Osprey Raptor 14 Hydration Pack
The speed with which hydration packs have fallen out of favour with mountain bikers is staggering. Hip packs, hidden frame compartments, and the good old water bottle are hot – backpacks are not. I feel like I’m one of the few left who still wear a pack almost every ride. This must be the reason that I was asked if I wanted to review the Osprey Raptor – it was probably hard find anyone else who still rides with a backpack!
The Raptor is a 14-litre (854 cubic inch) pack and comes with a 3-litre (100 cubic inch) hydration reservoir. It easily fits everything you need for a big day on the trails. Those 14 litres are divided into several compartments and subcompartments including two small hip-belt pockets and a neat tool pouch at the bottom of the pack. Osprey also offers a 10-litre version.
The number of compartments is a bit overwhelming. If I put something in every pocket, I think I’d have trouble remembering where I put what when I need something during a ride. So apart from putting my tools in the tool pouch, my wallet and keys in the front pocket, and my phone in the small top pocket, I just dump everything else (spare layers, tubes, snacks, rain cover, first aid kit) in the large main compartment.
I find the Raptor very comfortable to wear. The ventilated back panel does a reasonably good job of limiting the heat build-up while still keeping the pack close enough to the body to be stable and avoid the dancing-monkey-on-the-back feel. It also sits nice and low and doesn’t interfere with my helmet, a problem I have with some other packs, especially on steep descents. The shoulder, chest, and hip straps were easily adjusted to acquire the correct fit and haven’t come loose or annoyed me in any way. Overall, I really like the fit of the Raptor and I pretty much forget it’s there while riding - probably the best compliment a pack designer can wish for.
The tool pouch at the bottom of the pack is my favourite feature of the Raptor. It neatly keeps my tools tightly together at the bottom of the pack, putting the weight were it’s best and preventing stuff from moving around while riding. When it’s time for a trailside repair, the tool pouch is easily accessible via the zippered opening at the bottom of the pack, without having to dig for the right tool at the bottom of a large main compartment. Every pack should have this!
I also found that the zippered sleeve for the water hose made it super easy to install and remove the reservoir. No fumbling the hose and bite valve through a series of holes and loops. In front, the hose smartly attaches to the chest strap using a small magnet. Again, no fumbling with clips.
The space between the front pocket and the main compartment is great for stashing knee pads on the way up. It easily fits a pair of burly pads. You can also fit a trail helmet in there and fix it in place by pulling the 'lidlock' though one of your helmet's vents. I didn't use this feature (helmets don't work when strapped to a pack) but it's a nice option for long hot fire road climbs.
The not so much
While I like the way the reservoir is accessed and the hose attaches to the chest strap, I think the included reservoir itself has room for improvement. The bite valve’s water flow is too slow – as if you’re trying to suck a thick chunky smoothie through a narrow straw – and the open/close switch is too hard to move – I can’t do it with one hand. I also find the reservoir’s slide seal opening inconvenient in use. Even with the slider removed, the opening is still closed and you have to actively keep it open to fill it. Eventually, I replaced the reservoir with one from Camelbak that I had lying around. It fits nicely and I can even use the magnet on the hose.
The plastic key clip in the front pocket is not tight enough to secure my key ring. At least half of the time my keys have come unattached by the end of the ride. I usually stuff the clipped keys in the mesh pouch as well so it hasn’t really been a problem but holding keys is the only thing a key clip has to do, so it was disappointing.
The Raptor is not waterproof (as was confirmed during our photo shoot in the pissing rain) and doesn't have an integrated rain cover. Osprey sells a separate rain cover but a generic 10–15L cover from MEC that I have also fit reasonably well.
A minor downside that may or not bother you is the fixed hose routing due to the zippered sleeve (if you like to run your hose on the left side you are out of luck).
Overall, I think the Raptor is a decent pack that's very comfortable to wear. It has a couple of smart design features which make it easy to use and it has a couple of minor flaws that I'd like to see fixed by Osprey in a next iteration. My biggest issue with the Raptor is the included reservoir, which may be a matter of personal preference. If you're looking for a new hydration pack of this size, the Raptor is definitely worth a look.
The Osprey Raptor 14 sells for 140 USD/190 CAD. Osprey also offers a smaller 10-litre version for 130 USD/170 CAD.More information on www.osprey.com.