Levity 45 has two large side pockets and a large back pocket. The pockets are made of 210D nylon. I prefer that the back pocket be made of a mesh material since I will sometimes put wet stuff back there, like my rain fly, to dry out during the day or just to separate it from the dry stuff in my pack.
I am a big fan of packs with large back pockets, and even though the pocket is not mesh, I still like it. It is large enough to stuff my whole rain fly in with extra room for toilet paper. It is also easy to access without undoing a bunch of buckles.
The side pockets were large, and I could easily stow longer items like tent poles and my Tenkara fly rod without any problems. The compression system on the side helped manage this load. They are big enough to carry a liter bottle of water on each side. This is my preferred method of carrying water.
The pockets have two openings to them—one at the top and one at the side for easy access to water bottles. Gregory has a similar system on their Focal 48 pack, and it is the best I have ever used. The Osprey system did not work as well for me. The front opening was too small and I had a hard time getting my water bottle out of it.
I found the pockets to be secure and never lost anything out of them, even when scrambling over downed and burned-out trees.
The Levity 45 in its ruthless quest to drop weight cut out the hip pockets. After getting used to having snacks and my phone easily accessible on other packs like the Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor, I miss these pockets and I think that it’s unfortunate that Osprey cut these out.
Suspension and Weight Distribution
Outdoor Empire Score: 3.5/5
The suspension system of a backpack is how the pack supports the load and helps distribute the weight between the shoulders and hips. Suspension systems can range from complex and heavy to simple and light.
I would classify the suspension system of the Levity as more on the complex side with all of the adjustments that you would find on a bulkier pack yet it remains lightweight.
The Levity 45 has a suspended mesh back panel that keeps your back from contacting the back of the pack. I was impressed with the amount of airflow and ventilation. I can fit my whole hand between the mesh and the back of the pack.
On a recent trip, a friend of mine, using the Gossamer Gear Gorilla, commented on how sweaty his back was at the end of the day. I realized at that moment that my back was not sweaty at all.
A square frame around the back panel and a single horizontal stay provide a good amount of structure to the pack. It is made of lightweight aluminum tubing.
The Levity includes load lifter straps to help pull the load closer to the body and fine-tune the fit. These are important because the load is carried a little further back from the center of mass due to the mesh back panel.
While testing this pack, I took a trip to Soldier Lakes in the Frank Church Wilderness of Central Idaho. The trail should have been easy and well maintained, but a fire had recently burned through the area, leaving dead and fallen trees in its wake.
Instead of an easy trail, we had to work our way over and around the burned-out trees, and this is where the fit of the pack broke down for me.
I tried to dial in the fit with the load lifter but despite having a light load, I discovered a significant amount of pack sway. Every time I lifted a leg to get over a log, the pack would swing uncomfortably from side to side. Even after adjusting all the straps, it would still sway.
To be fair, a friend of mine also used the pack and he didn’t find any pack sway like I did.
The hip belt is an integral part of the back panel and cannot be removed. I find that this helps distribute weight to the hips better than packs with removable hip belts.
The suspension on this pack does a decent job distributing the pack’s weight between my shoulders and hips. Of course, as the pack becomes heavier, more and more of the weight is carried by the shoulders.
Outdoor Empire Score: 4/5
Comfort is subjective but I found this to be a very comfortable pack. The back mesh panel design is a winner in my book, and I enjoyed putting this pack on.
To get this level of comfort out of a pack this light requires some work of course. Keeping heavy items as close to the center of gravity is essential, as is keeping the weight under 30 pounds.
Versatility and Accessories
Outdoor Empire Score: 3/5
The Levity 45 is not a versatile pack. It is used for one thing and one thing only: lightweight backpacking. I just can’t imagine using it for anything else.
Osprey does not make any accessories for this pack. Even though no accessories are made for the Levity 45, I could easily attach my camera bag to the shoulder straps to carry my heavy camera around without any bounce. I felt like I could also attach third-party accessories without any problems.
Outdoor Empire Score: 4/5
The Osprey Levity 45 retails for $250, which puts it in the middle of this category. This works out to an average of $5.55 per liter.
Outdoor Empire Score: 3.9/5
Osprey is known for making high-quality packs and the Levity 45 is no different. They have been able to take features from their more robust packs and put them into an amazingly light pack.
Osprey was brutal in their quest to drop weight and you will be happy that they did on that last mile of a long day on the trail. This pack won’t appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy long days, you stay on trail, and are just as brutal at reducing your base weight, the Osprey Levity 45 might be for you.
On Osprey’s website, they say that this pack is probably not for you and they are correct in that this pack is marketed to and designed for a pretty narrow group of people. This pack is designed for experienced backpackers that are hiking 20-to-30-mile days.
The Levity is a pack for the person going all-in on being an ultralight backpacker. Someone aiming for a base weight of 8 to 12 pounds and no more than 25-30 pounds overall pack weight.
|Levity 45||Recommended For||Not Ideal For|
|Flexibility||Prefer specialized gear||Prefer versatility|
|Trip Length||2-6 days||>6 days|
|Base Weight||7 to 10 pounds||>10 lbs|
|Total Weight||20 to 30 pounds||>30 pounds|
|Miles per day||20 to 30 miles per day||>30 miles <15 miles per day|
|Type of trail||Well maintained||Mostly off trail|
If you just want to dip your toe into lightweight backpacking, I suggest the Gregory Focal 48. It has all the same features and is super comfortable, but it is a little heavier and more forgiving.
With the lightweight material and pack swaying, I recommend this pack for people planning to mostly hike on trails. If you plan on extensive off-trail travel, I suggest the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Junction 2400. It weighs about the same, is super durable, and has less pack swing. It’s just not going to be as comfortable.
If you want a pack that will do a variety of things or is hard on gear, there are better packs for you. This pack is also not for the casual backpacker. If you want a more versatile pack, look at the Flex Capacitor by Sierra Designs.
To learn about more of the best ultralight backpacks, check out our buyer’s guide.