The Osprey Syncro 20 has exceptional storage capacity with a voluminous 20 litres of well-organised space and the air-cooled back system is one of the best on the market. Aside from a few minor fitting problems, there is a lot to love about this pack.
For Osprey’s signature “air-cooled riding”, the Syncro is treated to their trademark AirSpeed ventilated back panel, which is basically like a mesh trampoline in that helps suspend the bag away from your body. In practice, I’ve got to say, it really works. With all of my CamelBak bags (and even my small Ergon pack, to a lesser extent) their thick, padded underside never fails to heat up my back and soak my jersey with sweat. With the Osprey Syncro, this is no longer an issue. It is by far and away the best system I have used during warm, arduous rides.
The BioStretch hip-belt and harness adjust easily and fit comfortably. The hip-belt has a little extra padding where it attaches to the back panel, which stopped the thin straps cutting into my hips and waist. I was initially worried that the thin strap would cut into my belly on long rides, but it did no such thing.
However, the lack of width to strap didn’t offer much in the way of securing the backpack down towards my hips. All the other straps (under the arms, on top of the shoulders, and across the chest) did an excellent job of making the bag feel like it was custom fitted, and, even when fully loaded, the pack refrained from twisting around or shifting sideways when on rough terrain.
The internal storage really is outstanding. It is divided into the main container, the middle tool storage area, and a third small lined scratch-free sunglasses and electronics pocket. There is also an integrated and detachable high visibility rain cover, an LED light attachment point, reflective graphics and a LidLock bike helmet attachment on the outside of the pack. Personally, I’d like to see some straps on the underside of the Syncro for carrying even more extras like knee pads or a roll matt for bike-packing, but it already does a great job for big days out in the mountains.
While I couldn’t fill the bag with water to check it was genuinely 20 litres of storage, it certainly felt at least that way, if not more. As a British Cycling MTB Leader, I was able to cram all of my guiding equipment into the Syncro (that’s a heap of tools, including pump and shock pump, tubes, spares, extra clothing, a raincoat, a first aid pack, gadgets and accessories, and a large storm shelter the size of a summer sleeping bag), and still have room left over for lunch and extras. The Syncro seems to fit about the same amount of stuff as my Dakine 22 litre pack, and yet way more than my Dakine 19-litre pack, which won’t take my storm shelter.
A hydration reservoir is not included, which is a shame, but I’d still say that the Syncro is still worth the £80 price tag. For Osprey’s own reservoir you’ll be looking at £30 extra for the Hydraulics 2.5 litre water bladder, which I can vouch as being an exceptional container that is so easy to use and keep clean, more so than CamelBak, in my opinion. Coupled with a side-opening to access your reservoir, and Osprey really has thought about the logistics of filling and re-filling water on the move.
Out on the trails, the Syncro did a great job of being forgotten about, however; my short body did struggle to keep the pack from hitting my helmet on really steep terrain, where gravity pulled the bag up my body and my head was set right back. I don’t believe many people will find this a problem, as I’m a tiny 5’2”, but it’s worth mentioning. What I did appreciate, however; was the ability to pull on four different straps to effectively bunch up the backpack when it wasn’t full. There were times when I used the Syncro with just some water and a spare jacket in there, and these straps completely eliminated any flapping. In fact, I couldn't tell I was wearing such a large pack.
The Syncro is a versatile 20-litre pack, with my only niggle being that I wish it came with an adjustable back panel for better fitting on small backs, much like Osprey’s top-end pack, the Escapist.