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Osprey Seral Review

An effective hydration system, comfortable design, and plenty of storage make this our Top Pick for Lumbar Packs.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $85 List | Check Price at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, good organization, nice hydration system
Cons:  Hard to clean bladder, heavy loads can sag
Manufacturer:   Osprey
By Nick Bruckbauer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 17, 2019
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 14
  • Ease of Drinking - 20% 8
  • Ease of Filling - 20% 7
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Storage - 20% 6
  • Weight - 10% 7
  • Ease of Cleaning - 10% 5

Our Verdict

While lumbar packs may not be everyone's cup of tea, they are a sensible choice when you're carrying lighter loads and want a little more freedom than a backpack provides. Our Top Pick Osprey Seral Lumbar provides high-quality construction, a very effective HydraPak hydration system, and a good amount of storage and organization.

If you're on board with a lumbar pack but don't want to mess with a hydration bladder and drinking tubes, check out the Seral's cousin, the Osprey Talon 6, which includes two handy squeeze bottles instead. However, for the convenience of a drinking tube, our testers chose the Osprey Seral Lumbar as our Top Pick for Lumbar Packs.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Osprey Seral
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
Price Check Price at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$104.95 at Backcountry
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$129.95 at Amazon
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$69.95 at REI$84.95 at Amazon
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Pros Comfortable, good organization, nice hydration systemComfortable, good organization, great hydration systemBreathability, excellent storage, comfort and supportBig volume, lightweight, great priceLightweight, storage volume, hydration system
Cons Hard to clean bladder, heavy loads can sagPricePrice, thin waist beltFewer pockets, average hydration performanceLimited organization, poor ventilation
Bottom Line An effective hydration system, comfortable design, and plenty of storage make this our Top Pick for Lumbar Packs.Our Editors' Choice all mountain hydration pack - for good reason.A lightweight yet fully featured hydration pack that just missed out on our top ranking.An excellent volume to weight to price ratio makes this our Best Buy Award winner.An all-around pack that successfully blurs the line between hydration pack and daypack.
Rating Categories Osprey Seral Platypus Duthie A.M. 10 Osprey Syncro 12 Gregory Nano 18 H2O Osprey Skarab 18
Ease Of Drinking (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
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7
10
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8
Ease Of Filling (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
6
Comfort (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
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9
10
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8
10
0
8
Storage (20%)
10
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6
10
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9
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9
10
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9
10
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7
Weight (10%)
10
0
7
10
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5
10
0
4
10
0
7
10
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7
Ease Of Cleaning (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
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8
10
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6
10
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7
Specs Osprey Seral Platypus Duthie... Osprey Syncro 12 Gregory Nano 18 H2O Osprey Skarab 18
Pack Size 7L 10L 12L 18L 18L
Bladder Capacity 1.5L 3L 2.5L 3L 2.5L
Waist Belt Yes, lumbar pack Two zippered pockets on the waist belt 3/4" webbing Removable 3/4" webbing Removable 3/4" webbing
Weight (measured) 18.0 oz 30.4 oz 34 oz 25.5 oz 25.5 oz
Weight (claimed) 13.12 oz 34 oz 27.5 oz 18.4 oz 17.6 oz

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Seral is a lumbar-style pack that includes a high-quality 1.5-liter HydraPak hydration bladder in a lightweight, neatly designed package. This fanny pack has a well-organized storage system with two main pockets with interior organization compartments, and two convenient zippered waist belt pockets. The hydration bladder is easily accessible and scores well overall in our hydration rating categories. Combined with the smart design and construction you would expect from Osprey, the Seral takes home our Top Pick Award for lumbar packs.

Performance Comparison


On the go without shoulder straps to slow us down!
On the go without shoulder straps to slow us down!

Ease of Drinking


The Seral Lumbar is equipped with a 1.5-liter lumbar style hydration bladder made by HydraPak and a HydraPak bite valve with a magnetic clip. We never had any trouble drinking from this system in our field tests, and appreciated the comfortable and effective bite valve. While we were satisfied with this performance, it didn't flow quite as easily as our top-rated CamelBak Crux hydration system. If you're a big gulper, you could swap out the HydraPak bite valve for a Crux mouthpiece, or you could consider the Osprey Talon 6, a lumbar pack with two handy squirt bottles for easier chugging.


The HydraPak hydration systems performed well during our in-home flow tests, confirming our field observations. If you're interested in another lumbar pack with a very similar high-quality HydraPak hydration system, but with a bigger 2-liter water capacity, take a look at the Dakine Hot Laps 5.

The Dakine model (left) has a 2-liter capacity  the Talon has a 1.2-liter capacity  while the Seral (right) has a 1.5-liter capacity.
The Dakine model (left) has a 2-liter capacity, the Talon has a 1.2-liter capacity, while the Seral (right) has a 1.5-liter capacity.

The drinking hose for this pack wraps around the waist belt, and the bite valve attaches at the left hip with a magnetic clip. We found that this system was easily accessible while riding, though we would have liked if the magnet was a little stronger.

The magnetic bite valve conveniently attaches to the pack at the left hip.
The accessible drinking tube wraps around the waist and was easy to access.
The accessible was easy to drink from while on-the-go.

Ease of Filling


The Seral's HydraPak hydration system receives average scores for ease of filling. While it's easy to remove the bladder from its compartment, and the bladder has a large opening like other Osprey models, our testers found that the wide lumbar style shape of the bladder is a little awkward to work with. While this is certainly minor, it is ever so slightly more tedious than working with the less elongated shape of the bladder in the Dakine Hot Laps model.


We are pleased with how the hydration bladder on the Seral has its own storage sleeve and hanging clip, minor luxuries on a lumbar style pack. Though this adds another tiny step to the removal and replacement process, it's an appreciated extra to help keep the bladder secure within the pack.

The Seral's hydration bladder includes its own storage sleeve and a hanging clip to help keep it secure.
The Seral's hydration bladder includes its own storage sleeve and a hanging clip to help keep it secure.

Comfort


The Seral ends up right near the middle of our overall comfort rankings but came in as our most comfortable lumbar pack. With different densities of foam on the back support panel, an easily adjustable waist belt, and wide, padded side pockets , the Seral can be dialed in for a snug and cushy fit. Like any lumbar pack, if you fill it with a heavier load, it may need to be tightened quite a bit to keep it from sagging down below. Luckily, you can tighten the waist belt straps by pulling from the outside in, giving your hips a nice firm hug.


The tradeoff with the Seral and any other lumbar pack is that by saving yourself from shoulder straps and a full back panel, it most likely means that you'll be trading that for a hot and sweaty lower back. While each of our lumbar packs has design features to mitigate this, it is likely an unavoidable part of this category. If you want to experience top of the line breathability and back ventilation, our Editors' Choice Platypus Duthie backpack and our highly ranked Osprey Syncro 12 both have impressively supportive and well-ventilated mesh back panels.

The Seral was the most comfortable lumbar pack we tested.
The adjustable straps pull from the outside in for a nice snug fit.

Storage


Though it only measures in with a 7-liter storage volume, this pack earned a respectable spot in our storage rankings with its well-placed pockets and organization. It also has handy tightening straps on the sides to help condense or secure your loads.


The highest volume lumbar pack we tested, the Seral has two main storage compartments with interior storage pockets, as well as two zippered waist belt pockets. While not a ton of storage compared to a regular backpack, this has room for a light jacket, your bike tools, some snacks, and your keys, wallet, and phone.

While not as big as a backpack  the Seral Lumbar pack from Osprey had good amount of storage and organization.
The waist belt pockets can fit keep some small essentials easily within reach.

Weight


Coming in at a measured 1 lb, 2.0 oz, the Seral is actually the heaviest lumbar pack that we tested, but is only separated from the lightest lumbar pack, the Osprey Talon 6, by a mere 2.0 ounces.


If you want to get away from the lumbar packs but still keep the weight down, definitely check out the minimalist CamelBak Rogue or Camelbak Classic.

While it's the heaviest of the lumbar packs we tested  the Seral is only two ounces heavier than the lightest lumbar pack.
While it's the heaviest of the lumbar packs we tested, the Seral is only two ounces heavier than the lightest lumbar pack.

Ease of Cleaning


The HydraPak lumbar style bladder accompanying the Seral didn't score as highly in our cleaning rankings. Although the bladder was easy to remove and has a large opening, it also has two small circular welds in the middle of the bladder, presumably to help give the bladder shape and support. However, this made cleaning a bigger challenge than expected, because the bladder can't be open up all the way, and the circular welds leave spots in the corners of the bladder that are difficult to access. While the manufacturer states that this bladder is top rack dishwasher safe, we're not sure how effective that would clean the inside nooks and crannies after extended use.


While we were able to keep the bladder clean during our testing, we're not sure how much of an issue this may be long term. The more traditional shaped lumbar bladder on the Dakine Hot Laps doesn't have these welds, so perhaps a swap for a different bladder could be considered if needed in the future.

Our three lumbar packs (left to right: Hot Laps  Talon  and Seral) all tipped the scales right around 1 pound (not including water!). Note the circular welds on the Seral bladder that may make long-term cleaning a bit more challenging.
Our three lumbar packs (left to right: Hot Laps, Talon, and Seral) all tipped the scales right around 1 pound (not including water!). Note the circular welds on the Seral bladder that may make long-term cleaning a bit more challenging.

Best Applications


The Seral can be your go-to hydration pack if you're a mountain biker who wants freedom from shoulder straps, or if you're a hiker who wants a lighter design, the convenience of all the storage pockets, and the top-quality construction of Osprey products. If you're considering taking the plunge into the world of lumbar packs, the Seral is a solid, fully-featured choice.

The Seral could be your go-to pack for shorter outings.
The Seral could be your go-to pack for shorter outings.

Value


With an $85 list price, the Seral is the most expensive of the three lumbar packs we tested, $15 over the list price of the cheapest Dakine Hot Laps 5L. With a more comfortable and adjustable fit, and more storage and organization options, we think that this makes the Seral a very solid value for your next (or first!) lumbar hydration pack.

Conclusion


The Osprey Seral comes with an effective hydration system, excellent comfort and adjustability, and a convenient array of storage pockets, all with only a minor increase in price and weight compared to other lumbar style packs. With these respectable features and Osprey's typical solid construction, the Seral Lumbar snags our Top Pick Award for lumbar packs.


Nick Bruckbauer