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Deuter Aircontact Ultra 50+5 Backpack Review

Deuter Aircontact Ultra 50+5 Backpack Review

The Deuter Aircontact Ultra 50+5 Backpack is a lightweight, adjustable-length backpack that weighs 2 lbs 10 oz. It’s an internal frame backpack with a floating top lid that’s made with lighter-weight fabrics and a simple adjustable frame system that doesn’t compromise on the comfort that Deuter packs are known for. The pack also has two removable compression straps that you can reconfigure and attach to an extensive array of external gear loops in order to carry bulky gear like a foam sleeping pad, tent, or sleeping bag. This new ultralight Deuter backpack is also available in a women’s model, the Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45+5 SL.

Specs at a Glance

  • Capacity: 55L
  • Weight:  2 lbs 10.7 oz (1211g)
  • Gender: Men’s (Women’s also available)
  • Frame: Internal Frame
  • Access: Top
  • Frame Material: Spring steel hoop
  • Adjustable Torso Length: Yes
  • Ventilated: No
  • Hip Belt Pockets: 2
  • Load Lifters: Yes
  • Reservoir Compatible: Yes
  • Bear canister compatibility: BV500 (vertical only inside ); BV475, BV450, BV425 (vertical and horizontal inside)
  • Pockets: 4+ Main (3 external)
  • Max Recommended Load: 30 lbs

Deuter backpacks have always been known for their durability, adjustability, and comfort, but until now, they’ve run significantly heavier than the packs of competing backpack brands such as Osprey and Gregory. But the Aircontact Ultra 50+5L is a significant departure with the use of lightweight fabrics and frame components while preserving the adjustability and comfort that Deuter packs have always been known for. Despite its lightweight, the Aircontact Ultra 50+5 is still loaded with enhanced features and capabilities that will appeal to any backpacker looking to swap a heavier old-school pack for a much lighter-weight one without giving up comfort or function.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The frame is a thin steel hoop color orange. zyu can just make it out in this photo along the left side of the pack.
The frame is a thin steel hoop colored orange. You can just make it out in this photo along the left side of the pack, near the base.

The Aircontact Ultra 50+5 is an internal frame backpack that uses a very lightweight spring steel hoop as a frame. The hoop is a thin metal rod shaped like a rectangle that’s sewn into the pack bag perimeter giving the load lifters and hip belt a firm anchor to support the load. This is a tried and true way to add stiffness and structure to a lightweight backpack while giving it some spring and flex so that it feels very responsive and lively when loaded up and worn.

Torso length is adjusted by moving these carabiners up or down daisy chains sewn into the backpanel
Torso length is adjusted by moving these carabiners up or down daisy chains sewn onto the back panel

The Aircontact Ultra has an adjustable torso length, which is a pretty common feature on Deuter packs, and one that really lets you dial in a custom fit. Deuter simplified the adjustment system on this pack though so it’s much lighter than their other heftier models. Lightweight carabiners are attached to the top ends of the shoulder straps and slotted into simple daisy chains sewn onto the back panel. If you slot the carabiners towards the top of the daisy chains you lengthen the torso length and if you slot them lower down you shorten it. The goal is to keep about 30% of the pack’s weight when loaded on your shoulders and the rest of the weight on the hipbelt, so that your stronger leg muscles do most of the work.

The sternum strap is very easy to reposition along daisy chains sewn to the front of the shoulder straps.
The sternum strap is very easy to reposition along daisy chains sewn to the front of the shoulder straps.

The shoulder straps on the Aircontact Ultra are lightly padded and S-shaped, which makes them comfortable for men and women. The sternum strap is very easy to adjust by moving the plastic clips at the end along more daisy chains, sewn to the front of the shoulder straps. I don’t know why some manufacturers make sternum strap adjustments so difficult, but these are dead simple to reposition.

The hipbelt is also much lighter weight on the Aircontact Ultra and Deuter’s other packs. It’s lightly padded and covered with wicking air mesh. The hipbelt has a single beefy center buckle and you tighten the hip belt by pushing the webbing straps forward, to get a tight hip wrap. There’s also a soft but significant lumber pad in back that helps prevent the hip belt from sliding down your back. It works really well without being noticeable.

The moderate lumbar pad locks in the hipbelt fit without discomfort.
The moderate lumbar pad locks in the hipbelt fit without discomfort.

The only thing I don’t like about the hipbelt is the hipbelt pockets which are both covered by a large weave mesh. While the pockets themselves are large and can hold a Smartphone and lots of snacks, that mesh is not going to last very long without getting ripped up. It’s also not rain resistant in any way. Deuter should have made them with a solid outer fabric for better durability. I like this pack enough that I’d consider cutting these pockets off and covering them with a third-party hipbelt pocket from Gossamer Gear or another small gear manufacturer.

Deuter Aircontact Ultra 50+5 Backpack


Well Designed Lightweight Backpack

The Deuter Aircontact Ultra 50+5 Backpack is a lightweight, adjustable-length backpack that weighs 2 lbs 10 oz. It provides all the benefits of an internal frame backpack with a top lid in an ultralight package that's super comfortable and easy to fit.

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Both hip belt pockets are made of mesh but are large enough to hold a phone and snacks.
Both hip belt pockets are made of mesh but are large enough to hold a phone and snacks.

Backpack Storage

The Aircontact Ultra is a top loader with a floating lid and the only access point is from the top through a drawstring closure. The main compartment has one internal hydration pocket with a single hydration port between the shoulder straps at the top of the pack. It also has a 6″ extension collar above the frame for overloads.

The floating lid is wide enough to fit over a BV500 bear canister.
The floating lid is wide enough to fit over a BV500 bear canister.

The floating lid has one huge pocket on top (with a key fob inside) and is fitted to the top of the pack so it doesn’t flop awkwardly back or to the side the way that some top lids do….as long as the main compartment is pretty well full. If it isn’t, the lid gets pretty cumbersome and will slide off to the side particularly if you fill it with heavier items. I still love floating lids because they’re great for carrying bulky gear like foam sleeping pads or multi-person tent bodies that are too large to pack inside.

The floating lid has one HUGE pocket with a key fob inside. Perfect for storing winter gloves and face protection.
The floating lid has one HUGE pocket with a key fob inside. Perfect for storing snacks, winter gloves, and face protection.

The floating lid is wide enough that the ends can fit over a BV500 bear canister, their largest size, but you need to pack the main compartment full to provide support from below and keep the lid pocket fairly empty to fit over it. A BV475 canister works much better if you need to put more stuff in the lid pocket because it’s shorter in length. The BV475 canister also fits horizontally in the main compartment, as well as the BV450 and BV425, but the BV500 only fits vertically. 

The side pockets are large enough to store 2 x one liter Smartwater bottles or 32 oz Nalgene bottles.
The side pockets are large enough to store 2 x one-liter Smartwater bottles or 32 oz Nalgene bottles.

The Aircontact Ultra also shines when it comes to external stretch pockets. They are very deep and can hold a ton of gear or clothing. The side pockets are large enough for 2 x one liter Smartwater or 2 x 32 oz Nalgene bottles and have slanted tops to make it easier to retrieve or replace bottles while wearing the pack. The mesh is very fine and durable, unlike the mesh on the hip belt pockets, and won’t snag on vegetation because its openings are way too small to catch. The bottom of the pockets is solid fabric to eliminate any abrasion when you put the pack down on the ground.

There’s also a very long front stretch mesh pocket made with the same tightly woven mesh. Neither of these external mesh pockets has bottom drain holes and rely on the mesh to drain wet contents, so you’ll want to make sure to use a pack liner inside since the internal seams are bounded and not taped. But you’d do that with any backpack if you hike in a climate where it rains.

Backpack Compression and External Attachments

The side compression straps can be rerouted though any of the loops on the perimeter of the front mesh pocket.
The side compression straps can be rerouted through any of the loops on the perimeter of the front mesh pocket. I’ve rearranged them in the crisis cross pattern shown above.

The Aircontact Ultra comes with two side compression straps. Out of the box, these are configured in a Z-pattern along the side of the pack, with one end attached to a buckle at the top of the pack behind the shoulder strap and the other end girth hitched to one of 8 external loops arranged around the perimeter of the front stretch mesh pocket.

The nice thing is that you can remove the side compression straps and reconfigure them as needed to attach snowshoes, a foam pad, a tent body, or really anything to the sides or front of the backpack. Each of the compression straps is 33″ long (which is huge), so you have a lot of webbing to play with. Plus you can add more third-party straps or cordage as needed. The REI Flash 55 has a similar scheme where you can remove and reconfigure the compression straps to attach gear to the outside of the pack.

Comparable framed lightweight backpacks

Make / ModelWeightFabric
Zpacks Arc Haul 60L20.9 oz / 593gUltra 200
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 5534.9 oz / 989gDyneema DCF
Granite Gear Crown 3 60L32.6 oz / 1040gRobic Nylon
Osprey Exos Pro 5534.6 oz / 981gUHMWPE Nylon Ripstop
ULA Circuit 68L37.3 oz / 1038gRobic Nylon
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L34.2 oz / 968gRobic Nylon
REI Flash 55L45 oz / 1276gRobic Nylon
Gregory Focal 5841.3 oz / 1171gRobic Nylon
SWD UL Long Haul 5030.2 oz / 856gUltra 200
Durston Kakwa 5531 oz / 880gUltra 200


The Deuter Aircontact Ultra 50+5 Backpack is Deuter’s first foray into ultralight backpacking and maintains the comfort and adjustability that Deuter packs are known for. Weighing 2 lbs 10 oz, it’s also a quite feature-rich backpack with an adjustable torso length, a well-fitting hipbelt, great external mesh pockets, a floating lid, and reconfigurable compression straps. If you’re looking for a lightweight backpack with a frame and a top lid pocket or floating lid, I’d encourage you to try it out. I loved using it myself and think it’s great that Deuter, which is the world’s largest backpack manufacturer, has such a competitive lightweight pack to offer hikers seeking to reduce their pack weight.

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Disclosure: The author purchased this backpack.

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  1. “…Nalgene bottles have slanted tops…”?

    I checked Nalgene and REI websites, and couldn’t find bottles with slanted tops (closest was a 12-oz little kid bottle with a zippy-cup lid.) did you perhaps mean they have a loop that keeps the lid attached and makes it easier to grab the bottle?

    I agree; Deuter makes excellent packs. If I hadn’t just bought a pack, this would be a definite contender.

    • I love my Deuter Aircontact soooooo much but it is very heavy. I just bought a ULA Circuit last year but I wish this pack had been available because it looks like it has all the best components of my Aircontact, just made with lighter material. I also love the Circuit but my one complaint about it is the lack of a brain (floating lid); too bad I’m not in the market for yet another pack. Thanks for the review!

  2. Gotta ask, does the hip belt itself wrap around the front of the waist or does it only wrap around the sides such as the old Osprey Exos?

    I like a hip belt that has a good wrap-around. Just feels better to me. BTW, what is the recommended weight carry?

    Also, can you get the bottles without ditching the pack?

  3. Bill in Roswell GA

    My local REI happens to have a Womens model in stock. I was impressed. Deuter did their homework. Except for the mesh hipbelt pockets as Philip mentions – an odd choice. But brilliantly simple methid of adjusting shoulder harness with daisy chain and mini carabiners. Many positive similarities to REI Flash Pack. Two pegs over the Osprey Exos/Eja was hanging, a bit demoralized. Why Osprey still thinks short hipbelt padding is a thing defies logic. Kudos to Deuter for jumping in with both feet and a solid effort.

    • I also have the Flash (last year model, so no torso adjustment), and I also noted the similarities. One thing the Flas has that I really like is dedicated water bottle pockets in addition to the side pockets. I find them very handy, and also like how they move a few pounds forward and directly on my hips; I feel a real difference in where they put my center of gravity.

      My old Camp Trails Wilderness pack (internal and external frame versions) had such pockets, but the idea disappeared with the demise of those packs. Glad to see it’s back.

  4. Looks like a nice pack, but the Granite Gear Crown 60 weighs 10 ounces less and is very adjustable, very comfortable, has better hip pockets and a brain that comes off and can be used as a fanny pack or chest pack. Curious if the Deuter’s polyester material will shed or absorb rain (the GG fabric does absorb rain making a 4oz or so rain cover advisable). But if the Deuter feels good to wear, that’s the most important thing. Kudos to Deuter for going lightweight.

    • But it doesn’t have an adjustable length torso.

    • Using the numbers in Philip’s review, the Crown 3 weighed 42 oz w/o the optional stay. (I measured mine as 45 oz). The Deuter Ultra 50+5 is 43 oz per Philip’s measurements above. So, I’m seeing just a 1 oz difference. The comfort limit for the Crown 3 has been stated to be closer to 25 lb by a few reviewers.

      Interestingly, my old Deuter Act Zero 50+15 is just 11 oz heavier than the the Ultra and is rated for 40 lbs. My starting weight for 5 day cold weather trips with fishing equipment, bear spray, etc. is closer to 28. I’m debating whether the 11 oz is worth it.

      Philip – what weight did you use to test? What would you consider the max comfort limit. I didn’t see hip stabilizer straps. That has been noted as a weakness on some packs like the Crown 3.

  5. Interesting pack. My Deuter Act Zero 50+15 weighs in at 53 oz. I know you measure the pack yourself, so that 42 oz (2 lb 10oz) is the true weight. I already got the Crown 3 but it weighed in at 45 oz (did not buy optional stay).

    I may return the Crown, not just for the weight but due to thin shoulder straps. That’s a known issue near my usual 5 night cold-weather starting weight of 28 lbs. Also, the base of the pack falls 2″ below the hip-belt.

    Not sure I can fit all my gear into 55 L, but I may try it since it’s readily available. ULA Circuit is another option. Lead times on Kakwa 55, SO Gila and SWD Long Haul 50 just too long.

    Too bad they used “Ultra” in the name but not as a fabric.

  6. I just finished my second hike, and first overnight hike with this pack. And I am very pleased. The overnight was simple one night over a few peaks in the WMNF, with some very rough trails. Starting out full pack was 32lbs. I had been concerned that would be too much for the pack. It could be I was very focused on staying up right, but never noticed the pack at all. Was able to adjust hip belt and shoulder straps to address any motion or pressure.

    I really like the clean outside, not lots of flappy dangling pockets or straps. The side and front stretch pocket are great. The top lid is large and holds plenty. The only design complaint I have is the top lid is not detachable, at least not easily. I like to take in the tent at night with all my small stuff in it. While there is no tool holder loops at pack bottom, the small lashing loops fit a trecking pole tip very nicely and some added straps up top make good pole holding system. The mesh belt pockets are puzzling. I might cover them with tenacious tape if I can convince myself I won’t make a non recoverable mess.

    I started with the Crown 3 and very much liked the design. But the molded foam back panel bruised my spine with some bad rubbing. I am very happy with my first Deuter pack.

  7. I am getting back into hiking and camping.
    I have been researching and reading a lot. It has led to this point. I am trying to decide between this deuter aircontact ultra 50+5 and granite gear crown 2 on sale at campsaver. The deuter is 150 and crown 2 is 75.
    i have read the dueter might be more comfortable then the crown 2 ? Then, i was reading the review on kelty redwing and shocked at the weight was so low and good rating.
    any advice or rate 1 to 3 maybe ? i would hate to purchase a pack and be stuck with uncomfortable or not fitting or functional.
    Thank you

    • I’d go with the crown 2. The deuter is nice, but the crown 2 is much more flexible and is easier to use when strapping bulky gear to the outside of the pack. Be advised that the latest model of the crown is the crown 3.

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