I finally picked up a new pack and retired my Osprey Revo after 2 1/2 years.  The Revo worked just fine as a simple run commuting backpack, but I was in the market for something a bit larger that had a chest strap for additional motion-control.This past summer when I was sweating more on my runs, I started to get some chafing action on my lower back from the Revo’s slight side-to-side motion.  Just a little bit of irritation can turn into a larger, more painful issue when you run twice a day, everyday, so it kept me from running a few times.

In addition, I couldn’t quite fit my work clothes, lunch and a pair of shoes in the pack, which I occasionally need to bring in when I need a different pair.  Also, every once in a while I will stop and pick up a few groceries on my way home and 1300 cu in. was just a bit too small.  And so began a long obsession with finding the perfect run commuting backpack…

The Osprey Stratos 24 was on my shortlist, along with other Osprey packs, like the Comet, Hornet 24, Manta 25 and Talon 22.  Osprey is one of my favorite companies.  They make a lot of great packs for a bunch of outdoor activities and it seems like they really listen to their users when designing new gear, which is awesome.  I also had a few others on my list, too, including the CamelBak Highwire 25, Mountainsmith Colfax 25, and The North Face Enduro 30.  Some of these are considered “hydration packs”, but I planned on removing the bladders to maximize internal capacity (I normally run with handheld water bottles).

Osprey Stratos 24

There are a few features that put the Stratos above the others:

First, the AirSpeed suspension system.

There is a breathable mesh panel that is suspended away from the back of the Stratos, leaving a space several inches thick where air can move freely across your back.  Think of the feeling you get when you are out on a run on a hot day (without a pack) and a strong breeze hits you from the side, running a chill up your spine and cooling you down.  You get that same sensation while wearing the Stratos with Osprey’s unique AirSpeed system.

Large mesh panel

Behind the mesh – Back of pack and lightweight frame

Looking through from the side

On a runner

Second, the integrated raincover.

I used a separate raincover with my Revo when I needed it, but sometimes I would forget to pack it and would end up using grocery bags to keep things dry (which worked ok).  Having the right piece of gear for the job built right in is perfect.

Raincover storage area

Deployed

On the pack

Third, not too big; not too small.

The carrying capacity is just right and fits everything I need or might pick up along the way.  Though sometimes things just don’t quite fit in your pack…

Yes, I ran with it like this…

Overall Impression

Amazing!  Unwanted movement/bounce is eliminated by adjusting up to four areas on the pack – waist, chest, shoulder straps, and pack compression.  The LightWire frame helps the pack consistently keep it’s shape when it’s strapped down no matter what you are carrying in it.  And, this pack is sturdy.  It can take a beating and no doubt will last through years of run commuting and hiking.

There’s only one thing that I don’t like, which seems to be a common problem on backpacks with waist straps – they’re not designed for skinny people (the straps are way too long).  This is what I look like when everything is adjusted and cinched down:

Excess straps

The chest strap has a lot of leftovers, too, but it’s not as annoying as those waist straps hitting your legs with every step.  To fix this problem, I just tie them off like so:

Close enough

For a more permanent solution, I can cut the straps to more manageable length, then burn and sew the ends.   However, I will wait until winter when I have a full load and I’m wearing excessive running clothing to determine where to cut them.  At any rate, it’s fine for now.

As we’ve found, no company really makes a true “run commuting” backpack.  They make trail running and adventure racing packs and those do the job even though they are designed a little differently than what our ideal pack would be.  Osprey describes the Stratos as a “day hiking, peak bagging” pack.  The day hiking category of packs seem to be geared more towards a run commuter than the trail and adventure types of gear, but whenever you’re in the market for a run commuting backpack, be sure to try out a few first.

General Features

  • Padded waist strap with pockets
  • Chest strap
  • AirSpeed suspension system
  • Hydration pouch and exit holes
  • Easy access pockets
  • Breathable fabric
  • Ice ax attachment (not reviewed…yet)

Run Commuting Pros/Cons

Pros

  • Very secure fit
  • Comfortable
  • Multiple compression straps
  • LightWire frame
  • Large carrying capacity
  • Super-breathable mesh suspension system
  • Integrated raincover
Cons
  • Waist straps too long

Recommended?  Yes

MSRP:  $99.95

Available colors:  Cactus (shown in review), Tarn, and Shale

Website:   http://www.ospreypacks.com/

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