If you want a well designed, sturdily constructed, compact yet versatile and good-looking backpack for both on- and off-road adventures, look no further than the Osprey Raven 14. Granted it's quite spendy, but given that it is comfortable, user-friendly and boasts a veritable smorgasbord of features, including a 3-litre hydration reservoir, it represents pretty good value (and there are plenty of packs out there that cost this much or more).
The Raven is a new design out this year – it's a women-specific version of the Raptor. Compared with my 10-litre Raptor (circa 2011) there are many improvements. Most noticeable is that the 14-litre Raven looks smaller than the 10l Raptor, and its body length is significantly shorter. This is welcome, both reducing the potentially sweaty contact area on the back and preventing the possibility of your helmet catching on the top of the pack, and makes for a neater, more compact design.
Other improvements include zips on the hip pockets, the roll-out tool compartment, strap tidies and the slimmer hydration bladder (more on that later) – all now specced on the current Raptor, incidentally. Other bike-specific features are Osprey's nifty LidLock helmet holder, an LED light attachment slot, and reflective details on the rear and side pockets.
I found the Raven very comfortable to wear, with its broad mesh-lined hip belt, padded shoulder straps and mesh-covered, ridged foam back panel. There are ventilation channels between the three back pads which help, but nothing's really going to stop you getting sweaty on hot days.
Fastening the sternum strap keeps the pack super-secure, and its position on the shoulder straps is adjustable by about 7 inches; you simply slide it up or down. The strap's buckle incorporates a magnet for the hose mouthpiece to stick to. Four compression straps ensure the pack feels stable when loaded.
The Raven has so many compartments and pockets within them that it can be a problem remembering where you put everything! However, they are very useful, especially if you're an 'everything in its place' kind of person. The main compartment is decent sized and its zip is long enough that you can open it up enough for a good rummage, should you desire. It contains an elastic-topped mesh pocket and not one but two pump pockets. When the reservoir is full, though, this eats into the main compartment space.
The next zipped compartment is designed to hold your sunglasses, phone, GPS and the like and is pretty roomy for this. Third comes an open section that incorporates mesh side pockets and is expandable via the straps that attach it to the body of the pack. It's great for stuffing in waterproofs or clothing you want to access easily. The front of this section incorporates another compartment, reached by a vertical side zip. Inside is a key clip and two open-topped pockets, the top one mesh so you can see what's in it. Lastly, on the exterior of this section, is yet another open pocket made of stretchy gauze, with the light attachment at the bottom.
But we're not done yet. There are two zipped hip pockets, which I found really useful for storing snacks – you can fit about three bars in each if you're needing lots of fuel. Then comes the rather super roll-out tool wrap, zipped into its own mini compartment at the base of the pack, and secured with an extra clip on to the zip pull if you wish. The wrap is really useful, letting you organise your tools into the two zipped mesh pockets (plus mid section) for quick access. A final – very handy – flourish is the 'mat' at the bottom. No more losing valve caps or bolts in the grass at the verge – just pop them on here.
Now for the hydration reservoir. Osprey's included 3-litre Hydrapak bladder has a new design to my previous Osprey bladder. It is roll-top rather than screw lid, much less bulky and also weighs a lot less. It is easy to refill and secure, and slots easily inside the bladder compartment thanks to the asymmetric zip that directs the hose over your right shoulder (with corresponding loop on the strap). The mouthpiece is angled for ease of use and the bite valve simply twists to lock – useful to stop it accidentally leaking when thrown in the car with other kit on top of it. One of the features I like most about Osprey packs is the magnetic mouthpiece, which keeps the hose handy and neatly across your chest.
Attention to detail in the Raven is phenomenal – it really is one of the best-thought-out biking packs I've seen. Both the shoulder and waist straps have a clever clip that keeps the ends tidy – no more dangling lengths of strap to annoy you. The pack has a carry handle too, which is surprisingly useful. It feels very well made and the ripstop nylon has stood up well to abuse.
The Raven is available in three colours: tiger orange, tempo teal and royal purple. There is also a 10-litre version.
The only improvement I can think of for the Raven is that it would be great if it had the integrated emergency whistle in the sternum buckle, as featured on the Osprey Tempest I reviewed. And in a perfect world, it would be made from waterproof fabric. The material is water-resistant, with rain beading on its surface, but it won't withstand prolonged rain and the zips aren't waterproof, so I've used drybags for anything that's had to stay dry.
Finally, Osprey products are covered by its 'All Mighty Guarantee', which includes defects in material and craftsmanship for the reasonable lifetime of the pack – not wear and tear or misuse, obviously. Osprey will repair where possible, or replace.
Women-specific riding pack that's comfortable and chock-full of clever features
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Osprey Raven 14 Womens
Size tested: 14 litres, 45 x 22 x 21cm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Osprey says: "Featuring a women's specific fit, the Raven 14 and integrated 3 litre Hydraulics™ reservoir ensure that you can carry all the required gear and liquid to perform your personal best."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Designed for Women
BioStretch™ hipbelt and harness
AirScape™ backpanel with foam ridges for ventilation
Zippered scratch-free sunglasses and electronics pocket
LidLock™ bike helmet attachment
Integrated roll-out ToolWrap™
3L Hydraulics™ Reservoir included
Internal hydration sleeve
Internal key attachment clip
LED light attachment point
Magnetic lockable bite valve to prevent leakage
Side compression straps
Sternum strap buckle with magnet
Front stretch pocket
Also available in 10-litre version
Maximum dimensions: 45 (l) x 22 (w) x 21cm (d)
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well – it fits in lots of gear in well organised pockets and is comfortable to wear.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The comfortable fit and magnetic hose mouthpiece.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
It's a really great pack in just about every way, fully deserving an 8 for very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Marin Point Reyes 29er My best bike is: Giant Anthem X1
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, mountain biking, audax