The 2010 Osprey Stratos 26 is a revamped version of the original Stratos and like that pack is a vented day sack with a trampolene-style air gap system designed to keep your back cooler in warm conditions.
The heart of the revamped Stratos is the AirSpeed suspension back system – it uses a lightweight alloy LightWire frame to give the back rigidity coupled to a tensioned mesh back panel, which actually sits directly against your back.
Because the frame is quite rigid, Osprey has been able to keep the air gap small which in turn means less of a curve to the pack and easier loading and access to the inside as a result. It should also reduce leverage with a loaded pack by keeping the centre of gravity closer to your body.
There's plenty of other stuff going on too. Like Ospreys neat Stow on the Go trekking pole carrying system and a new, detachable rain cover which folds into a pocket on the front of the pack.
The first Stratos was a bit of a poor relation to the excellent Atmos and also had issues with the base of the frame digging into the lower back of some users. The good news is that the 2010 version is much improved - it still lacks some of the high tec touches of the Atmos and if you're being picky, is a little weighty for a 26-litre sac at 1150 grammes, but it carries beautifully and pretty much everything you can ask for, is there.
First and most important, the carry is excellent and comfortable. As usual the ErgoPull hip belt adjusts naturally and easily and the pack feels natural and secure with no levering or swaying around. The air-gap gives some cooling in hot weather, but equally the pack is quite at home in cooler conditions too - it's not just a creature of the sunshine and because there's no squidy foam, it doesn't soak up sweat like a sponge then regurgitate it every time you put the pack back on after a stop.
At 26 litres, it's about the right size for a day pack if you use modern, lightweight kit, even in winter in fact, though a big belay jacket might change that. It also handles a 3-litre hydration reservoir quite happily.
Everything about it works - the zip-pulls on the mesh hip-belt pockets are the right way round so you pull forward to close, the reservoir pocket allows you to position the tube on either side, Stow on the Go is the most natural quick stash trekking pole device out there, the lower compression straps can be routed either under or over the stretch side pockets and so on.
There are two lid pockets, which is great for organising smaller stuff and even a little shoulder strap pocket for small and thin objects. It's also nice to get a stow-away rain cover which goes over the main body of the pack on wet days, but can also be unclipped if you're not a rain cover person or you trust Michael Fish impicitly.
Issues? Not many to be honest, yes, there are lighter packs out there, but what's a few hundred grammes when everything else works so well? We also noticed the beginnings of some abrasion damage at the lower corners of the wire frame where the material around it has rubbed against the ground, we think. In time it might wear through, but so far, it's only minor rubbing.
And that's it really.
We were a little disappointed with the original Stratos, but the 2010 version is a far better pack. It carries beautifully and unobtrusively, is nicely made - as we've come to expect from Osprey - and everything about it works. We like the multitude of adventure race-style stash pockets, which make stowage a breeze, and it's nice to have the option of a rain cover as well.
At £75, it's not cheap, but you're getting one of the best, all-round walking daypacks we've used for the money.