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2011 Osprey Manta 25 Hydration Pack

2011 July 19
by Erik
The pack at the end of a trip in my garage.  Camera tripod and rain jacket in view.

I was in the market for a new day pack and had a bunch of REI gift cards from my birthday.  My 2007 Camelbak Alpine Explorer had seen better days and was in need of replacement.  I did some research online and was all set to buy the Osprey Talon 33.  When I got to the store and picked it up, it just seemed like a big sack without much organization to it.  The price was good, but I would have to add a hydration bladder to it as it doesn’t come with one.

As I was walking around with it in my hands, I strolled by the Hydration Packs section and saw the Mantas.  There is a 20L, 25L, and a 30L.  I ended up buying the 25L for three reasons:

  1. 25L is big enough (20L too small)
  2. It had a better front pouch configuration than the 30L
  3. It was the only one in my size.

Here are the basic specs on the Manta 25 size S/M (for under 33in waist):

  • Gear Capacity (cu. in./L):  1,300/22
  • Weight:  2lb 11oz (1,217g)
  • Dimensions:  19 x 10 x 10 inches
  • Cost:  $139.00

The Review

Hydration

Let’s start with the 3L Osprey HydraForm Reservior that comes with the pack.  Now, I’ve been using CamelBak reserviors since 1998 and have always loved them but I have to say, there are some cool features with the Osprey version.  First is the shape.  The reservior itself is contoured to rest comfortably on your back and maintains it’s shape even when full.  One of my biggest complaint with previous reserviors is the feeling of having a water balloon strapped to your back when full.  I didn’t feel this at all.  It also integrates directly into a specialized compartment in the pack which also has the same shape.

Osprey HydraForm Reservoir made by Nalgene

Next is the integrated magnetic bite valve.  The cross strap buckle on the pack has a matching magnet that keeps the bite valve close at hand.  No more reaching around for that thing or having it dribble down your arm.  It has a shut off valve which I didn’t use since the bite valve has not started dribbling on me yet.  It also has a large mouth but I think all reserviors have that now.

Reservoir from the side. Notice the rigid contoured shape to fit your back.

Reservoir in its compartment (open)

Reservoir in its compartment (closed)

Main Compartment

The main compartment is a simple top load zippered pouch that runs the full length of the pack.  I like the reinforced loops at the end of all of the zippers making them easy to manipulate, even while wearing gloves.  The contouring mentioned above makes it a little difficult to fit anything rigid and rectangular – like a plastic food storage container.  Otherwise, nothing too special here.

View down the gullet of the main compartment

Reinforced zipper loops. Sorry about the blurry-vision.

Front Compartment

This is different from the Manta 30.  The front compartment is divided into two separately accessed zippered pouches.  The one on the right is a full pouch that runs the width of the pack.  No pockets or anything there.  The one on the left only runs halfway across and has a clip for keys.  I actually like this configuration.  Other packs have a front compartment that is just another pouch where everything settles at the bottom.  You either have to dig down from the top or unzip the thing entirely causing everything to dump out.  I have found this quite handy during use.  There is also a helmet holder where the zippers meet.  It is just a tight loop through which you thread the chin strap.  I haven’t tried it yet.  Seems like the helmet would bounce around alot.

Right side full width pocket

Smaller left side pocket. The key clip is hanging to the side with my emergency whistle attached.

Straps

Contoured shoulder straps with mesh, perforations, and foam in the appropriate places make them comfortable.  The chest strap is configured in such a way that you can buckle it with one hand.  The hip belt has some padding and some quite spacious (can fit a small digital camera) zippered pockets for easy access.

View of shoulder straps and mesh back panel. Notice the magnetic bite valve holder and the presence of a high end hand model.

Another feature specific to Osprey packs that I really like is the trekking pole storage.  You slide the pointed end of the poles through a loop at your left hip and then pass a loop on the left shoulder strap over the handles.  A quick tug on the loop adjustment and they are completely secured.  Super simple to do while wearing the pack.  This is great for rapidly changeing elevation where the need for trekking poles vary mile to mile.

Trekking pole loop on the left shoulder strap

Other Compartments

There is a small zippered pouch near the top of the pack that is soft-lined to protect scratch-prone items such as sunglasses and phones.  There is a front pocket with a stretch woven material and a buckle for quick stash bulky items.

The soft-lined accessory pouch at the top

A stretch woven pocket and compression straps on either side complete the storage.

Side pockets and compression straps. Notice the contoured shape of the pack and, if you look real hard, the mesh back spacer that keeps the pack from touching your back.

Other Features

The pack has an integrated rain cover that quickly drops out of the bottom and covers the whole pack quickly.  It has a mesh back system that sits against your back and holds the rest of the pack away from your body.  This works very well and keeps my back and the pack itself from becoming a sweaty mess.

Integrated raincover still attached by a strap. It slides right back into a dedicated pocket on the underside of the pack.

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