The hydration pack market is (forgive me) flooded. Sew an extra sleeve inside, buy an unbranded IV drip for a bladder, and you’ve got yourself a product line. Now along comes Osprey, a small company very much not into copying others, with an offering of seven “hydraulics” packs, and the obvious questions to ask are, are they different and are they better? Well, I gave the smallest pack, the Raptor 6, one of National Geographic Adventure’s gear of the year awards a couple months ago, so in my eyes the answers are yes and yes. Details to follow.
The Raptor 6, however, is a bit too small for my purposes–perfect for hour loops, training rides, a trail run, but lacking the capacity for three hour, four hour, all-day adventures. That’s where the Raptor 10 comes in. It’s still compact and trim enough to be an everyday sprint pack, but has the room for a few thousand calories, some extra layers, and an industrial-sized patch kit.
All seven of Osprey’s hydration packs are built around the idea that sucking hard to get your water sucks, so they’re designed with a simple system called HydraLock, which pressurizes the reservoir and increases water flow. HydraLock stabilizes and squeezes the bladder, which also cuts down on sloshing–not a huge issue for cycling but something that quickly becomes annoying on a trail run. The flow it creates isn’t exactly at the level of a fire hose, but it is improvement over traditional systems. Bite the valve and it’s like opening the faucet a trickle, give it a pull and it streams.
Okay, brownie points for a executing a good idea. Lack of water pressure isn’t the biggest issue in hydration packs, though. That would be poor design and inattention to how these suckers actually feel on your back. And that’s where the Raptor 10 really shines–this little pack carries great, whether you’re bombing down a rock garden on a rigid single speed or motoring like Legolas along a loamy old-growth trail.
The key, I think, actually comes from HydraLock. For this pressurizing system to work, it needs structure–a plastic spine on the reservoir, a semi-rigid frame that doesn’t collapse under its own weight, a back panel that’s more substantive than simple padding–and that provides the Raptor with corporeal stability that translates to carrying comfort. It’s found the perfect blend of conforming to your body yet having enough backbone to carry a full three-liter reservoir without tugging on the shoulder straps at every pedal stroke.
Other features worth noting include a helmet carrying system that secures your lid without letting it flop around like an empty turtle shell on a runaway poacher’s pack, stretchy pockets on the waist belt for energy packs, and a strong magnet on the sternum strap to hold the bite valve at the ready.
The Osprey Raptor 10 costs $89. It comes in gray, dark green, and gold, weighs 27 ounces, has a 10-liter capacity, and measures 18 x 8.25 x 7.50 inches.
For more on Osprey Packs, including warranty, factory locations, and where to buy, see The Adventure Life’s company profile page.