Osprey is a Colorado company. They have been making packs for hiking, skiing, mountaineering and general outdoor pursuits since 1974. Osprey developed the Manta line of packs for day-hiking with the Manta 20 I reviewed being the smallest pack in that lineup. Although Osprey does have a bike-specific pack (the Raptor line) I was much more interested in the larger capacity Manta line which seemed to fit my habit of going for long uphill walks and rides with my bike.
I’ve had the Osprey for a month. It’s been on 14 rides – some xc, some hike-a-bike, some freeride, some all-mountain.
The author bike-a-neering a 1400m climb to an alpine ridgeline.
The Manta’s suspension system keeps the pack elevated and away from your back. Its suspension system can be readily adjusted to keep the pack tensioned yet comfortable.
KEY FEATURES (more about the pack at Osprey’s homepage here)
Rather then recite all features of the pack which you can easily read about at the Osprey site here are the features I thought were important to bikers
1. Light Weight
This 20l pack weighs 2lbs 3oz (2lbs 12 oz with the reservoir) That’s very light for a relatively big biking pack. I compare this favourably to my slightly bigger Dakine Apex pack (26l, 3.5lbs). Note that I didn’t say that it’s particularly light for a pack but that it’s lighter than most biking packs (which tend to be overbuilt in my opinion). I believe the Osprey will hold up in the long term as the fabric seems tough but I’ll update this article via comments if there are issues with durability.
2. Suspension and fit
Osprey’s suspension has always been the prime reason to buy their packs and the Manta is no exception. The Manta’s suspension is incredibly well-thought out. Leaving aside Osprey trademarked buzzwords like “Airspeed” suspension and “Lightwire” alloy frame (read more about on the Osprey site), this pack fits you like no other. I’ve long since been a fan of Osprey’s suspension having owned their Variant ski mountaineering pack and hauling many a load with it. The mesh tensioned breathable back panel is a boon on hot humid summer days. The pack is comfortably when riding or hike-a-biking. It is comfortable fully-loaded. It doesn’t flop around if it’s lightly loaded. Osprey knows how to make a pack that fits and stays put even during activity.
Osprey has different sized packs in the Manta line for different length torsos and at 5′ 10″ the size M/L pack fit me like a glove. The Manta has many tensioning straps (common to all packs) so you can tune fit. One criticism I note is that the hip-belt/waist belt webbing in particular has a few extraneous loops that can’t be tucked away. This can be a bit of a pain when hiking in treed terrain or when hiking with the bike on your back. These little loops can catch on things like branches or brake levers. The fix would be for Osprey to make the loops free-floating so they can be stowed.
Front of the Osprey Manta shows (from bottom to top) the extra capacity stowing pocket, a zippered tool pocket, a larger compartment where you can stow things like jackets, kneepads etc .
3. Useable compartments that aren’t overly fussy
If you are the kind of rider who wants a little pocket for everything – ie a sleeve for the pump, a pouch for bike tools etc then you might not like the Manta. I admit to preferring the black hole type of packs where one can drop all manner of equipment into a basic sack. The Manta has FIVE separate compartments where you can store different things meeting the needs of even the fussiest of riders. Each compartment has zipper pulls that you can operate with gloves. Here are the compartments:
- Expandable stretchy fabric front compartment (front of pack). Stow a jacket, bivi-sack or something compressible there:
- Centre pouch (main body). Perfect for bike tools, tubes, pump etc.
- Main pouch (main body). Stow knee pads, bigger jacket, bulkier stuff there.
- Sunglass pouch (top of pack). Stow sunglasses, keys etc here
- Water compartment (back of pack). I put long, small volume stuff here – eg zipties
Manta also has useable hipbelt pockets with useable volume and accessible even when you are wearing your pack. I found those hipbelt pouches especially nice for things that might be needed frequently – eg food bars, or bike tools, or small camera (a Canon G10 fit in there fine).
Of note, the suspension system of the Manta is so well designed that even if I crammed oddly shaped stuff in the main pouch it didn’t dig into my back as the back of pack is suspended away from my body.
A more fundamental concern is that there is no way to carry longer armour (specifically I’m thinking of knee and leg armour. You can stow kneepads in the main body but longer armour has to be strapped to various hooks on the outside of the pack. A fix might be to include some tensioning expandable webbing on the outer frame of the pack. It will add some weight and detract from the Manta’s clean lines but it would add some needed utility.
4. Decent sized reservoir
The Manta 20 comes with a 3.0l reservoir that’s contoured in shape so it fits the pack. Osprey’s marketing spiel is that they have worked hard to integrate the hydration bladder and the Manta so the pack stays put and is stable as possible even when water is sloshing around. They seem to have succeeded in this regard as I had no issues with the pack when I was in strenous activity.
Osprey also integrated a somewhat magnetic bitevalve holder into the bladder. The magnet keeps the bitevalve in place on the webbing’s sternum strap.
The bitevalve has a on-off “switch” that’s operated by rotating it around. It worked – as it should.
Here are some quibbles I had with these features:
- Initially I didn’t think the Osprey bladder was 3l. I compared it with a standard 3l Camelbak bladder and it turned out they were equal volume but you had to be careful with filling up the Osprey bladder as its contoured and liquid would spill out if you didn’t hold it vertical (ie don’t fill it half slanted like lazy me). Of note the Camelback bladder fits in the Osprey pack but you have to work a bit to get them both in there. There’s not much I can offer as suggestions for improvement; simply pay attention when filling the bladder solves this issue.
- I found the magnetic bitevalve holder to be gimmicky. First, I don’t always ride or hike with the sternum strap done up so you end up stowing the bitevalve in the shoulder straps anyway. Second, the mechanism forces you to have the bitevalve on the left side of your body. I’ve always stowed bitevalves on the right side and, creatures of habit that we are, didn’t appreciate being forced to change. To improve this feature, Osprey could make the sternum strap reversible so the magnet could go on the right side.
The Manta doesn’t move when you cinch it tight.
6. Integrated raincover
Miraculously it hasn’t rained in rain-forest covered south west British Columbia in over a month and a half so I haven’t had a chance to test this in a combat situation as yet. I have however forded a few stream crossings with the Osprey and tested it somewhat non-scientifically by gently and quickly dipping the Manta in streams. The Manta is water-resistant and its fabric is hydrophobic quickly shedding water.
The raincover is integrated into the pack and easily deployed from the bottom of the pack. I’m confident that it will make the water-resistant Osprey Manta even more water-resistant. I’ll update this article with comments when I get a chance to use the pack in a torrential downpour.
On each side of the Manta there are hip belt pockets that can be accessed while the pack is being worn
- Stunning good looks and dashing color. I love that liquid blue.
- Light for a bike pack
- Feels like falling into a down bed whenever you carry a load with this pack – it is that comfortable.
- Loads are easy to secure
- Loads are comfortable to carry
- Some straps flop around. I like a nice clean pack with straps that can be stowed.
- Magnetic bitevalve holder may annoy creatures of habit that like bitevalves positioned just-so.
- Needs a way to carry leg armour
Retail Price: $129