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Review: Osprey Escapist Backpack

Woman hiking with Osprey Escapist Backpack

In the summer of 2011 I bought myself an Osprey backpack. Now I hate having multiples of things that essentially do the same job but in different ways. Aside from the expense and waste of having several different scenario specific items, the storage space when you’re not using your gear soon becomes a problem. So having a day pack that covered all my outdoor activity needs was essential when I bought the Escapist. And five years on, it still does a great job of carrying all that I need, and has proved to be the best and most versatile bag I have ever had, in fact one of my favourite bits of outdoor gear full stop.

Why choose the Osprey Escapist backpack?

The Escapist is designed with cyclists in mind, but is also really well suited to all outdoor adventurers. It seemed like the perfect fit for my cycling habits and general enthusiasm for getting outside, with loads of cool features and pockets to keep me and my ‘be prepared’ tendencies satisfyingly organised.

Design features of the Osprey Escapist backpack

The versatility of this awesome bag makes it ideal for every-day escapades, multi-activity adventures, exploring by bike, day hikes, overnight stays and casual sightseeing. The following features are what make it such a great all rounder:

Detachable rain cover

Osprey backpack
The bright yellow cover tucks away into its own zippered pocket and can be whipped out before the first drop of rain even hits the floor! I love that it is totally detachable too – I’ve used it on many occasions to sit on during picnics in the park or food stops on the trail.

Base entry compartment

Base compartment of backpack
This is ideal for easy access to things at the bottom of your pack, without emptying its whole contents. There is also an internal divider that can be zipped up to make a totally separate compartment to the main body of the bag. I’ve used this loads for storing wet shoes or gear, and also for keeping my stinky climbing shoes away from the rest of my stuff.


Lidlock on backpack
A surprisingly useful little toggle that allows you to fix your bike helmet on the outside of your pack when you’re not wearing it. It’s not fiddly at all and is brilliant for sightseeing type bike rides that involve some on foot exploration too. I also use it loads when I pop to the shops on my bike.

Side compression straps

Compression straps on backpack
These are great for making your pack a bit more streamlined when it’s not full, and also for securing extra gear on the outside of the pack. My yoga mat fits nicely onto the side of the bag, and I’ve also used the straps to carry my camera tripod on photography hikes.

Sternum strap with emergency whistle

Sternum strap on backpack
Now thankfully I’ve never had to use the whistle, and it’s such a sleek design that I didn’t even know it was there for ages! But the sternum strap is well used – adjustable to the appropriate height as well as tightness, it provides excellent support that has enabled me to run easily whilst carrying an almost full load.

Zippered top pocket

Top pocket on backpack
I probably use this pocket the most. It has a really secure zip and is just the right size to store my wallet and phone in. My passport slips in there nicely too, or any small maps or guides etc. It’s really easy to access without delving into the rest of your bag.

Front zipped pocket with internal organiser

Front pocket on backpack
The pocket itself is a really good size. I usually put in it a book, sunglasses, suncream, inner tube, bike tools and other miscellaneous stuff, depending on what I’m doing. The pockets are designed for bike tools, but are great for all-sorts. I like using the pocket for overnight trips too – just enough space for my miniature toiletries and a travel towel.

External hydration access

Water bladder compartment
Between the back panel of the bag and the main compartment, there is a large compartment that holds a water bladder. Not having the sleeve inside the main body of the bag is a real bonus and makes for super easy refills.

Twin zippered hip belt pockets

Belt pockets on backpack
These are great for accessing cheeky on-the-go nibbles and snacks and I often use them for my phone which I can then access easily for route updates whilst still cycling or hiking. It’s also just the right size to hold a hacky sack – mine lives in there permanently, as you never know when the opportunity for a quick hack might arise!

Shoulder strap pocket

Shoudler strap pocket
When I first got this bag, I had a phone small enough to fit into this pocket. A very convenient placement for quick and easy access. Unfortunately my current phone has outgrown this pocket so it lives in either the belt or the top pocket. And the shoulder strap pocket now holds my pocket knife or sweets.

How comfortable is the Osprey Escapist Backpack?

To put it simply, it’s super comfortable! I tried on a few other biking bags that felt a bit restrictive in the cycling position – my helmet clashed with the top of the back panel. The lack of frame or rigid structure in the back panel helps with this, as does the ability to adjust the torso length of the bag for a personalised fit. Making this adjustment is well worth it as it also ensures that the BioStretch hipbelt and harness sits nicely on the hips for extra support.

I’ve worn this bag in many active scenarios and LOVE the Airscape backpanel. The foam ridges beneath the mesh panel enable loads of airflow when things start to get a bit sweaty, and they also add to the lightweight comfort that the bag provides.

A five year test of the Osprey Escapist backpack

Osprey Escapist Backpack

First impressions

I obviously fell in love with this backpack from the word go. Its first foray was a very active trip in Slovenia where it endured mountain biking trips, a week long Ultimate Frisbee tournament, hiking, sightseeing and moonlighted as hand luggage on my flights there and back. And it lapped up the challenges of excelling at all I threw at it. Impressed.

After three years

To say that this bag has been through the mill is an understatement. I’ve over-used and abused it time and time again, mostly during the first three years of its existence. During this time I worked as an outdoor personal trainer in London, cycling from park to park delivering gruelling training sessions in all weather conditions. And of course I carried all my training equipment with me, in my bag, for miles, everyday! This included an 8kg kettlebell and a yoga mat, amongst other things. And in between its daily tour of London’s green spaces, I took it on many trips out to the countryside, and further afield, for some ‘leisure’ time.

After four years

At the beginning of year four, needless to say, the over-use of my beloved Osprey Escapist started to take its toll. The lining between the main body of the bag and the water bladder compartment started to fray away from the top outer material. Everything else was holding up brilliantly still and there was no way I was ready to upgrade. So I sent it back to Osprey and they did a fab job of fixing it for me. A change in circumstances also meant that it no longer endured being dragged daily across London.


Five years and still going

My wonderful Osprey Escapist is now at the end of its fifth year in my care. And for the most part it is still going strong. It is a somewhat faded version of its former self, and the finishes on the shoulder straps are starting to unravel slightly. The main zip is reaching breaking point too. But structurally and functionally the rest of the bag does as good a job now as it did at the beginning of our adventures together! In all that time, there are only two things that I’ve not loved:

The cons

There are no clips on the shoulder straps to hold a hydration tube in place. Not a huge problem, but I have definitely had times grappling around for the tube whilst cycling along one-handed.

There are two side mesh pockets for holding water bottles. The pockets perform perfectly well when the bag is stationary and upright, but I’ve had many bottles fall out and hold little confidence in the security of a bottle when handling the bag. That said, Osprey have obviously recognised this flaw as the most recent version of the Escapist has much more secure and deep stretch mesh pockets with InsideOut compression straps that secure inside the pockets if needed.

The verdict

There are a ton of great design features on the Escapist that make its unrivalled versatility hugely appealing for the everyday outdoors. And as with all Osprey products that I have come across, it is also an exceptionally well made and high quality item that is built to stand the test of time and, in my case, some excessive overuse.

I am loathe to give up on my backpack and hope that Osprey’s lifetime warranty will be able to restore my trusty adventure companion to its former glory without too much trouble.

Find the latest price on:
Osprey | Amazon | REI

Joey Holmes

Joey Holmes
Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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