by Marc Basiliere
October 24, 2013
Small is beautiful? The Raptor 6 is more than adequate for 2hr rides (longer for those who pack light)
Though it may be the smallest of Osprey’s Raptor series of mountain bike packs, the Colorado brand’s 6L offering is no under-built race day pack.
Designed with half- to two-hour rides in mind, the recently-updated Raptor is easily one of the most solidly made packs in its size range. Unusual for its capacity, the Raptor 6 is built around a large 3L Hydraulics reservoir. With a built-in panel on the back and full-length handle on the front, the polyethylene bladder has enough structure to maintain its wide, flat shape regardless of fill- keeping sloshing to a minimum, reducing ‘sausaging,’ and making shoving the bladder into an already full bag pleasantly easy. Though no bite valve is completely immune to drips, Osprey’s swiveling tip is among the best longevity-wise. A magnet embedded in the bite valve mates to another in the sternum strap, allowing the rider to tuck it out of the way when unneeded.
Working outward, the Raptor 6’s large main compartment has organizing pockets for two pump-shaped items and a third for tools, tubes, and the like. Along with a couple of pumps (or a pump and hand saw), there is plenty of room for a well-equipped tool kit, a tube, a mini sealant bottle, a lightweight jacket, and some snacks- all without straining the zipper. A removable tool organizer is even included to organize mini tools and spares. A soft ‘phone and wallet’ pocket at the top of the bag as is Osprey’s clever elasticated helmet holder. The solidly-built grab/hang loop telegraphs Osprey’s built to last approach.
A stretchy outside pocket provides some easily-accessible overflow storage. At the waist, a pair of large wing pockets keep music, tools, or snacks close at hand- but do make fastening the webbing belt a necessity. As nice and tidy as the zippered hose tunnel running from the pack’s side to the front of the right strap is, it does mean that left-hosers are out of luck. (One model down, Osprey’s Viper 5 does allow for ambidextrous routing.) The mesh-covered-foam shoulder straps breathe well and – as seen elsewhere in the range – are comfortable with heavier loads than a 6L bag can contain- no reason to complain.
In an odd choice, Osprey has attached the magnetic bite valve anchor to the free end of the elasticized sternum strap. The result is an otherwise neat feature that can only be used when the sternum strap fastened. When its not, the heavy piece of hardware dances and bounces at the end of its elastic leash. There have even been a few instances where the free strap found the bite valve, resulting in a less-than-refreshing mouthful of dirty webbing. An easy solution would be for Osprey to move the magnet to the shoulder strap- in the meantime it’s easy enough to un-thread the sternum strap and leave the anchor solidly clipped to its mate.
Between the rider and the bladder, Osprey’s latest AirScape mesh-covered-foam back panel incorporates a center channel for bony riders’ spines and is remarkably cool given the pack’s large footprint. And it is a large footprint. Between the full-sized 3L bladder and wing pockets, the Raptor 6 covers a lot of the wearer’s back and sides. Not that it’s uncomfortable–the Osprey actually feels cooler than some much smaller but less engineered packs–but riders envisioning a small pack for short rides will likely be overwhelmed.
Where some brands clearly look for areas where material might be shaved, Osprey has clearly looked for and addressed any potential weak points in the Raptor 6. The result is a bag that seems unlikely to make its owner take the company up on its pledge to “repair for any reason, free of charge, any damage or defect… whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday.” The clean lines help to minimize snags and make for a handsome pack to boot. Despite six months fending off sharp plants and intense desert sun, a quick trip through the wash is all that’s needed to have the Raptor looking nearly new.
Ultimately, the Raptor 6 is more than adequate for 2hr rides (longer for those who pack light) and should last even the most careless rider a good long time. While the dangly magnets and an overly complicated waist strap can be annoyances, they are minor and largely forgotten in use. The bag’s features and robust construction even make it look like a bargain at £75/$110. But given the 6’s footprint-to-capacity ratio, it’s hard not to think that Osprey’s slightly larger Raptor 10 (£85/$120) might make more sense for a lot of riders.