|Rating:||8.5 / 10|
|Value for Money||1.7 / 2|
|Comfort||1.6 / 2|
|Weight||1.7 / 2|
|Durability||1.8 / 2|
|Versatility||1.7 / 2|
It has been a long time since I’ve used a Deuter pack despite having used them exclusively in my early hiking days. I still have a few safely stored away. I can’t explain why I drifted away from Deuter but was pleased when I had the opportunity to test the Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 SL Backpack. The 45 + 5 is the sibling of the Deuter Aircontact Ultra 50 + 5 Backpack which Tim tested on part one of our Cape to Cape Walk.
As a brand Deuter is late to the ultralight party but the recently released Deuter Air Contact Ultra Backpacks definitely earn the ultralight tag. With this range Deuter continues to take a different tack to other companies. While the SL model is aimed squarely at women, it’s not branded as a women’s pack and so is also suitable for smaller men. So what did I think of this pack?
First up let’s look at appearance. The Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 SL Backpack comes in two colours; Sienna Paprika (more salmon to my eye) and Dusk Atlantic (grey to me) which is not currently imported into Australia. I tested the Sienna Paprika version and I was a bit concerned about how grubby it was going to get after a few days hiking which it did but the good news is the fabric cleans up very easily with gear wash and water.
This pack is sold as a ’45 + 5′ litre pack and comes with a removable pack brain for those looking to really lighten up their load. The pack comes in one size only and weighs 1.2 kg which sits at the lower end of the lightweight commercial range as opposed to cottage industry non-framed pack range.
Even though this pack is one size to fit all and has a good range of adjustment but unfortunately not quite enough for me. I had the harness at its shortest length and it was too long for my 165 cm frame. This is an interesting point given Deuter suggests the ‘SL’ in the name is about providing a shorter fit. Taller people won’t have so much of an issue given there should be sufficient harness adjustment for them.
As a brand, Deuter tends towards making its packs narrower which I like but it also means the pack tends to be slightly longer than I prefer. Having said that Deuter does this well managing to balance the depth, width and height. Even when fully loaded, this pack sits below the top of your head provided you position the hip belt correctly. Volume wise, this pack is true to sizing and while I had space to remove the pack brain, I like having that extra carrying capacity given this is where I keep most of the items I access during the day.
The material used on this pack is 175 Denier rip stop nylon which as mentioned, cleans up really well. It is durable, robust and copes well with abrasion. The top of the internal pocket has a draw string and at its longest length, adds the additional capacity but also seals well.
To get this pack down to its low weight, Deuter has reduced the cushioning on the shoulder straps and the hip belt. While the hip belt feels comfortable, fully loaded the thinness of the shoulder straps limit the carrying weight and capacity of this pack. Deuter rates this pack for 12-15 kg but from a comfort perspective, my suggestion is to keep it around the 13 kg range.
Dueter’s ‘Aircontact’ system provides light padding on the upper back and along the sides with a larger softer cushioning on the lower back. This harness system provides a gap at the middle of the back that allows air to flow and helps minimise back sweating. However, the large pad that sits on the lower back does create a zone that causes sweating in hotter weather but typically this isn’t an issue in colder weather. This also highlights why getting the right fit is important because if the lower pad sits in the wrong position relative to your back, it can become uncomfortable. The benefit of this frame system is that unlike the trampoline style of framing on other brands that tend to ‘float’ if the pack weight is too light, the Deuter packs are comfortable even with an almost empty pack.
The framing system has an adjustment mechanism that changes the length of the back frame between 35-56 cm and is designed to suit hikers who are 158-178 cm. As mentioned above it didn’t suit me even though I sit in middle of this range. I think the more important aspect is where your body length sits relative to your height – I’m what used to be called ‘high waisted’ so maybe that is my issue!
Feature wise this pack is pretty typical. Two hip belt pockets. In this case the pocket cover is mesh so while hip pockets are never really considered waterproof, in this case they’re not even water resistant. I store hand sanitiser and snacks in the pockets so it isn’t really an issue if the pockets get wet. This pack like most others comes with two large stretch side pockets for water bottles and other accessories, and a stretch pocket at the rear that comfortably accommodated our lightweight two person tent and trowel.
This pack comfortably fits a three litre water bladder which is held in place by a robust velcro strap. As the bladder is internal like many packs, it’s best to position the bladder prior to loading the rest of your gear. The pack brain is a good size but what is lacking is an internal zip pocket for things like keys, wallets etc and instead there is a plastic clip to which you can attach a key. This is a minor bug-bear given I like my valuable items to be secure and easy to find when I need them.
One other feature that isn’t so common on packs this size is that the chest clip is adjusted by physically moving each end of the clip up or down a series of different levels – it means the adjustment won’t slip like on many other packs but it can be tricky to set up. The other plus with this pack is that there is plenty of length on the hip belt that will suit hikers larger than average.
Last but not least is the price. This pack has a RRP of AUD $524.99 but in all honesty at the time of this review (July 2023) you could buy it for AUD $370.00 so keep an eye out for the lower pricing. This lower pricing means that when comparing this pack to others in the same niche, it’s competitive.
While I had some fit issues with this pack I did like it. The fabric is robust despite its ‘lightness’, it has a great range of features and the styling is smart. I would suggest its best for slightly taller people with an ‘average’ body length.
You can purchase the Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 Backpack online from Snowys
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AUD $524.99 RRP but this pack can usually be found at a much cheaper price
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 SL Backpack
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 SL Backpack – side view. This view shows the side pockets along with the tensioning straps
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 SL Backpack with stored trekking poles
Gill wearing the Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 SL Backpack. This pack is narrow and allows free arm movement when walking. At its fullest is 50 litres in capacity
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 SL Backpack – front view. The padded section at the base of the pack is noticeable venue in this image
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 SL showing hip belt pocket
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 SL Backpack with pack brain removed. This will drop the pack weight even further if you you hav the space to do so
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 SL chest clip. Due to the separate connection points this clip stays in place and doesn’t move which is what you want. This clip is also a whistle like on most packs
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 50 + 5 SL – hydration bladder pocket with bladder inserted. The orange velcro holds the bladder in place. This system is identical on the Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 Backpack
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 + 5 SL Backpack showing harness connection point. In this image the packframe is at its longest and it can be shortened down from here
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 SL Backpack open pack Brain
Deuter Aircontact Ultra 45 SL Backpack showing rear stretch pocket. This is were we store our shelter
This review was done with product provided by the Australian supplier of Deuter packs