Gadling gear review: The Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack

As an active traveler, I have grown to have a certain affinity for backpacks. In fact, I have one for just about every occasion, ranging from small daypacks for short hikes on local trails to full-on expedition level packs designed for weeks, or even months, in the field. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate a well designed, versatile pack that not only fits well, but also offers you plenty of storage options in an easy to access and clearly defined way. With the right pack, an active trip can be a very pleasant experience, while the wrong pack can be an endless source of frustration.

Recently, whenever I’ve been in the market for a new pack, I’ve found myself gravitating to those made by Osprey, a company that has been designing great outdoor gear for nearly four decades. A few months back, I added their Stratos 24 daypack to my gear closet, and after testing it out extensively on three continents, I can honestly say that I’m in love.

The first thing that you’ll notice about the Stratos 24, or pretty much any Osprey pack for that matter, is the fantastic build quality. These are packs that are built to last and they can withstand whatever you throw at them. Case in point, in the five months I’ve owned my Stratos, I’ve taken it cross country skiing in Yellowstone, hiking in Colorado, on safari in South Africa, and volcano climbing in Chile, not to mention a couple of day hikes in Texas as well. After all of those adventures, it still looks practically brand new, with nary a scuff mark on it.The second thing that you’re likely to notice about the Stratos is that there are an awful lot of belts, straps, and chords dangling from the pack. These can be a bit daunting at first, especially if this is your first outdoor oriented bag, but they each have a purpose that becomes clear when you start to adjust them. For instance, as you would expect, the Stratos has a belt that goes around your waist, as well as a strap that crosses your chest. When both of these are used in conjunction with the adjustable shoulder straps, you’ll be able to accurately fit the pack to your body, making it comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. There are also straps for carrying an ice axe (handy for the serious climber) and a pair of external belts for strapping gear, such as a pair of snowshoes, to the outside of the bag as well. Add in a tow loop for the adventure racing crowd, and gear loops for your trekking poles, and it can be a dizzying affair just to get acquainted with the pack. But after using it a time or two, it’ll all make sense, and you’ll be adjusting everything with ease.

Osprey didn’t skimp on the storage options either, as the Stratos includes a large internal compartment for carrying most of your gear, along with two zippered pockets on the pack itself. Additionally, there are two small mesh pockets on the hipbelt, as well as another on the right shoulder strap, that help keep small items, such as energy bars, a multi-tool or a camera, within easy reach. I personally appreciated all of these options, as the pack allows me to comfortably carry all of my important gear, including a DSLR camera, extra clothing, food, and more. Other features include a built in hydration sleeve that holds a two liter water bladder and an integrated raincover that helps keep your gear dry in inclement weather.

One of the more impressive aspects of the Stratos is the ventilation system built onto the back of the pack itself. Designed to help keep you cool by allowing air to flow, between your body and the bag, this system proves to be a most welcome addition on trips to warmer climes. I’ve used similar ventilation options on larger backpacks before, but this is the first time I’ve encountered such an effective one on a smaller daypack. On longer adventures, it can really make a difference in how comfortable you are on the trail.

The Stratos is a very versatile pack that works well not only on the trail, but as a carry-on item on a plane as well. When I’ve used it while traveling, I’ve loaded it up with my laptop, iPad, DSLR, lenses, and other fragile equipment I simply don’t want to risk checking with the airlines. Fortunately this lightweight bag offers plenty of capacity to comfortably carry all of that gear as well, and it still fits nicely under the seat in front of you. That means that when I reach my destination, I can take out the tech gadgets, throw in my outdoor gear, and head off for the wilderness without the need of yet one more pack.

If I had one knock against the Stratos however, it would be that all of those belts and straps that I mentioned above are excessively long and can get in the way at times. In fact, after I’ve adjusted them to fit my body, they still tend to dangle all over the place. This became a bit of an issue recently when I fed the pack through an x-ray machine at an airport, and one of the straps got caught in the conveyor belt. Needless to say, the TSA agent was not amused.The issue can be avoided by shortening the straps when not using the pack on the trail, but it is a bit inconvenient to have to adjust them so often.

Other than that, the Stratos is quite possibly the best daypack I’ve ever used. Everything about this bag demonstrates refinement that only comes from years of evolving design and a clear understanding of the needs of your customers. Osprey has built a pack that is versatile, comfortable, and nearly indestructible. They even back it up with a lifetime guarantee. What more could ask for out of any piece of travel gear?

The Osprey Stratos 24 retails for $99 and is also available in a 26, 34, and 36 liter sizes as well.