Osprey Hikelite 26 Rucksack Review

19th Mar 2018

Osprey Hikelite 26 Rucksack

The Osprey Hikelite rucksack range is a new mini series of packs designed, as the name suggests, for hiking and hillwalking.  The range features 18 and 26 litre models and we’ve been putting the larger size pack through its paces.......

Features

The Hikelite 26 combines 100D Nylon Mini Diamond Shadow fabric on the shell with Osprey’s AirSpeed ventilated trampoline suspended mesh back panel. 

The trampoline mesh is a system where a mesh back is stretched between a peripheral wire hoop allowing the mesh to sit proud which, as well as providing comfort, allows air to circulate around the back.  It is a system used on a number of Osprey packs and by some other manufacturers.  For the rest of the Hikelite carrying harness the back panel is then teamed with a simple unpadded hip belt, padded and contoured shoulder straps and a sternum strap. 

The pack is a ‘panel loader’ which means it has a long semi circular zip that opens around the top edge and this then accesses the main compartment where there is a hydration bladder sleeve.

On the outside there is a zipped top pocket suitable for storing smaller items (the pocket also has a key clip inside), a couple of stretchy side pockets, an expandable front stash panel which makes another decent sized pocket, side compression straps and a small rain cover pocket with incorporated rain cover.  Lastly, there are a couple of small tab loops on the front designed for holding trekking poles.

In Use

The Hikelite name suggests that this pack is primarily designed for hiking and trekking and this is the case, but it is actually a great option for a broad range of activities.  It works really well as a larger sized biking pack and has the style and low profile to be a decent skiing rucksack.  It would also certainly make a great travel and everyday use pack.  During the test phase I have used it for as many activities as possible.

The initial consideration on any pack is the fit.  On the Hikelite this focuses around the trampoline mesh system which immediately offers great comfort and a very supportive and contoured fit.  The other benefit of this system is that there is no danger of carelessly packed objects poking into your back.

The trampoline mesh also offers a very lightweight back system.  There is the weight of the peripheral hoop but, apart from that, all it requires is a very light back panel fabric and the mesh itself. I suppose a downside is the back may be a bit more prone to damage, but any lightweight pack needs a sensible approach to its care anyway and I certainly haven’t experienced any problems with durability or damage so far. 

The shoulder straps also strike a great balance between comfort and support. They are designed to be durable while also being light weight and well ventilated.  They feature a mesh back combined with a die cut ventilated foam and comfortable stretchy facing fabric that sits against the shoulders.  It all works together really well and is extremely comfortable.  I also like that Osprey have incorporated some tensioner top straps on the shoulder straps which are another link in making this a comfortable and snug fit. 

The remaining elements of the back system are a grab handle on top and the height adjustable sternum strap which adjusts on a rail system.  This clamps the pack in tight and also features a whistle which is incorporated into the sternum strap buckle.  That just leaves the final harness feature which is the waist belt.  This is a simple and removable strap that was actually the only feature on the Hikelite 28 that surprised me.  A 28 litre pack is capable of carrying a significant weight and, with this in mind, I was surprised Osprey hadn’t added a padded waist belt.  The one supplied does a good job and offers some support and plenty of stability, but a little padding would have been a useful addition.

At the front of the main panel zip there is a zipped pocket for holding smaller items like wallets, keys and sunglasses.  It is actually at the bigger end of the small pocket size and so it could easily hold all the things just mentioned plus sun cream, phone, GPS and a trail snack bar.  It also incorporates a key clip which cleverly combines with a small interior pocket allowing keys to be slid in securely.  This pocket is also made from a soft anti scratch fabric so it should be no problem to store your sunglasses or phone in there.

On the front of the pack there is an expandable stash pocket that is fastened tight using the side compression straps.  This is a really useful addition that will easily hold a full sized map, set of waterproofs, or spare warm layer (or probably all of these together!).  It isn’t a zipped closure but, once the side compression straps are pulled tight, the contents are held very securely.  Having said that, if there is nothing in this pocket it also lays completely flat and doesn’t affect the streamlined nature of the pack at all.

On each side there is a stretchy mesh pocket that will again hold anything from a spare layer to a 1 litre water bottle and 2 tape loops are supplied to hold trekking poles (which are then further secured with the compression straps).  

The final addition is a small pocket at the bottom which housing the supplied rain cover.  Regular readers of our reviews will know that I’m not a fan of these covers.  I find them a faff to use and would much rather waterproof from the inside by storing my carried items in dry bags.  However, I know lots of people love them and so I tested it for thoroughness and can say that the rain cover definitely works at least as well as any other.  Osprey have also made it detachable so that means I can now choose to leave it behind!

Like all Osprey products, the Hikelite 28 is really well made and there are other subtle details I like such as small pull loops on the zipper pulls and reflective flashing on the front panel - lovely signs of that renowned attention to detail.  I am also a bit of a stitching nerd and will, upon first inspection of a product, investigate the stitch quality before anything else.  Again I can say that Osprey have done a great job.

The materials used on the pack are, by design, very light weight.  The shell fabric is 100D Nylon Mini Diamond Shadow which I must say I hadn’t heard of before.  However, knowing the exact  fabric name is less important for most users than knowing whether it is up to the job.  So far the fabric has stood up to some hard use with aplomb and I am confident it will continue to cope well with outdoor life.  It has also coped well with some sudden downpours and, although the rucksack itself won’t be waterproof (due to the various zips and non taped seams), the fabric itself has proven itself to cope very well.

The Hikelite is available in one size and there aren’t gender specific models.  It comes in several colours.

Summary

Osprey continually produce innovative products with superb build standards and features carefully matched to specific activities.  The Hikelite 26 is another in their growing list of great pack options and, although extremely well suited to hiking, the pack has also proved itself to be a great option for skiing, cycling and general use.  If you want a sleek looking do it all pack then please put the Hikelite very high on your list.  The pack retails for £80 and full details are available on the Osprey website here.

Posted by Paul

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