Review: Osprey Zealot 16

Hydration

The Zealot 16 is Osprey’s first foray into the gravity orientated hydration pack realm. The fully featured 16 liter capacity pack is comfortable, tough and carries loads competently, with a nicely padded and well ventilated back panel. Osprey has been making packs since 1974, and although they’re headquartered in Cortez Colorado, their manufacturing takes place in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Osprey Zealot 16

The Zealot 16 is made with tough and durable 210D Nylon Nailhead, 500D and 1000D nylon fabrics, and utilizes their molded foam AirScape back panel, BioStretch ventilated harness and a 40mm straight ErgoPull hip belt with padded hip wings. It has their brilliant LidLock helmet clip and blinker light attachment patch. The pack has a 16 liter capacity, and includes their 100 oz (3 L) Hydraform reservoir and a roll-out tool pouch. The pack comes in two colors, Pitch Black and Octane Blue, and two sizes, Small/Medium and Medium/Large, weighs in at 920 grams and retails for $149. In addition, they have a Zealot 10, which has a 10 liter capacity and retails for $129.

The large main compartment is accompanied by a padded front compression pocket, a top stash pocket, two stretch mesh side pockets, two hip pockets, and a mesh and zippered harness pocket. The main compartment is cavernous, and the useful back panel opening makes it easy to access items. I do wish there was some internal zippered pockets, slots and pouches for better organization of items in the main area, since things can get lost in the vastness of the compartment. The hydration reservoir fits into a separate pocket or sleeve on the rear of the main compartment, which isolates it for easier insertion while the pack is still fully loaded, and it has an elastic compression cord system to hold it tightly in place to prevent unwanted movement. The hip pockets worked for a gel packs, cameras, and phones, although it was a tight fit jamming an iPhone in there.

The top stash pocket has a key clip, and offers enough space for multiple items, including electronics and food. The padded front compression pocket can carry a Full-Face helmet, and was quite useful for frequently required items such as a shock pump, rags, and soft armor, and when combined with the mesh side pockets, bulky items and armor could be carried. The pockets on the harness were too small for most items, except maybe a gel packs or energy bar, and sort of seemed superfluous. At the bottom of the pack is a zippered pocket for the roll-out tool pouch, which is quite handy as it keeps the usual heavy tool weight low on the back, although I found its zipper hard to close when the pack was fully loaded.

The Hydraform 3 liter reservoir uses an anti-microbial formula to prevent most mold and bacteria growth, and its BPA and PVC free. It has an excellent 180-degree pivot bite valve that rotates on and off in either direction, and features a magnet that attaches to sternum strap. The reservoir has a large easy to use handle for holding and filling, and an integrated plastic back panel for stiffening that has a slight bend in it to conform to the back. Unfortunately, that stiff bowed panel makes initial water filling difficult as it pushes the material up into the port opening, causing spills and messes unless you’re careful or push the down on things. Cleaning the reservoir isn’t easy since the opening isn’t large enough for comfortable hand insertion, and the tube doesn’t have a quick-release system like the competition. The Hydraform does have the benefit that it lays nice and flat when filled, which help keep the pack from feeling overly bulged out.

About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • dude says:

    wish osprey would come out with a lumbar reservoir like camelbak, best new hydration pack feature that is truly functional while riding…outside of that i prefer the designs of osprey….but wont go back to them after using an LR until they add one

  • Bill Willems says:

    I’ve got the Osprey Raptor 14. Had the original one a couple years and had to get bladder replaced twice because it was a faulty design. Many friends with same problem. I got the whole pack replaced under REI warranty due to strap problem, and they’ve changed their bladder completely. It is no longer like the one shown in this review. The overall pack is much less comfortable than previous version, and the bladder design seems to be the reason. I definitely like better than any Camelback I’ve had.

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