I’ve been using Osprey cycling packs for ages. The 14 litre Zealot (which I reviewed here) has been a great option for long rides and my everyday option has become the Raptor 10 (reviewed here). They are both awesome packs. However, sometimes I don’t need to carry as much and I was keen to try something smaller. Osprey suggested their Siskin 8 could fit the bill and kindly sent one across for review. After using it over the late autumn of last year through to Summer I feel I’ve lived with it plenty long enough to put my cards on the table………
As is typical of Osprey packs, their ingenious designers seem to have ticked every box – the Siskin 8 is a low profile back hugging shape with all the features you might need, but nothing you don’t.
The main fabric is made from 210D Poly Honeycomb which is a durable and yet lightweight material that will take the rough and tumble of all 2 wheeled activities including mountain biking.
The main storage compartment, which opens via a burly U-Zip zipper, features internal baffles to allow the pack to open wide enough to remove things, but cleverly stop the front lid panel flopping forward wide enough for everything to spill out.
then there is a hydration sleeve designed to house up to a 2.5 litre Hydraulics bladder (although I’ve happily squeezed a 3 litre bladder in there without issue) and a 2.5 litre Hydraulics hydration system is included with the pack.
At the front there is a zippered scratch free sunglasses or phone storage pocket and the very front panel houses Osprey’s ingenious Shove-It storage panel. This panel secured tightly via the side compression straps but allows plenty of extra storage underneath. Finally, the Siskin 8 features Osprey’s Lid Lock helmet attachment and an internal key clip.
The harness comprises an Airscape back panel, removable sternum strap with incorporated magnet (to secure the drink tube) and removable unpadded waistbelt. Final details include reflective graphics, a carry handle and light attachment point.
Over the last year I have made concerted efforts to carry less on my back and store more kit on my bike when out for longer rides. I wrote a blog post about this here and it has really worked well. It also means that for many shorter rides I don’t need to carry a pack at all. However, for longer rides I still prefer the facility to carry some clothes, emergency equipment, additional tools and spares and some food and extra water. A pack often still rules.
The majority of rides undertaken with the Siskin 8 have been mid duration rides on my local Peak District National Park trails although I did take it across the border to Wales a few times and it accompanied me on a recent trip to Maribor in Slovenia. The riding has varied from muddy wet winter trails to slick dusty dry singletrack and some downhill trails. It has been well tested.
So, how does the Siskin 8 perform? Let’s look at the features in detail with the hydration system first. Fluid consumption will obviously vary according to the rider, the ride intensity and the conditions encountered, but I find the included 2.5 litre Hydraulics bladder is a great size for a two thirds of a day type ride at the rate I drink. On a few longer days in really hot weather I’ve added an additional water bottle on my bike. I also found that the sleeve did happily house a 3 litre bladder when needed.
I have used the Hydraulics bladder system on a lot of packs and really rate their durability and performance. The bladder supplied with this pack is, however, a slightly different version to the standard option as this doesn’t have a semi solid panel. I imagine Osprey have done this to make the pack lighter and so that it moulds more comfortably in a soft backed pack. I am a big fan of the semi rigid style and wondered how I’d get on with this, but needn’t have worried – it works really well.
The Osprey Hydraulics bite valve is excellent and, as is usual on many Osprey packs, it combines with a magnet keeper system on the sternum strap. I especially love this for mountain biking – you can access the bite valve instantly when cycling, but then can clip it securely so it doesn’t flop around or, when you put the pack down, drop in the mud. It is actually a genius system.
The Hydraulics bladder is also proving to be plenty durable. I store my bladders in the freezer between rides and this happily bounces back to life every time I pull it out. I also like the large opening which allows for easy cleaning and for the easy addition of hydration tablets, hydration powder or ice cubes. Full marks for everything to do with hydration.
The harness system is equally impressive. Osprey’s Airscape back panel is designed to be rigid enough to be supportive, soft enough to be back hugging and, due to the large central ventilation channel, it is designed to vent well. Again, I really can’t fault this system. It is comfortable for long rides (even when the pack is fully loaded with water and other gear) and yet vents as well as any back hugging pack.
On my recent trip to Maribor the heat was intense and so there was inevitably heat and sweat build up, but I don’t think any pack would have coped any better. Otherwise, top marks. On packs this size I tend to leave the sternum strap on and remove the waistbelt. I don’t find I need both. Of course, the beauty of them both being removable is that each user can make their own choice.
And so to the load carrying options on the Siskin. As mentioned earlier, I now store some equipment on my bike and so I would see the Siskin needing to carry some lightweight spare clothing, some spares and tools, some first aid equipment, my phone, keys, wallet and some food.
The main pocket easily stores a selection of tools, spares, first aid kit and food and then there is room around this to add additional items like a waterproof jacket. Then, the small additional pocket will happily hold my phone, keys and wallet (or this could be used for sunglasses or goggles), Go Pro accessories and keys. It can take a bit of jiggling to get everything in there when the bladder is full, but it does fit. Also, as you guzzle the water during the day the space increases anyway. For me the Siskin 8 has become the perfect size, although you won’t be able to take the kitchen sink! The large chunky clam shell style zip also means everything (including that really small item right at the bottom!) can be accessed easily and it is also usually possible to access the thing you need without removing everything else.
And so, the final major feature, and this is a stroke of design genius too, is the front ‘Shove It’ pocket. This is a sturdy fabric panel which works in so many ways. If you’ve maxed out the internal space you can simply tuck your extra food or shell layer into this. It can also be used to stash items you need quickly such as a map or guidebook.
Next, because the panel secures with the side compression straps, whatever you store behind this can be secured quickly – I’ve never had any problem with anything coming out of the panel. Also, these side compression straps also allow you to clamp the pack to stop items inside jiggling around if it isn’t fully loaded. It really does do exactly what it is designed to do. Please Osprey – don’t ever stop making packs with this feature!
Oh, and finally, the LidLock helmet retainer works a charm and having a light attachment point is essential for night rides or for commuters.
I wanted a small to medium, lightweight and durable pack that is comfy for medium to longer rides and with intelligent features to suit off road riding. I really do feel the Osprey Siskin 8 ticks ever box and it is, for me at least, a perfect pack. For you? you have to consider how much kit you need to carry and the duration of your rides, but I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Full details are available on the Osprey website here.
Tested and posted by Paul