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Deuter Aircontact Lite 45 + 10 SL Women’s Backpack Review

Deuter Aircontact Lite 45+10 SL Backpack Review

The Deuter Aircontact Lite 45 + 10 SL is an adjustable frame backpack with great organizational features designed specifically for women. With a total of 55 liters of capacity, the Aircontact Lite is ideal for lightweight weekend and hut-to-hut backpacking trips where having a near-custom fit and good gear organization are priorities. The female-specific shoulder straps and hip belt provide an anatomically correct fit, while the lively X-stayed frame makes it responsive and maneuverable to carry.

Note: The Aircontact series of packs was previously called ACT Lite and some retailers still have them listed under that moniker. 

Specs at a Glance

  • Volume: 55 liters
  • Gender: Women’s
  • Weight: 3 lbs 12 oz
  • Frame: Internal
  • Adjustable Torso: Yes
  • Torso Length: 14-18″
  • Hip Belt Length: 27-52″
  • Number of pockets, including main compartment: 8
  • Maximum recommended load: 40-45 lbs

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Aircontact Lite 45 +10 SL is a top-loader with a top lid pocket and a main pack bag with a front sleeping bag hatch. Side mesh pockets let you stash water bottles while a front stuff-it pocket expands to accommodate clothing layers or damp items you want to dry out. The top lid is attached with four webbing straps, so it can float upwards if you want to overstuff the main compartment. It can also be removed completely (including its straps) to lighten the backpack if you want to shed some weight.  The top lid has two pockets, a large top pocket and a hidden pocket under the lid, which is good for storing a toilet or first aid kit for easy access.

The pack has a stuff-it pocket with mesh panels for draining damp gear
The pack has a stuff-it pocket with mesh panels for draining damp gear.

There’s also a stuff-it pocket on the front of the pack, that has mesh along its sides so you can stuff damp or wet gear into it. The pocket isn’t very deep so you can’t pack bulky objects into it like camp shoes or a stove, but it is more suitable for stuffing clothing layers into. Unless you’re in a desert, I wouldn’t count on damp gear drying in this pocket. It’s really designed for temporary storage and to segregate wet clothing from the dry contents of your backpack .

The sleeping bag compartment is formed with a fabric shelf, that can be unzipped and folded away if you to prefer to use the main compartment as one continuous space or to line the inside of your backpack with a thick trash compactor bag to keep the contents waterproof. While the pack is water-resistant, it does not come with a pack cover like many of Deuter’s other packs.

The pack has a bottom sleeping bag compartment that also provides access to the main compartment if the sleeping bag shelf is folded out of the way.
The pack has a bottom sleeping bag compartment that also provides access to the main compartment if the sleeping bag shelf is folded out-of-the-way.

The side water bottle pockets are sized to fit a one liter Nalgene bottle, but the fit is very tight, especially when the pack is full. The side pockets are made of mesh, but it is quite tough and tear resistant. I could not reach back and pull out a water bottle while wearing the pack, but the Aircontact Lite does have an internal hydration pocket. The hose comes out through a center port, so you can route the hose to your right or left shoulder strap easily.

The hip belt also has two tough mesh pockets, but I’m hesitant to put my phone or camera into them and would prefer pockets that are solid faced because they’re more durable and water-resistant. They’re fine for storing snacks or a compass though.

One thing I do want to mention about the main compartment, is that the Aircontact Lite 45 + 10 is a narrow pack that fills tight and high. This is by design because women have narrower hips than men and a narrower pack is easier to control. But I often felt the top lid touching the back of my head when I packed the backpack full of gear. It may be that I was overpacking the top lid, but it’s something you want to be aware of.

External Attachment and Compression System

Backpacks are designed to carry gear strapped to the outside of the pack as well as inside and the Aircontact Lite does not disappoint on this dimension.

For instance, the pack has two tiers of compression straps on the side of the backpack that can be use to strap pad or snowshoes to the side of the pack. The lower of these straps can also be routed over or through the side water bottle pocket so you can have side compression and still use the side water bottle pockets at the same time.

The bottom compression strap can be routed under a bottle in the side pocket.
The bottom compression strap can be routed under a bottle in the side pocket.

The Aircontact Lite also comes with two ice axe loops at the bottom or the pack that can serve double duty as trekking pole holders. There are two elastic shaft holders provided, an important detail that many backpack makers omit.

Deuter has also placed numerous gear loops along the pack’s seams so you can rig up custom attachment points with some elastic cord and cord locks. While they could have added extra webbing straps to the pack for this purpose, their goal was to keep the pack as light and streamlined as possible. For example, there are four additional webbing loops on the top lid, two short daisy chains along the sides of the front stuff-it pocket, and four additional gear loops around the perimeter of the sleeping pad pocket for this purpose.

Extra webbing loops on the exterior of the pack (red and orange) make it possible for you to add elastic cord to secure items to the outside of the pack.
Extra webbing loops on the exterior of the pack (red and orange) make it possible for you to add elastic cord to secure items to the outside of the pack.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

While the Aircontact Lite 45 + 10 SL is an easy to use pack, the frame and suspension system is where it really shines. First off, this is an adjustable frame backpack meaning you can shorten or lengthen the torso length to fit your exact dimensions. There’s no compromising like you need to do with a fixed length pack. The design of the adjustable frame also provides excellent ventilation, without the overhead of a trampoline frame that moves the pack away from your back and makes it harder to carry.

Simply move the shoulder yoke up to lengthen the torso and down to shorten it.
Simply move the shoulder yoke up to lengthen the torso and down to shorten it.

Deuter calls this the Variquick Frame System and it has a simple velcro’d shoulder yoke that you move up to lengthen the torso and down to shorten it. It is super easy to use because it’s so easy to access. However, the torso lengths aren’t labelled in inches or centimeters along the rear ladder locks, so you have to adjust the pack by feel, which isn’t the most obvious thing for beginners. If in doubt, fit the pack with a knowledgeable friend to help you.

On the plus side, the Variquick Frame system has a large central air channel to help ventilate your back. The padding runs along the sides of your spine rather than on top of it, while keeping the frame locked closely on your hips to make loads easier to carry. The padding is flared slightly at the bottom to create a lumbar pad, but it’s very unobtrusive and feels just right.

The central air channel helps dry perspiration
The central air channel helps dry perspiration

The frame itself consists of two sprung aluminum stays arranged in a X pattern so that they move with your torso, rather than resist it. A top horizontal cross-bar provides a secure anchor point for the pack’s load lifters, while helping to stiffen the pack and make it easier to carry. Female-friendly S-shaped shoulder straps provide better clearance with breasts, with a sliding sternum strap that is easy to adjust and doesn’t pinch.

The Aircontact Lite hip belt is also female-specific, with two types of foam to provide a better hip wrap. The top soft foam rests on top of your hip’s iliac crest, while the stiffer bottom foam provides support and prevents any downward slide, keeping the belt where you want it. The hip belt closes with a single buckle and has push forward straps that make it easier to cinch tight. The belt also has rear control straps so you can pull the bottom of the pack closer to your hips for an even more efficient carry.

Comparable Women’s Backpacks

Make and ModelVentilatedWeightPrice
Arc'teryx Bora 49No4 lbs 11 oz499
Deuter AirContact Lite 45+10No3 lbs 12 oz200
Deuter Futura Vario 45+10L SLYes4 lbs 7 oz230
Gregory Amber 60No3 lbs 9 oz180
Gregory Deva 60Yes4 lbs 10 oz300
Gregory Jade 53Yes3 lbs 9 oz200
Gregory Maven 55No3 lbs 6 oz230
Osprey Aura AG 50Yes4 lbs 2 oz250
Osprey Ariel AG 55Yes4 lbs 14 oz290
Osprey Ariel Pro 65No3 lbs 12 oz375
Osprey Kyte 46Yes3 lbs 9 oz180
Osprey Viva 50Yes3 lbs 12 oz180
REI Flash 60Yes3 lbs 5 oz199
REI Trail 60No4 lbs 12 oz189
REI Traverse 65Yes4 lbs 11 oz249
The North Face Banchee 50Yes3 lbs 5 oz199

Recommendation

The Deuter Aircontact Lite 45 + 10 SL is an adjustable frame backpack designed for women who want a comfortable frame and good storage options. It’s ideal for weekend trips or travel, with an expandable main compartment that provides an additional 10 liters of storage if you need to carry more gear and food. The female-specific shoulder straps and hip belt provide a very comfortable fit with a frame that is highly responsive and feels great when worn. The pack does ride a bit narrow and ungainly when packed tight with gear, so you might want to size up in volume to the Aircontact Lite 60+10 SL if you need more storage space, rather than pushing the capacity limits of the 45 + 10 SL pack.

Disclosure: Deuter provided the author with a backpack for this review.

Beth Zimmer is an expert backpacker who's backpacked all over New England and Eastern Canada, with a long list of hiking accomplishments to her name. She's section hiked the New Hampshire Appalachian Trail, climbed the New England Hundred Highest and the New Hampshire 200 highest (mostly bushwhacks), redlined the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles), and climbed the White Mountain 4000 footers several times over. Beth also teaches GPS and off-trail navigation classes as a volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club and is co-chair of the New Hampshire Excursions Committee, which oversees all volunteer hiking and leadership training activities. When she's not hiking and backpacking, Beth resides in New Hampshire where she can usually be found sipping coffee and planning her next adventure.
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