The Osprey Skarab 18 includes all of the features you'd want in a high performance, all-around hiking hydration pack. With the combination of quality features you'd expect from Osprey along with a (relatively) piggybank-friendly price at $80, it's easy to see why the Skarab is a favorite of our testers.
The Skarab 18 rides away as the best large capacity hydration pack.
Ease of Drinking
The Skarab 18 comes equipped with a 2.5-liter (85oz) Hydraulics LT reservoir with an attached Hydraulics reservoir tube and bite valve. The Hydraulics LT reservoir is made for Osprey by Hydrapak and is equipped with a full-width opening and Slide Seal closure mechanism which operates much like a heavy duty Ziplock bag. The bladder itself consists of a pliable, reliable TPU material. The TPU material is of food grade quality and BPA free. The Hydraulics drinking tube is also a BPA free material featuring the almost universal ¼" diameter for adequate water flow. The tube is flexible but not so much that it collapses or kinks, like that of some of the cheaper packs in our lineup like the Wacool 2L. The tube attaches to the adjustable sternum strap via a magnetic attachment which keeps your water handy but out of the way.
Read our full review of the Osprey Hydraulics LT in our extensive Hydration Bladder review
Topping off the hydration system of the pack is the Hydrapak Hydraulics Blaster bite valve. While the fastest flow rate goes to the Camelbak models, the Blaster performs adequately. The valve has a ¼ turn on/off switch…no more leaky bite valve! This combination of features increases the overall value of the pack since the combined cost of these three components is $34 which is almost half the cost of the entire pack!
For an inexpensive and easy upgrade to increase your per-sip flow, swap out the bite valve for a CamelBak Crux valve.
Osprey's Blaster valve.
Ease of Filling
Back in the early days of hydration packs, merely filling a hydration reservoir and getting it back into your bag was pretty tough. Difficult tube routing and small diameter reservoir openings were more common than not. Those days are gone and the Osprey Skarab 18 is a good example of today's more modern packs, scoring top of its class in this metric. When it comes time to fill the reservoir up, reach in behind the frame sheet from above, unbuckle the quick release securing strap and slide the bladder out of the pack. The top of the Hydrapak Hydraulics LT 2.5-liter secures with a Slide Seal closure that provides a rock-solid seal to protect your precious liquids. Slide the seal from the top of the reservoir, unfold the top, and open the wide mouth access.
The reservoir comes equipped with a convenient carry handle and pouring shield that makes filling up even in shallow sinks a breeze. The Hydraulics drinking tube is attached directly to the reservoir much like the tube of the CamelBak Cloud Walker 18. While a quick connect fitting would be a nice added feature, it isn't difficult to access the liquid reservoir for filling up. Other packs like the Osprey Raptor and Deuter Compact Exp 12 and their larger siblings do have a quick connect fitting and may be worth a look if that feature is a must-have for you.
The wide mouth of the 2.5-liter Hydraulics LT makes filling up a breeze.
Once we received our Osprey Skarab 18, we loaded it up and started hiking. We noticed right away that the pack's comfort and support is superior to several other models in our hydration pack testing. The carrying system of the pack is built on a foam frame sheet with a center stiffener. The pack does a good job of moving with your torso while not feeling too stiff for comfort.
Between the foam frame and the hiker's back is a breathable mesh sheet which provided noticeable air flow. The frame is not quite as breathable as packs like the Platypus Duthie A.M. 10, but offers ample airflow, especially in comparison to the CamelBak M.U.L.E. and the Cloud Walker. The Skarab's shoulder straps are a rolled spacer mesh that supported weight easily, even when we overloaded the pack with extra weight and strapped backcountry skis and boots to the sides.
We had fun pushing the limits of our Osprey Skarab 18!
The Skarab is also equipped with a removable webbing waist belt, adjustable sternum strap, and side compression straps. We did experience an issue with a compression strap tearing the pack's outer flap fabric after being cinched down for a ski carry. We realize this form of gear testing may qualify as cruel and unusual test pack treatment and won't likely be an issue for the majority of users. We do like to put our gear through the wringer here!
The Skarab proves its comfort after a long steep trail climb.
The Osprey Skarab 18 proved itself as a top contender for all around hiking, whether around town, on the trail, off the trail, and even for days spent on the mountain bike. If you're looking for a high performance daypack with integrated hydration pack-specific features, look no further.
The Skarab's fit means the pack moves with you even while scrambling.
Similar to the CamelBak Cloud Walker, the Skarab is designed similarly to more standard daypacks like the Osprey Talon 22, our Editors' Choice-winning daypack. The primary storage compartment is accessed by a rainbow-style zipper across the top of the pack, opening halfway down the pack's body. This large access point makes packing gear and accessing it later convenient. We easily carried extra layers, mountain bike armor, snacks, dog treats, and electronics with ease. There is also a scratch-resistant pocket at the top of the pack which easily carries sunglasses, goggles, and gadgets, providing extra protection for those more sensitive items. Osprey also includes a key keeper clip in this smaller pocket.
Even with these features and a large volume, it's still not the best at storage. Why? It's a matter of quantity versus quality. The primary storage compartment of the pack is just a gaping cavern which doesn't have any extras, making organization of smaller items difficult. If you like the ability to separate your gear, especially smaller items, more organizational dividers are desirable, whereas a simple, large compartment may be just fine for other hikers and riders.
There are also two stretch mesh pockets on the sides of the exterior of the pack body for additional items or water bottles. The hydration reservoir is housed between the main pack body and the frame sheet in an independent hydration sleeve. The sleeve keeps your water protected with the frame providing padding and a keeper strap that ensures your hydration reservoir doesn't fold over, stopping water flow. For bulky items like down jackets, there is a stretchy bungee cord crisscrossing the back panel. It's a simple but proven design and one that expands the versatility of climates and activities this pack can accompany you on.
Easy access hydration sleeve with a keeper strap.
If you're considering a daypack and are likely to add on a hydration system, this is a pack to check out! It will likely cost less than buying a daypack and hydration bladder separately.
A great all around performer on the trail with plenty of room for extra layers, food, etc.
Tipping the scales at 23 ounces, the Skarab 18 provides a lightweight but stable platform for a multitude of outdoor experiences, especially fast and light days on or off the trail. A similar competitor in our test lineup, the CamelBak Cloud Walker 18, shares many of the same features with the Skarab but weighs 27 ounces. With that in mind, if pack weight is a consideration for you, the Skarab may be the choice for your lightweight needs.
Ease of Cleaning
As we mentioned above, the Hydrapak Hydraulics LT 2.5 hydration reservoir is made with a large opening, which is handy for cleaning. After your hike or ride, reach between the pack body and frame sheet, unbuckle the keeper strap, and slip the hydration bladder out of the pack. Again, a quick connect would make this easier, but not a deal breaker for us. Next, with the reservoir out of the pack, slide the closure clamp from the top, and you've got pretty much full access to the inside of the bladder. You can reach with your cloth, sponge, or brush of choice. For ultimate cleaning, it's admittedly quite difficult to flip inside out.
As is the case with virtually every other hydration pack, cleaning the drinking tube requires pulling the tube from the reservoir and bite valve. Next, pass a skinny and flexible bottle brush through to remove all of those mysterious dark spots that have been taunting you half the year. It's gotten a whole lot easier to keep the components of your drinking system clean and safe to drink from!
Easy access for cleaning with the Hydraulics LT reservoir.
The Skarab 18 is a jack of all trades. It's a great all-day adventure pack with its large capacity and comfort. It performs well in most general use outdoor activities, from serving as a basic travel pack (just remember to empty that hydration bladder before the TSA security check!) to a spring or summer ski pack. Bag a peak in the wee morning hours, then head out for a family hike, and wrap up the day by stashing a hoodie for that chilly evening barbecue, the Skarab does it all!
The Skarab goes summer backcountry skiing.
At $80, including complete hydration system, the Osprey Skarab 18 is a solid value for anyone looking for all-around performance in a larger sized hydration pack. With greater crossover ability, a relatively modest price, and Osprey's "All Mighty Guarantee", the Skarab offers fantastic value overall.
This Top Pick winner is designed for the hiker seeking an all-around performer no matter where the trail or your travels take you. It successfully blurs the lines between standard daypack and hydration pack for all-around hiking and a plethora of outdoor activities spring through fall. If you're seeking one go-to pack, check out the Osprey Skarab 18!