The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Osprey Syncro 12 Review

A comfortable and fully-featured hydration pack that just misses out on our top ranking
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $130 List | $129.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Breathability, excellent storage, comfort and support
Cons:  Expensive, thin hip belt
Manufacturer:   Osprey
By Nick Bruckbauer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 7, 2020
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 15
  • Ease of Drinking - 20% 8
  • Ease of Filling - 20% 9
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Storage - 20% 8
  • Weight - 10% 4
  • Ease of Cleaning - 10% 7

Our Verdict

Combining high-quality construction, plenty of storage volume and convenient organization options, and a breathable and supportive back panel, the Osprey Syncro 12 is a consistent top performer for all types of uses and environments. Ranking near the top of nearly every scoring metric, this pack just misses out on winning our top award with a slightly smaller reservoir volume and fewer fancy features than some other packs. Whether you're hiking, biking, commuting, or traveling, the Syncro 12 would make a great do-it-all hydration pack for your next adventure with its intuitive design features and consistent comfort and performance.

Compare to Similar Products

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, and just misses out on our Editors' Choice Award with its consistent top scores.

Performance Comparison


Testing the Syncro 12 high above the Pacific Ocean!
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 some of the other brands that we tested. If you're absolutely 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 2.5-liter reservoir volume is suitable for most normal day outings, and the flexible drinking hose and magnetic bite valve attachment are simple and effective at keeping your water within reach.

We were very pleased with the Osprey Hydraulics LT hydration system by HydraPak.
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 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.

The hydration bladder handle is a convenient addition.
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 hose. This, combined with the well-designed hydration bladder itself, make removing, refilling, and replacing the bladder incredibly quick and easy.

The easily accessible bladder sleeve and quick release tubing on the Syncro 12 make it one of the easiest bladders to remove and refill.
The easily accessible bladder sleeve and quick release tubing on the Syncro 12 make it one of the easiest bladders to remove and refill.

Comfort


Again, the Syncro finds itself near the top of the lineup in our comfort rankings. This pack easily supports heavier loads with its hidden wireframe reinforcement, caresses your shoulders with its wide padded straps, and best of all, hugs your back - but not too tightly - with an AirSpeed open mesh back panel that keeps 2-inches of airflow between the pack and your body, preventing or delaying the dreaded hot and sweaty back. Our testers all prefer the supportive open mesh back panel found on this pack compared to the standard foam back panels found on many inexpensive models.

The AirSpeed back panel does a great job of supporting heavy loads and keeping your back well-ventilated.
The AirSpeed back panel does a great job of supporting heavy loads and keeping your back well-ventilated.

While this pack is certainly very comfortable, one of the only 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. By adding a thicker padded hip belt with some zippered pockets like on some other high-end models, the Syncro would potentially be catapulted in our top ranking. Our research shows that Osprey's larger Syncro 20 model, which is not a part of this review, does indeed have hip belt pockets.

The Syncro 12 has excellent ventilation and a sturdy frame  but could benefit from a thicker hip belt and some hip belt pockets.
The Syncro 12 has excellent ventilation and a sturdy frame, but could benefit from a thicker hip belt and some hip belt pockets.

Storage


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 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 pack even has a small zippered pocket with a built-in rain cover.

The Syncro is a solid all-around performer  nearly nabbing our Editors' Choice Award.
The Syncro is a solid all-around performer, nearly nabbing our Editors' Choice Award.

While not the biggest pack in the lineup, we are very impressed with how the Syncro 12 balances bulk storage as well as detailed organization. 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.

The top pocket can fit your valuables for easy access.
The smaller gear compartment has plenty of organization for your essential tools.
The main storage compartment has plenty of room for a jacket or spare pair of shoes.
The front stash pocket can fit whatever you want to keep handy.

Weight


At a measured 2 lbs, 2 oz., the Syncro 12 does not score as well in our weight rating metric, and is 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. While the Syncro isn't the lightest fully-featured pack, it is still nearly a full pound lighter than some of the heaviest contenders in our lineup.

The wireframe reinforcement and AirSpeed back panel are secure in a variety of conditions  but add to the overall weight of the pack.
The wireframe reinforcement and AirSpeed back panel are secure in a variety of conditions, but add to the overall weight of the pack.

Ease of Cleaning


Similar to the ease of filling metric, this pack scores really well in our cleaning rankings with its wide-mouthed HydraPak bladder, quick release drinking hoses, and easily accessible bladder compartment. While a couple of other models score higher with slightly wider openings, we didn't have any troubles or concerns with the ability to keep this system clean.

The bladder on the Syncro 12 (right) has a quick release drinking hose  unlike on the cheaper Skarab 18 (left).
The bladder on the Syncro 12 (right) has a quick release drinking hose, unlike on the cheaper Skarab 18 (left).

Value


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.

The Syncro 12 can be your go-anywhere  do-anything hydration pack.
The Syncro 12 can be your go-anywhere, do-anything hydration pack.

Conclusion


Scoring well across the board and narrowly missing out on our top awards, 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