Nashville Pack and Equipment Company was founded in the Fall of 2018 by long distance hikers Levi “Bedhead” Morton and Grant “Gusha” Leonardi while hiking southbound on the Appalachian Trail. The duo combined Levi’s construction and sewing experience with Grant’s extensive hiking resume and knowledgebase to design innovative ultralight backpacking equipment. Their goal was to improve the hiking experience through inventive problem solving and constant questioning of norms and standard practices. All products are designed, cut, and produced by hand just outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

The Cutaway is a unique take on the ultralight adventure pack that can accompany you on any hike you could imagine. I have been testing it for six weeks and have used it for a couple of day-hikes in different weather conditions (I was even lucky enough to catch the first snow).

I have to say, this pack took me by surprise. How is it different from any other ultralight backpack of similar capacity? Let’s find out.

Tech Specs

Comfort is the name of the game here and to ensure the perfect fit (and to accommodate a wide range of users and body types) The Cutaway comes in three sizes:

  • 16 in/41 cm (23L to collar, 29L total internal volume)
  • 18 in/46 cm (25L to collar, 31L total internal volume)
  • 20 in/51 cm (27L to collar, 33L total internal volume) 

Unlike the majority of packs on the market, the Cutaway is configurable so there is no default weight. It all depends on the size, materials and add-ons you end up choosing during the bag building process. But to give you some idea you can refer to the weight of each component from the Nashville website.

Height18 in46 cm
Width12 in30.5 cm
Depth6 in15.25 cm
Weight15.9 oz450 grams
Capacity2400 cu. in.40L

My review unit with 19.0” Vest straps, LS07 fabric, removable hip belt, and sternum straps had a total weight around 450 g (15.9 oz). Compared to all other packs I have used previously, it felt basically weightless.

The Cutaway pack consists of two main components – the pack itself (made from a wide range of different materials) and the vest (two layers of high-quality breathable mesh)

Check out the list of fabrics and options from Nashville pack website.

Quality and Comfort

No beating around the bush; the build is great, further elevated by a thoughtful combination of materials that synergize well with each other. Depending on your fabric choice while going through the bag builder on the website you can further adapt the pack to your needs. For instance, you can pick 210d HDPE Gridstop as the main fabric if durability is your priority or a 2.92 oz DCF Hybrid if you are aiming for the lightest pack possible.

Perhaps you have a crazy idea and want to supply your own fabric for the Cutaway? No problem. Nashville has got you covered. It’s not often I see this level of customization available and I want to commend Nashville pack for giving us, regular consumers, this high degree of versatility when it comes to building our bag.

The final product might not be the sexiest backpack out there, but it performs exceptionally well.

The comfort is a standout feature, thanks to sophisticated vest straps that are wide, soft, and pleasantly “hug” your body. You can secure the vest straps with up to three (!) webbing strips. In my experience two were often plenty enough.

The top grab handle is fine to pick up the bag but don’t expect to enjoy holding the bag by it for extended periods of time. It’s just enough to slide a couple of fingers through, and is more useful for hanging the bag at camp.

I used the pack on multiple day hikes with an average comfortable weight of 15lbs. The recommended max carry weight of this build is around 25lbs.

Organization and Access

At first glance the Cutaway does not have much organization to speak of. There are, however, some surprises and thoughtful features that allow the bag to stay simple, yet organized.

The first thing that pops when looking at the bag is large continuous section on the front that consists of three panels. Two large stretchy water bottle pockets on on each side. And, one huge mesh pocket in the middle. The center pocket has excellent visibility for anything you put inside and of course excellent breathability if you need things to dry out while stored externally. 

There is also a large stretchy pocket at the bottom of the pack which is easy to reach while the pack is on. I found it very handy to store gloves, a hat, or a scarf. Quick to grab or put back in unpredictable weather conditions. I found it invaluable that I could reach the pocket with either of my hands and thanks to the size of the pocket I was able to store a few things at the same time; a hat reached with my left hand and gloves accessible with my right hand. It sounds simple and minor but in reality extremely useful since I did not need to reorganize the bag to get to what I need. Everything was easy to grab, quickly, while I was wearing the bag.

The straps themselves offer a surprising bit of organization with 3 pockets per strap making a total of six (!) pockets total on the straps. The pockets have different sizes with the largest one able to fit 500ml water bottles and the smallest ones great for trail mix, a flashlight, matches, etc. All of the pockets are a generously stretchy mesh so when empty they lay flat but when you need it you have a ton of space. Each pocket is secured with snap buttons at the top for added security and peace of mind.

The main compartment is a roll top secured with a strap in the middle. The main advantage of the rolltop is, of course, unparalleled expandability. When the bag is not full you can make it more compact by rolling the top tighter but when you need the extra space it is just a few rolls away. The top of the roll is also secured with snap buttons for added security.

To keep things simple Nashville adds no additional internal organization. The main section is a single spacious compartment with no pockets or dividers. Considering the generous external organization of the pack I found the simplicity of internal section refreshing

What’s Perfect

  • The harness is something else. Built more like a vest, it “hugs” the body. The end result is comfort and maneuverability that I have not experienced on any other bag.
  • The weight to volume ratio is quite impressive considering the ultralight nature of the pack and the cavernous main compartment. You can easily pack for a couple of days in the wild with full confidence that you are not cumbered by the pack itself.
  • The bag is built to order allowing you to tailor the size to your body type as well as choose the fabric and features that best suit your needs.
  • Terrific external organization with a generous front panel as well as six handy vest pockets for a range of different items, accessible in a flash.

What’s Not

  • There is no frame sheet and you need to consider how you place your items in the bag so there is nothing poking you in the back.
  • There are quite a lot of straps dangling (harness system, external storage, rolltop closure, etc) and I wish there was an option to add strap keepers during checkout.
  • Removing the waist strap took more time and effort than I would have hoped. I would revisit the attachment of this strap to make it easier to remove and attach.

Wrap Up

I have not seen anything like the Cutaway before. The pack is purposefully built to offer the best comfort possible while also ensuring you have a lot of volume for very little overall weight.

In my experience of using the Cutaway during multiple hikes I can confidently say that folks at Nashville have outdone themselves with their unique harness and have created a very capable bag that is worth every penny. Admittedly, the bag might not look sexy and very unlikely to be “love at first sight” but the Cutaway excels where it matters – in comfort, durability, and ease of use.

If you are looking for a lightweight, spacious, and insanely comfortable bag to accompany you on a wide range of outdoor adventures, the answer is easy – this is it. Arguably, the hardest part is choosing between the numerous fabric and color options during the bag-building process. Luckily, Levi at Nashville Packs has your back. You can head to Nashville Pack and Equipment to configure your very own trusty adventure companion, starting at $120 USD.

Editor’s Note: The Cutaway was provided by Nashville Pack and Equipment Company as a sample for review purposes. The content of this review was not shared with Nashville Pack and Equipment Company before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.