Mountain bikers have very specific needs when it comes to backpacks, we need to carry a lot of gear so the pack needs to have functional space; but we also need our kit to be light enough to carry for long rides, and not wallow around when we are moving fast. Osprey have been making packs for over 30 years so they should know a thing or two about putting together a quality product. The Osprey Zealot was a popular pack in 2014, and has gone though a redesign for 2015; and quite amazingly is now more affordable at £60 (€75). We have been putting it through its paces on the trails.
The Zealot is Osprey’s all-mountain pack, offering a fully packed feature list at a respectable weight. Using new lighter, more breathable fabrics Osprey have brought the weight of the 2014 pack down by over 400 g to 0.85 kg while promising increased durability. The pack features a padded AirScape™ backpanel with foam ridges for ventilation, although it is not a CE marked protective plate it does provide some comfort if you pack bulky contents and provides a nice fit to the back.
The main compartment unzips right open allowing easy access to the contents and allowing you to pack for maximum comfort; the Zealot used to be offered in 16 and 10 litre options but will now only be available in a 15 litre size which we think is about right for big day adventures. There is plenty of room for spares, tubes, lunch and a jacket and the elasticated load control system works well to keep the contents stable. The neat tool pouch contained in its own pocket at the base of the bag remains, but has been improved for 2015 with bigger and more logical pockets.
The pack features an expandable helmet/armour carrier, designed to facilitate the carrying of full faces and armour, and trail lids can be carried securely using an elasticated buckle. If you need to carry two helmets for racing this pack has all the features you need. There is also a slot for a clip on light to be fitted should you riding stray onto the roads at night.
The only negative points we found with the pack are that it can be a little annoying having to unclip the top two strap adjusters whenever you want to access the pack. It is only two quick release buckles but if you are frequent pack delver it is easy to forget to do them up again.
The fit of the pack is good, the BioStretch™ body-wrap harness and body belt keep the pack in position effectively; the bag is available in a small/medium size and a medium/large size so you should find something that fits well. We were impressed with the stability, even when loaded with heavy contents. We were supplied with a sample without a bladder, but the pack is fitted with a neat magnetic clip to hold the hose end, which worked well on the last version.
In use we found the pack very comfortable and secure, as a long term user of the previous pack, the new softer and more breathable fabrics were immediately noticeable, with the pack harness conforming better to the body. Once all the compression straps are cinched down even heavy weights are secured well, and there is no wallow in the corners.
The 2014 Zealot was a popular pack. but felt a little clunky and stiff; the 2015 update is made from more comfortable materials, saving weight and increasing comfort. The new colours are certainly eye catching (the pack is also available in carbide grey) and the pack is surprisingly more affordable than the outgoing model. In use we found the pack very comfortable and the airy harness kept everything secure. Long rides were cool and comfortable and the padded backplate worked well to isolate the rider from the bag contents. Testers with really long backs reported that the M/L pack was still a little on the short side but unless you are really tall this is unlikely to be a problem. At £60 this is a great value offering for those that are looking for a well specified pack without the additional weight of a fitted CE Backplate.
Words and photos: Trev Worsey
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