Osprey Archeon 45 Rucksack Review
We all know the threat that the unrestrained use of plastics can cause to the environment. From marine wildlife caught and suffering in discarded fishing nets, to the mountains of plastic waste sent to landfill to linger for generations to come and blight the landscape and even enter the various ecosystems and food-chains that exist on our planet. Fortunately, the search for more environmentally friendly methods of manufacturing are picking up pace.
Osprey proudly state “This season marks the latest milestone in our sustainability journey.” With the Archeon series of packs, Osprey are moving away from the use of virgin plastics, which adds to the global problem, and are using innovative recycling and manufacturing methods to reduce the plastic footprint of its packs and “embody the principles of essentialism and environmentalism for multi-day backpacking”. So what does this actually mean in practice?
The first thing I noticed about the Archeon 45 was its weight. Weighing in at 2kg it is no lightweight backpack, but coupled with the weight there is an immediate feel of solidity and durability. For retro-fans, the 1880D recycled nylon canvas (using threads over twice the thickness of the 800D nylon used in the legendary Transporter Duffel series) could bring back memories of the canvas rucksacks of yesteryear that seemed to last for ever, and even the Osprey logo is sewn onto a retro-style badge rather than directly onto the fabric. Pure class! This immediately makes the pack stand out from the multi-coloured crowd and said to me that this was a bombproof pack that would last and last. To add to its environmental credentials, Osprey have moved towards Carbon-neutrality by using a PFC-free (no nasty long-chain polymers) Durable Water-Repellent coating on the fabric to help to shed rain and moisture.
Keeping the theme of durability and avoiding the gratuitous use of plastics, the two buckles holding the lid closed are metal hooks rather than plastic clips to increase durability on the trail. Likewise the buckles on the compression and utility straps are also metal hooks, which makes sense in avoiding those “I’ll just tighten the straps a little more….oops the buckles have snapped” moments when securing things to the outside of the pack.
The fixed lid has four utility attachment-points on the top, and has two compartments, the outer of which is large enough to swallow two Ordnance Survey maps with ease, while the under-lid compartment has a mesh backing so you can see what’s nestling inside. A useful and ubiquitous key-clip completes the package.
The main body of the pack is a single compartment and has a useful single-handed opening / closing drawcord. Across the top is placed a utility strap for securing awkward loads. Inside there is a sleeve for a hydration pack and also a long mesh compartment for storing those small or important things that you don’t want to have to rummage right through the contents for. This mesh compartment also highlights a new and innovative feature for this pack. Two hidden heavy-duty full-length zips down the front of the pack enable you to open it right up to access anything you need easily without having to fight your way down to the bottom, because as we all know, whatever we want has always magically migrated downwards! Now you can unzip and find what you want. So when you arrive at your campsite and fancy a brew before putting up your palace, you can extract your brew-kit without spreading all your possessions across the ground. Genius! There is even a strap to keep the open halves of the pack together so they don’t flop open like a peeled banana. Osprey have really thought this one through and I’m impressed! On a final interior note, Osprey’s famous build-quality and attention to detail can be seen in how the various panels are sewn together and then reinforced to make sure that this pack will last and last.
On the outside are two cavernous stretch mesh side-pockets that can be accessed from the top, for things like drinks-bottles, or from the side to hook out your favourite snack-bar whilst on the move. There are even loops on the sides of the pockets to aid searching fingers in opening them without removing the pack. Attention to detail once again…this pack has been designed by people who know it’s the little things that make a difference! Four compression straps help to keep things tidy and secure, and the top straps incorporate a loop which can be used to secure an ice-axe or walking poles. There are also twin axe / pole loops for securing the other end. If you’d rather carry your poles (walking, tent or any other poles you want to…) on the sides, the side-pockets have reinforced bottoms to minimise any damage caused by sharp points. There is also a detachable rain cover in a zipped compartment at the base of the pack.
The harness is a close fitting back system that holds the pack close to your body, using a fully adjustable AirScape backpanel with foam ridges for comfort and fit. The contoured shoulder-straps are adjustable via a velcro slide behind the backpanel and adjusters on the top. The chest-strap is adjustable and incorporates a whistle in the buckle, whilst the waist-belt is broad and snug and incorporates two large pockets….more space for snacks or other useful items. Unlike the metal hook-buckles elsewhere, the buckles on the harness are still made of plastic. This I suspect is more from a standpoint of practicality than from a lack of desire to move away from plastic however.
There is no escaping the fact that at 2kg the Archeon 45 is a heavy pack. There is also no escaping the fact that the harnesses Osprey use on their packs are some of the best-designed and most comfortable on the market. “The Archeon is also equipped with a close fitting backsystem that can handle significant loads without compromising on comfort” claim Osprey. Also, the pack comes in two sizes – S/M and L/XL. I’m 5ft 8in tall and the L/XL is fine for me!
Close fitting for sure. In fact you almost slide into the waistbelt rather than buckle it around you. At the same time you are aware of a light yet firm pressure from the backpanel as you adjust the shoulder straps. Clip the chest strap closed and suddenly the weight on your back is noticeably reduced. This system really spreads the load! For long days, carrying loads of between 8kg (day walks) to 20+kg (carrying ropes and gear to a remote mountain crag) the Archeron was secure and stable, and I felt it made a significant reduction in fatigue during the day. Although not specifically designed as a climbing-sack, it did not impede movement on climbs thanks to efficient compression straps and well-shaped shoulder straps. For sorting and loading gear before the climb, the fully-opening front panel made the process really easy. For carrying all the gear down from the summit it was awesome.
In terms of comfort, this pack is truly ace! On long day walks the snug waist-belt kept the weight exactly where it should be, providing stability and comfort all day long. With a little twist and admittedly some minor contortions, access to the chocolate bars in the side pocket was obtained. With more practice and the assistance of the loop this became easier. The pockets in the waist-belt are conveniently placed, so no more twisting like a 1960s Jive Bunny to get at compasses or phones. The large zip-pulls aid access. Again it’s the simple features that make a huge difference in day-to-day use. Did I mention that this pack is seriously comfortable and extremely user-friendly?
With a change in the weather – actually a shift from sheltered dale to exposed plateau – a quick few extra layers are needed. Unzip the front of the pack, pull out extra jacket. Zip up. Put on jacket. Unzip front, pull out waterproofs. Zip up. Very quick and easy with minimal rummaging. Access to group shelter for lunch? Unzip, take shelter from bottom of pack, zip up. After lunch? Simply slot shelter away again.
I could ramble away with many more examples of how I found the Archeon 45 to be a great pack, but they would always come back to the same points: It’s an extremely comfortable and user-friendly pack. It’s full of small but ingenious features, as well as big ones. It marks a preliminary but crucial step towards eliminating the use of virgin plastics and damaging chemicals in its manufacture. It feels like it will last for ever, thus reducing the a small part of the strain on the earth’s resources…and on the wallet!
Oh yes…cost. The Acheron 45 retails on Osprey’s website for £220.00. This seems like a huge amount to pay for a 45 litre rucksack. So why pay that amount? You get a high quality pack that will probably last much longer than most, backed by Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee, saving money in the long run. You get the satisfaction of helping to reduce the impact of manufacturing on the environment you love, knowing that this will continue to drive progress towards greater sustainability and further lowering the environmental impact in future. You get the retro-cool look! You get a great pack.
The Archeon 45 also comes in a women's specific fit version for women and there are other size packs available in the Archeon range. Full details are available on the Osprey website here.
Reviewed by Stu and posted by Cal