Before we left on our first trip we had a lot of questions about what kind of pack to get, so we showed up to our local REI and, thanks to a great salesperson, spent the next 5 hours (literally) trying on pack after pack, filling them with 5 and 10 pound bean bags and walking around the store testing the fit. The guy who helped us was super patient and knowledgeable and after we had decided that the Osprey’s seemed to fit us best, he actually helped us customize them a bit. The “large” frame size fit my upper body best, but we swapped out the standard waist strap for a “medium” which carried the weight on my hips better.
These packs have been amazingly comfortable. Carrying 35+ pounds, no matter how well it’s strapped to your back, is going to start to wear on you, especially when it’s not something your body is used to, but the Osprey has a number of on-the-fly adjustment straps to reposition the load as conditions change (hiking up hill, walking along level ground or descending can all change the way you want the pack to sit). These packs are like best friends now. We absolutely love them.
Besides comfort, the bags have some great logistical design. The bag can be loaded from the top, but it also has a side access pocket, something especially useful for city travel which means not having to empty the entire pack just to get at something at the bottom. It has a number of external straps, loops and pockets for stowing various bits of gear. There’s a pouch inside the pack to carry a standard water bladder (like Camelbak, Platypus, et al.) that can clip out and then strap to your back for day hikes without the pack.
There’s also a smaller sack that straps over the top of the pack. The brochure suggests that it can be unclipped and used as a fanny pack. It would be the single largest fanny pack in the world, and looks ridiculous, but it can actually be used over the shoulder as a great messenger bag when walking around cities. I thought it was a silly feature when we bought the packs but it was invaluable and means you don’t need to carry an additional day bag to have a middle ground between “giant pack” and “no pack”
All in all this has been a great purchase. It’s definitely one of the more expensive bits of gear we had to buy (~$350-400) but we trekked with them, traveled subways with them, strapped them to the back of motorcycles, and sent them as checked luggage on our airplane rides and they still work great. 100% recommendation.
We also sprung for the Osprey rain covers and their “Airporter.” The rain cover was a no-brainer; it kept the packs dry on the trail, but even more useful was to lay it on the ground inside the test vestibule at night. Then we could pile the packs on the cover instead of the (often) damp ground. The only caveat there is that it’s a light material (for weight savings) and isn’t very tear or puncture resistant. So just take it easy, hamfist.
We also bought the Airporters, though were pretty sure we were wasting our money on something we didn’t need. We were totally wrong as they turned out to be very useful. The biggest help was to keep straps from getting tangled and broken when checking the packs as luggage on trains or airplanes; not to mention saving a little wear and tear on the packs themselves. The zippers lock, which doesn’t really provide much security, but it’s enough to discourage a quick rifle when you leave your pack in your hotel room for the day. Plus, more than once we filled them with items we didn’t need for a trek (like extra books and clothes), locked them and left them wherever we’d been staying, to pick up at the end of the trek.
So, both very useful beyond their intended purposes. Well worth it.