Product Review: Osprey hydration pack

The only hydration pack I remember really owning was a Camelbak Rocket that my dad bought me when I was 19 or so, at my first bike shop job. My parents were upset that I was staying in Santa Fe to work rather than returning to Massachusetts, and I interpreted this pack as a peace offering, a gesture of love and support even though I was driving them crazy and breaking their hearts. I used that hydration pack for almost 15 years, and finally retired it when we moved out of our house in Pittsburgh to begin our great road trip adventure.

I thought my other backpacks (a camera backpack and an LL Bean “Sprout” pack which is for 4- to 10-year-olds…or people with small torsos) would be enough, but they clearly aren’t. While the LL Bean pack can hold a bladder, it doesn’t fit right, because I am an adult, and tends to slide and bounce on my back a bit. I’ve been addressing this problem by just not wearing a hydration pack, and instead carrying a water bottle in my jersey pocket (I don’t have a water bottle cage on my bike, because I am a horrible, lazy person).

It only took one 2-hour, 16-mile trail ride in Santa Fe to realize that I need a proper hydration pack. Behold, my REI Dividends! I was really hoping to have enough to buy, say, a GoPro and a YETI cooler. But that would mean I would have to spend much, much more than I did on my REI card, and I just literally can’t even (Really. I’m a writer.). But I was able to get a hydration pack, a new bra, and something else that I forget. Here is the pack I chose:

The Osprey Hydraulics Raven 10

Osprey Hydraulics Raven 10 pack, photo courtesy

Here’s what’s so great about this pack:

  • Stays close to the body—The slick design of this pack keeps everything cinched tight to there is no movement. There are even little bungies around the bag to cinch things up tighter so there isn’t extra slack where it isn’t wanted.
  • It fits! Wow, they actually made a pack that is remotely proportionate to my torso!
  • Stiff bladder—even if my own bladder isn’t very stiff at the moment (hello, cleanse), it’s nice to know that Osprey has done their part. This hydration bladder has a stiff backing, which means it is:
    • easy to put into the backpack when full
    • doesn’t feel like a big bulge when full
    • lies flat and doesn’t fall down in a big sloppy mess on the first rock garden
  • Helmet hook and tail light clip. Lots of packs come with one of these, but it’s still a nice touch so I don’t have to carry my helmet around if I stop somewhere before or after the trails. The tail light clip is another no-brainer that just makes commuting so much simpler.
  • Lots of pockets for organizing, and they all close up well. Hip pockets, little pockets inside the pack for keys and money, stretchy front pocket with hidden clip closure, main pack pocket. So many.
  • Hydration hose zipper and valve magnet so the hose also stays close to pack and doesn’t flop around
  • Special pocket on the bottom of the bag for tools, complete with tool roll (but no tools, unfortunately). What a great idea, seriously. Having a special pocket, easily accessible and away from food pockets, for emergency tools seems like such a no-brainer but this is the first I’ve seen on such a small pack.
  • Breathable—When riding for four hours in Galisteo Basin, I got pretty hot. But my back didn’t bear the brunt of the sweat, thanks to the Airscape™ backpanel. It’s only going to get hotter in these parts, and proper ventilation is key to staying cool, in addition to staying hydrated in the first place.
Back of Osprey Hydraulics Raven 10 pack, photo courtesy

If I were to state a negative, it would be that it looks like the main compartment should store more than it does, because of how tight the pack is. But I have a managed to shimmy a small grocery run with this pack (jar of apple sauce, two packs of dehydrated fruit, pack of wasabi seaweed, and a can of La Croix) and could probably still fit a sandwich and some riding gloves in the front pocket. So nevermind, I take back my complaint. I’m sorry, Osprey. You did a fine job here.