OSPREY STRATOS 36 REVIEW - HIKING BACKPACKS
Backpacking in the great outdoors can make for amazing adventures, but it can be all too easy to fill your closet and the rest of your storage space with specialized gear. The Osprey Stratos 36 (Stratos 36) is a lightweight, midsize backpack that can be used for day hikes or 1-2 day overnight camping trips.
It offers incredible versatility and in its uses and ability to carry essential equipment. Additionally, the comfort of the Stratos 36 was difficult to beat. While its innovative design gives it unparalleled comfort, it drops points on its weight; being one of the heavier packs in this size category.
Ease of Use
|Frame Type||Internal Frame|
|Gear Capacity (L)|
|Gear Capacity (cu. in.)|
|Number of Stays||1|
|Suspended Mesh Back Panel||Yes|
|Pack Access||Top / front|
|Number of Exterior Pockets||6 + main compartment|
|Sleeping Bag Compartment||Yes|
|Dimensions||25 x 12 x 10 inches|
The Stratos 36 has some impressive features that create a comfortable backpack with incredible versatility. It all starts with the dual upper side compression and carrying straps. Much of the versatility of this pack comes because of these straps. With a 36L maximum load capacity, the Stratos 36 can hold enough equipment for an overnight trip. However, the compression straps work well enough to make it a great daypack. Once supplies are loaded, the straps can be tightened down to keep the weight centered and close to the body to prevent shifting.
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The ability to have a tight pack is also increased by the two mesh side pockets. Equipped with InsideOut compression, a feature unique to Osprey, that creates the extra tension needed to improve the security of your load. Some packs in the daypack/mid backpack category may allow items to shift creating a loss of balance while wearing. Users have even been able to use the Stratos 36 while bouldering without detrimental weight shifting. The straps can also be used to carry extra gear if needed.
There are two entries points for load access. First is the zippered panel on the front for easy front loading. This handy feature gives you easy entry to food, maps, and other equipment without having to unload the entire pack. The second access method is through the top. Once you've loaded through the front, zip it up, and you can pack more through the top drawstring closure. It includes a fix top lid with two zippered pockets for extra storage and organization.
Another favorite feature is what Osprey calls their Stow-on-the-Go Trekking Pole Attachment. Two straps are located underneath the left arm where they hold trekking poles out of the way until they are needed. The poles can be removed or stowed while the Stratos 36 is still being worn. Keeping the backpack on will save you the time and trouble of removal and re-entering the pack. This is particularly bags when you are hiking a trail that varies between areas that need trekking poles and those that don't.
Osprey's Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment system.
Staying dry is paramount to a comfortable hiking or camping experience. The built-in rainfly on the Stratos 36 can be pulled over the entire pack to prevent extra clothing and equipment from getting wet. It is convenient to have it already built in so you don't have to carry it separately. That's one less piece of equipment you need to remember. If you know you aren't going to need it; the rainfly can be removed and stored in a pouch on the bottom of the backpack.
When using the Stratos 36 as an overnight pack, there are two straps for attaching a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag compartment underneath the main compartment. The sleeping pad straps are adjustable and removable, so they won't be in the way when they are not needed. A wide-mouth zippered access opening on the sleep bag compartment has the space necessary for bulky items. However, the sleeping bag compartment is not waterproof because of the zipper. It is suggested to use a waterproof stuff sack before putting your sleeping bag in if you suspect rain.
Zippered hip belt pockets give a place to store small gear that may be needed frequently. Important items like a compass, car keys, or chapstick can be kept in these pockets where they can be used without stopping or removing the pack. Also included are two bungee tie-off tool loops to keep extra gear and tools secure.
The lightweight alloy frame has a signature curved panel to allow for excellent airflow between the user and the backpack. It also adds to the overall balance of the backpack while being worn. The back panel of the Stratos 36 has 3D breathable mesh so that sweat can easily evaporate.
Comfort and fit are one of the major strengths of the Stratos 36. The design of the frame and lightweight build make it easy and comfortable to wear all day. The amount of air that flows between the pack and the wearer's back prevents overheating. Preventing that excess sweat can mean the difference between an enjoyable hike and being a sweaty mess when you reach your destination.
Mesh covered die cut foam on the shoulder straps keep them firm but comfortable even with a heavy load. The ErgoPull™ hip closure is easy to secure and stays in place while maintaining the pack weight in the right location. The Stratos 36 comes in two different sizes, S/M and M/L. One downside of this backpack is that the torso length cannot be adjusted. If you follow the sizing guide based on your height and weight, you should be able to get the right fit.
At between 2 lbs 14 oz and 3 lbs (dependent on which size you pick), this is one of the heavier backpacks on the market for its size. The bulk of the weight from the curved panel that provides most of the comfort benefits. This is not the bag to pick if you want to move light and fast.
The size and load capacity make the Stratos 36 an ultra-versatile daypack/overnight pack. While there's not enough room for an extended packing trip, there's certainly sufficient for the avid day hiker or an occasional overnight trip if you pack light. One of the challenges of a combo backpack like the Stratos 36 is keeping the load weight in place when carrying a light load. The compression straps and pockets work extremely well at keeping everything secure while in motion. As long as the shoulder straps, chest strap, and hip belt are appropriately adjusted and everything is tightly compressed, you should experience little to no movement of the pack weight. This will help you stay balanced and reduce fatigue while you hike.
Many of the great features of the Stratos 36 may or may not apply to you in any given situation. But, most of the additional features can be removed or stowed away when not in use. The built-in rainfly, for example, can be separated and stored in its own compartment on the bottom of the pack. If you're not going on an overnight trip, remove the two sleeping pad straps. Having the ability to use or remove the features that you need for each trip is helpful as you keep track of equipment.
Staying organized on a hike or overnight trip can mean the difference between enjoying yourself and spending the day searching through your pack for an extra pair of socks. The Stratos 36 has many storage and organization options that allow you to keep your gear separate while also keeping the load tight to your back. The pockets on the lid make a good place for climbing gear while the compressible side pockets give you options for items you want to keep separated like water, snacks, or maps. The sleeping bag compartment has a mesh separator to keep a jacket or other clothing safely stowed and in place. Having lots of options gives you the ability to organize the pack in a way that makes sense for you.
Not quite as durable as the Deuter Speed Lite 20, but indeed our pack has stood up to a fair bashing without significant signs of wear and tear. The main initial worry was that the aluminum frame looked a bit flimsy, but in retrospect, it is well made and does the job it was intended for.
The Osprey Stratos 36 is on the more expensive end of the range for a backpack with these features. That said, this is the right pack for the avid day hiker who places comfort at a premium or when making an occasional overnight trip. Even if you only plan to use it on day hikes, it can serve well for a family where one parent carries most of the equipment or for trips that require extra gear. This backpack does all of that while still being comfortable and practical.
Other designated day packs are often too small to expand for extended day use. While mid-sized packs are often too large and bulky for a simple day hike. The Stratos 36 can fill both of those needs with one backpack. That's a win-win.
The Osprey Stratos Series comes in five different sizes; Osprey Stratos 24, Osprey Stratos 26, Osprey Stratos 34, Osprey Stratos 36 and the Osprey Stratos 50. The first three are designed as daypacks, while the last two can be used for overnighting. Similarly, the womens version, the Osprey Sirrus 36 also comes in four different sizes.
Similar products include the REI Trail 40 Men's, Deuter Futura Pro 42, and the Mountain Hardware Hueco 35. All are intended to be used as daypack/overnight backpacks. However, both the REI and the Deuter have large capacities that make them more suitable for one or two-day overnight trips. The have some of the compression abilities of the Stratos 36, but because they start out with so much more space, you aren't going to be able to get the tight fit of the Stratos 36 with either of them. They can be used for day hikes, but it may result in a lot of pack movement unless you have a lot of gear or carry large equipment. Both the REI and Deutra work best for short one or two-day packing trips rather than day hikes.
The Hueco is similar in size to the Stratos 36 and has similar compression capabilities. It too can be used for either a day hike or an overnight trip. However, the Hueco has features that make it more suitable for someone who may travel on an airplane with their pack. It has carrying handles that make taking it on and off of a luggage rack easy, while the Stratos is intended for purely hiking and camping purposes. The comfort and quality of the Stratos are great in comparison with any of these backpacks, holding up to frequent use over time.
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In an age when everyone seems to be locked to their small blue screens, I am vehemently passionate about getting more people outside to enjoy the wonder of nature. I grew up with the outdoors on my doorstep, and when I headed off to university I picked a degree in geology that allowed me to spend a lot of time outside on field trips! Over the last 30 years, I have camped or hiked through the wilderness on 5 continents. I hope my posts are informative for both the grizzled veteran and the complete novice alike.