I’ve had quite a few hydration packs over the years. Most of the time, I wore the old one out (or got tired of the leaks) and bought a new one that had a couple new features and was maybe a little bit nicer. They held my water and tools and food without complaint. One of them even did a little extra duty as a pillow during a fateful night-riding incident. But that’s a different review…
So when Kurt said he had a new pack for me to review I was expected something little bit better and maybe a little bit nicer than my current pack. This one is A LOT better and A LOT nicer than my current pack. In fact, I’m pretty sure this one is much better in every regard.
The pack in question is a nice yellow-orange Osprey Viper 10. The first thing I noticed is that they seem to have used about 15 different types of fabric. Just listing the types that are orange, you’ve got the stretchy outer pocket, the sort of waffle-weave rip-stop outer fabric, the embossed bubble-wrap looking fabric, and probably a couple others. Instead of just picking up whatever was on the shelf at the factory in the right color, they really put some effort into picking the best technical fabric for the specific case. As a mechanical engineer who has done a bit of industrial design implementation, this is the kind of detail I really love because to me it’s the difference between a small bag with arm straps that you stuff a water bladder in, and a real designed hydration pack. It’s nice to see a product where an up-close inspection just reinforces the appearance of quality. But enough industrial design talk let’s get to some more details:
Basic Stuff: 3.0 liter reservoir, big internal pocket for tools, small zippered pocked for other stuff, big stretchy pocket on the outside for stashing things.
One of my favorite features is the magnetic clip for the bite valve. I’m used to blindly feeling around for that little clip to put the hose on, giving up because the trail requires two hands, and then having to put up with my pack slowly peeing on my leg. What the thoughtful folks at Osprey did is put a magnet on the sternum strap, and put one on the valve. It’s not totally automatic and you do have to blindly feel around for a little bit, but then it clicks into plate and you’re good.
The rotating valve is also a nice feature. It lets you get it at just the right angle, and also functions as the lock-out when you have it rotated parallel to the tube.
The next thing I loved about this pack is the resevoir. Pushing a floppy bag full of water into a small backpack that already has a bunch of stuff in it has never been an easy job. On this one, the 3.0 liter reservoir has a ribbed plastic back which helps it keep it’s shape, and a nice long handle on the front side which also protects where the tube exits the reservoir. Weather hasn’t been too warm lately, but I expect the ribbed back will also provide some air insulation to keep your back cooler in hot weather.
Installation is also helped by the fact that the reservoir compartment is separate from the others and has an easy velcro opening. There is a big nalgene screw on lid which is big improvement over my current hydration pack which has a weird inverted lid which is unfortunately really easy to overtighten and then impossible to get back off.
Other things I liked were the well thought-out straps to keep everything tightened down so it doesn’t flop around while riding. The stretchy back pocket is awesome and easily fits an extra 29er tube and my vest, knee-warmers, a couple clif bars, etc. It works pretty much like the usual criss-cross stretchy stuff that many packs like this have, but you don’t have to worry about stuff falling out, or listen to your vest flapping in the breeze. Pockets are well thought out (no surprise here) with a smaller one for cell phone and sunglasses, and a separately accessible bigger one for tools, pump, emergency blanket (after my “incident” I started to carry one of those), and other things that you hopefully won’t need to get to during a ride. There is a little stretchy pocked one of the arm straps that could hold a small phone or credit card.
They couldn’t even leave the zippers alone and put these cool injection molded loop things on the nylon loops that keep them open for easy grabbing. You probably think I’m a little bit crazy for talking about the zipper pulls but seriously folks, these are awesome!
If you’re current pack is at the end of it’s life and you want something new, I highly recommend the Osprey. It does come in some different sizes if you want something bigger for big epic rides or you want something a bit smaller.
I know I’ve listed a lot of positives up above but I’m having a hard time coming up with a real negative. I guess it did take some getting used to the shape on the bite valve. Also, if you check the website to look at features, you have to really dig to find the reservoir capacity. Another possible downside is you may not find these at your LBS. If you can’t find it there and you don’t feel like buying it online, try your local REI.