W e here at TRC keep our eyes out for good run commuting packs, and have so far found the best ones are made by Osprey Packs or REI. With the exception of the Latloc E70 backpack, I’ve run exclusively with Osprey gear on my back over the last four years. I began with the now-discontinued Osprey Revo, and then moved on to the Stratos 24. I want to tell you about another great pack for run commuting – the Osprey Manta 20, and its female-specific counterpart, the Mira 18.

Osprey Manta 20

Osprey Manta 20

Review Model Details (Manta 20)

Carrying Capacity: 20L/1,220 cu. in.

Weight: 2 pounds/0.91 kg

Load Range: Up to 25 pounds

Color: Silt Gray

Release Year: 2012 (Note: the 2013 models have a few added features not listed below)

The Osprey Manta 20 shares many of the same great features as the Stratos 24: AirSpeed Suspension System; dual side compression straps; padded hip belt and shoulder straps; and built-in raincover; but it adds another feature that makes it a great multi-season run commuting rig.

It’s a hydration pack.

Gone are the days of the simple Camelbak. The Osprey Manta integrates a unique hydration bladder into a separate compartment of the pack which tucks it away securely and neatly, so it doesn’t get in the way of the rest of your contents.

The hose comes out of the top of the pack, curves around in front of your body, and attaches to the Manta’s sternum strap using a magnetic quick release system. The bladder itself has a rigid handle built its front it that makes handling and refilling a snap. Hands down, it’s the best hydration system I have ever used.            

During the hot, sweltering summer months down here in the south, adequate hydration during your morning and afternoon run commute is essential. Once the temperature hits 65 degrees, I usually carry a handheld water bottle (Nathan Quickdraw). When it climbs above 90 and 95 in the afternoon, I use two. But I like to have my hands free, so I prefer to carry water on my back and out of the way. There is plenty of space left over for your run commuting supplies, too.

My daily gear consists of a set of dress clothes (packed into the Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder 15), lunch, wallet, keys, IDs, and a few other odds and ends. With 1,220 cu. in. of space, everything fits, with some space leftover for a rain jacket or fleece. In the hip belt pockets, I keep my phone and bus pass. If I need to carry additional items at the end of the day, there is leftover space in the outside zippered pouches, or in the soft, stretchy front base pouch on which the Osprey Manta logo resides.

While I didn’t review the Mira, I definitely want all of the female run commuters to know about it! From Osprey’s site:

The Mira series is our versatile multi-sport hydration packs.The all-new Mira, with women’s specific fit, joins the Manta in a new line-up of volumes designed to span a wider range of hiking related activities. Highly ventilated and loaded with features, this series is unique in the world of hydration packs.

Product links for the complete Manta and Mira series are located at the bottom of this post.

Run Commuting Evaluation

I have logged over 200 miles of running with this pack so far, and honestly, I have nothing bad to say about it. So here are the things I like:

Strap Wranglers: There was always a lot of leftover strap once everything was cinched down on other packs (Osprey Stratos); I had to tie them together, tuck them, or roll and wrap them; the Manta, however, has added plastic buckles which secure the used and excess straps to each other, eliminating altogether the former danglers .

Adjustable Sternum Strap: Each side of the sternum strap is attached to a covered, five-inch-long bar that allows strap adjustment by sliding each side up or down. Sometimes, as you add layers, your pack fits differently, and this handy little feature helps maintain your comfort level no matter what you wear or carry.

Adjustable sternum strap with bite-valve magnet

Adjustable sternum strap with bite-valve magnet

Blinkie/Flasher Attachment: Something very simple, but useful. Stay visible!

AirSpeed Suspension System: The light wire frame and tight, mesh back panel together create a perfect bag-body connection, keeping you free from chafing and providing a space for air to flow freely in between you and the pack. I originally thought the mesh back panel would act similarly to a cheese grater on my back, but was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it is while running.

In summary, it can carry a decent amount of gear and water, comfortably and securely, from your home to your office and back. We even recently took it for a long run in the mountains, where it performed very well over 65 miles and 20 hours of use.

Also, just because it’s a hydration pack doesn’t mean you should cross it off your list for a potential run commuting pack. I only use the hydration bladder during extremely hot days, or for long endurance events. It is a fantastic pack with or without it!

Recommended for Run Commuting?

Yes! One of the greats, in my opinion.

Note: This backpack was purchased for use by the author.

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Editor-in-Chief of The Run Commuter by night, paralegal by day. Father of two (soon to be three) boys. Husband to the world's greatest bicycle advocate. Avid runner. Lover of beer and urban gardening. Can be found running with a backpack around the streets of Atlanta, Georgia.

11 Responses to “Review: Osprey Manta 20” Subscribe

  1. Leon Forest-Nault June 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Great post! I’m looking to purchase a backpack to commute to work but in addition to the items you said you usually put in your backpack, I have a pretty bulky laptop (5lbs) to carry. I was wondering if there would be space for the laptop in the backpack and if there is a way to hold the laptop in place during the run.

    Thank you!

    Leon

    • Josh June 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      Thanks! Osprey updated the Manta series this year and all now include a laptop-sized sleeve inside the main compartment. The compression system on the outside of the pack can be cinched down to keep your laptop from bouncing around inside even without a sleeve, though. I have tested this with my 2012 Manta 20 and a tablet/keyboard combo and it works ok, but you have to pack things a bit differently. The Manta 20 would be too small for you, but the Manta 28 would probably work.

      As a heads up, the packs have a curved, internal alloy frame that allows the pack to ride away from your back, allowing air to flow through. When you put in anything like a laptop or notebook, it does this. You can really see the curve when looking into the main compartment from above. You would probably want to try one of the packs out at home first, leaving the tags on and filling it with everything you might carry. If it doesn’t work, return it and check out something with a simpler suspension system like the Osprey Quasar or the Gregory Miwok 22. Definitely try any pack out first.

  2. tim maddox July 11, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    I recently purchased an REI Traverse 30. I have not run commuted with it just yet, but I’m thinking it will be good.

    • Josh July 11, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

      Looks like a great one, Tim. Thanks for letting us know about it!

  3. mark August 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    How is the bouncing with this pack? I didn’t see anything about it in the review and I’d love to know if it’s bouncy or not as that’s my biggest complaint with packs & running.

    • Josh August 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

      I run in the Manta 20 almost everyday and it’s not really noticeably bouncy at all (at most 5%, if at all). However, a lot of that depends on how the pack is packed, how much it weighs, and whether or not you have all the straps tightened correctly (or tight enough). I used to run regularly in the Osprey Stratos as well, and both of those Opsrey packs have a similar cinching/support system to keep pack movement to an absolute minimum.

  4. Aaron October 13, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Great review! I’m looking to buy a pack entirely for the run commute to work/home and would carry a shirt jeans as well as a pair of (size 10) work shoes or sneakers and a towel. In your opinion would the 20 be packing all these items too tightly or would I be better of upsizing to a 25 or 28? I’d prefer the smaller size bag if I could fit everything in plus I like the silt grey colour of the 20 vs the bright blue the 25/28 comes in however I don’t want to waste $150 on a bag that just sits in the cupboard! Appreciate your advice!

    • Josh October 15, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      Thanks, Aaron! I would go with the 25 to be safe. Here’s one in Storm Gray. I can fit clothes and shoes in the 20, but just barely. The outside front pocket works well for carrying shoes, too, and I have sometimes used that, but it is a really tight fit overall. Go with the 25 and you can throw a lunch or jacket in too.

  5. Neonomide October 24, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    Thanks for a thorough review! Just wanted to note that Manta 36 (S/M) is only .3 heavier but appears to have 30% more capacity. The one reason for that probably is the big stuff pocket that opens with unclipping the upper compression straps. Great for clothes but keeps stuff in probably less securely than the front mesh pocket (albeit being a lot bigger). As I got my Manta 36 from US by airmail and Osprey sells no Manta model here, I cannot tell how 28 and 36 models exactly compare in practical terms. The dual compression straps are an amazing feature, as people have no idea how much it can hold when it’s about empty and the straps are at max. It simply vanishes, until it’s needed when it eats stuff like a Moloch.

    The best backpack I’ve used, period. So many pockets and clever features it’s interesting just to look at it. I would have liked a few loops for carrying extra camping gear like sleeping bag (one can improvise with it’s several zip handles though) and some shoulder pockets like in Zealot model, but otherwise this feels perfect for hiking/commuting/biking and general use (I have lot’s of uses for a bag).

  6. Rami June 16, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    Hi Josh – I’m thinking to get the Osprey Manta 28 for run commuting. Can’t tell if I should buy a S/M or M/L, though. I am 6′ tall, very slender though. Thanks for your help.

    • Josh June 16, 2014 at 10:26 am #

      Your torso length is the key to picking the right pack size, and it doesn’t correlate to height. Once you know that measurement, you can pick the right size. Here are the specs for the Manta 28. Notice that there is only a 1-inch difference in length between the S/M (18″) and M/L (19″), as well as an additional 1″ in depth, which adds 2-liters to the overall carrying capacity. Also, the Manta’s hipbelt fits a slender frame quite well, so it should be a good run commuting pack for you.

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