Osprey is making inroads into the urban environment with its Arcane Duffle bag and the Archeon series of backpacks.  Our editor Vince Hempsall takes them for a stroll downtown and around the continent.

Mike Pfotenhauer was only 16 years old when he sewed his first backpack with help from his mom. Eventually he went on to create custom packs for others and in 1974 he launched the Santa Cruz Recreational Packs company, after the city in which he was living at the time. Eventually he changed the name to Osprey Packs Inc. and he’s since lived in Colorado and Vietnam, where the two main arms of the business are still located. The brand has always emphasized rural recreation with its products but recently it has branched out into the urban market with its Arcane and Archeon series of bags. This is my review of them.

Left: The 30-litre version of the Osprey Archeon backpack. Right: The Osprey Arcane Duffle.

Snapshot: Osprey Arcane Duffle

Absconding with the Arcane duffle on an early-morning commute.
    1. Pros: Completely versatile! During the test, this duffle was used as a briefcase, diaper bag, carry-on and day hiker.
    2. Cons: My wife isn’t a fan of the “haybale green” colour.
    3. Price: $130
    4. Who Should Buy: Urbanites and travellers who dabble in the great outdoors.
    5. Who Shouldn’t Buy: Thru-hikers.
    6. Helpful Hack: Osprey’s “All-Mighty Guarantee” means the company will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge.
    7. Author’s overall rating: 9.5/10

Snapshot: Osprey Archeon Pack 30L

  1. Pros: This pack is built like a tank. It’ll outlive Twinkies.
  2. Cons: At over four pounds, it’s heavy for a light-hiker backpack.
  3. Price: $240
  4. Who Should Buy: Recreationalists who occasionally roam in cityscapes.
  5. Who Shouldn’t Buy: Urbanites who rarely leave the concrete jungle for the real one.
  6. Helpful Hack: See hack above about the “All-Mighty Guarantee. It’s the bomb.
  7. Author’s overall rating: 8/10

The Test

I was sent two bags by Osprey to test. The 30-litre Archeon pack is a more traditional style of backpack in keeping with the company’s recreational roots and, according to the marketing, it’s equally comfortable on the boulevard as it is in the mountains. The Arcane Duffle bag is more of an urban commuter and travelling pack, which is a relatively new for the company. I spent hours in both wandering the city streets of Nelson, British Columbia, hitting the crags in Castlegar, day hiking in the woods near my home and visiting the East Coast of the United States.

The Verdict

Any time I receive a product to review and my wife immediately absconds with it, I know it’s a winner. That was the case with the Osprey Arcane Duffle bag. Even though she said she wasn’t a fan of the “army green colour,” as she called it, she still wore it everyday on her two-kilometre commute to and from work. We also used it as a diaper bag in the evenings, a day hiker on the weekends and it was invaluable as a carry-on during a cross-continent journey to see family in Florida. We easily crammed two-weeks worth of clothes and toddler paraphernalia into it and this is why I’m giving the Arcane Duffle such a high review score: it is one of the best travelling bags I’ve ever used. It has multiple handles and straps so you can carry it in a variety of different ways. It has a convenient and deep top pocket and the main compartment is incredibly easy to access thanks to the U-zipper that practically opens the entire bag, which is important when you’re desperately seeking a diaper. And it’s bomb proof. Other than some rogue cat hair, the duffle looks the same as it did the day it arrived at our house, even after being dragged across airports, around cities and through forests.

Other features I like on the Osprey Arcane Duffle include the padded laptop sleeve, the internal pocket with key ring and the backpack straps that can be easily stowed. Yes, this bag was mainly used for carting a laptop and lunch to the office during the test period and it looked good doing so, but where it really shines is in its versatility. I expect this one to remain in our daily quiver of bags for years.

The other bag that was sent for review was the Osprey Archeon 30-litre backpack. It’s a more traditional-style pack in keeping with the majority of Osprey’s recreational offerings and this particular line is available in 25, 30, 45, 65 and 70-litre versions. There are also men and women-specific models and the frames come in a range of sizes from extra small to extra large. I will say up front that I’m a huge fan of Osprey backpacks and have gone on a decade’s worth of adventures with my trusty Stratos. So I was surprised when I hefted the Archeon for the first time: this is not a light pack. In fact, the 30-litre version is a full pound heavier than my 36L Stratos. The weight can be attributed to its material: fully recycled nylon canvas that’s a whopping 1880D. For those who don’t know what that means, here’s a quick textile lesson: the letter D stands for “denier” and it refers to the weight in grams of 9,000 metres of fabric. So 1880D means that 9,000 metres of nylon canvas will weigh 1,880 grams. By comparison, my Stratos is 210D. In other words, the Archeon is a tank. It has become my regular cragging pack because I know I can throw it around at the base of the cliffs (Hell, I could throw it off a cliff) and it will hold up.

Aside from its sturdy fabric, the features I like most about the Archeon include: the front zipper which splays the whole bag open allowing you easy access to the main compartment; the rain cover that tucks away in its own compartment; the elasticized pockets on each side of the pack as well as the hip belt; and the pockets on the lid, one above and one below. Perhaps my favourite part of the Archeon, however, is its sleek design. This reminds me of the backpacks from my youth because of its simple style and clean lines. And its weight.

In conclusion, the Osprey Arcane Duffle is now part of my wife’s daily kit while the 30L Archeon pack is my go-to for trips to the local climbing cliffs because of its burly fabric that will never tear no matter how rough I am with it.


Osprey Arcane Duffle – The Deets

      • 500D recycled polyester packcloth
      • 30L capacity
      • Dimensions: 18.5″ x 12.2″ x 10.6″ (47 x 31 x 72 cm)
      • Weight: 1 lb. 14 oz. (0.5 kg)
      • 2-way U-zipper gives wide access just like a suitcase
      • NeoSpacer mesh and foam back panel
      • Quick-release aluminum hook on the harness
      • Padded sleeve fits a 15-inch laptop
      • Internal zippered security pocket has a key clip
      • Mesh sleeve on the shoulder strap fits a transit pass
      • Side and top grab handles
      • Webbing shoulder straps can be tucked away when not in use
      • Colours: stonewash black; stargazer blue, haybale green

Osprey 30L Archeon Pack – The Deets

      • 1880D recycled nylon canvas
      • 30L capacity
      • Dimensions: 25.9 x 11.8 x 9.4″ (66 x 30 x 24 cm)
      • Weight: 4 lb. 2 oz (1.8 kg)
      • Dual ice ax loop and webbing attachment points
      • Dual low profile stretch woven hipbelt stash pockets
      • Fixed top lid with pocket and webbing attachment points
      • Water reservoir sleeve
      • Inner top mesh pocket with key clip
      • Colours: stonewash black; stargazer blue, haybale green