Outdoor Vitals Shadowlight Ultralight Review Hiking Pack With Removable CCF Back Pad

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Traditional backpacking has really come along way from the days of 50 pound (22kg) packs to today's ultralight backpacking with a base weight as low as 6 pounds (2.7kg)! Ultralight backpacking isn't just about comfort. It is an art and science. Because you carry fewer things, ultralight backpacking brings you closer to the ultimate ultralight system, which would be carrying just a knife and getting everything you need from your environment. 

While not everyone can pull off the "Life and Times of Grizzly Adams", it's something we can all aim for by carrying fewer things on a trail and let mother ingenuity take its place.

The pack seen pictured, it's the 60 litre Shadowlight Ultralight by Outdoor Vitals - an internal framed ultralight backpack that uses Spectra and Robic Nylon fabric blend to keep the weight down. So much so, in fact, that the Outdoor Vitals Shadowlight Ultralight weighs just 1.9 pounds (890 grams). The drastic weight reduction has been achieved by eliminating internal lining and using 100D Robic Nylon with 200D Spectra Ripstop for the green outershell and 210D Robic Nylon with 400D Spectra Ripstop (black fabric) to reinforce key areas of the backpack such as the base.

The Shadowlight Ultralight is not waterproof but, it has a water resistance rating of 1500mm HH (hydrostatic head), making it suitable for summer camping. Rain resistance is measured as a hydrostatic head in millimetres (mm) and, it's a rating you will also find in camping tents, anywhere from 2000mm HH (year-round camping tents) and 3000mm HH (expedition tents). The Shadowlight Ultralight doesn't come with a built-in rain cover, like the Rhyolite backpack does but you can use the included Nylofume pack liner, which weighs 29 grams.

Ultralight backpacking is all about versatility and efficiency and, the Shadowlight Ultralight ticks those two boxes too, thanks to the integration of a top loading rolltop system, a centre zip and two long elastic mesh pockets aligned side by side, measuring 40cm high and 12cm wide. Being elastic, the mesh pockets are stretchy, allowing you to fit bulky items such as a pair of shoes or a cooking kit. The long mesh pockets have a honeycomb close knit with zigzag stitching finishing the edges to prevent fraying.

The Shadowlight Ultralight has visual branding, which is sewn into the backpack. There is a small fabric tag that reads "Robic high tenacity nylon", an Outdoor Vitals fabric label and "Shadowlight 60" embroidery. Running vertically between the long mesh pockets, it's a 45cm long centre zip and dual sliders. The dual sliders use fabric cord loop pullers, instead of metal pullers. The centre zip isn't waterproof but has concealed teeth that will help minimize dust and water ingress. The centre zip terminates 3 inches above the base; hence it won't be in direct contact with the ground surface when resting the backpack on its base. The mouth opening of the centre zip is approximately 40cm long and 30cm wide so, it's very wide, making it easy to reach every nook and cranny inside the pack without unrolling the rolltop.

The internal compartment features a large detachable pouch (measuring 40cm high and 19cm wide) which is held internally via two plastic G hooks. The pouch is made of the same material as the rest of the backpack and, it's designed for storing a hydration bladder, allowing you to run a bladder tube externally through the hole opening passthrough. The internal frame consists of an aluminium alloy round bar, which is held securely inside via a short velcro webbing strap.

The frame aluminium round bar measures 60cm high and weighs 106 grams. The aluminium round bar has the shape of a fork with two prongs and can be removed from the backpack. The removal and installation process is very easy, taking no more than 10 seconds. The aluminium round bar prongs have been rubber capped, making them blunt (for safety) and easier to insert when threading them through the fabric passthrough. When re-installing the aluminium round bar, you have to remember the orientation (curve up) because the aluminium round bar isn't straight. It has an ergonomic curvature.

Being a true hiking backpack, the Shadowlight Ultralight only has one single internal compartment and six external pockets, two of which are the mentioned front facing mesh pockets. There is also a 5cm long drawstring elastic band, which is attached to a double barrel cord lock. The other external pockets are side facing the backpack, two on each side. The side pockets are located on top and bottom with a 11cm gap separating them. The bottom side pockets also feature a small triangular hole opening at the base of the pocket, which is presumably for letting water escape should water accidentally spill inside the pocket.

The top side pocket measures 19cm high and, it can expand out up to 16cm wide. It integrates a pass through cord with a plastic cinch to adjust the width of the pocket. The bottom pocket is 17cm high and has a similar width to the top pocket but, instead of a passthrough cord, it is elasticated. In between the top and bottom side pockets, there is a dual purpose side fastener for compressing the sides or securing tall items such as a tripod or walking sticks when carried on the bottom side pocket.

The side fastener is made of a thin 26cm long fabric cord connected between two plastic D rings (on opposite sides). The thin fabric cord is tied via a simple knot on one end and integrates an adjustable quick release clip at the other end that allows you to detach the thin fabric cord from the backpack. The D rings are fairly large so, they can potentially be used for clipping things onto them. 

When used for side compression, the thin cord does the job, although not quite the same as proper webbing side compression straps. On the bottom front of the backpack (next to the bottom side pocket) there is a large webbing loop that could be used to attach or clip things on to it such as an axe, a lantern or helmet.

The Shadowlight Ultralight backpack roll top feature allows the backpack to expand upward from 55cm tall up to 84cm tall. The roll top excess measures 29cm tall and has a 53cm wide mouth opening that makes top loading items into the backpack very easy. The roll top also integrates a short velcro fastening to fasten both sides, as well as a long webbing strap buckle, which has been sewn into the perimeter of the roll top edge. The webbing strap buckle helps rolling down the roll top excess and keeping it in place. In addition to the webbing strap buckle, there is a smaller webbing strap buckle sewn across it, which is designed to compress the top of the backpack down.

Moving on to the rear, the Shadowlight Ultralight integrates more neat features such as a removable CCF (closed cell foam) back pad and a removable hip belt strap that converts into a fanny pack. When removed, the fanny pack/hip belt weighs 170 grams and measures 76cm long and 11cm wide. 

Being a thickly padded hip belt, it is extremely comfortable to wear around the waist. As a fanny pack, it looks cool too, thanks to its dual holster pouch design. The pouches are square shaped, measuring 15cm wide and 15cm tall and, they fasten via a fabric reverse coil zip, which has a single metal zip slider with a fabric cord puller. Inside each pouch, there is a short, non detachable plastic keyring.

The hip belt/fanny pack has a 48cm long webbing buckle strap, which adjusts via two ladderlocks. Removing and installing the hip belt from the passthrough opening is easy and remains secured onto the backpack via velcro. The rear foam padding weighs 49 grams and has an egg crate pattern with beveled round edges. Total length of the CCF pad is 49cm tall and 26cm wide at the centre. 

The stock foam pad is easy to remove by simply pulling the foam pad out of the top and bottom mesh pockets, which keep it in place. It is neat that the back pad can be removed because it allows you to replace it with different types and thickness of padding of your choosing such as CCF sleeping pad, which you can easily cut out yourself. The removable pad increases versatility of the Shadowlight Ultralight backpack, allowing you to use it a sit pad. As a back panel though, the removable pad is comfortable too and offers some breathability because of the egg crate design, although not as much as a ventilated mesh back panel.

The Shadowlight Ultralight shoulder straps have been sewn 11cm below the top of the frame; hence the top of the backpack rises above the shoulders rather than below the shoulders like most regular backpacks. Most traditional hiking backpacks are designed this way though and some such as the Rhyolite backpack have a torso harness adjustment that allows you to shorten and increase the length to get a perfect fit. 

Ideally, you want the shoulder straps to sit at a height lower than shoulder blade level. While the Shadowlight Ultralight doesn't integrate torso adjustment, it is available to buy in different sizes (small, medium and large), which works out according to your height and leg inseam length. Outdoor Vitals provides a size chart on their website designed to help you get the right pack for your size, as well as choose a hip belt size according to your waist size.

The Shadowlight Ultralight shoulder straps integrate a set of load-lifting straps to shift the weight down to the hips, as well as bring the upper part of the backpack closer to your back and prevent the load from shifting side to side as you walk. Load lifter straps are a complimentary addition to a hip belt because you can switch them up to take the load off your hipbones and onto your shoulders (and viceversa), allowing you to give your shoulders and hips a break when they become sore. 

Just below the load-lifter straps, there are three long webbing daisy chains, one of which is designed for the chest strap height adjustment. The shoulder straps are made of 1cm thick closed-cell foam and have an ergonomic curvature. The straps measure 48cm long, 7.5cm wide and feature a long webbing grab handle in between that measures 23cm long.

The Shadowlight Ultralight hip belt and shoulder straps foam padding is covered with breathable mesh material. The plastic fasteners (e.g. buckles and ladderlocks) are D-flex (Duraflex) branded. The centre zip uses a YKK 5RCZ zip, which is the same type of durable racquet coil zip used in luggages. Having a full-length zipper running down the middle, makes the Shadowlight Ultralight more versatile than most top loaders. By the same token though, the zipper in the back could be a deal breaker for some people who do not like mechanical zips on a backpack. You can buy the Shadowlight Ultralight from Outdoor Vitals. Check out Outdoor Vitals LoftTek Adventure Jacket.

Similar Gadget Explained Reviews


Connect With Gadget Explained