We've got an example of Osprey's new for 2011, stripped-down hydration pack to play with, here's how we're getting on.
Posted: 4 August 2010
Chatting to the Osprey guys at OutDoor in Friedrichshafen, I mentioned that I was doing a couple of the 24-hour mountain bike events this summer and was thinking about using a hydration pack – the upshot of the conversation, is that there's now a shiny new Osprey Viper 4 pack sitting on my desk.
Due on sale early in 2011, the Viper range with capacites of between 4 and 13 litres and the Verve - the women's-specific version - are slimmed-down, simplified additions to Osprey's range of Hydraulics hydration packs.
Our Viper 4, minus the reservoir which comes with it, weighs around 420 grammes and is a simple beast. The back system uses a flexible plate coupled with a thin layer of mesh-covered foam and the reservoir compartment is under pressure, but the tensioning arrangement is simpler with a press-stud closure rather than two snap-buckles.
There's a small zipped pocket for valuables but everything else has to share space with the reservoir. You can use a 3-litre one, we do, but that reduces storage for other items. There's extra storage from a shock-corded accessory patch on the back of the pack though and the series all come with Osprey's Lid Lock, a neat plate that goes through a helmet vent and holds it in place. There's a little gel pocket on the shoulder strap too.
The pack has Osprey's characteristic feel of quality and the grey fabric is tough, heavy duty stuff that feels like it'll last for ages.
We really like the Hydraulics bladder. Its stiffened back makes one-handed filling a cinch, reduces barrelling when full and helps it slide easily into place in the pack and while we were initially dubious about a pressurised water supply, in reality it works well, though a wonky bite-valve on our Raptor had it doing shower-head impressions for a few minutes last week. We like the magnetic bite-valve holder too.
The nice thing about the Viper is that you're getting all the pros of the Hydraulics reservoir without the slightly weighty nature of the current Raptor or Manta packs a, which is great for racers and weight weenies and the reservoir works just as well on these slimmed-down packs. Our pack also feels softer against the back than the Raptor 10 we've been using.
Finally, while there's nothing particularly radical about the straps and back system, the combination of shoulder, chest, thin, removable waist strap and top-tensioners hold the pack securely in place and we'd happily use it for running or biking.
All good so far then and we'll keep you posted as we use it.