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.

Girls’ getaway at The Osprey offers more than the norm

Ladies, give yourselves a break this winter. As you plan your next girls getaway, keep The Osprey at Beaver Creek in mind. This RockResort is the closest hotel to a chairlift in North America, and its post-New Year escape package is sure to put you in a room. From January 6 – 9, 2010, the ReTreat Yourself package combines skiing and snowboarding (guided by pro athletes) and yoga with Beaver Creek instructors – all with the goal of building a little girl power.

So, recharge yourself once the anxiety of the holiday season is behind you with three nights at The Osprey, daily skiing and snowboarding lessons by pros Megan Pischke-Porcheron (snowboarder), Barrett Christy-Cummins (snowboarder) and Kasha Rigby (skier). Then, spend several sessions calming your spirit with Forrest Yoga teacher Amy Baker, balancing the excitement of the slopes with the pursuit of relaxation. Life coach Linda Kennoy is on hand to conduct sessions on Manifesting Your True Personal Power, Fate and Destiny and Energy Fields, Magic and Soul Mates (well, the other stuff sounds pretty cool). The package also includes daily breakfast and lunch, mini spa treatments and a consultation with a skin esthetician.

At $1,428.32, this is a bargain, especially since all resort fees and taxes are included (except lift tickets, which are available at a discounted rate.

The Osprey Hotel – Luxury and fun in Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek’s newest hotel is The Osprey — and it’s a RockResort, which we like very much. Why? Because RockResorts are all environmentally friendly, and also extremely luxurious.

Nestled gently in the Rocky Mountains, The Osprey has fun amenities for luxury thrill seekers like helmet cams for skiing or biking, apres ski mixology lessons at The Osprey Bar, a bath concierge (!), lobster nachos and deep-fried Snickers bars, and a big classy lobby where you can mingle with the other guests, play Wii, or even showcase that video from your helmet camera on the giant flat screen TV.

Also, I mean, look at it. It looks like a house in a store window display at Christmas. Look at the lighting. You’d look good in that lighting. Look at this swimming pool. It’s by the fire pit. Want.

The Hotel used to be known as “The Inn at Beaver Creek,” but has just had a $7 million renovation to become a RockResort. Not only does that mean energy-efficient plumbing and lighting, but The Osprey also features “surfaces (including leather, birch, iron, and onyx) made from locally sourced stone, indigenous metals and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood.”

It also happens to be the closest ski-in/ski-out hotel to a chairlift in North America.

So, go tell it on the mountain.

Gadling’s Gift Guide: $51 – $250

The holidays are upon us, and you seem to be reading our fine little travel blog. The confluence of these two facts suggest you might be in the market for some travel-themed gifts this holiday season. But what do you get for that discerning traveler on your list that won’t break the bank? With the rotten economy and all, you’re not made of money at the moment.

That’s where we come in. We’ve polled our team of travel experts here at Gadling and pulled together the following list of travel goodies priced between $51-$250, all travel tested and blogger approved. Have a scroll down below and of course, feel free to add your own travel-themed gift suggestions in the comments below.

Peek Personal Email Device

You may remember Scott’s review of the Peek from this past August, when he gave the device solid marks all around. For those that are not familiar, the Peek is handheld email device powered by the T-Mobile network. For only $99.95 for the hardware and then $19.95/month you get simple, easy to use access to all your email.

Frequent travelers looking for an unlimited email device will be pleased with the Peek’s features. Sure, the Peek isn’t for everyone. Those looking for Blackberry or iPhone-style functionality will find it lacking in features. But the device’s no-frills capabilities may ultimately be more appealing to those who are less technologically inclined because of this simplicity. Not to mention it has no monthly contract commitment unlike those fancier devices.

Where: and at Target stores nationwide
Price: $99 for the hardware, $19.95/month thereafter

Osprey Porter 46

You tend to go through a lot of travel bags when you write for a travel website. Whether it’s business travel, a quick jaunt home to Chicago for the holiday, or a 2 week trip to Japan, most of my bags have been through a literal trial-by-fire. Now, after burning through all manner of business-style rolling suitcases, shoulder-sling duffel bags and over-the-shoulder backpacks, I’m ready to declare a winner. It’s Osprey’s Porter 46 backpack.

What is it about the Porter 46 in particular that gets me so fired up? The best part for me is the size. Specifically designed to fit the exact maximum airline carry-on size restrictions, the Porter 46 ensures you’ll never have to check luggage again. I’ve fit this sucker on everything from Boeing 747’s down to those tiny Embraer regional jets, and it always has been able to squeeze into the overhead.

I’m also a big fan of the Porter 46 configuration. Unlike most typical backpacks, it opens like a duffel bag, with a zipper on the “top.” This prevents the annoying situation with most backpacks where you have to dig all the way down the bottom to find your toothbrush. No such issue here. I also really like the Porter’s backpack setup – the straps fold completely into a zippable compartment on the backside, ensuring nothing will get snagged on a conveyor belt if you do decide to check the thing.

Where: Head to the Osprey website to find a dealer online
Price: Though the Porter 46 retails for $99, I’ve seen it as low as $75 depending on where you look

Icebreaker Travel Shirt

Traveling sometimes means making do without the necessities. But that certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be able to look good and be comfortable while doing it. Enter the Icebreaker Superfine140 travel shirt. This ultra-lightweight fabric shirt is crafted from an ultra-fine merino thread, which ensures that it dries quickly and is extremely breathable.

These two properties of the Icebreaker offer an added bonus – they are very resistant to body odor. Internal consensus from the Gadling staff has it that the shirts have lasted as long as 15 days without taking on any kind of “funky smells.”

While Gadling does not endorse the extreme avoidance of regular personal hygiene, we are willing to give our readers the benefit of the doubt. Anybody looking for a versatile base-layer and all-around good travel wear should give Icebreaker a look.

Price: $69.99

Gravis Hobo Messenger Bag

For the past 5 years, I have been on a relentless search for the best messenger bag. I wanted something that looked sharp enough to take with me to work, but not so corporate looking that I couldn’t take it with me when I was out and about on the weekends and traveling. That’s why when I stumbled on the Hobo Bag by Gravis, I knew I had finally found my choice.

While there are a number of great messenger bag makers out there, I like the Gravis Hobo Bag because of the multitude of pocket space inside. This includes a separate compartment for a laptop, as well as smaller zippered pouches for any small personal necessities. It works equally well day-to-day as well as while you’re traveling, holding items like a small camera, an umbrella and perhaps a change of clothing. I also particularly like the quirky patterns – while the exterior of my bag is white and black, the interior is made up of a pattern of robots, donkeys, elephants and monkeys (weird combo, right?). The ones online have similar colorful or more simple styles to them, leaving you free to pick a design that best matches your own style and needs.

Where: or
Price: $50 for the medium size, $75 for the large

Blackberry Curve by T-Mobile

Earlier this year, Scott mentioned a unique feature of T-Mobile’s Blackberry Curve phone. Not only does the Curve let you make calls over the normal wireless network of T-Mobile, it’s also equipped for Wi-Fi calling in areas where traditional cell phone service is not available. Basically this means you can make phone calls anywhere in the world over a local Wi-Fi connection, even if you have no service or are roaming in whatever country you happen to be visiting. If you’re not interested in going through the process of unlocking your phone to use it in other countries, this can be a godsend.

T-Mobile is also fairly generous when it comes to their Blackberry international data plan. For only $19.95 per month, you can send and receive as many emails as you want in other countries, with no hidden data charges.

Price: $99 after instant discount and mail-in rebate, $449 without

SeV Quantum Jacket

I can never have too many pockets when I’m traveling. Between my wallet, a digital camera, a guidebook, a cell phone, my music player and all those other travel doodads we all like to have, your pants end up bulging with stuff. In September, we reviewed the SeV Quantum Jacket, noting its versatility for gear junkies. Between the jacket’s main body and sleeves it’s got 28 pockets for your digital and analog paraphernalia.

But it’s not just the many, many pockets that make this jacket a snap. It’s also got small openings throughout the fabric for something called the “personal area network,” allowing you to connect wires and cables from a device in one pocket to those in another. The Quantum also includes touch-screen accessible pockets for fans of PDA’s, iPhones and the iPod Touch.

Combined with the jacket’s breathable and water resistant shell and the optional fleece and you’ve got one tough, durable piece of outerwear.

Price: $250

iPod Touch – 8GB

Have you heard of this crazy iPod gadget? I hear they’
re totally popular now. OK, OK…you probably know all about the iPod, iPhone and iPod Touch at this point. Rather than dwell on the obvious, let’s talk about why the iPod Touch might be the perfect digital media solution for all you travelers out there.

First and foremost, the iPod has built-in Wi-Fi. If you’re not looking to spend $5 bucks at the internet cafe every time you want to check email during that trip to Spain, the iPod Touch lets you log on, surf the web and send a hello to the family without breaking the bank. Second, it has all the digital music, game and movie-playing goodies you’ll need to keep you entertained on those long plane or bus rides.

And perhaps most useful of all, you can even turn the IPod Touch into a “personal digital guidebook.” Let’s say I’m going to be touring around Seattle during the day. Instead of lugging around that Frommer’s book all day, you can just pull up the Wikitravel (or Gadling) page on your iPod Touch. Now even when you move out of Internet range you’ve got all the information pre-loaded and at the flick of a finger.

Price: $229 for 8 GB

No Reservations: Seasons 1, 2 and 3 on DVD plus Book

If there is one travel TV show that has kept us consistently entertained and delighted over the past few years, it’s definitely No Reservations. Say what you will about the Amazing Race or Bizarre Foods – the fact of the matter is no travel show on television is as consistently hilarious, interesting, blunt and entertaining as No Reservations.

If that someone special in your family is dreaming of some travel this holiday season but won’t be able to go there in person, why not buy them a couple seasons worth of No Reservations on DVD and the behind-the-scenes book? You can get the complete First, Second and Third seasons on Yes, we admit – we are 100% in the tank for Anthony Bourdain.

Price: $69 for Seasons 1, 2 and 3 and the No Reservations book

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