Gear Review: Osprey Manta 28

I recently purchased an Osprey Manta 28 to replace my previous day pack, a CamelBak L.U.X.E. When I first started hiking, I tired easily and lacked the strength to carry even a small pack on steeply graded hikes. There's a great picture of Mr. Petite Peaker at the top of Half Dome, carrying not only his own pack but also my L.U.X.E., because I just couldn't manage it. Bear in mind that the L.U.X.E. is a small pack, primarily designed to provide easy-to-carry, compact hydration to mountain bikers.

It is the L.U.X.E.'s size that led to it being replaced. Carrying heavy trail necessities is no longer the stumbling block it used to be (especially after backpacking up Whitney with 30 pounds on my back!), and my hikes have increased in distance and difficulty. Because the L.U.X.E. felt cramped after just putting my DSLR inside, I knew I needed a pack designed for longer day hikes and more gear.

{climbing shoes attached to front loop with carabiner}
What initially drew me to the Osprey Manta 28 was its look and its brand. It's probably a girly hiker thing, but appearance is important to me; there is also little risk in prioritizing look with the liberal REI return policy and Osprey's All Mighty Guarantee, the latter being my primary reason for switching from CamelBak to Osprey.

This is the mid-size model in the men's Manta series, with Osprey also offering 20- and 36-liter versions. I purchased the S/M size, which (despite being a Manta 28) actually has a slightly smaller 26-liter capacity according to manufacturer specifications.

Pros: Pack rests comfortably on the hips. Built-in rain cover allows for all-weather use. The hip belt provides comfort even when pack is at full capacity. The dual vertical zippered pockets on the front panel are entirely separated from each other internally, though they efficiently overlap. Compression straps allow for productive packing. The front helmet attachment allows me to easily transport either a helmet or hat (with carabiner, purchased separately). Trekking poles can be stored via the Stow-on-the-Go feature on one side. Osprey's All Mighty Guarantee means that this pack will be repaired at any time, for any reason, free of charge.

Cons: As is the case with many packs featuring a hydration system, I find the main compartment limited as a result. I wish the zippered hip belt pockets wrapped more toward the front of my body for even easier access. The stretch woven front pocket is slightly awkward to secure closed if very full.

Bottom Line: An excellent pack for any length of day hike. I was able to store all my items (water, extra layers, snacks, camera, various miscellany) for a seven-mile hike without experiencing discomfort or painful weight distribution while on a steep trail.

 Rating: 4 out of 5 Peakies