Gadling Gear Review: Osprey Raptor 14

I have a bit of a fetish for daypacks and, as such, I’ve become quite particular about what I like and what annoys the heck out of me. That’s why I was so excited to try out my new Osprey Raptor 14 on a recent trip to Zion National Park. With temperatures pushing 100°F, hikes lasting hours and the air as dry as a bone, it’s incredibly important that you have the right supplies and that you’re comfortable throughout your time on the trails.

Did the Raptor 14 live up to Osprey’s reputation?The Raptor 14 has a 14L volume (duh), so it’s neither a tiny scramble pack nor a large daypack. Even with its 3L reservoir full of water, there is still plenty of room in the pack for other supplies. It features an exterior compression pocket, a small front storage pocket, a large main compartment, a small top pocket and the reservoir sleeve. Beyond that, it also has Osprey’s new favorite feature, the LidLok, which allows you to attach your bike helmet to the exterior of the pack. Additionally, there are two small pouches on the hipbelt (more on those shortly).

Osprey packs always feature impeccable construction and the Raptor 14 is no different. It feels indestructible. The reservoir is held snug and I never felt any sloshing around when I was hiking. The Raptor series utilizes Osprey’s AirScape suspension system, which helps distribute weight evenly and allows for airflow so that your back doesn’t become a sweaty mess. That said, it definitely adds some weight and the Raptor feels slightly heavier than other packs its size.

The pockets do not feature a tremendous amount of organizational options, but that’s to be expected as this is a pack for outdoor rather than urban use. However, I was disappointed in the lack of pockets on the shoulder straps and the pouches on the hipbelt. I hate having to constantly take my pack off to access gear, which is why I enjoy convenient pockets for storing a snack or my phone. I certainly understand wanting to maintain a sleek profile, but some pockets on the shoulder straps – the kind that you see on Osprey’s Momentum series – would be useful. The pouches on the hipbelt are always open. The lack of zippers disappointed me, as I never felt comfortable storing anything in those pockets.

The reservoir is a 3L Nalgene bladder. It has a bite valve, which I love, and clips magnetically to the harness so that it’s always conveniently located and never dangling annoyingly. The handle on the reservoir makes removing, filling and repacking the bladder significantly less awkward than with other hydration devices and is a simple feature that makes a huge difference.

Thanks to the compression straps, it is easy to squeeze the Raptor 14 down once you’ve packed it. I’ve never been one to utilize hipbelts on small packs, so I was particularly thrilled to see the small loop on the front of the pack that allows you to neatly wrap the hipbelt around and clip it so that it is out of the way and doesn’t dangle uncomfortably off of your torso.

It’s small details like that, the LidLok, the reservoir design and abundance of large pockets on a small pack that make up for some of the minor disappointments on the Raptor. Combine those positives with Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee (a lifetime guarantee to repair any damage or replace anything that cannot be fixed) and I was won over by this pack. If it had pockets on the shoulder straps or the hipbelt (I refuse to use the open pouches), it would put icing on the cake, but that is certainly not a deal-breaker.

While the $109 price tag certainly is steep, the lifetime guarantee ensures that you’ll get your money’s worth from the Raptor 14 for years to come. It’s built for aggressive outdoor use but is plenty comfortable for even the most casual adventurer.

Let’s break it all down:


  • Durable construction
  • Ample storage in multiple pockets
  • Comfortable on shoulders and back
  • Magnetic bite valve and handle are my favorite features on any reservoir I’ve tried
  • Holds reservoir tightly
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Slim profile
  • LidLok for holding bike helmet


  • Suspension does add some weight
  • Lack of convenient harness pockets
  • Pouches on hipbelt cannot be closed

Would I recommend the Raptor 14? Absolutely. The few things that it failed to check off of my wishlist are more than made up for in its positives.

The Raptor 14 is available now for $87.20 at EMS but normally retails for $109 at REI and other outfitters.

Reflections on Labor Day from Desolation Wilderness

With the weekend festivities having come to a close, looking back, Labor Day really is a curious holiday. In comparison, Independence Day celebrates the birth of a nation, Memorial Day commemorates those who fought for our freedom, and Martin Luther King Day celebrates one of the greatest civil rights activists this nation (and world) has ever seen.

How many Americans, however, can give a definitive answer as to why we celebrate Labor Day? A holiday which has questionably lost sight of its original meaning (much like chocolate bunnies being associated with Easter), Labor Day in modern terms seems to translate into BBQ, boating, and the start of college football season, which don’t get me wrong, are all great things.

Somewhere between the third bratwurst and the fourth beer, however, I doubt very many of us take that moment to pause and reflect on what we’re actually celebrating. First signed into law as a national holiday by President Cleveland in 1894, it’s a day meant to honor and reflect upon that tireless bastion of success and freedom, the everyday American worker.

So this past Labor Day, in order to properly reflect on this, I knew I was going to have to remove myself from the social atmosphere, lest my reasoning be skewed by the ambiguous merriment. No BBQ. No beers. No boats. I was going to have to go someplace I could actually hear my thoughts.

Living on the shores of California’s Lake Tahoe, the swollen lakeshore that consistently drowns under inflatable rafts and EZ-up tents was not going to be the place. I needed somewhere removed from the crowds and the usual scene; somewhere where Labor Day was still just called Monday.

Somewhere, like Desolation Wilderness.

One of the West’s truly wild places, the name alone screams of empty solitude. 64,000 acres of glacially formed lakes and craggy granite peaks, it’s one of the few remaining areas you can still find the endangered sound of silence.

Grabbing an old pair of hiking boots, three bottles of water, and a hopefully unnecessary can of bear mace, I amble off down a Desolation Wilderness trailhead ready to get back to nature and properly ruminate on the concept of work.

About a mile up the trail on a scree filled switchback overlooking Fallen Leaf Lake, my gaze to the horizon is suddenly interrupted by a golden eagle gliding on the thin morning breeze. Above the rare predator, a commercial jet paints a long set of contrails across the gaping blue sky.

I think about the first settlers who walked amongst these hills, and wonder if they could ever have comprehended the speed with which we now travel. They arrived in this wilderness by wagon, train, horse, and steamboat, all willing to work towards achieving the American dream. A trip that once took weeks we now cover in hours, all thanks to hard working laborers on a factory room floor who piece together metal eagles that now race across the sky.

Taking a long quaff of water from my blue Nalgene, my eyes wander into the dense canopy of pine wrapping its way around the mountainside. Examining the thin dirt trail below, I reflect on the fact that even this stroll through the woods which I’m taking was at one point considered part of going to work. For the original Native American tribes who relied on this land to survive, a walk through the woods was all part of a greater task. Food, water, and shelter were all derived from these hills, and this mountainside high in the Sierra was all part of their greater office.

Startled by a loud knocking from above, I peer up the rotted trunk of a tree that’s in dire need of autumn rains. High atop the branches, a lone woodpecker repeatedly drives his face into the hard wood, which I realize, strangely enough, is all part of his line of work.

I realize that this far back in the forest the only sounds I hear are those of nature working all around me. The same sun that’s searing my shoulders is also melting the high mountain snows, in turn slowly feeding the stream I hear which has worked to carve this alpine canyon. Similarly, the spiderweb I walked through half a mile ago was the proud handiwork of an animal who has just seen his hard work instantly erased.

On a trek where I intended to leave labor behind, I instead find myself completely surrounded by it. I suddenly bask in the luxury of a day free of work, because as the forest has managed to bring to my attention, though we are all still a part of nature, nature isn’t given the luxury of rest. As strange as it all may seem, there is no Labor Day for woodpecker.

The end of Nalgene bottles in Canada might be near

Canada might be the first country to declare Nalgene bottles toxic. Not just Nalgene bottles, but anything containing bisphenol-a, or B.P.A., a chemical widely used in plastics for baby bottles, beverage and food containers as well as linings in food cans.

Canada would be the first to make a health finding against B.P.A., which has been shown to disrupt the hormonal systems of animals, NY Times reports. United States Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program endorsed a scientific panel’s finding that there was “some concern” about neutral and behavioral changes in humans who consume B.P.A.

The public and industry will have 60 days to comment on the designation once it is released, setting into motion a two-year process that could lead to a partial or complete ban on food-related uses of plastics made using B.P.A.

The end of the popular Nalgene bottle as we know it might be near.

Hundreds killed after villagers drink from Nalgene bottles

UPDATE: This was an April Fool’s post and bears no semblance to reality.

In a small Guatemalan town one hundred miles north of Guatemala City, a mass grave lies just outside of the city square. A mass grave full of people. Dead people.

The town is called La Estancia de Garcia, and it’s population is now 7, down from 149 earlier this year.

It all started with good will visit and donation from Nalgene, the New York based water bottle manufacturer. To show that they were a well-rounded charitable company, they chose the quaint Estancia de Garcia as the model town to send Jonathan Kieliszak, Director of Public Relations, down for a photo shoot and the donation of two hundred one-liter Nalgene branded bottles for charity.

The problem is that these bottles were made of Lexan, a potentially dangerous polymeric material that could have dangerous side effects because it contains the compound known as bisphenol-A. We posted on these potential threats ad nauseum last year.

As a result of the controversy, Nalgene has modified the chemical composition of their trademark water bottles to include a slightly modified compound called polymethyl methacrylate which is completely harmless to humans. But the water bottles they sent to Guatemala contained the old, hazardous compound.

Shortly after Mr. Kieliszak left town, Guatemalans started getting ill. At first they thought it was the flu until children started vomiting a thick black mucus and getting high fevers. Their family members next became violently ill, then most of the entire village. Soon, 142 of the 149 villagers were dead. The other seven happened to be on a hunting expedition that week and not consuming liquids out of the bottles.

Now, J. Kieliszak and the polymer lobby are working hard in Washington DC trying to cover up the affair. They claim that the village became ill due to “natural causes” and that Nalgene did nothing wrong. And they’ve quietly returned to Estancia de Garcia to collect used water bottles and bring them back to the states for “testing”.

Who knows what the effects of concentrated amounts of bisphenol-A did to the Guatemalan villagers? Will we ever find out what the real cause of their deaths was? Nalgene has been tight lipped on the topic, and as the lobbyists work hard in Washington, the story slowly fades into the limelight. But for these Guatemalans, my Nalgene water bottle has now been retired.

More about bottles – stainless wins over aluminum

I found out more information about reusable water bottles since there seem to be more questions than answers regarding that issue. They would make such good holiday presents…if only one knew which one to get!

I asked a biologist (who just happens to be related to me) about the bottles and he essentially discouraged me from getting one with aluminum or one without a wide mouth. Sorry, SIGG. He doesn’t seem to be as skeptical about Nalgene, as some people are.

Here are some points he made about water bottles and water in general:

  • Why use aluminum when they make bottles out of titanium even lighter and stronger than aluminum and, perhaps, could be better choice.
  • As far as the sport bottles buy only wide-mouth stainless or Nalgene, which can be washed in a dishwasher with high temperature water or hot tap water with a detergent and bristle brush every day. This will prevent contamination with bacteria and viruses. Soap and water is a marvelous way of keeping healthy without sanitizers (sort of like brushing your teeth to prevent tooth decay).
  • There is NO good answer as to the safety of the water bottles. The plastic used in bottled water is basically the same as used in any food and also in hospital materials.
  • The purchased water is usually slightly more pure than tap water, if it originates from distilled tap water as is used in the soft drink industry (Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola make their own purified tap waters).
  • It contains no chlorine as in tap water, thus will not leech any plastic chemicals into the water. However, if you refill with tap water, you are introducing any materials found in your municipal water supply into the bottles and could, perhaps, maybe leech some plasticizers into the water.
  • More concerning is bacterial contamination from your initial use and an inability to properly clean the bottles after the use. So reuse more than a couple of times is not a good idea, some folks reuse bottles once and never let them dry out or leave open for a period without the cap on.
  • If you want to refill the bottles, use distilled water, not tap, and refill only once or twice.
  • The amount of dangerous chemicals (eg. carcinogens) is probably less than you intake breathing the air in New York or other big cities. The biologist I talked to said he was more worried about the junk in food (preservatives and hormones and pesticides) than in a little contamination from a plastic bottle of water.