Travis Smola

Gear Review: Outdoor Vitals Rhyolite Lightweight Backpack

The Outdoor Vitals Rhyolite Lightweight Backpack is extremely comfortable.

Recently, Outdoor Vitals, a company specializing in producing lightweight camping gear, sent over their Rhyolite ultralight backpacking pack for me to try out. In the past, I reviewed their Lofttek Adventure Jacket, which incorporates some sleeping bag technologies into a jacket.

I've been using that jacket all winter long and I really like it. I was stoked to see what Outdoor Vitals gear could bring to a backpack.

The answer is one incredibly comfortable pack that has great storage capacity and keeps your gear secure from shifting while you're on the trail.


Outdoor Vitals Rhyolite Lightweight Backpack

Travis Smola

The company makes two versions of this pack. There is the Rhyolite 60L and the 45L. The version I tested was the Outdoor Vitals 45L.

The moment I took this pack out of the box I liked it. All the parts of this internal frame backpack feel like they are well made. This pack retails for around $100, but it feels like something that is much more expensive.

Everything from the durable waterproof fabric, the 600 denier polyester fabric, to the rainfly, the removable hood, and the strong YKK buckles is extremely well-made and constructed.

The whole backpack feels like it can take a beating on whatever camping hiking trips you may take it on.

During my first short hike with it, I went off trail at one point and went through some tangled thorns that stuck to me and the pack. There are no holes, rips, or tears from said thorns on any part of the backpack. It still looks the same as when it came out of the box.

One thing that may turn some people off is the weight. At a little under five pounds, the 60L is a little heavier than some of the competing packs on the market. But for something of this quality and at this low of a price point, the Outdoor Vitals Ultralight Rhyolite packs are definitely something to look at if you're in the market for this kind of pack.

The Fit

Outdoor Vitals Rhyolite Lightweight Backpack

Travis Smola

One of the big things any backpacker is looking for is a pack with a comfortable fit, and this one definitely offer that. The shoulder straps are wide, comfortable, and required very little in the way of adjustment to fit me.

Outdoor Vitals say they made the pack adjustable to fit people as short as 5' 5" and as tall as 6' 6". The torso portion can be adjusted to reflect your height.

The sternum strap and hip belts are also easily adjustable, thanks to easy pull straps. On the hip belt, the straps adjust inward rather than outward, which makes it easy to tweak the pack to fit your body.

The hip belt also features some slick, removable hip pockets which are nice for small things like your keys, cell phone, or small snacks while out on the trail.

Outdoor Vitals Rhyolite Lightweight Backpack

Travis Smola

We do need to talk a bit more about this hip belt though, for a couple reasons. For one, Outdoor Vitals has been marketing the hip belt as a place to carry an attachment of bear spray or even a firearm, so I decided to test it. I took off the hip pocket on one side and replaced it with a can of expired bear spray.

I believed Outdoor Vitals' thinking was in the right place, but it's not 100 perfect. Sure, a can of bear spray at the bottom of your bag does you no good when confronted by an angry bruin. But the position of the part of the hip belt where you'd hang the spray is a bit awkward.

I had to reach back and up a bit to pull out the can. And this was in a controlled setting with no actual bear threat.

Outdoor Vitals Rhyolite Lightweight Backpack

Travis Smola

Honestly, in a life-or-death situation with an angry bear, where your mind is probably racing, I feel like I'd be grabbing at air with the can in this position. It'd be very easy to fumble for it was when your mind is focused on a threat in front of you.

After the bear spray test, I didn't even bother trying my Glock 19 on the hip belt. First off, the only thing to hold your holster is velcro, which is tough to trust to hold a two-pound loaded firearm. Secondly, if it is awkward reaching for the bear spray, I figured it's going to be the same for a firearm.

Most people who would open-carry a firearm on a backpack like this are probably going to be carrying a huge bear gun like a Ruger Super Redhawk or Smith & Wesson 500 somewhere in the Alaskan wilds. Neither of these firearms is small, and I just feel like it would be really awkward carrying something like that on the hip belt.

This isn't necessarily a knock against the pack. I just feel in the case of both bear spray and a firearm, I'd suggest keeping them off the pack and on your actual belt where they are more accessible.

The hip belt aside, the pack fits wonderfully and was incredibly comfortable throughout my hikes. I did some off-the trail hiking up and down hills during my test, and I searched out a few geocaches along the way.

I was easily able to search the logs and leaves of the forest floor without the pack feeling like it was getting in the way. In fact, it was really impressed with how easy it is to sit and stand with this pack.

The Rhyolite backpack feels so comfortable and natural, it's almost like an extension of your body rather than a bunch of extra stuff you're carrying with you.

Storage & Other Features

Outdoor Vitals Rhyolite Lightweight Backpack

Travis Smola

Now on to the most important part of any pack, the storage space. The Rhyolite has no shortage of pockets and stash areas for every piece of camping gear that you own, large and small.

The removable hood features a horseshoe zipper storage area and also acts as a day pack when it's completely removed. This feature seems less geared towards backcountry trips and more towards someone who is using the pack in a more touristy fashion, like a backpacking trip of Europe.

This waist pack is borderline fanny pack-looking once it's removed from the main pack, but if you're fine with that, it works exactly as advertised.

This pack doesn't feature a sleeping bag compartment, which may or may not be a deal breaker for some people. It isn't for me.

There is no shortage of internal pockets on this pack, either. There are smaller pockets for things like firestarters, cooking gear, wallets, car keys, and lots of other small items all over the whole pack.

On the sides of the pack are two pockets that are primarily meant for a water bottle, but they can probably be used to store other items. I put a heavy 20-liter bottle in there during my test hike and cinched it down using one of the side compression straps. I honestly forgot the bottle was there it stayed in place so snugly. If you prefer a hydration bladder, there is also room to add one of those.

Outdoor Vitals Rhyolite Lightweight Backpack

Travis Smola

For me, the most important part of any pack is the main compartment, and it is here that Outdoor Vitals executed a truly great design.

The compartment is nice and roomy, but the best part about it is the full-length side zipper. This allows you to access items all the way at the bottom of the pack without unpacking all your gear first. It makes it very easy to get the gear you need without throwing everything else out of order.

For someone like myself, who is good at organizing before the trip but gets increasingly disorganized as I go, this is a great feature for keeping everything packed the way I originally had it.

And once your pack is full, your load stays snug and secure in the main compartment. For the purposes of this test, I threw in my heavy Nikon DSLR camera (in its bag) right at the top of the pack in the main compartment. Not once did I ever feel the camera bag shift or move during my hike.

Even with all the elevation change and after throwing the bag carelessly in the car, everything was still exactly where I packed it when I got home.

Granted, not everyone is likely to be be hauling around a heavy camera like that, but you can rest easy knowing your heftier gear is safe and secure in the Rhyolite.

This pack also includes a rain cover to help protect your pack and gear if you encounter bad weather. I didn't get a chance to test its effectiveness against the rain, but I can tell you it tucks away rather neatly at the bottom of the pack and was easy to put up and take down. I'll take their word for it that the rain cover does its job.

This pack also features more extreme features like ice ax loops, although I don't anticipate putting those to use here in the Midwest.

Speaking of the Midwest, I should mention that I chose to review the 45L because in my part of the country, we don't do many backpacking adventures beyond two or three days. That's where I think the 45L will likely work best. If you're looking for something for a slightly longer adventure, the 60L might be more your speed.

The Bottom Line

Simply put, I love the Outdoor Vitals Rhyolite 45. I was previously looking at several similar, but much more expensive bags for both camping and travel. But I don't think I'll need to shop any further because this pack has everything I was looking for. The Rhyolite is high-quality. It has an incredibly comfortable and versatile fit that means this pack can fit just about everyone. It should be perfect for any camping or travel adventures I take it on. Oh, and you can't beat the incredible price point that helps seal the deal on the Rhyolite being a winner to us!

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and General Outdoor Youtube Channels