why are osprey packs so popular?

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    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    Osprey's curvy pack bags do make them a bit smaller, and often a little harder to pack, than more squared-off models.

    Their warranty is almost ridiculous. A friend had a hipbelt pocket zipper blow out on a very well-used ski pack. She got a new pack. I had a marmot eat through a shoulder strap years back. I got a new shoulder harness no questions asked.

    Hobbes 1


    For the same reason Chevy Suburbans are so popular – they've been designed to sell in a consumer marketplace that is no different than any other industrial product.

    The choice of design, colors, features, etc are all carefully prepared in alternative combinations, and extensively tested in both focus groups and on-the-trail trials.

    For the majority of users – day hikers & backpackers – Osprey is what a backpack is supposed to look & feel like.

    Of course, all those bells and whistles, along with the baseline quality as reflected in the choices of materials, make the packs significantly heavier than a true UL backpack.

    I agree with the philosophy of Z-packs and other UL outfits: gear should be semi-disposable. We think nothing of getting new shoes, upgrading i-gadgets, etc, so why should gear last more than a 500-1000 miles? Heck, most people spend more $ on either gas or tickets just getting to their destination.

    You can easily go the 220 miles on the JMT with almost gossamer thin material. Do you want to help improve your chances of making it the whole way in good time & in good condition, or look like you've purchased something from a fashion catalog?

    peter vacco


    Locale: no. california

    " Osprey packs were made in Colorado. Now they are made in Asia, but I think that reputation has carried on "

    i think i read somewhere that when osprey moved it's production to vietnam, the ospry fellow himlef moved with his family there too. so, is a no screwing around sort of guy, or oompany.

    i bought one for my ex. it fits perftly, and works great !

    Jake D
    BPL Member


    Locale: Bristol,RI

    Many people are not in a financial situation to buy a new pack every year or 2. Plus some would rather buy something once that will last for a while and not have to be replaced. If you have $ burning a hole in your pocket, i'd gladly take it to pay for my tuition :P of course a pack maker is going to want people to re-buy stuff every few years.. they will make more money.

    220mi is a nice few weeks but it's not like it is some epic journey. Failure to complete that trip should have nothing to do with your pack unless it fits like crap and you are in pain. If you want to further your chances, people should get in shape and not pack extraneous crap. but spending more on cuben and tear-able packs is easier for lazy people. If you want to improve your chances, try looking like an athlete instead of a couch potato.

    disposable society is pretty disgusting.. waste everywhere, perfectly good items thrown away, money burned away when others are struggling.

    David Drake
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Idaho

    Another Osprey customer service success story:

    I wanted to do some mods to my Exos 58 and needed a few of their proprietary buckles. I called Osprey, and even though I told them nothing was broken, and explained what I wanted to do, they sent me the buckles for free (basically refused to let me pay for them).

    Michael Gartman
    BPL Member


    Locale: Flatlands of Virginia

    Some people are just going to put down anything that is enormously popular…not remembering that popular doesn't always equate with crappy.

    Budgetary constraints, and comfort have more to do with a pack than who makes it. If a 3 lb pack fits like a glove, but a 1.5 lb pack fits like crap, the 3 lb pack is a better choice.

    Anton Solovyev
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado, Utah

    Osprey Exos are probably lightest mass produced inner frame packs available. The suspension is quite comfortable and ventilated back is great.

    Most of the rest about Ospreys are annoyances. There are lots of not very useful features that add weight. Some "engineering" decisions (like multiple types of fabric used) are purely for appearances and add weight and sometimes reduce durability. The top lids are a joke. The pack shape and weight distribution of Exos series is far from optimal (the center of mass is way too far back).

    In some cases you could actually tell that designers put in features that they did not know what they were for. The Aether packs for several years came out with bottom ice axe loops but no top loop. So, you were forced to clip the axe under one of the lid straps, which made it fall out every time pack was opened.

    I finally got so annoyed with the new Exos (the "flap" thing made it impossible to hold sleeping pad on top), that decided to give frameless GoLite another try.

    BPL Member


    They are well made ( too many straps, yes!), durable; some models are pretty light and still carry well. Before my dog chewed up my Osprey Hornet, it was my favorite pack and for a 42 liter it carried all but the kitchen sink.

    Kate Magill
    BPL Member


    I love me some cottage gear, but my MLD would make a *really* crappy diaper bag. My Osprey daypack performs admirably as a diaper bag (and that's a compliment, not a criticism).

    Ospreys have great suspension. They carry LOADS comfortably. I use an Osprey daypack every day because it is comfortable and I don't feel the same need to shave ounces when I'm out running errands as I do when I'm on a multi-week hike. My daily load of laptop-phone-wallet-book-dog stuff-baby stuff-lunch-water is considerably heavier and more unwieldy than my backpacking gear. Creature comforts, yo.

    Oh, and the warranty is amazing. I also still use Gregory products for the same reason.

    Jeff Jeff
    BPL Member


    Weight isn't everything. Sometimes people buy on comfort, warranty, features, etc.

    I have two Osprey packs and two ULA packs. All of them hold my gear, but they get used on very very different sorts of trips.

    Dave Ploessel


    Rereading this thread I just have to say I'm laughing my ass off at some of the comments.. The .. 'i guess if you are only walking 3-4 miles and aren't smart enough to know the difference from a REAL pack', 'those merely AVERAGE hikers might like them' type stuff.. Etc etc…

    My first thought is to respond by saying that if I only walked on flat, well established trails and never did anything that was technical too I probably wouldn't see the point in using a pack like osprey produces either, but then I would be falling into the same condescending tones too, so i didn't go ther (kind of am now tho)..

    Brings me to my point: why is it so incomprehensible to some that a popular brand might be popular because they make (gasp) good gear?

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    Maybe we should be asking why there are not more western trail thru hikers using Osprey.

    Adam Kilpatrick
    BPL Member


    Locale: South Australia

    My wife and I recently tried on an Osprey Pogo Plus child carrier. We have a 2013 model Macpac Possum (generally previously considered the duck's guts of child carriers) but we both struggle to get really comfortable in it. One of my mates wore it too carrying our toddler and he also found it a bit on the crap side. Bear in mind Macpac make some really great packs and harnesses (heavy but good otherwise).

    The osprey blew it away. Sure it has straps and stuff but on a child carrier you need them, they are there for the safety of the cargo you are carrying. They worked. Really well thought out. The harness blew the macpac harness away. I could adjust it between our two very different back lengths in about two seconds (that part is ingenious) and we both found it perfectly comfortable. With Hannah loading in it, it was like 10kg had been removed from the total load compared to when we use the Macpac.

    That is why, often, its worth buying a decent, heavier pack. Because it can truly FEEL like the load is a lot lighter compared to a lighter pack (pack weight only) carrying the same amount of gear. My legs can easily handle an extra kilo or two, my upper body doesn't like the feel of an extra 10-15kg of "load" all day.

    Valerie E


    Locale: Grand Canyon State

    Ken has a REALLY interesting point — what about either the PCT or CDT makes Osprey a less popular choice? The AT is really, really HARD — every bit as substantial as the other two trails…so why are Osprey packs so much less popular for Western thru-hikes?

    Anyone have any interesting theories?

    The only thing I can think of is that the AT might have more unpredictable weather the ENTIRE way requiring more gear, which will weigh more, so you need a beefier pack?

    Cameron Habib


    I find Adam's point to be more or less in line with my own thoughts. Sure, most UL packs that are lighter and more compact that the Osprey's of the market (aka non-UL packs) but because they weight is better carried (transferred to hip, more heavily padded harness, etc), it feels more comfortable and like less weight, despite actually being a heavier bag.

    Because the whole purpose of the UL movement, from what I understand it at least, is to carry less weight with the ultimate goal of increasing your pleasure, the distance you are able to go, and take your mind off of your gear and be more connected with nature, it's feasible then if a slighter heavier bag (i.e. an Ospey) makes your load (be it 10 or 40lbs) more comfortable, it better embraces the spirit of UL backpacking more than some of the true UL packs.

    That said, I have an Osprey day pack I use for hydration and my camera gear. It's comfortable, didn't break the bank, and I could try them on at REI and get the fit and style just right.

    Myles Booth


    This has turned out to be a more insightful post than i could have ever imagined, and thanks. Good point about the cdt and pct, but i can only speak from my experience on the a.t. not saying one is more difficult than the other. come to think of it, ula was the second most popular pack, and to my knowledge, didnt think that they were as easily bought.

    Who am i to judge though. If a pack works for someone, it works. And the point about budget constraints is a good one, as my experience has been cotttage packs can be quite expensive. Im not sure, but maybe that has to do with materials and craftsmanship? Either way, i am wanting to go try some on this week, just to get a feel for them, but have no intentions of throwing my current pack to the curb. Also, it wasnt my intention to stir up bad feelings, if i did so.i was just curious about what makes them so popular. And so far, the bpl community has brought up some great points.

    Andrew Martin
    BPL Member


    Locale: PacNW

    … their fit is very personal and a good fit leading to maximum load transfer and comfort is highly desirable. This thread reminds me of many of the shoe discussions in that brand X is loved by some while hated by others and usually fit is the deciding factor.

    I've owned a 2008 Stratos, 2010 Atmos (returned), and a Kestrel 38. It's amazing how small design changes can change a pack that fits tremendously well (the 2008 Stratos) to horrible (current one). The Kestrel fits probably better than any other pack I've owned at the hip belt including a custom built McHale pack – it just can't take the same loads. I've also broken the frame on the Stratos pack and had it replaced for free with no questions asked thanks to their great guarantee. Osprey packs aren't the lightest, but they often fit quite well.

    Side question: I've noticed that the current Arc Blast has a frame design that appear very similar to the old Stratos with a significant arched trampoline design. I've always thought that design carried really well though it makes packing more of a hassle. Am I crazy to think the Arc Blast is a lighter, much more fragile, and larger Stratos?

    Derek M.
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    The question of PCT and CDT vs. AT thru hiker differences is an interesting one.

    My first question would be: do we actually know how much less popular Osprey packs are on the two western US scenic trails than on the AT (if they are, in the first place)? I don't think we do. I certainly haven't seen any hard data supporting this.

    But, assuming that it is true (and from my own limited anecdotal experience, it at least seems to be true), then I think a few things are going on…

    1. There are certainly fewer people attempting the PCT and the CDT each year than the AT, and I think there is a slight selection bias going here as well, above and beyond the raw numbers. From that I mean that the average PCT or CDT thru hiker is slightly better informed in terms of gear selection than the average AT hiker (at least in my opinion). I think, "better informed" thru-hikers also generally trend toward lighter gear (and, hence, away from Osprey and more toward cottage manufacturers like ULA, Six Moons Designs, Gossamer Gear, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, etc…).

    There are lots of people who attempt the AT and have absolutely no idea what they are getting into (just listen to stories of some of the crazy stuff people drop off at the outfitter 30 miles into the AT). I think this is at least somewhat less true on the PCT, and certainly much less true on the CDT.

    2. I think that people who have already done one thru hike are also more likely to be on the PCT and CDT than the AT (though I have no data for this). These veteran thru hikers usually trend more toward lightweight gear as well (and, in following, away from traditional gear like Osprey's)

    3. The PCT is basically an ideal proving ground for ultralight backpacking, with extended periods of dry, bug-free weather, and gently graded trail. This lends itself to lighter gear, and away from more traditional packs like those of Osprey. I think most CDT thru hikers have done the PCT (or portions of it), so they are most likely already "drinking the lightweight kool-aid" as well, even though the CDT doesn't have quite as ideal of conditions for UL gear choices as the PCT.

    4. Many of the cottage gear companies who make the lighter weight backpacking gear are located in the western US. I think it is no coincidence that PCT and CDT hikers use more of this gear. Distributions networks and word of mouth count for a lot here, particularly for smaller companies. People forget that Osprey packs used to primarily be a western thing as well until they grew large enough to become an REI staple brand and their Colorado roots became much less relevant in their sales and marketing strategy.

    Those are all my purely subjective theories. Feel free to shoot holes in them.

    AT Hiker


    Locale: East TN

    This is a bunch of BS. I carried a ULA Catalyst for 1200 miles in 2012. In 2013, I bought a Osprey Exos and have carried it close to 1000 miles. No way I would go back to the ULA. For me the Osprey works much better and I love the mesh back panel.

    Jake S


    > Jake S. you sound overly butthurt over this.

    Couldn't be further from the truth. My most versatile pack is a Hornet 46 and my wife's main pack is a Talon 33. She went into the store and picked hers out–spec sheets mean nothing to her over how it "felt", and she went with the Talon.

    I bought mine online after reading reviews (since none of the local stores carried them). Both were purchased with REI giftcards that had been given to us.

    Both cases illustrate exactly what I've said: they were available and well marketed. You just have to realize that when you approach such consumerism in a mass manner, it always sounds rather dumb and "herd"-ish. Behavior of the herd is always predictable and for lumpen and boorish reasons. I don't say that disdainfully, that's just how sociology works.

    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    I suspect you're mostly rigth Derek, but one could also say that by the time they get to the PCT or CDT, a given hiker is more likely to have drunk the cottage cool aid. Whether for better or worse.

    Michael Gartman
    BPL Member


    Locale: Flatlands of Virginia

    Some people will go the cottage industry way just because Osprey is big and successful. It's the people being people thing from that direction as well. There is a certain coolness factor to being a "rebel". Kind of like using an Apple computer was in 1989, or getting an Android phone was about 3 years ago. Rebel against the establishment! lol

    Owen McMurrey


    Locale: SE US

    I went to NOC Gatlinburg, today, where I originally checked out the ULA Catalyst and Circuit. Two Osprey displays most prominent(lots of the new Exos) with another for Deuter(Futura, ACT Lite), and some Granite Gear stuff that's kind of tucked away. I asked what happened to the ULA packs, and was told they didn't sell.
    That doesn't tell anything we didn't already know as far as Osprey being popular, but the guy I talked to did say a couple of things that would fall under "why?".
    One was word of mouth, and the other was warranty. Apparently, Osprey rushes to replace damaged packs for AT thruhikers, including those that have had holes gnawed through the packbag by rodents.

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