The Osprey Raptor 6 is a hydration pack with wings – or at least it feels that way. This sleek pack swallows 2L of water and a surprising amount of gear without harshing your ride. In fact it might just be the most comfortable hydration pack we’ve ever tested.
Osprey has made a name for itself over the years for producing high quality packs for multi-day hiking and camping trips and that experience shows in the Raptor 6, one of the first bike-specific packs from the company. Osprey spent 3 years and rolled through 100 prototypes before releasing the 2010 Raptor series. The hydration pack is covered in a reflective, rip-stop material with mesh venting in the back to keep you cool on hot rides. Stretchy material on the waist straps provides additional comfort while the same material is used on the outside front pocket for expandable storage. The strapping system is intuitive and makes it quick and easy to get a customized fit.
The Raptor 6 features one main zippered compartment with 3 internal sleeve pockets that make organizing your gear a cinch. Some packs we’ve tested don’t include any internal pockets which leads to a mess of gear inside while others have so many pockets we’re left scratching our heads as to what to put where. The Raptor 6 also features a zippered pouch on top that’s perfect for goggs or sunglasses plus a “LidLock” for attaching your vented MTB helmet. There’s even a dedicated strap on the back for your blinky night light!
The Raptor 6 includes a Nalgene HydraForm reservoir that mates snugly with Osprey’s HydraLock system. The HydraLock frame basically uses pressure to increase fluid flow, adds stability, and keeps a full hydration bladder from encroaching on precious gear space. And it works.
Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the Nalgene reservoir as well. The HydraForm reservoir features a wide mouth inlet, perfect for filling with ice cubes and convenient for cleaning and drying after the ride. There’s also a hard plastic spine that makes it easy to slide a full bladder into the pack – with other packs this can be like trying to shove an oyster into a coin slot. The bite valve on the Nalgene is “always on” and is perfectly round so you don’t have to think to drink. The icing on the cake is a magnet on the bite valve that keeps it secured to the chest strap.
Flying the trails
One of the reasons I really wanted to try the Raptor 6 is I’ve been getting a lot of crap on the trail about my huge hydration pack. Sure it can hold a ton of stuff but it’s also bulky and seems to get snagged by tree branches more often than I’d like. By comparison the Raptor 6 keeps my center of gravity closer to my back and hips and hasn’t snagged on a tree once. Osprey claims this pack can also be used for trail running, a claim we’re eager to put to the test soon.
There are always trade-offs when designing high performance mountain bike gear and clearly a smaller pack will be more comfortable than one designed to haul a ton of gear. However, I was surprised at all the stuff I could fit into the sleek Raptor 6: a DSLR camera + two lenses, 70 ounces of water, an extra 29er tube, Blackburn Mammoth pump, tire irons, multi-tool, and car keys. Plus there was still room for my blinky light, an extra helmet (!), and a lightweight rain jacket using the outer pockets and straps. With all that gear the pack felt balanced and comfortable, even after hours in the saddle.
The hard plastic in the HydraForm reservoir can feel uncomfortable if your pack isn’t adjusted correctly or if your jersey has a zipper in the wrong place. On a recent ride I felt something hard poking my back and initially thought I had the reservoir inserted incorrectly but it turned out to be a zipper pull on my jacket. Luckily a quick adjustment to my jacket and the Raptor shoulder straps relieved the pressure. My only other complaint is that the stretchy sternum strap tends to work itself loose during long rides. A quick one-handed tug gets things back in place but it can be annoying when you’re bombing a slope.
Mountain biking isn’t a fashion show
It’s true but if mountain biking were a fashion show, you wouldn’t be too out of place wearing the Raptor 6 on your back. This pack is Colorado sporty and the color choices (sand gold, spruce green, and silt grey) are fresh and outdoorsy. Reflective graphics give the illusion of giant osprey wings on the hip belt and I’m pretty sure they make me ride faster.
If you’re into flowing with the trail without carrying a lot of extra bulk and weight, check out the Raptor 6 from Osprey. It’s one of the best designed packs we’ve tried and is a steal at less than 80 bucks MSRP. Grab one and fly away!
Thanks to the guys and gals at Osprey for providing the Raptor 6 for review.