Aug 30, 2023

Osprey Escapist Bikepacking Collection First Look Review

Osprey enters a new product category with a full suite of bikepacking bags. With a combination of aluminum and TPU, Osprey claims its new Escapist Bikepacking collection is lightweight, yet durable and easy to clean.

The founder of Osprey, Mike Pfotenhauer, may be responsible for some of the most revolutionary innovations in backpacking, but that doesn't mean he has a clean track record. One of the more wacky inventions he attempted was a pack that used suction cups to fit onto your back. He said that those early tests may have left scars.

Another early idea, albeit more sound, was saddle bags. It's fitting for the brand's 50th anniversary; they revisit a product category Pfotenhauer had thought about but never carried out.

For spring 2024, Osprey releases the Escapist collection, a full suite of bikepacking gear. The collection includes three sizes of frame bags, a wedge bag, a top tube bag, a handlebar bag, a saddle bag, and backpacks.

GearJunkie attended Osprey's anniversary event in Denver this week. We had the opportunity to hear presentations that included Osprey's founder and conduct an interview with a product designer from the Escapist bikepacking project.

In short: The spring 2024 Osprey Escapist collection is an impressive entry into the bikepacking category. The products are highly water-resistant, with thoughtful designs that make repeated interaction with the bags easy to accomplish. And with a unique aluminum bar design on the handlebar and saddle bag, they are both lightweight and provide a very secure attachment.

Osprey's bikepacking line is intended for a range of touring, from road to gravel to more mountainous terrain. Everything except the backpacks is highly water-resistant. Osprey equips the on-bike products with waterproof zippers and welded seams.

The most compelling pieces in the line were the saddle and handlebar bag. Both of these items use a two-piece holster system. The bags have TPU shells and straps that fix onto the bike, with drybags that holster into the mounts.

Thin yet sturdy bars of aluminum reside in the handlebar and saddle bags. These give the cinching straps a structure to pull against, so gear flops or sags less. The aluminum bars are covered with wide panels of TPU.

"If you’ve ever used a saddle bag that goes through the frame, and you’re doing that over and over again, it's a real big pain in the butt," said Guillaume Zaslavsky, Osprey's designer for the project.

"The two-piece construction allows you to easily attach and detach the bags without messing with your bike."

Zaslavsky claimed the design is not only easier to interact with repeatedly but also easier to clean. This is due to the materials chosen; the TPU plastic is easy to clean.

Further, a vent on the saddle and handlebar bag allows air to escape when compressing the contents. When mounted on the bike, air reenters the vent so, supposedly, the bag conforms to the holster. When placed in the holster, the vent faces inward and down, which makes it water-resistant, according to Zaslavsky.

I wasn't convinced about the utility of this port. We will report on the effectiveness of the vent upon further testing.

The on-bike pieces feature recycled 210D nylon with a double ripstop and a coated TPU laminate. The backpacks use Bluesign-approved, recycled fabrics.

The frame bag comes in three sizes to fit a range of bike sizes. Osprey didn't construct the packs for a specific bike model, and the brand aims to fit as many bikes as possible. The top tube bag mimics the style of the frame bag, with a waterproof zipper and zipper garage. Lastly, the wedge bag functions similarly to the frame bag and can be rotated to mount facing either way.

The frame bag, wedge, and top tube bag have rigid construction on the panels that touch the bike. This allows the bags to keep their volume for storage while the sides are less rigid for ease of interaction.

Osprey intends the backpacks to further organize and store gear with quick-access stash pockets, hip belt pockets, a stuff-it pocket, and a bottom-zip pocket. The brand specifically touted the hip belts on these packs, claiming a revised, elongated construction offers support for riding in and out of the saddle.

I used the Escapist line for over an hour and talked with the designer; the line seemed well thought out. It appeared like it would perform well on the trail.

At first, I was surprised by Osprey's new release. The brand has focused on backpacking gear since it started, and bikepacking isn't exactly the most popular sport.

But looking at how the brand has expanded, bikepacking starts to make more sense. Osprey has an extensive mountain biking pack collection and dedicated athletes working on its products. Zaslavsky also pointed out Osprey has fabric welding and waterproof construction experience because of its duffels and travel packs.

So, while the bikepacking category may be new for the brand, the team behind the Escapist collection seems to have all the makings for a reputable product line.

While we didn't have the opportunity to test the Escapist collection on trails, at first look, the line appeared solid. GearJunkie will issue a review on the product once samples are available, although, we would much rather attempt to test out the latest and greatest suction-cup backpack technology.

backpacking In short: