A Vested Interest
I have been thinking about an alternative to my Deuter Guide 45+ for some time now. So, given that I work at Cotswold Outdoor and have regular contact with reps from different outdoor equipment manufacturers I thought I would contact one of them. I wrote to Osprey mentioning that I was looking for a new bag, was considering the Stratos 50 and Kestrel 48 as possible contenders and asked if they had any test kit available. They responded to me and sent me a Stratos 50 to try.
So here is my review of the Stratos 50.
My first impressions were very favourable. The Stratos 50 has a number of desirable features:
- Hip belt with “pull forward” fastening.
- Pockets on the hip belt
- Deep side pockets
- Bellows compartment on back with zip fastening compartment
- Floating lid with top pocket and inside mesh pocket
- Separate bottom compartment
Week Long Test
Last year I attended a “Guidelines” weekend with HF Holidays and was successful in being appointed as a leader for them. Last week was my first appointment at Dolserau Hall near Dolgellau. Over the course of a week I led a mixture of easy, medium and hard walks as well as taking myself straight up a steep ascent of Rhinog Fawr. Every day I used the Stratos 50 and found it to be a capable and useful pack in my role as a leader, and for personal use.
A full description of the pack can be found on the Osprey web site, so I won’t go over it again here. Just add some notes on my findings.
The pack has an adjustable back length and comes in two sizes so it should be possible to fit it correctly.
As noted earlier there are two hip belt pockets that are great for storing a camera or phone and snacks.
The two mesh side pockets easily swallow a 1 litre Nalgene or a thermos flask.
There is also a bellows pocket on the back that I found useful for storing maps and guidebooks, but could also be used for a jacket. This bellows pocket has a zipped pocket on the back that I used to store my walk notes and paperwork.
There is a floating lid with a large top pocket and mesh pocket underneath. The main body of the pack has two compartments: a lower compartment designed to store a sleeping bag and the upper, main body. Unlike most divided packs these two compartments are completely separate and there is no way to get from one to another – which may be an issue if you have a long tent or tent poles that you want to store in the bag. The material dividing the two compartments is bellowed slightly and is attached in the upper by two toggles – which I did not find until examining the bag in more detail for this review.
The zip shown in the above image runs down the length of the pack giving quick access to items in the bottom of the main compartment.
A minor niggle
There was one aspect of the pack that I did not like, and that was the squeak. Several times over the course of the week I noticed a squeak coming from the back of the pack. It appears that I am not alone. My Atmos 65 also squeaks, I had a customer in the shop yesterday complaining that their Osprey pack squeaked, and, having done a quick poll among my friends, I have found that several other people have noticed that their Osprey packs squeaks. An internet search suggests that this is an issue suffered by many packs that share a similar frame system and is not just confined to Osprey packs. However, given that some of the complaints go back to 2012 it would have been nice if this could have been resolved by now. One comment suggests that a pack only squeaks when poles are used, so it may be something to do with the posture while walking.
If Osprey let me hang to this pack I will conduct further tests and update this review at a later date. I am off again next week for a week in mid Wales, finishing with a day in Northern Snowdonia on Easter Sunday with colleagues from the Bicester and Milton Keynes stores so I look forward to finding out how the bag behaves.
Overall this is a great rucksack with bags of room for day walks, and should be plenty large enough for a two day wild camp.