Everyone on here has been talking about how good the Osprey hydration packs are and so last year I started looking into getting one. When I looked at them, though I was impressed by the build quality and materials, I wasn't in love with the design and fit of the Raptor or Viper. However, this year they just came out with the new Syncro series. I had about $100 in REI dividend money to use, so I picked one up. Here's my semi-detailed review and a bunch of pictures.
Despite the fact that I'm 5'5", I decided to go with the M/L. When I tried on the S/M, it seemed to sit too high on my back and the shoulder straps seemed a little short. The M/L fit the curve of my back much more comfortably. My only previous hydration pack experience is with a Camelbak Mule, which I was pretty happy with. In the store, the Mule still fit me better than the Syncro. In fact, the Mule fits amazingly well in the store… this was always one of the reasons I never pulled the trigger on the Viper or Raptor. Side by side, the Camelbak always felt better.
However, what I didn't realize is that when you're on the bike you're in a different position and the pack needs to be weighted for that. When I'm leaned slightly forward, the balance of the Osprey is actually far superior to that of the Camelback. I found myself surprised at how light the Osprey felt while riding, even with a full reservoir, due to the improved balance.
The Reservoir and Valve
If I had to say which feature I couldn't live without, it would have to be the Osprey Hydraform reservoir. The stiff back plate prevents the sausage casing effect that I got every time with the Camelbak. I hated that feeling on my back and it made the pack awkward. In addition, it's easier to load water into the Osprey due to the stiff plate.
The Syncro bite valve attaches to the chest strap with a magnetic lock, which is great. You always know exactly where to find it and it's never flapping around. As far as the valve itself, it's fine but not as good as the Camelbak. I can't get water out quite as quickly as I can with the Camelbak valve.
The Syncro has a tightly stretched piece of mesh attached to a frame that keeps the pack off your back and gives you some airflow. This really works… my back is much less sweaty and disgusting than it is when I use the Camelback. Plus, with the Camelbak, all that sweat gets absorbed into the padding. Additionally, I find the Airspeed system really comfortable.
I'm slightly concerned about the durability of the Airspeed system, but Osprey has a great reputation for customer service so I'm not too worried. It might be interesting if it were removable. That way, you could replace it if it did break, and you could remove it when you're not using the pack for riding. I sometimes take my Mule skiing, which works out well. You don't need the Airspeed system when it's cold out.
Storage and Lid Lock
The Syncro technically has more storage than the Mule, but I have to say it feels like the Mule has more. I have no explanation for this. On the Syncro you have the big compartment where the reservoir sits and you can put other stuff too. Then you have a middle compartment with spaces for tools and such. Then there's a small padded waterproof pocket for valuables. Oh, and there's also a pocket at the bottom that holds the rain cover. It's still plenty of space for what I need… I just think it's odd that it feels like less.
Lid Lock is a handy feature. All packs should have something like that.
Materials and Build Quality
This is where Osprey really shines. The ripstop nylon and other materials in the Syncro make you realize right away that you're dealing with a very high quality product. Even the little pull-loops on the zippers have a great feel to them. There's really no comparison in terms of the materials and build quality of the Syncro compared to the Mule.
Overall, this is a much better pack than the Mule. Right off the bat, you notice it's a higher quality. Then you realize there are all these great little touches that Osprey added to improve the experience - Airspeed, the stiff plate on the reservoir, lid lock, the magnetic bite valve, etc.
-High quality materials, excellent fit and finish
-Great balance while riding
-Stiff back plate on the reservoir keeps it from getting the sausage shape
-Airspeed suspension keeps your back cooler and is very comfortable
-Magnetic clip for bite valve keeps it out of the way and in a consistent spot
-Lid lock is a nice touch
-Bite valve doesn't deliver as much flow as Camelbak's
-Storage space feels a little cramped (look at the Syncro 15 or 20 if you carry a lot of gear)
-Only available in black and red this year
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Thread: Osprey Syncro 10 Review