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Osprey Syncro 12 Review

This comfortable, supportive, and full-featured hydration pack earns our highest praise
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $130 List | $129.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Breathability, excellent storage, comfort and support
Cons:  Expensive, thin hip belt
Manufacturer:   Osprey
By Nick Bruckbauer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 11, 2020
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 14
  • 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

The Osprey Syncro 12 earns our Editors' Choice Award with its high-quality construction, breathable and supportive back panel, and excellent balance of overall storage volume and convenient organization features. Its 2.5-liter water capacity is capable of keeping you hydrated on longer outings, and the separate hydration pocket and quick-release drinking hose make refilling or cleaning a breeze. The well-executed storage design includes plenty of pockets, and the overall volume performs much better than other similarly-sized packs. Its versatile design features and consistent comfort and performance make it a great do-it-all option for everything from strenuous hikes or casual mountain bike rides to daily trips to the gym or occasional airplane travel.

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, earning 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 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.

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 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.

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. 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.

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 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.

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 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.

The top pocket can fit your valuables for easy access.
The Syncro's 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 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.

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


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 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 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.

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 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