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I was instantly curious when I first saw the Shadowlight backpack advertised online. A 2lb 60L lightweight pack, with all the essential pockets. A zipper down the middle for easy access, padding on the back that can double as a sit pad. Plus it was an affordable price!
Since I was researching on buying my first backpack, I decided to take a chance and preordered it when Outdoor Vitals did the Kickstarter for it back in 2020. It comes in 2 color options, a green and a blue checkered pattern. And in 2 sizes: 45 or 60L. I went with the 60L because for the extra ounce, why not? Plus I wanted more room for carrying a bear can or extras.
- 60L Bag weighs 31.5 oz
- 45L Bag weighs 30.5 oz
- Comes in 3 different torso sizes, and 3 different hip belt sizes
The main compartment has a roll top design with a hook closure. There’s also a Y strap that goes over that to hold any extras(such as a 1/8″ foam pad shown in the photo). On the front there are 2 long mesh pockets, intersected by a zipper which also gives you access to the inside. There is a stretchy cord and place for your trekking poles as well.
On the sides there are 4 pockets, 2 on top, 2 on the bottom which could be used for water bottles and extra stuff–plus all the pockets have a cinch strap. If you’d rather use a water bladder there is an spot for that inside the bag as well.
There are also nice sized pockets on the hip belt. I filled them with a ton of misc gear for easy access, including my cellphone and snacks for during the day. There’s also a small hook strap to put your keys or other small items you might loose inside the one pocket.
One downside that I encountered was that when I had a larger load in my pack(bigger sleeping bag at the bottom), the water bottles were harder to get in and out of the lower side pockets with my pack on. Everything was really stuffed tight. I didn’t have this problem when I took my lighter sleeping bag on a different trip. So that was a bit annoying, but can be remedied by purchasing a separate water bottle pocket for the front straps, which I may do in the future.
The back is padded with a foam cushion, which can be removed and used as a sit pad. There are shoulder strap adjustments, load lifter adjustments, and of course hip belt adjustment straps. The pack is supported with a lightweight aluminum frame.
I think the biggest unique feature on this bag is the zipper in the middle. Most backpacking packs are just a giant duffel bag in the center. And generally that’s fine because you should be packing all the stuff you don’t need until you get to camp down at the bottom and middle of your bag, plus using a plastic liner in case it rains.
But there may be some occasions you’re not using a liner, and do need to get some stuff at the bottom. And I’ll tell you when I found this zipper REALLY useful, making this bag multipurpose: day hiking!
Yeah I know…you’re thinking why would you want a bag this big for just a day hike? Well maybe you’re just someone who has a lot of extra stuff to carry(such as camera or art gear–that’s me! lol). Perhaps you have kids and have to carry their stuff too, or you have that friend that comes along who doesn’t have any backpack, trekking poles, and thinks they’re going to carry their bottle of water in their hand the whole time x.x
It’s SO much easier to just unzip the bag when you need to get something out instead of unhooking and unrolling the top part.
Not to mention, because this bag is meant to support weights of 30lbs+, it’s REALLY comfortable when it weighs much less than that! So if your day hiking bag is filled with 10-15lbs of misc. stuff, you’re going to hike much more comfortably-I certainly did!
I had 3L of water, food for lunch and snacks, 2 pairs of trekking poles, a few camera lenses and some art supplies, as well as a rain jacket and some misc. things stuffed in there for a 10 mile day hike and was so happy I took this bag instead of my normal smaller day hiking pack!
I will continue to use this bag on long, all day hikes when I’m carrying extra gear in addition to backpacking!
One thing to note: this backpack is not waterproof; you will need to use a plastic liner bag to put any stuff in you want to keep dry. It also does not come with a pack cover, however you can purchase an inexpensive one if you really want it that fits the size bag you get.
So how did the Shadowlight hold up in use? I’ve gone on several backpacking trips up to 5 days long with it, and so far so good for me! It’s comfortable and has enough cushioning on the shoulder pads and hipbelt, I’ve had no problems.
I’m not a thru-hiker, so can’t say how it’d hold up over months at a time, but there are stories of others who’ve used it hiking the AT and other long trails and have been positive.
All of the straps are easy to adjust, and I felt that the weight was properly distributed between my shoulders and hips.
Another good thing is that the 60L Shadowlight can hold a bear can! It’s easy to fit it in vertically, but may not have as good weight distribution that way. As long as your pack isn’t very stuffed at the bottom, you can actually fit a canister horizontally(I use the Garcia can). It’s a tight fit–but this is another time when that zipper came in handy!
I had all my items I wanted to keep dry in a plastic liner below my bear can. I then put the bear can in and pushed it down below the roll top fabric until it fit horizontally. It was very snug, and then was hard to get back out from the top. So I unzipped the zipper and pushed it out from below without any other problems!
I also tried attaching the bear can to the very top of the pack, after everything else was in and the roll top was closed. However that Y strap is not long enough to go around it. I’m not sure it would have held it anyway. You really need a separate case or some other strap rig to hold a bear can-they slide around a lot.
One addition I made to the pack, was to attach an ultralight camera bag to the hip belt, right underneath the pocket. This was to support the weight of my camera on my hip instead of shoulder, and allow for quick access. It worked quite well!
My final thoughts: I love this pack! It lived up to my expectations and has been a great backpack for a first timer, and I don’t see why any more experienced hiker wouldn’t like it too. I’d recommend it to anybody. Outdoor Vitals did a great job on it!
Oh, and as far as sizing goes, I went with the recommended sizes on their website, and I did ask customer service for advice as I was inbetween sizes on the torso length. Again I went with their advice and it worked just right for me!