Osprey Syncro 12 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Breathability, excellent storage, comfort and support
Cons: Expensive, thin hip belt
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Syncro 12 blends an effective 2.5-liter hydration system into a comfortable, well-supported, and well-organized backpack. This pack has a large enough storage volume to throw in an extra jacket or pair of shoes, yet also has all of the pockets and sleeves needed to keep your tools and gear organized and keep the hydration system easily accessible. This pack lands near the top of every rating metric, earning our Editors' Choice Award with its consistent top scores.
Ease of Drinking
The Syncro 12 comes standard with a 2.5-liter Osprey Hydraulics LT hydration bladder made by HydraPak. Like on the other Osprey packs in our lineup, the HydraPak bite valve is a suitable mouthpiece and can deliver the goods efficiently and comfortably. While we were quite pleased with the performance of this system, it wasn't quite as impressive as some of the other brands that we tested. If you're interested in the best flow rate possible, you could switch out the bite valve for a different model, but we think most users will probably be satisfied with the standard hardware on most of the packs we tested.
The Syncro's 2.5-liter reservoir size provides a suitable drinking volume for most normal single-day outings. Adventurers in hotter, drier climates without any water sources may opt for a model with a larger 3-liter water capacity. The Syncro's flexible drinking hose efficiently routes through the pack to a shoulder strap where a magnetic bite valve attachment keeps it comfortably within reach.
Ease of Filling
Having an Osprey Hydraulics LT by HydraPak 2.5-liter bladder with a wide-mouth opening, the Syncro 12 is among our highest scorers for ease of filling.
The large opening and attached handle on the bladder makes trips to the sink a breeze. While many other models come with a similarly designed bladder, this style stands out as clearly superior when compared to bladders with an older circular style opening. The wide-mouth opening comes in handy when adding ice cubes or when filling up on the go in a lake or stream.
Another noteworthy feature on the Syncro is its separate, easily accessible hydration bladder pocket, and the amazingly well-placed quick-release button on the drinking hose. Combined with the well-designed hydration bladder itself, this button makes removing, refilling, and replacing the bladder incredibly quick and easy.
Again, the Syncro finds itself near the top of the lineup in our comfort rankings. Our testers all prefer this pack's supportive open mesh back panel compared to the standard padded foam back panels found on most other inexpensive models.
This pack easily supports heavier loads with its hidden wireframe structural reinforcement. The padded shoulder straps provide a nice balance between comfort and support without being too stiff or bulky. The AirSpeed open mesh back panel conforms to the shape of your back and maintains two inches of airflow between the pack and your body, preventing or delaying the dreaded hot and sweaty back.
While this pack is indeed very comfortable, one of the only notable areas for improvement is the hip belt. For such a fully-featured and expensive pack, the tiny little hip belt straps are a bit disappointing. Adding a thicker padded hip belt with some zippered pockets like on some other high-end models would only enhance the Syncro's overall comfort and load-carrying capabilities. Note that our research shows that Osprey's larger Syncro 20 model, which is not a part of this review, does indeed have hip belt pockets.
With 12 liters of storage volume, the Syncro 12 has plenty of pockets, large and small, to handle your all-day adventures. While not the biggest pack in the lineup, we are very impressed with how well it balances bulk storage as well as detailed organization features. While it doesn't have as much overall volume as some of the larger packs that we tested, it does fit bulkier items as well or better than many other models. While we love how you can stuff so much inside this pack, we also appreciate the two cinch straps on each side to tighten down and balance the load when you're heading out with less than full capacity.
Starting with the separate hydration compartment adjacent to the back panel, the Syncro has three other zippered external compartments. Near the top of the pack and next to the hydration compartment is a small zippered pocket suitable for your small essentials like keys, phone, or sunglasses. Next is the main compartment, with a substantial zippered opening, capable of holding a couple of jackets or a pair of shoes. Finally, there is a smaller gear compartment that has internal sleeves and zippered mesh pockets to house and organize your bike tools, keys, wallet, phone, or GPS. The front of the pack has a stash pocket and a helmet clip, while the sides each have some small bottle sleeves. The very bottom of the bag even has a small zippered pocket with a built-in rain cover.
At a measured 2 lbs, 2 oz., the Syncro 12 doesn't score as well in our weight performance metric, and is slightly on the heavier end of the spectrum with its high-quality materials and an assortment of high-end features.
Not surprising for a pack with so many features, this probably wouldn't be your top choice if you were looking to go for a minimalist or ultralight approach. While the Syncro isn't the lightest fully-featured backpack that we tested, it is still nearly a full pound lighter than some of the heaviest contenders in our lineup. Its weight seems even more reasonable when you consider its impressive storage features and load-hauling capabilities.
Ease of Cleaning
Although a couple of other models score higher in our ease of cleaning metric with their slightly wider-mouthed openings, we didn't have any troubles or concerns with the ability to keep the Syncro's hydration system clean.
Similar to the ease of filling metric, the Syncro stands out here with its wide-mouthed HydraPak bladder that makes it easy to stick a washcloth or scrub brush inside. The easily accessible bladder compartment and quick-release drinking hose attachments both make it simple to remove the entire system from the back when it comes for cleaning. If you're interested in getting a more thorough cleaning, there are plenty of compatible drinking hose scrub brushes and chemical disinfectant tablets available from several different manufacturers.
The Syncro is certainly not on an inexpensive pack compared to the rest of our lineup. Still, with top-notch Osprey quality, and a full assortment of high-end features, we think this pack could provide dependable use for many years, making it an excellent value for the right user.
Scoring well across the board and taking home our Editors' Choice Award, the Osprey Syncro 12 is a top-quality, fully-featured hydration pack ready to help you tackle your next adventure. High-end features like an AirSpeed back panel, numerous storage compartments, and a high-quality hydration system make this one tough to beat. If you're looking for a dependable pack for years to come, check it out.
— Nick Bruckbauer