The Osprey Manta 30 was the best thing to emerge from the 2009 outdoor kit convention at Friedrichshafen in Germany, according to the Guildford gear shop owner I bump into there every year. He knows a thing or two about kit, so I turned up at the Osprey stand the following day, eager to get my first look at the new Manta 30 Hydraulics pack. It is really two bits of gear: a genuinely innovative hydration bladder and a slick-looking 30 litre rucksack, and I was keen to put them both to the test.
The Hydraform reservoir
The gear junkie from Guildford was clearly on to something. Rather than the traditionally floppy bag, Osprey’s new ‘Hydraform reservoir’ (that’s ‘bladder’ to you and me) features a rigid back panel and long handle, which makes it easy to slide it into a full pack. It’s simple but strangely revolutionary. The panel is shaped to fit your back, to increase stability and comfort. On dedicated packs the bladder slips into a ‘Hydralock’ compartment. Osprey says this helps to maintain pressure on the bladder, making it more stable and easier to get a constant flow of water. It feels very comfortable, getting the last drops of liquid out of the bladder is easy, and you never experience the unnerving sensation of liquid sloshing around in your pack.
There’s also a very functional wide screw lid, which, when used in conjunction with the long handle, makes it easy to fill and clean. Once in your pack, the bite valve can be twisted through 90 degrees to lock the flow of water, and there’s a magnetic clip to attach the valve to your chest strap. I admit I struggled to get that clip to work: the hose is so inflexible that unless you’ve got it at just the right angle, the clip pings off. Still, full marks to Osprey’s Hydraform water carrier.
The Manta 30 pack
The Osprey Manta 30 is a very groovy-looking pack that comes with lots of pockets to stash gear in as well as a trekking pole attachment and integrated raincover. If you’re into biking it is brilliantly designed, but for hill-walkers it simply doesn’t cut the mustard. Trail tester Claire Maxted has been using this pack too, and she soon started to complain that it was uncomfortable on the hips due to the rigid curve of the back panel. I didn’t notice this until I took it on a 15-mile run, when it caused two large sores where the pack came into contact with the base of my back. On the hill, the vast array of pockets mean that the 30 litres on offer simply isn’t flexible enough for most walkers. There’s insufficient room in the main compartment for day walking kit and the buckles, pockets and zips are too fussy. So while this is a very neat bit of gear, I shall keep it for my bike commutes and wait for the walker-specific Hydraulics packs to come along. In the meantime I’ll be using the excellent Hydraform bladder independently of the Manta 30 on all my day walks.
Material 70x30 ripstop siliconised nylon
Sizes S/M, M/L
Weight 1.41kg (size M/L)
Made in Vietnam
Stockist details – tel. (01202) 413920; www.ospreypacks.com
Verdict: The Osprey Manta 30 features an excellent bladder that is ingeniously thought through, very practical and definitely delivers a useful performance boost on the hill.
But it is an overly fussy pack designed for bikers, with insufficient comfort for walkers and a lack of practical space in the main compartment. In summary, do buy the Osprey Manta 30 if you do enough biking to justify the expense, and then use the bladder in your regular walking pack when you head to the hills.
Review by Matt Swaine
First published in Trail magazine February 2010