The Syncro 12 blends an effective 2.5-liter hydration system into a comfortable, well-supported, 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 needed to keep your tools and gear organized, and keep the hydration system easily accessible. This pack landed near the top in every scoring category, and just missed out on our Editors' Choice Award, earning it a Notable mention as our unofficial runner-up.
Testing the Syncro 12 high above the Pacific Ocean!
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 the CamelBak Crux system with its Big Bite valves, but the difference isn't huge.
Related: The Best Hydration Bladders
The Syncro's closest rival, our Editors' Choice Duthie A.M. 10, had similar performance with Platypus's proprietary Big Zip hydration system and Hyperflow bite valve. If you're absolutely interested in the best flow rate possible, you could switch out either of these mouthpieces for the top-ranked CamelBak Big Bite valve, but we think most users will probably be satisfied with the standard hardware on most of the packs we tested.
We were very pleased with the Osprey Hydraulics LT hydration system by HydraPak.
Ease of Filling
Having an Osprey Hydraulics LT by HydraPak 2.5-liter bladder with a wide-mouth opening, the Syncro 12 tied for our top score for ease of filling. The large opening and attached handle on the bladder made trips to the sink a breeze. While many other models came with a similarly designed bladder, this style stood out as clearly superior when compared to bladders with an older circular style opening, like the Best Buy Award Winner Gregory Nano 18 H2O. The wide mouth opening comes in handy when adding ice cubes or when filling up on the go in a lake or stream.
The hydration bladder handle is a convenient addition.
Another very impressive feature on the Syncro is its separate, easily accessible hydration bladder pocket, and the amazingly well-placed quick release button on the drinking tube. This, combined with the well-designed hydration bladder itself, make removing, refilling, and replacing the bladder incredibly quick and easy. A couple other packs in our lineup with quick release tubing include the Editors' Choice Platypus Duthie and Hydro Flask's Journey Series 10 L.
The easily accessible bladder sleeve and quick release tubing on the Syncro 12 make it one of the easiest bladders to remove and refill.
Again, the Syncro finds itself near the top of the lineup in our comfort rankings. This pack supported heavier loads with its hidden wire frame, caressed our shoulders with its wide padded straps, and best of all, hugged our back - but not too tightly - with an AirSpeed open mesh back panel that kept 2-inches of airflow between the pack and our body, preventing or delaying the dreaded hot and sweaty back. Two of our popular budget offerings, the Osprey Skarab 18 and the Best Buy Gregory Nano 18 both had comfortable foam back panels, but couldn't compete with the ventilation provided by the open mesh back panel on this pack, and on the similarly designed Editors' Choice Platypus Duthie.
The AirSpeed back panel did a great job of supporting our load and keeping our back ventilated.
While this pack was certainly very comfortable, one of the only areas for improvement was the waist belt. For such a fully-featured and expensive pack, the tiny little waist belt straps were a bit disappointing. By adding a thicker waist belt with some hip pads like on the Hydro Flask Journey Series, and adding waist belt pockets like on the Platypus Duthie, the Syncro would possibly be catapulted onto our Editors' Choice throne. Osprey's larger Syncro 20, which is not a part of this review, does indeed have waist belt pockets.
The Syncro 12 has excellent ventilation and a sturdy frame, but could benefit from a thicker waist belt and some hip pockets.
With 12 liters of storage space, the Syncro 12 has plenty of pockets, large and small, to handle your all-day adventures. 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 huge zippered opening, capable of holding a couple 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 pack even has a small zippered pocket with a built-in rain cover.
The Syncro was a solid all-around performer, nearly nabbing our Editors' Choice Award.
While not the biggest pack in the lineup, we were very impressed with how the Syncro 12 balanced bulk storage as well as detailed organization. While it didn't have as much overall volume as the Skarab 18 or the Nano 18 H2O, it did seem to fit larger items a lot better than the Platypus Duthie, which was only 2-liter smaller in overall volume. While we loved how we were able to fit so much inside this pack, we also appreciated how there were two cinch straps on each side, to tighten down and balance your load if you're heading out with less than full capacity.
At a measured 2 lbs, 2 oz., the Syncro 12 did not score as well in our weight category, and was slightly on the heavier end of the spectrum. 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 approach. Coming in at the lower end of the weight spectrum are the Nano 18 H20 and the Osprey Skarab 18, as well as the ultra lightweight CamelBak Rogue and Camelbak Classic.
While the Syncro isn't the lightest fully-featured pack, it was nearly a full pound lighter than the heaviest contenders, like the insulated Hydro Flask Journey Series 10L or heftier framed Deuter Compact EXP 12.
The wire frame and AirSpeed back panel felt secure in a variety of conditions.
Ease of Cleaning
Similar to the ease of filling category, this pack scores really well in our cleaning rankings with its wide-mouthed HydraPak bladder, quick release drinking tubes, and easily accessible bladder compartment. While only the Deuter and Platypus models scored slightly higher, we didn't have any troubles or concerns with the ability to keep this system clean.
The bladder on the Syncro 12 (right) had a quick release drinking tube, unlike on the cheaper Skarab 18 (left).
The Syncro 12 does not have any apparent weaknesses, and could be your go-to hydration pack for whatever adventures you can think of. While you might have a personal preference for an ultralight pack, a lumbar pack, or something with a bit more overall volume, for a capable all-day pack for your next adventure, you can't go wrong with the Syncro.
The Syncro 12 can be your go-anywhere, do-anything hydration pack.
The Syncro is certainly not on an inexpensive pack compared to other offerings, but 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 a great value for the right user. If you're willing to sacrifice some of the extra features for a more basic but dependable pack, our Best Buy Award Winner Gregory Nano 18 H20 is a solid pick.
Narrowly missing 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!