While I haven’t been traveling as much as some of the other CrunchGear writers in the past few months, I’ve done enough to put a set of Osprey packs — Meridian 28-inch and Aura 65 — through the ringer. They’ve been to Italy, South Korea, Puerto Rico and numerous places around the NYC area. I’m happy to say they passed with flying colors.
I’ll start with the Meridian as it’s been my main workhorse over the last few months. My favorite feature is the zip-off daypack that has plenty of room for all my travel gear. The daypack has a laptop-specific padded compartment inside that buckles at the top to ensure your precious won’t be banging around. There’s also a small zipper on top that opens up to a little mesh pouch where you can store your digital camera, PMP or wallet. Mesh bottle pockets on the side ensure you won’t have to take off your pack to get your tasty beverage of choice. Overall, the bag is super convenient especially when you don’t like putting things in your pockets like me. The little guy zips and buckles to the main rolling suitcase, which makes getting through the airport a breeze.
The suitcase has sufficient room for a short trip and not only does it roll, but it has straps that can be tucked away if you don’t feel like lugging around your pack. It was surprisingly comfortable, although I wheeled it around more than anything. A large compartment on the outside was adequate enough for books and magazines and a pair of flip-flops. One of the things I liked to do when leaving my pack in the hotel room was leaving some valuables where the straps can be tucked in.
On the technical side, the Meridian has Osprey’s deluxe suspension system that leaves your lower back free from strain. It also helps to eliminate the sweaty lower back you get when lugging around packs. The only downside to the pack straps is that it eliminates a lot of packing room in the main compartment because the system bows in. Overall, I found the Meridian a perfect blend to suit my day trip and airline traveling needs.
The Aura 65 made for a perfect hiking pack that had loads of compartments and plenty of room for a week long trip to Italy. My travel buddy still suffers the ill effects of a car accident that leaves her lower back prone to straining and fatigue, but the AirSpeed suspension system worked out so well that she hardly complained about a sore lower back through the whole trip. That’s a big plus in my book. The Aura also had a handy water compartment inside with a slot to thread your hose through, but I didn’t know about this ahead of time so I was unable to rig up a Camelpak-like pouch.
The only downside was a bent frame that was suffered while in transit from NYC to Rome, but we’ll blame this on the luggage handlers. I spent a couple minutes bending the frame back and we were good to go, although, I couldn’t get it back to its original form.
Both packs are available now for $299 and $229, respectively.