Tested: Osprey Syncro 20

By Justin Walker 2 December 2019
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For most mountain bikers, a hydration backpack should be as small as they can get away with; lugging any additional weight or bulk on a blast around your local trails can be a pain. But, when you want to go further and longer (think: overnight/weekend), you will need a pack that allows you to take extra gear without being too big and cumbersome.

The Osprey Syncro 20 was the ideal hydration pack for my recent overnight bikepacking adventure out of Bend, Oregon. We had three bike bags on our rigs but I needed to take camera gear plus have a few things close to hand during the ride. The Syncro 20’s combo of just-enough capacity and excellent harness system was a no-brainer. Osprey has recently revised the harness system with the ‘winged’ shoulder straps wrapping the rider’s upper shoulders to increase stability and ensure the pack stays close to your body. Being bike-specific in design the harness ensures there’s less load-weight on your shoulders, too; the pack frame directs load toward the hips and lower torso. That closeness doesn’t result in a sweaty back, either; the tensioned AirSpeed back panel maintains a small gap between spine and pack, which aids in ventilation.

The 890-gram pack had enough cargo space to fit my big DSLR and lens, as well as a waterproof outer shell and a lightweight fleece, along with tools and a few additional snacks – all inside the main compartment. Any load is easily cinched down via the two sets of side compression straps. You can utilise the front stretch panel to stuff more garments into, while your helmet can be secured via the LidLock Helmet Carry clip above this panel. The Syncro 20 includes one of Osprey’s easy-to-fill Hydraulics LT 2.5-litre reservoirs, so I had plenty of water capacity. Accessing the H2O is via the bite valve of the reservoir, which has a magnetic tab so it (usually) stays attached to the sternum strap, which uses a magnetic clip for attachment. If there’s a slight negative to this pack it is this sternum strap clip, which is slightly fiddly to affix. Once attached, though, it is quite secure.

Osprey has used rugged materials to construct the Syncro 20; the main part of the pack is 100-denier (D) nylon and the base is 500D nylon pack-cloth. All stitch/connection points are burly, minimising any chance of tearing. During the bikepacking trip the pack was often flung down on the ground in a hurry as I scrambled to get a quick photo, and it also copped a few scrapes from tree branches along narrow singletrack, with no adverse wear or tear.

Overall, the Syncro 20 performed very well. It was loaded up with plenty of (heavy) gear but still felt comfortable on my back throughout the trip. Of special note were the pack’s stability when loaded up, and the way it distributed the load so my shoulders remained ache-free even after a full day of ascending.

Really, you could use the Syncro 20 as your only MTB pack if you wished; strip it down to just the bare essentials for a short blast around your local trail and its light weight makes it ideal for that purpose, or load it up big for those longer bike-based adventures and you can rely on its robust construction to get you and your gear there and back again.

RRP: $189.95 osprey.com/au/en/