Two years of wear on Osprey's mountain biking Hydraulics pack - so how's it done?
A little ironically, my mountain bike kit gets more consistently hammered than my outdoors stuff, mostly because I'm forever using new test gear in the hills, whereas my biking stuff just carries on until it breaks. I've been running one of Osprey's Raptor 10 hydration packs since April 2010 when it rolled up all shiny and new.
It's been everywhere from Scotland to Morocco and back again via my local Peak trails and southern Spain too. It has, genuinely been hammered.
Two Years On...
Two years later it's no longer quite so new looking, but it's still going and I thought the bikers out there might like a quick look at what's worked and what hasn't. First, it says something about the pack that I'm still using it. Mostly it's performed really well. It's not the lightest hydration pack out there, but it's proved to be pretty durable and has some really good points.
First the good stuff. Well, it's still there none of the zips, have broken, nothing has worn through or ripped in a crash. It's mostly extremely stable and generally comfortable. One thing to watch though is that the combination of the stiffened reservoir and the stiffish back system.
I've found that if you let it sit low, it can rub your lower back painfully on longer rides, particularly in summer over a base layer top. I now cinch the shoulder straps up so the pack sits slightly higher on my back, problem solved.
The big plus of the reservoir is that it slides easily in and out of its sleeve regardless of how well filled the pack is - great for mid-ride top-ups on hot days, but also for simply reflilling your reservoir part way through a long, hot ride.
The valve's decent too, helped by the reservoir itself being under some pressure, feeds enough fluid, locks off easily and can be stripped down into individual parts for cleaning. The main reservoir, by the way, seems to be impressively mould resistant even when left to its own devices for a week or two.
One final plus is the magnetic, erm, magnet, which anchors the bite-valve firmly to the sternum strap buckle. No dangling hydration tube. Its so quick and easy to use that I consciously miss it when I use other packs. And the magnet is just strong enough...
More good stuff? I like the internal pockets for pump(s) and mini-tools and bits, the back pocket for flatter objects like poetry anthologies and the back stuff pocket that generally has a bar or two and a gel shoved into it for easy access. I don't really use the stretchy, non-closure hip-belt pockets though. Not sure what, just don't. Abnd Osprey's helmet holder is golden, if you feel the need for one.
Finally, just a general observation, wear and tear to the fabric bits of the packs is minimal. Nada... A bit grubby for sure and not as shiny as it once was, but mostly just fine.
So what did go wrong? Well, I've broken a prong off the chest-strap buckle, not sure how or when, but it still works regardless. And then there are the reservoirs. I've killed two of those. Both developed tiny leaks which under pressure developed into butt-wetting torrents, even though you couldn't find the leak with the reservoir out of the pack.
Osprey replaced the reservoir no quibbles and say that occasionally a tiny gap appears where the back plate is stitched into the reservoir which leaks under pressure. Apparently the design is also being updated for 2013, so more about that soon.
So there you go. Generally I'd say the Talon's been a cracking mountain bike pack and survived extremely well. It's stable and comfortable, though the stiff back system is worth bearing in mind. Have a look at the Viper packs if you want something softer and/or use a different, non-stiffened reservoir to replace the Osprey/Nalgene model. Doing that though will lose you one of the best features, the ability to remove the reservoir without part emptying the pack.
Wear resistance has been generally good, with the exception of those two faulty bladders and the broken buckle. And mostly, and most importantly, it just works, which is why I'm still using it two years on. Sure, at 1070g its not super light and at an asking price of £75, quite expensive, but you're getting a very good piece of kit for the dosh.
More info at www.ospreypacks.com.