Earlier this year I spent 17 days walking the length of the Cambrian Way, a high-level route from Conwy in north Wales, to Cardiff in the south. Before I set off I spent a lot of time thinking about my gear choices as I knew that even the smallest of details could make a big difference when taking on 23,800m of total ascent over just 300 miles.
The Osprey Stratos 50 was the pack that I decided to settle on.
Why did I choose the Osprey Stratos? It was the combination of its fairly small capacity of 50 litres (I was trying to take a bit of a minimalist approach), and also its comfy-looking and well-ventilated back system. I’d already tried out a number of different packs by Osprey, including the Talon, Aether, Atmos AG and Kestrel, and they’d all rated highly in terms of comfort, so I expected it to be a good bet.
Osprey Stratos 50: Comfort
The version that I tested out is the newest one, released for Spring/Summer 2017. It’s also available in a number of smaller capacities, and in a women’s fit called the Sirrus. While there are some small differences between this model of the Stratos and the previous one regarding pockets, straps and zip placement, the most obvious difference lies in the back system. There’s now the potential to adjust the back length - and quickly and easily to boot - via a simple tear and replace Velcro panel.
The best difference, in my opinion, is the adapted ventilation system. The last model kept the main part of the bag suspended off the back with a tight - but not too tight - meshing, and the new model takes this a bit further, bringing the meshing not only down the back but seamlessly around the hipbelt as well. This belt then has comfortable foam padding underneath it with numerous holes for air flow. I had some really hot and strenuous days during my hike of the Cambrian Way and never felt discomfort from a lack of ventilation on my back or around the hips and I’ll credit the back system for this, for sure.
The Osprey Stratos 50 was also excellent in regards to stability. The back system kept the pack close and secure on the ascents and descents and the load felt well distributed with no uncomfortable pressure points. I’ve had suspended mesh packs before that have dug in around the kidneys but this, fortunately, didn’t occur.
Osprey Stratos 50: Design Features
On to storage. The Osprey Stratos 50, like the rest of Osprey’s packs, has a good amount of pockets, and of different sizes and types as well.
I particularly appreciated the size of the two zipped pockets on the hipbelt. I stuffed the one on the left with my essential items and then the one on the right with Wine Gums… in case you were wondering. There are also mesh pockets on the side of the pack that have gaps at the base that can be reached into without taking the pack off.
"As we’ve come to expect with Osprey packs, there’s a good amount of attention to detail with the Stratos 50, right down to the zip pulls."
The lid has one pocket on the inside and one on the outside, and there’s a useful bellowed, open pocket on the very front of the pack (a new feature for the Stratos) that’s useful for quickly stashing a jacket. This also has a sizeable zipped pocket on the outside for other valuables.
There’s access to the main compartment via the top and also down one side of the pack, and at the base of the bag there’s a compartment for a tent or sleeping bag, this is sealed and won’t open up to the main compartment.
Other features worth noting include the integrated rain cover located at the base of the pack, the hydration bladder sleeve in the main compartment, stow-on-go trekking pole attachments on the straps and a removable top lid that can double up as a mini bum bag or sling pack for shorter trips.
Osprey Stratos 50: Performance
I think I probably took the Osprey Stratos 50 a little out of its comfort zone by taking it on this big trek. I'd say it's probably better suited to hiking trips that are no longer than a few days, or hut-to-hut treks without camping equipment. Not multi-week walks where you’re carrying plenty of equipment plus food and water. The reason I say this is because it didn’t always seem able to deal with the weight I was carrying, which was about 13-14kg. Throughout each day, I had to ensure the shoulder straps were re-tightened as the bag would, very slowly, tilt away from my back.
Osprey Stratos 50 | Verdict
As we’ve come to expect with Osprey, there's a good amount of attention to detail with the Stratos 50, right down to the zip pulls (they’re designed to be easy to use with cold hands or while wearing gloves) and the whole thing is made from good quality, durable fabrics that will keep out all but the heaviest or most persistent rain, even without the rain cover.
Overall, considering the performance in terms of comfort and ventilation, and the convenient features, I didn’t regret taking this backpack with me on my 300-mile trek, even despite the issue I had with the shoulder straps tending to loosen due to the heavy load. Still, if I was going to suggest this pack for a specific trip, I’d say it’s first and foremost a bag for weekend-length adventures.
Osprey Stratos 50: Specifications
210 Denier nylon with a 420 Denier base / 50-litre volume / airSpeed suspended mesh back system / Alloy frame / Padded, meshed hipbelt / Sternum strap with whistle / Lumbar support / Hydration bladder compatible /