25L £95 ospreyeurope.com
Back in the day when we were a wee one at school, it was the cool thing to have a record bag or wear you rucksack with one strap across the chest, damn that was uncomfortable! But it was the trend at the time. Now we're a bit older, having the right bag for commuting is as important as choosing the right tyres for your pedalling machine. This is no joke, the wrong bag for your body can actually lead to back problems and just be uncomfortable to wear. Depending on the length of your commute, you could get away with a regular rucksack or even messenger bag but like us, our bag is normally stuffed with our personal belongings, lunch, clothes to change in for school (we teach!) and our man bag which does include a beard oil or two, gotta' look after that bad boy of a beard! Osprey are one of the leading competitors in the outdoor industry and are known for their style and practicality. We treat ourselves to a new commuting bag every summer along with a new pencil case! This academic year we gave North Face a go but compared to our past Osprey bags, it wasn't quite the same. So when Osprey offered to entice us back with their Escapist range, we wanted to be reminded of what we've been missing...
Unwrapping the packaging, the flat folding of the bag is a red herring. Exploring the compartments, the visible and the hidden, you're taken back at just the variety of compartments available. It is literally the swiss army knife of bags. You open one zip and it has another bunch of hidden pouches! The previous Osprey bags used to have a small front zipped pouch on the front where I used to put my personal belongings, this has now been moved to the rear just in between the straps. Not sure I liked this at first as you may think you're opening the zip for your keys but in fact you're opening up the section for your clothes. We were testing out the 25L bag, this range comes in a smaller 18L and a bigger 32L. This edition is not as deep as our previous Ospreys even though the volume amounts were similar. A possible reason for this is the added feature of a reflective bag cover tucked away at the bottom in it's own little home. We accidentally found this and it's a great touch for the commuter in you. We've reviewed reflective bag covers in the past and we feel it does make a difference in road attitudes. of motorists. It shouldn't need to but we observed less close passes and just a more generic feel of being safe on the roads. Obviously this won't protect against those who don't care about others on the road but what a nice added feature to include in the bag's DNA.
We have in the past suffered from lower back pain which is why we are a bit picky when it comes to bags. Our North Face rucksack is visually a smart bag, an ideal bag for an urban commuter. Our commute though takes in a few fast and rough roads so our bag needs to be durable. That's where the Osprey gets the upper hand. Material may seem to be thin compared to the thicker coat of the North Face but it copes well with with the grit and grime we come across on our route to and from work. Whereas the North Face has a rigid back, the Osprey is much more accommodating. It's spine is vented and designed in more of an arch (makes sense as our spine is curved not flat pack flat!). Another thing crucial with a commuting bag is the inclusion of a chest and waist strap. Low and behold, it's featured on the Escapist. The waist strap though can be a little fiddly to tighten, lots of loops to contend with but the hips are hugged by some padded flaps to give you the feel the bag is a part of you rather than an added lump you're slugging around.
Bag A Ride
As comfort goes, it ticks the box, colours it in, sprinkles some glitter around the borders then produces a hologram with a thumbs up! The straps are padded well and is complimented well by the padded hip flaps. The arch in the bag allows you to mould into the bag rather than feel a strain or worse, the edges of your contents poking through. Now we did not test this on a MTB trail but it would be the first thing we would pick up if we were planning a day of off-roading. You've also got 2 side pouches for bottles if you need and a nice front pouch similar to the North Face for any dirty gear you don't want to include inside. We never had a need for this but as you can tell from the pattern of this review, the more compartments, the better! On a side note, we are a big fan of the sea hawk logo, simple but bold, it's hard not to spot an Osprey product.
We weren't exaggerating when we said this was the swiss army knife of commuter bags. We are still finding new compartments every day! The price is justified. These bags last years, we still have 2 past ones from 3 years ago and they still get good use so £95 is reasonable especially in terms of value. Only thing we would probably say is just check what volume size you need. It is a tight squeeze for us fitting change our work clothes including shoes plus lunch, zip is not busting but the bag is full. There is no laptop compartment either so keep this in mind if you do travel with such a device. You also have a choice of black, blue or red, all smart colours and finishes so maybe match it up with the colour of your bike if you're that vain! As commuting bags go, it's hard to find another brand that can give you a lot from a bag. With big brands, you can often get sucked into consumerism and just follow the crowd and not really experience that value for money feel but it's safe to say after a year of playing away, we have finally come home...hope you forgive us Osprey!