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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Lumina and Levity Backpacks > Test Report by Kurt Papke
Test Series by Kurt Papke
I do most of my hiking in the desert Southwest, but occasionally get up into the Pacific Northwest and my old stomping grounds in Northern Minnesota. I am a comfort-weight guy when it comes to most gear, trying to stay as light as possible but I don't go to extremes. I do use lightweight packs whenever my load weight and volume allows.
The Osprey Levity 60 is termed a "Super Ultralight" backpack by the manufacturer. Osprey is remarkably candid in their website description: "In fact, it's probably not the right pack for you. It's for people who pack lighter, go further, and think smarter." The design does however make some compromises on their lightweight goal for comfort, primarily:
On the other hand, the pack has almost no padding anywhere, not
for the lower back, hip belt straps (see the front and back of the
hipbelt at left in the photo below) and very little in the
shoulder straps (see the front and back of the shoulder straps at
right in the photo below). The mesh backpanel provides a lot
of "give" in the lumbar region with the flexing of the stays and
mesh, so padding there was not likely needed. Osprey labels
the "padding" in the shoulder straps and hipbelt as their
"Exoform" technology, which is a seamless, layered mesh.
Features not included:
That's a pretty short list - for such a lightweight pack, Osprey
didn't have to cut out a whole lot.
Initial InspectionThe first thing I noticed when I picked up the pack is that it is light, yet the frame is quite rigid. The aluminum stay is taut within the frame, and should do a good job of transferring the load to my hips.
The shoulder straps and hip belt are soft, but devoid of padding, so I'll be interested to see how comfortable they feel after several full days on the trail. The shoulder straps look like I should be able to stuff a sock or something similar into it for extra padding right where it hits my clavicle, so I'll have to experiment with that a bit. For reasons I don't understand, the "tube" of mesh that makes up the shoulder strap pad is sewn shut at the top but open on the bottom, so I could stuff some socks in from the bottom, but I'd be a little concerned they would fall out. It would have made more sense to me to reverse that and have it open on the top and sewn shut on the bottom.
Bear canister compatibility: a BV450 fits horizontally, a BV500 (both firm, stiff round bear canisters) fits vertically only. The back of the main compartment is *very* convex to get the air spacing behind the mesh backpanel, which doesn't jive real well with a convex bear canister. To get efficient use of space behind the canister will require stuffing smaller loose clothing items like base layers or socks to fill the gap. This will unlikely be a problem for me, as I normally use an Ursack (soft fabric sack for food wildlife protection) which is more pliable and fits better into irregular spaces. I attempted to show the curvature of the back panel with the photo below. I stuck my hand in there to give a sense of scale, but the fact that I can fit my hand into the gap between the mesh and the panel gives an indication of how much the stays bend the main compartment in. Just below my middle fingertip in the photo a cross-stay is visible, which also pushes the frame in horizontally, so the main compartment is convex in two dimensions.
Fit: I loaded the pack up with a bunch of gear and tried the pack on. All the adjustment straps work smoothly, I like the front-pull straps on the hipbelt. All the straps seemed about the right length, no excessive slack when tightened, none too short. The length of the pack felt good - I am typically challenged on this dimension as I have an unusually long torso, even for my height. Comparing the dimensions of the small/medium/large packs shows that only the height changes with the size. The width and depth are all identical, so the sizes are primarily an accommodation for torso length.
The pack did feel like it rode high on my hips, but perhaps it will settle down when loaded up with food and water weight.
Accessibility: I am able to reach into the side pockets through the side hole, but I am a bit dubious of getting water bottles in/out through the holes. Seems like it might work better for small items, but time will tell. I will have to play with attaching water bottles to the shoulder straps, something I am a big fan of because it shifts my center of gravity forward and makes it easy and fast to get a drink.
Materials: the 30D ripstop used for much of the pack is very sheer - you can almost see through it. The 210D fabric used for the front pocket, bottom and lid top is much more robust and stiff. When placed upright on the ground, the bottom of the frame supports the weight of the pack. There is a strip of webbing reinforcement at the low points, likely placed to prevent abrasion. My guess is the bottom of the pack is going to see some wear and tear, but experience will tell.
Osprey has delivered a reasonably lightweight backpack for its volume with an interesting choice of things included and left out. I am intrigued by the product, and look forward to getting it out on the trail loaded up with gear, food and water and seeing how well it carries, and in the long term, how well it holds up.
Acquisition/installation of Osprey 2.5L LT Reservoir
In preparation for my first outing with the pack, I anticipated having to go 24+ hours without access to a water source, so I purchased (with my own funds) the matching Osprey hydration pack, the 2.5L LT Reservoir. I am normally not a big fan of reservoirs, I find them clumsy and I don't like being ignorant of the amount of water I have remaining (it's tough to see how much is left in any reservoir). I decided to make an exception in this case. I will not include the performance of the reservoir in this report, just how well the pack worked with it (or not). Below is a photo collage of the reservoir installed in the pack:The top photo at left is the view looking down into the main compartment. The pack reservoir sleeve was plenty big; it could have contained a substantially larger unit. The hang strap/clip mated well with the reservoir and was just small enough to fit through the handle slot. The hose and connector are visible at the center and top going through the H2O port. The connector is easily accessed to disconnect the feed tube for refilling.
The photo at bottom left shows the feed tube exiting the front of the pack and going over the right shoulder strap, which is the preferred side due to the magnet attachment to the sternum strap that will be discussed next. When I put the pack on, the tube did not interfere at all with my shoulder.
The photo at bottom right shows the feed going through the elastic band on the shoulder strap to keep it flopping over onto my chest, and just below my thumb is the magnetic holder that attaches to the sternum strap cord which in turn is attached to the right shoulder strap. This allows a quick disconnect from the sternum strap to take a drink and easy reconnect.
As might be suspected, these two pieces of gear mate well together, almost as if they were designed to do so by Osprey! In fact, on the Osprey website page for the Levity pack, there is a section for "Buy the Complete System" which includes this reservoir.
This winter seems to be a "complete the list" season for me, in
this case backpacking the last major trail in the Rincon Mountains
of Saguaro National Park that I had not yet done. I had
avoided the Douglas Spring trail for the better part of a decade
due to a reputation for vehicle break-ins, but thought I'd take my
chances. The temperatures were forecast to be pretty hot in
Tucson with highs around 97 F (36 C), so I thought I'd climb to
some altitude in search of cooler conditions despite having to
deal with the heat at lower elevations. This hike is a
"desert to mountaintop" journey, beginning and ending in the
Tucson basin with the attendant dry heat, and an intermediate stay
in alpine conditions in the Ponderosa pines of Manning Camp with
the accompanying cold nights. I had to be prepared for and
thus carry gear for high heat and cold.
While packing up for the trip there were a couple of things that struck me:
The photo in the upper-right corner shows the pack sitting nicely in the roots of a dead Alligator Juniper tree at Cowhead Saddle where I stopped to take a pack-off break. In general, the pack stands up better on its own than most packs I have used due to the stiff frame.
The photo at lower-left shows the pack on me from the front. I noticed I had to fiddle a bit with the shoulder harness belt tension to get it to ride well. I ended up tightening it down a bit more than I usually do - if left loose the pack bounces off my back quite a bit, probably due to the rear-biased center of gravity of this pack. It also seemed like the sternum strap would loosen itself a bit after an all-day hike. Fortunately, the tension on the sternum strap is not critical, so it didn't cause any serious issues.
The final photo at lower-right shows the huge number of steps that make up the elevation change of this hike, about a mile (1.6 km) from the trailhead heading to Manning Camp. It is punishing taking all those steps on the descent, and I was very happy to be carrying such a light pack that minimized the strain on my knees and quadriceps muscles.
I was very happy with how well this minimalist pack carried the weight I threw at it. My initial concerns about shoulder strap and hipbelt comfort turned out to be unfounded. The only complaint I have is the overly-tight opening in the side pockets, making it hard to get my water bottles in/out even when the pack was sitting on the ground in front of me.
The strategy for pocket use that I employed on this trip and the succeeding outings was as follows:
This was a 3-day/4-night car camping trip ("hammock hang"), and I used the backpack just to transport my gear between my car and the spot where I hung my hammock, maybe 100 yards (100 meters) or so. I pretty much lived out of the backpack for the 4 days. After I set up my shelter I hung it from a tree and used it to store clothing, cooking gear, etc. It wasn't much of a test of the carrying ability of the pack, more of its durability and usability for base camping.
It worked quite well for the purpose. The large front pocket was handy to store and access toiletries and miscellaneous gear items. I hung the pack from the carrying handle/strap which seems pretty spartan compared to that found on most packs, but it held up with no issues.
The Huachuca Mountains are little-used, it seems like people are not aware of the excellent hiking there. I hadn't been there for several years, and had never been to the southern terminus of the Arizona National Scenic Trail adjacent to the Mexican border in the Coronado National Memorial. The weather was starting to get hot in Tucson, so I thought heading for some elevation would be a good plan.
I tried to go a little lighter than my Douglas Spring hike, but as can be seen from the table above, I had difficulty getting rid of much. I brought a lighter (net-less) hammock, but more insulation because I was going to be up a little higher. Once again I was fully loaded with water, even though there is a spring not too far from my first night's camp. I've been to the spring before and it had good flow, but we've had a very dry winter and I was concerned I would be dry camping the first night at least.
My intent was to go for two nights, but I ended up cutting it short due to high winds. Not a lot of fun to hang in a hammock when you are swinging in very windy conditions.
The pack performed very well on this hike, the only issue I noticed was some noisy "creaking" of the pack if it was bouncing a bit due to large step ups/downs on the trail. The noise went away eventually, so I don't know what that was all about.
I really appreciated the light weight of the pack on this
trip. I was humping up and down some serious mountains, and
the altitude definitely impacted my hiking performance (that means
I was wheezing a lot). This is the kind of hike where
ultralight gear really pays off.
I was looking for a break from the Tucson summer heat, and I hadn't been up to one of my favorite campsites up on Mt. Lemmon for years, so I set off in search of altitude. The trail begins just a few steps away from the mountain peak, and descends 1300 ft over 3 miles to a bucolic spread of Ponderosa pines with a thick bed of needles beneath. Great spot to pitch a tent, too bad I hang from the trees in a hammock!
Note from the summary table above that I was able to trim both my base and total pack weights a bit to get them under the manufacturer's guidelines for the pack. I only had food for one day, and I brought minimal clothing changes & insulation since the conditions were pretty ideal. The lighter pack weight was very noticeable, causing the pack to ride more on my hips. I think it helped a bit that I cinched the pack shoulder straps down a bit more, so the pack rode more closely to my back; there was little/no gap between my back and the mesh. It's feeling to me that this pack *wants* to be adjusted that way - since the mesh forces a space between my back and the pack, no sense in adding to it with loose shoulder straps.
I started out with 4.75 L (about 5 qts) of water, but on the ascent on the return trip I had consumed most of that so the pack was quite a bit lighter. Always nice to have a lighter pack on a climb. I was amazed how light the pack felt now when putting it on or taking a pack-off break -- with little food or water I felt like I could lift it easily with one hand.
On this trip I crammed more stuff into the lid pocket. It really is pretty good-sized, and it seemed like just when I thought it was full I could cram one more item into it!
One last item of note from this trip: the frame on this pack is
very stiff, to the point that I found I could hoist the mostly
empty pack up by grabbing it from the frame base. I
exploited this to hang the pack from its carrying strap on a
branch stub high on a Ponderosa pine - I was able to reach the
pack way over my head and hang it high. Nice feature for
So far the pack has performed without a hitch. Despite only a small amount of padding on the hipbelt the pack rode very well with loads in excess of the manufacturer's recommendations. The elasticity and spacing of the backpanel from the pack prevented any feeling of irritation from the pack contents impinging on my back, which meant I didn't have to be selective when loading up to avoid placing hard or pointy contents away from the back of the pack. The pack has space to spare for a 3-day trip, even in conditions where I had to anticipate and pack for wide variations in weather.
I am still experimenting with water-carrying strategies with the pack. I carried 1 L (qt) in each of the side pockets on my trips, but accessed the bottles from the pockets only in-camp, not while hiking. During the Long Term testing I hope to try out some other options, perhaps attaching a bottle or two to the shoulder straps which is my favorite method.
One thing I missed on the Levity pack is hipbelt pockets. I
use them a lot on my other lightweight packs to carry
things that I access often while hiking such as my smartphone, a
few snacks, lip balm, etc. I had to carry these in my
pockets which is serviceable, but I really don't like my
smartphone banging around on my thighs while hiking.
Overall I am quite impressed with the size and comfort that Osprey has provided in such a lightweight pack.
The Tucson Backpacking Meetup group traveled to the San Juan Mountains for a week of camping and hiking. Several of us took off and did a 3-day backpacking jaunt. We headed East from Molas Pass on the Colorado Trail, then turned North on the Continental Divide Trail before turning Northwest to our trailhead and shuttle in the Highland Mary Lakes area.
I was tent camping on this trip, unusual for me a die-hard
hammock camper, but much of the backpacking trip was above
treeline and from photos I knew that at least one of our two
campsites had no trees anywhere to suspend a hammock. My
pack was the lightest of my trips so far, though I had to carry
rain gear (poncho) to protect me from the afternoon mountain
thunderstorms. One of the reasons for the lighter load was I
forgot my tent poles and stakes at home (sob!) and had to
improvise. I was also very conservative on the amount of
food I carried, and only toted 2 L (qt) of water since we were in
areas where water should be plentiful. Overall, I did not
use the whole pack capacity - I'd say I had about 10% spare volume
on this three-day backpack.
The following photos were taken along the Continental Divide
Trail, well above the tree line.
The hydration reservoir tube is visible in the photo at left above, but it was dead weight -- I did not put any water into it during this hike. Instead, I used two Platypus soft bottles, one in each side pocket. My goal was to test how easy/hard it is to get bottles in/out of the side pockets. With this style of bottle, they turned out to be easier to get out than in. It's not difficult to get the bottles out of a side pocket, they slide out pretty easily. Getting a partially full soft bottle back in is a little like pushing a rope up a hill - it can be done, but not an easy task. I need to try and experiment with some hard-sided bottles for comparison.
Also note in the photo at left above the small carrying case on my left shoulder. I bought this case years ago for my camera, and it clipped easily to the little horizontal strap (the same one the hydration tube is threaded through). I didn't carry real heavy stuff in the pocket, mostly my iPhone X, and occasionally my InReach PLB. This worked very well, I would highly recommend it. I really enjoyed not having my phone banging against my thigh and/or trekking poles from being stored in my leg pockets.
My fellow hikers remarked on how the pack was much wider at the bottom than the top, as seen in the photo above right. This was accentuated by having water bottles in the side pockets. This contributes to the pack's low center of gravity, hence its high stability (and my body's stability too!) They also commented on how thin the blue straps are on the pack (the color contrast makes them stand out). Despite their minimalist dimensions, they have functioned well so far.
The pack carried well on this trip. Over the three days of hiking, much of it consisting of steep ascents and descents, I never really gave the pack a thought. That's a good thing - the best gear simply disappears and performs its function without you having to think about it. When I needed to grab or stash something from the front pocket or lid I simply did it. I did notice one thing about the lid pocket: it feels like the zipper opening is on the wrong side. With the hard attachment to the frame (non-floating) it seemed like I had to reach around the pack to unzip the lid pocket. It's a small issue, but the fact that I noticed this several times would indicate that it could be improved. At one point I noticed that something in my pack was gouging my back. This rather shocked me, as I had assumed that I could stash gear with wild abandon and the mesh back would keep nasty things away from me. This is true only up to a point - in this case it was my stove that was stuffed in at an odd angle causing a corner to dig into my back.
Descending the Continental Divide
Highland Mary Lakes trail
Grenadier Mountains in the background
Overall a successful outing for the pack and a stellar trip! When I returned from the trek I inspected the pack for any damage, whether from the hike or from being crammed into the back of a truck for a week and found no issues, just a few stains.
SummaryThe Osprey Levity is a huge pack - it is big enough that I found myself regularly carrying more weight than recommended by the manufacturer. The pack carries well across its specified weight range and somewhat beyond. It's easy to pack, easy to unload, easy to access the content on the trail with the exception of the placement of the lid pocket zipper and my difficulty in re-stowing partially filled soft bottles in the side pockets. It's unusual for me to have extra space in a pack - I often end up strapping things to the exterior because I have run out of room to stash gear. If I was serious about trying to shave some more weight off my pack I would consider the smaller Levity 45. Kudos to Osprey for delivering a pack that weighs only two pounds (0.92 kg) that I am pondering whether it might be too roomy for my needs!!
Despite its large volume the Levity 60 carries well, even in tough terrain like the Colorado Trail. Its low center of gravity, the rigid frame that distributes weight to the hips, and the airy back panel make for comfortable all-day hiking.
I have a week-long canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Wilderness planned for next month. I plan to take one of my older, tougher, heavier packs on that trip as I don't trust the Levity frame to hold up to being thrown into a canoe many times on portages. I'm not sure the wire frame would hold up to that kind of abuse, but on the trips I have subjected it to so far the pack has held up well with no signs of wear and tear.
Many thanks to Osprey Packs Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.
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