Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Innovative and well ventilated back panel, hiking pole/ice axe stash system.
Cons: No good outer stash pocket, doesn't hold a laptop efficiently, when weighted down the pack tips backwards, water bottle pockets are small.
The Osprey Stratos 24 pack stands out for its innovative back panel. This panel makes the pack one of the most ventilated packs out there, but it also means the pack carries weight differently and does not fit as many things as efficiently as a pack like the Patagonia Refugio. The Stratos does have convenient features for hikers such as an ice axe carry and an easy to use trekking pole stash system. The Talon 22 and the Gregory Z30 have similarly designed back panels, but both of those packs leave less of a gap between the main compartment of the pack and your back, which means they are less ventilated, but hold weight slightly better. If you are looking for a pack that can hold a lot relative to its weight and bulk, try the frameless REI Trail 25 or Deuter Speed Lite 20.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The back panel on the Osprey Stratos, with a curved panel to holds the main compartment of the pack off of your back, is one of the most innovative and breathable we have seen. Few other packs, if any, let this much air circulate. This design also means that sharp objects in the pack won't poke into your back. However, because of this curve, if you load the pack with a lot of weight, it feels like it is tipping you backwards and the weight does not distribute properly. This design also means this pack is relatively bulky for its volume (since there is a lot of dead space behind your back).
There is a clever hiking pole stash system which lets you quickly stash your poles without removing the pack if you get to a tricky section of trail where you need to use your hands.
The pack comes with a rain cover that stashes away into its own pocket. This pocket is ventilated at the bottom, which means you can put a wet rain cover or a wet base layer in there to start drying and not make the rest of your pack contents wet, but there is no large outer pocket to stash extra things like extra layers or rain shell. Instead, this area is used up by the rain cover pocket.
The side compression straps can be routed under or over the side mesh pocket. This cool feature lets you compress the pack and still have access to the side panel for a water bottle or other item.
The pocket on the right shoulder strap is a little too small for an iPhone. It will fit, but it's a pain to get it in and out quickly. By comparison, the mesh pockets on the Osprey Talon 22 are easy to get an iPhone in and out of and the Patagonia Refugio has a pocket specifically sized for an iPhone.
At 2 lbs 8 oz, this is the second heaviest pack in this review, after the Gregory Z30. The back panel is the primary feature that adds weight, and it also adds bulk and size to a small capacity pack. This is not the pack for people trying to move fast and light in the mountains.
The ventilated Airspeed back panel and meshy waist belt make this pack a breeze to wear while hiking in hot weather. This is by far the most breathable pack, so if you are worried about sweating, the Osprey Stratos is the way to go. The main thing to consider is that it carries weight uncomfortably far back when the pack gets loaded too heavily.
Since the carrying capacity is cut down inside the pack by the back panel, and weight is carried differently, this pack has more limited usage than some of the other packs we reviewed. It does not work well to really load this pack with weight, so it is best used strictly for day hiking. It is also difficult to use this pack for travel because there are less organizational pockets than in some of the other packs. Also, with the addition of the ice tool carry and trekking pole stash features, it is more tailored to a hike in the mountains than carrying around town.
This pack has so far been quite durable, and the back panel, which at first glance looks fragile, is actually really sturdy and well built.
Ease of Use
The curve of the back panel makes it difficult to pack and store stuff efficiently. All of the items in our "10 essentials" pack test fit, with the addition of an ice tool carry and trekking pole stash, however if you carry much more than the items on our list, the pack becomes hard to pack, too heavy, and begins to pull you backwards.
The rest of the features such as the trekking pole carry, which can be used without removing the pack, are very simple and straightforward to use. Even the convenient rain cover and dual hydration hose ports make it so this pack can be used to your maximum comfort and in all types of weather. The ergo pull adjustment of the waist belt is also much easier to use than most waist belts.
This pack is best for simple day hikes where you don't need to carry much stuff besides food, water, extra layers, and possibly an ice tool and trekking poles. The pack will not comfortably hold much more, and it lacks good organizational pockets for work or school use. A 13 to 17-inch laptop will fit but there is a lot of dead space, making not an ideal way to carry a computer, so this not the best pack for traveling.
This pack typically costs around $100, which is on the expensive side, but makes sense when you consider how innovative the design features on this pack are.
Osprey Stratos 26, $130.
Osprey Stratos 34, $130.
Osprey Stratos 36, $150.
— McKenzie Long
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: September 7, 2012
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