Outdoor Vitals ShadowLight 60 Ultralight Backpack Review

Outdoor Vitals ShadowLight 60 Backpack Review

The Outdoor Vitals ShadowLight 60 is a 31.5 oz ultralight-style backpack pack designed for multi-day backpacking and thru-hiking. It’s a rolltop backpack made with Robic nylon ripstop (details below) with an unusual external pocket system and a front zipper so you can access gear in the pack without unrolling the top. The pack has an internal aluminum frame stay which is coupled with an external foam pad for comfort and includes load lifters, large hip belt pockets, and shoulder strap daisy chains. While the pack carries moderate loads comfortably, it’s difficult to attach bulky gear to the outside of the pack limiting its utility in colder weather or for multi-sport adventures. The durability of the front zipper and its lack of waterproofing is also a point of concern.

Outdoor Vitals ShadowLight 60 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Not Recommended

While the ShadowLight rides nicely when the pack is loaded up, it's easily compromised in wet weather and limited in terms of its versatility.

Shop Now

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 31.5 oz (31.9 oz tested – medium torso, large hip belt)
  • Volume: 60L
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Frame: Aluminum stay w/ external foam pad for cushioning
  • Pockets: 6 on main pack, 2 on the hip belt
  • Load Lifters: Yes
  • Material: 100D Robic Nylon w/ 200D Spectra Ripstop; 210D Robic Nylon w/ 400D Spectra Ripstop
  • Hydrostatic head: 1500 mm
  • Zipper: YKK
  • Bear canister compatibility: Vertical
  • Torso sizes: (small under 18″), (medium 18″-21″) , (large 22″ and up)
  • Hip belt sizes: (small 28″-31″), (medium 32″-36″), (large 37″-42″)
  • For complete spaces, visit Outdoor Vitals

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Outdoor Vitals ShadowLight is a 60L rolltop backpack with six external pockets and two large hip-belt pockets. The rolltop clips to itself to close, but cannot be anchored to the sides of the pack limiting the amount of top compression possible. A thin webbing strap loops over the rolltop to keep it secure, but the strap is too short to strap a fold foam pad like a NEMO Switchback or a Therm-a-Rest Zlite to the top of the pack. That’s pretty limiting.

The Shadowlight has a center zipper that provides access to the contents of the backpack.
The ShadowLight has a center zipper that provides access to the contents of the backpack.

Hydration system capability

The ShadowLight is hydration-system ready with an internal hydration pocket to hold a water reservoir. The pocket hangs from the central frame stay with plastic clips and is removable. There is a hose port in the center of the pack between the shoulder straps, but it is oversized and uncovered so it leaks water into the main compartment in the rain. You can fix this easily by taping it shut, but it’s strange that it ever made it into production because it’s such an obvious design flaw.

Lower side-pockets

There are four open pockets on the sides of the backpack, including two water bottle pockets and two higher pockets further up the sides. Both water bottle pockets are easily reached, but it’s difficult to reinsert bottles back into the pockets while wearing the backpack. The water bottle pockets are sized to hold a single Nalgene bottle and have drain holes in the bottom. The top of the pockets is weakly tensioned with elastic but not enough to prevent bottles from popping out if you take a tumble or set the pack down on the ground and it tips over. While you can fit 2 x 1L Smartwater bottles into each water bottle pocket, the pockets are fairly short and not designed for use with taller bottles. This could all be fixed by making the pockets taller.

The ShadowLight 60 has an upper pocket and a lower pocket on both sides of the pack
The ShadowLight 60 has an upper pocket and a lower pocket on both sides of the pack.

Upper side-pockets

The two upper side pockets are large enough to store a mug-based cook system or other small incidentals like toiletries or a water filter and squeeze reservoir. They cinch close on top with a cord and linelock which is difficult to use and quite ineffective. I’d be very cautious about what you put in them. They don’t have drain holes and they fill up with water when it rains (I kid you not), so I’d avoid putting anything you need to keep dry in them.

It’s too bad because having a pair of upper pockets like these is a win for storing smaller items for use during the day. For example, the Gossamer Mariposa 60 has one high side pocket which can be quite useful, but few other packs do, in part because they make it very difficult to add useful side compression straps to a backpack (the Mariposa 60 has none).

Front mesh pockets

The front of the ShadowLight has two tubular stretch mesh pockets, reminiscent of the cylindrical pockets on the classic Jensen backpack made by Rivendell Mountain Works. While they are large enough to fit a Jetboil and spare layers, I’d far prefer one large mesh front pocket, which is what most UL-style packs have, because you don’t have to unpack the whole thing to get to gear at the bottom. The bottom of the two mesh pockets is made with solid fabric for better durability, but they also do not have drain holes and fill with water when it rains. It’s a little comical.

Front zipper

There’s a long vertical two-way zipper located between the two front mesh pockets that provides access to the interior of the backpack so you don’t have to undo the rolltop to get stuff out. While it is handy, you can inadvertently put a lot of pressure on the zipper by overstuffing the backpack and cause it to fail, which would be fairly catastrophic on this pack. Zippers are often the weakest point of any piece of outdoor gear and fail eventually if they’re not carefully cleaned and lubricated.

While the front zipper does provide access to the packs contents, you still can’t access gear stored inside the pack liner.
While the front zipper does provide access to the pack’s contents, you still can’t access gear stored inside the pack liner.

Unfortunately, the zipper is not waterproof and it leaks like a sieve when it rains and water is channeled down the front of the backpack between the two mesh pockets. While switching to a waterproof zipper would help, it would have been better to position the zipper horizontally over the top of the mesh pockets. This would take pressure off the zipper and one could further protect it from moisture by running a strip of fabric along the top like an awning.

Pack Liner/Raincover

The ShadowLight 60 ships with a clear, plastic top-loading nylofume pack liner bag to help keep the contents of your backpack dry in wet weather. But if you’re dead set on using the front zipper, you’re going to find it hard to access gear stored inside the pack liner inside the backpack without opening to the roll top. That’s one of the paradoxes of this pack.

The ShadowLight 60 does not include a rain cover, but my advice would be to use one with the pack if you have to hike in rain to keep it from accumulating in the pockets and to prevent the front zipper from leaking into the main compartment.

The Shadowlight 60 has a foam sit pad sleeve to cushion the frame-stay.
The ShadowLight 60 has a foam sit-pad sleeve to cushion the frame-stay.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The ShadowLight 60 has an aluminum frame-stay which gives it some rigidity. The hipbelt is attached to the pack with velcro but not connected to the frame-stay. This limits the maximum load that can be comfortably carried by the ShadowLight to about 30 pounds (OV rates it at 35 lbs).

The pack has a mesh sit-pad sleeve behind the shoulder straps and comes with a cheap foam pad to cushion your back against the frame stay. While it’s tempting to put a thicker folding pad in the pad pocket, you’re better off with the included sit-pad to keep the pack as close to your core as possible. Having a sit-pad handy and easily accessible is a nice perk in a backpack. It’s great for keeping your bum dry when you stop for a break or as a seat when cooking dinner in camp.

The Shadowlight 60 has a pre-bent aluminum frame-stay that slides into channels in the back of the pack.
The ShadowLight 60 has a pre-bent aluminum frame-stay that slides into channels in the back of the pack.

The ShadowLight’s shoulder straps come with load lifters which are sewn into the top of the frame-stay for optimal effectiveness. You can adjust the front angle of the load lifters using a front buckle on the shoulder strap, which is usually a premium feature that’s only found on higher capacity or more technical packs. The shoulder straps also have daisy chains sewn to the front so you can attach accessory pockets like the popular Hyperlite Mountain Gear Shoulder Pocket quite easily. The shoulder straps are J-shaped but have a slight curve near the top that should provide large chested people with a bit more comfort when worn.

The Shadowlight 60 has load lifters that are anchored to the frame-stay.
The ShadowLight 60 has load lifters that are anchored to the frame-stay.

The hipbelt is quite comfortable and provides a good hip wrap, even on my squarish man hips. It’s also available in multiple sizes so you can get a large hip belt with a medium torso pack, which is the configuration I tested for this review. The hip belt is not reinforced with plastic inserts, however, like those in Gossamer Gear or Granite Gear packs, which are quite effective at preventing collapse under heavier loads.

The hip belt comes with two large zippered and solid-faces pockets that can hold a Smartphone with ease, as well as snacks and other trail ephemera. The zippers are difficult to close with one hand but may become easier to use if you lubricate them with a product like Gear-Aid zipper lubricant. 

External Attachments and Compression

The ShadowLight 60 is pretty weak when it comes to external attachment points and compression. I like to attach bulky gear like fishing rods, wet tents, foam pads, and snowshoes on the exterior of my backpack, even if it means rigging up extra cordage to hold it in place. Unfortunately, you can’t do that very easily with the ShadowLight 60.

This thin cord can be used to prevent a 1L Smartwater bottle from falling out if the lower pocket but it does provide any useful compression or attachment capability
This thin cord can be used to prevent a 1L Smartwater bottle from falling out of the lower pocket but it does not provide a substantive compression or attachment capability.

There is one compression “cord” on the pack, situated between the upper and lower side pockets that looks like its intended to prevent a tall water bottle from popping out of the lower side pocket. It’s not long enough to lash gear to the side of the pack although you could replace it. Unfortunately, there’s not a second tier of compression higher up the side, above the upper pocket, or gear loops sewn into the seams of the pack where you could fashion another attachment point. They’d really be a welcome addition to the pack.

The Shadowlight 60 has four components: a removable hip belt, sit pad, frame-stay, and the main pack bag.
The ShadowLight 60 has four components: a removable hip belt, sit pad, frame-stay, and the main pack bag.

Component Weights

This is a breakdown of the components of the pack I tested which has a medium torso and a large hip belt. A standard medium/medium Shadowlight weighs 31.5 oz, which is quite close.

  • Medium Torso, Large Hipbelt
  • Total: 31.9 oz
    • Pack bag: 20.0 oz
    • Frame-stay: 3.7 oz
    • Hipbelt: 6.5 oz
    • Sit-pad: 1.7 oz

Materials

Outdoor Vitals claims that the ShadowLight is made with a proprietary version of 100D Robic Nylon w/ 200D Spectra Ripstop with 210D Robic Nylon w/ 400D Spectra Ripstop in high wear areas. Robic is just a newish more durable variant of PU-coated nylon that’s already been in use for a few years among cottage backpack manufacturers. I believe that this particular fabric is also in use by Seek Outside, on the Flight One Backpack. It’s a good material for making backpacks, but I don’t consider it a key differentiator over any other Robic ripstop out there.

The ShadowLight 60 has two large hip belt pockets
The ShadowLight 60 has two large hip belt pockets.

Sizing

The ShadowLight 60 is available in three torso lengths and hip belt sizes that you can mix and match to fit your dimensions when you purchase the pack. While Outdoor Vitals does list the torso lengths and hip belt lengths, they recommend using a height and inseam length calculator hosted on their website for determining what size to order. I think that’s a bit strange, but it is what it is.

Comparable Lightweight Backpacks

Make / ModelWeightFabricPrice
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L30.5 ozRobic Nylon$270
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400 (55L)35 ozDyneema DCF$365
Granite Gear Crown 2 60L36.7 ozHigh Tenacity Nylon$200
Osprey Exos 5842 ozHigh Tenacity Nylon$220
Zpacks Arc Blast 55L20.1 ozDyneema DCF$349
ULA Circuit 68L36.6 ozRobic Nylon$255
REI Flash 55L42 ozRipstop Nylon$199
Hanchor Marl 5537.5 ozXPac$300
Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 5031 ozXPac$270
Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-6042 ozNylon-Poly Ripstop$200

Assessment

There are some good things about the Outdoor Vitals ShadowLight 60 Backpack and some bad things, but on balance, I’d recommend against purchasing it. While the ShadowLight rides nicely when the pack is loaded up, it’s easily compromised in wet weather and limited in terms of its versatility. There are too many similarly priced packs in its volume range that are better values in terms of features, functionality, and weather worthiness.

Outdoor Vitals isn’t known for designing their own gear, but when I decided to review this pack I wanted to keep an open mind about it and evaluate it on its merits. I searched AliExpress and didn’t find the pack for sale by any original equipment manufacturers, which indicated to me that it was probably unique, at least for the time being.

Going forward, I do hope that Outdoor Vitals will improve on the ShadowLight 60 because the base pack carries well and can become a contender if it’s simplified and streamlined for use in all weather conditions across multiple seasons.

Disclosure: The author received a backpack from Outdoor Vitals for this review.

Editor's note: If you’re thinking about buying gear that we’ve reviewed or recommend on SectionHiker, you can help support us in the process. Just click on any of the seller links above, and if you make a purchase, we may (but not always) receive a small percentage of the transaction. The cost of the product is the same to you but this helps us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides. Thanks and we appreciate your support!

Most Popular Searches

  • shadowlight ultralight backpack review

8 comments

  1. Looks very, very, (VERY) like a Gossamer Gear Gorilla or Mariposa. Only the pockets a little different. Nothing especially wrong with that, but not very original either.

    • Only from the inside and more like what Gossamer Gear packs looked like before they ran the frame stay down into the hip belt which was about 3-4 years ago. The suspension on the Gorilla and the Mariposa is far superior today. But that was also my first impression when I saw the Shadowlight.

  2. Personally, Im not surprised with your assessment. I have an issue with Outdoor Vitals. I inquired a few years ago about a sleeping bag they sell. A few basic questions that should be expected from an “at the time” up and coming manufacturing company. They were rude and very much not interested in my questions. I took my business elsewhere, and yes I paid a lot more, am super happy with my Western Mountaineering sleeping bag. Also, the few people that I communicated with there were very nice and accommodating, Cheers , Cragdwella ( youtube)

    • The good – IMO, the Shadowlight is a great pack. I’ve only had it for two months and other than trail hikes, I have not been able to properly field test it. Time will only answer if it was worth the investment, but so far so good. I’m very impressed with the quality – from stitching, to materials, right on down the line.
      The bad – Their customer service is brutal in respect to response time and limited communication channels! If it weren’t for getting in early and the pack for $180 delivered, I would’ve cancelled my order (glad that I didn’t for the product alone). They have no phone number to talk to someone. The ONLY respond via email or chat on their site. In my NUMEROUS inquires and “conversations” with them, it was common to not hear back for 24-48 hours…or longer. They weren’t rude, actually helpful, it was just painful. Even when asking them to call me and giving the my number…they never did. The guy in the beard is quite annoying. He talks like he is the smartest guy in the room and does his best to oversell everything.

  3. That zipper down the middle of the front seems like an attempt at having a unique feature without really thinking about if it was a good one.

    • I’ve come to the conclusion that Outdoor Vitals survives on Kickstarter funding. People buy stuff after watching the guy with the beard talk it up in a youtube video. They make it, probably offshore, and charge people much more than it cost to make. Sorry, that’s my perception after being bombarded by their email marketing over the past few days.

  4. Bought in early, and wish I’d bought something like a Gossamer Gear Gorilla instead. The pockets fill up with water and the zipper leaks. This could have been a credible backpack but the performance in rain is a joke. I don’t think anyone at OV is a backpacker.

  5. Awesome and credible review. I think you are spot on with your comments about the front pocket zipper and poor rain design. I don’t see that you have done a review on the Dan Durston 40 liter pack. I would be very interested in reading your take on his pack.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *