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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Packs Argon or Xenon > Test Report by Jason Boyle

Osprey Argon 110 L Backpack

Test Series

Initial Report - February 11, 2008
Field Report - April 29, 2008
Long Term Report - June 25, 2008

Tester Information:
Name: Jason Boyle
Age: 30
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 6"/ 1.68 m
Weight: 180 lb/ 82 kg
Torso Length: 19.5”/50 cm
Email address: c4jc "at" hotmail "dot" com
City, State, Country: Snoqualmie, Washington, U. S.

Backpacking Background:
I have been camping and backpacking for about 19 years. My introduction to the outdoors started with the Boy Scouts of America and has continued as an adult. I have hiked mostly in the Southeastern and Northeastern United States. I am generally a lightweight hiker, but will carry extras to keep me comfortable. I currently reside in the Pacific Northwest and spend most of my time hiking and backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but I can be found exploring the other wild areas of Washington!

Product Information:
Manufacturer: Osprey
Model: Argon 110L
Color: Delta Blue and Grey, only colors available for this size.
Frame Size Received: Medium
Hip Belt Size Received: Large
Capacity: 6700 cu in/110 L
Fabrics used: 315 Cordura High Tenacity Nylon
330D x 210D Cordura High Tenacity Nylon
Stretch Woven Nylon with Lycra
Listed weight: 6 pounds 5 oz/2.88 kg from the Osprey website
6 pounds 10 oz/3.01kg from the instructions that came with the pack
Measured weight: 7 pounds/3.18 kg
Comfortable Loading Range: 60 to 80 pounds/27-36 kg
Year of Manufacture: 2008
URL: www.ospreypacks.com
MSRP: none listed

Product Description:
The Osprey Argon pack is a large expedition style backpack that is rich with features. The overall all design of the pack is similar to the many other top loading packs. There is a main compartment, a bottom compartment that is separated by a removable fabric divider, and a lid. The pack is feature rich, more than I can fully describe here. I will describe what I consider to be the key components and a more detailed description can be found on the Osprey website via the downloadable instruction sheet under the Argon/Xenon webpage.

The Lid of the pack is huge, almost the size of a small backpack. It actually is a small backpack. By removing a couple of straps it converts into a Lumbar pack. The underside of the lid has a piece of “Airscape” foam padding and a hip belt that is hidden underneath of the pad. The lid has two pockets that both feature large, glove friendly two way zipper pulls. The top pocket which is the smaller of the two has a waterproof zipper. Access to the second larger pocket on the lid is via a clamshell shaped zipper that isn’t waterproof but is protected from the elements via a fabric flap. The top of the lid also features four pieces of webbing and a plastic buckle with each pair of webbing to allow the user to strap additional items on top of the lid.

Lid

The main compartment of the pack is fairly simple. One thing that stands out from other packs I have used is the curved “Recurve Rods” which provide shape to the sides of the main compartment instead of allowing them to sag in. The inside of the pack is dual colored – the back panel, the fabric divider and the front are a light grey color while the interior sides are the same blue as the outer fabric. The light color should help me find things inside of the pack. The interior of the fabric has a coating of some sort that makes it feel smooth instead of textured like the outside. There are two main features inside of this compartment a hydration bladder pocket and a compression strap. The Osprey Aqua Source hydration pocket is made of a lightweight ripstop Silnylon and is attached to the interior of the pack via four quick release buckles. The Aqua Source also features a compression strap that is attached to an elastic band on the outer side of the pocket and to some foam reinforcing at the top. There are quick release compression straps on the bottom compartment that can be removed and attached to the quick release buckles on the Aqua Source to convert it to a stand alone hydration pack. The second feature of the main compartment is the bright red compression strap. The contrasting color makes the strap stand out making it easier for me to find. It compresses the pack from the front to the back and will help stabilize a large load. Osprey also included Leave No Trace principles in English and French on the extension collar right above the hydration bladder quick release buckles. The top of the pack closes with a pull cord/cordlock system.

Red compression strap

The bottom compartment has the same interior color scheme as the main compartment. The fabric divider doesn’t completely separate the main compartment from the bottom compartment. There is a gap on each side of the divider that will allow small gear to pass between the compartments. The straps can be completely removed but the divider cannot be fully removed. Once the straps are undone the divider will hang down on the front side of the pocket. A feature of the bottom compartment that really stands out is the zipper. It features nice glove friendly zipper pulls like the lid and will unzip completely from side to side. This will allow me to fit copious amounts of gear in the bottom compartment because of the access to the compartment provided by this clamshell zipper. The large zipper will also make it easier to clean dirt and grime that might accumulate in the bottom compartment.

Front View Frame View

The front of the main compartment features a large shove-it pocket with mesh vent/drain ports. The whole pocket is a stretchy material and can be closed with a single quick release buckle and strap. In addition, there is a large zippered pocket directly behind the shove-it pocket and on the opposing side there is a zippered access into the main compartment. There are two small side pockets on the bottom of the outside of the pack. The first is a stretchy pocket with a side opening and a top opening. On the opposite side there is a zippered pocket about the same size. Both pockets will hold a standard 32 oz/1 L bottle. There are numerous compression and tightening straps on the pack to provide compression and stabilization.

The frame structure consists of four aluminum pieces: two “Recurve Rods” (one per side) and two aluminum 2/3 length stays on the back panel. The back panel consists of a plastic panel and the Osprey “Airscape” padding which has molded foam wings which stand off from the main padding creating a chimney shape in the padding. The shoulder straps are soft foam and are attached to a thin foam sheet that slides up and down behind the Airscape padding. Once the user has adjusted the shoulder straps to the proper height it is held in place by a hook and loop fastener. The Bioform CM A/X hip belt comes packaged separately from the pack to make sure the user receives the proper size, which may be different from the frame size. The belt is meant to be heat molded by a pack fitting professional in one of Osprey’s Red Hip Belt ovens. The hip belt is attached to the pack via a hook and loop fastener under a flap which then folds over the hip belt and tucks under the Airscape foam. There are also two webbing straps per side that connect the hip belt to the frame.

Initial Report – February 11, 2008

Initial Impressions:
I was expecting a large pack, but I don’t think I was prepared with how large this pack would be. It is more than what I expected when I was surfing the Osprey website, and is tricked out with plenty of bells and whistles. The hip belt molding process was pretty painless. I took the entire pack to my local REI and they had no problem molding the hip belt for me. They heated the hip belt for about 10 minutes, then I had to put it on sans pack and wear it above my hips for about 10 minutes and then that was it, I could attach it to the pack. I also had an REI pack fitter put some weight in my pack and try to adjust it to fit me. They seemed to do an ok job in the store with only about 15-20 pounds (6.8 kg to 9.1 kg) in it. The Recurve Rods seem to hit my shoulders which I don’t think should be happening. I am sure I will need to fine tune the pack as I use it and will report more on fitting in my Field Report.

Though there are numerous straps to confuse me, I think the pack is a fairly simple design. There are three main places for gear – the lid, the main compartment and the bottom compartment. There are other places to stash stuff I will need quickly like the shove-it pocket and the zippered pocket right behind the shove-it pocket. One thing that I really like already is the length of the compression straps. They are long which will allow me to secure bulky gear underneath them. Often times I will need to secure snowshoes or sleeping pads under straps on the outside of my pack and I usually struggle to get buckles secured. Based on my initial inspection, I won’t have that problem with this pack. Another great feature that I mentioned already is the large zipper pulls on all the zippers. I can easily grasp the pulls while wearing gloves, which makes life so much easier in the winter!

Stuffing my mitts into the zippered side pocket

I like the color and styling of the pack. The blue and grey is pretty unobtrusive. The pack certainly looks like other Osprey packs but has pretty unobtrusive labeling. There is a red and silver logo on the lid, and then some silver embroidered logos on the lid and the bottom of the outer compartment. Osprey warranties all their pack for a lifetime and it covers all materials and craftsmanship.

Field Report – April 29, 2008

At an overlook on the Border Route Trail using the lid as a daypack

Summary:
The Osprey has been kind of Jekyll and Hyde for me. I love the way it swallows gear and the multiple organization options really plays to my type “A” personality. However, I have not been able to get the pack to fit me properly. If the hipbelt is in the proper place on my hips the Recurve rods are poking me in the shoulders and if I adjust the framesheet to the proper place the hipbelt is above my navel. I have a large frame on the way to see if that remedies the fit problem.

Field Conditions:
I have used the Osprey on two trips for a total of seven days over the last couple of months. The first trip was a four day Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness trip in Northern Minnesota. Temperatures on this trip ranged from 8 F to 25 F (-13 C to -4 C) with off and on snow each day. On this trip I backpacked about 20 miles (32 km). The second trip was a three day backpacking trip to Hannegan Pass in the North Cascades in Washington. Temperatures ranged from 24 F to 32 F (-4 C to 0 C) with the highest point of elevation being 4000’ (1219 m). I also experienced snow showers on this trip. I backpacked about 16 miles (25 km) on this trip. My total pack weight was around 45-50 pounds (20 to 23 kg) on each trip.

Report:
In my opinion, my pack is my most important piece of equipment. It has to be able to house all my other gear, be able to take abuse and fit well. So far the Argon is doing two of the three well. Like I mentioned in my initial report, I expected a large pack, but WOW this thing can swallow a lot of gear. When I load a pack I generally start in the bottom compartment with my sleeping bag and extra clothes, then I put my stove, group gear, food in the main compartment, and then miscellaneous equipment in the top compartment and pockets. Here is my gear list from my Minnesota trip, which fit easily in the pack with plenty of additional room for food and group gear.

Sleeping bag -20 F (-28 C) beanie GG insulators Chemical Handwarmers
Z rest and blue foamy Balaclava/Buff Shovel small thermos
Big Agnes Two Track Pad Mitts Glacier Glasses snow goggles
MSR Dragontail tent liner gloves 2 pair Sunscreen Whisperlite
Down Booties 3 pairs of socks Ursack headlamp
Down socks Down jacket/Expedition Jacket Insulated Fair Share mug lip balm
Softshell Jacket Personal first aide kit Spoon 2 pair Vapor Barrier Socks
Primaloft Pants Buff Pee Bottle Vapor Barrier Liner
Soft Shell Pants Toilet Paper/Baby wipes MSR Lightning Snowshoes GPS
2 pair of tights Chemical Water Treatment Black Diamond Poles
2 long sleeve shirts 2 water bottles Two Eta Power Pots

It seems like a lot of stuff, and it was - almost 45 pounds (20 kg) of gear. However it was needed to make sure I was prepared for anything in the Boundary Waters.

The bottom compartment is huge. The large clam shell zipper completely unzips to make sure that all the space in this compartment is fully used and the large zipper pulls make the zipper easy to operate even when completely stuffed. The main pocket is also very large and easy to stuff gear into. I like the dual pockets on the lid. In the smaller pocket, I was able to put gear like my wallet and keys, stuff that I would want quick access to once I got back to my car, but didn’t need to get into while backpacking. I used the larger pocket to store items like my headlamp, first aide kit, snacks, and other miscellaneous gear. The large zippered pocket on the side behind the stretchy pocket was really handy. I kept my mitts and down booties in here so that I could get to them quickly once I made camp. The stretchy outside pocket provided quick access for some of my bulkier items. I kept my small thermos and my insulated water bottles in here. I had to put my water bottles here because they would not fit in the water bottle pockets with the bulky insulators. One feature of the pack that I didn’t find that useful was the side access to the main compartment. If the stretchy pocket is stuffed full it is almost impossible to open the zipper to access the main compartment. I have not had a chance to use the Aqua Source water bladder holder yet since it has been too cold, but with spring approaching the weather should allow me to use it.

There are numerous straps and buckles, almost enough to be overwhelmed. However after packing the bag a few times I mastered where they all went. Once I figured out how they all worked they did make for a secure, compressed pack. I love the large zipper pulls. I thought they would be glove friendly, and my two winter trips confirmed what I suspected. I was able to easily operate the zippers with my liner gloves on and could even operate them with my large insulated mitts. Great Job Osprey! Another great feature that I have enjoyed using is the convertible lid. I used it for day hiking on both of my trips. I was able to stuff in my insulated jacket, snacks, first aide kit, headlamp, and other miscellaneous gear into the lid. The Airscape padding did a good job of shielding the packs contents from my back, and the hipbelt was fairly comfortable. I wasn’t able to get the lid to be super stable and it would bounce a bit as I hiked but it did fine as a day pack. My only other nit was that I couldn’t fit a water bottle inside of the pack with all my other gear in there, so I resorted to attaching it to the outside.

My second concern with any pack is durability. How well does the pack stand up to hiking off trail, being set on the ground and being overstuffed with gear? So far the Argon is performing well. The pack looks new, with no scuffs or marks anywhere on the pack. None of the seams show any wear nor are there any loose threads on the pack.

The one area of the pack where the pack has not performed well is fit. Forming the hipbelt was easy but everything else has been a challenge. I thought I had the pack fitted properly at REI, but was mistaken. Once I got to the trailhead in Minnesota and put the pack on with a full load the Recurve Rods were poking me in the shoulders. I had one of my hiking partners, another pack fitter for REI, help me adjust my pack, but we could not get the frame sheet and the hipbelt to both fit properly. If I adjusted the frame sheet to fit properly, the hipbelt didn’t fit. If we adjusted the hipbelt to fit properly, then I was being poked by the end of the Recurve rods. I compromised and made the hipbelt fit properly so my shoulders didn’t have to carry the full load. To make this work I had to let the load lifters out until the Recurve rods didn’t poke me, but this caused the pack to be pretty far away from my back and sway side to side some. I continued to adjust and play with the pack through out this trip but wasn’t able to achieve a good fit with the hipbelt without being poked in the back. I was able to make it through the trip fine, and thought maybe it was a fluke, but I ran into the same problem on my trip in the North Cascades.

The medium frame that I requested is supposed to fit torso lengths from 18” to 20.5” (46 cm to 52 cm). I had my wife measure my torso length again using the instructions from Osprey website and she measured 20” (51 cm) this time versus 19.5” (50 cm) when I did my initial report. Regardless both measurements fall within Osprey’s range for a medium torso, but I definitely think that the torso is shorter than advertised. I called Osprey after my North Cascades trip and explained the situation to them. I asked them to send me a pack with a large frame to see if that makes a difference. Once the larger framed pack arrives, I hope to be able to provide some quantifying information in my Long Term Report on the fit and to provide some measurements that show torso length differences between a medium frame and a large frame.

Overall I think this can be a great pack. It has lots of great organizational features and seems very durable, but these features are only good if the pack fits. This ends my Field Report.

Long Term Report – June 22, 2008

Start of Rainier Climb

Summary:
Overall the pack has performed very well. The pack has shown great durability and the large size easily swallows winter gear, backpacking gear, and climbing gear. My only serious complaint is the fit on my body shape which isn’t something Osprey is responsible for. I will elaborate on the fit further in my report. The pack could also have more user friendly water bottle holders that are accessible while wearing the pack.

Field Conditions:
Since my field report I have used the pack on two trips – a four day backpacking trip on the Olympic Wilderness Coast and a two day Mt. Rainier climb, both of which took place in Washington. Weather on the coast was mostly cloudy with some light rain on the last day. Temperatures ranged from the upper 60’s F to the 40’s F (15 C to 4 C) and elevation was sea level. On Rainier the weather was bluebird skies with windy conditions (30 mph/ 48 kmph) above the Disappointment Cleaver to the Summit. Temperatures ranged from the 70’s F to 10 F (21 C to -18 C) near the summit. Elevation on this trip ranged from 5400’ (1646 m) at Paradise to 14,411’ (4392 m). The terrain on the coast ranged from rocky headland crossings and beach sand. On Rainier the terrain was mostly snow with some rocky outcroppings.

Report:
For me fit is the most important thing in a pack. If I am going to be carrying a pack for hours at a time it needs to fit well. Unfortunately this pack just doesn’t fit my body shape that well. I originally received a medium sized pack and frame which is what I need based on my torso length. I wrote in my Field Report about how it didn’t fit that well so I called Osprey customer service and requested a large frame pack which they quickly shipped to me. I took this pack to the Flagship REI store in Seattle and spent an hour with one of their pack fitters fine tuning the fit. I was remeasured using the Osprey specific torso measuring tool and it confirmed my torso length measurement requires a medium sized pack. Undaunted by the Osprey torso measuring tool, We fit the large frame pack to me and it fit better but not perfectly, so the pack fitter tried the medium on me again with a large shoulder strap harness and it still didn’t fit, because the recurve rods continued to hit me in the back. We went back to the large frame and tried a couple of more tricks, but basically we decided that my body shape doesn’t fit this particular pack. However, it did fit well enough that I was able to use it and will continue to use the pack for my large loads. It isn’t perfect but it works. The large frame ended up being a little bit too big for me, so the shoulder straps didn’t fit perfect but the hip belt fit well and transferred the load to my hips/legs very well. I highly recommend getting fitted for a pack at your local outfitter before making a purchase.

The pack has shown good durability. On the coast, there were many headland crossings that I had to scramble across and large rocky bluffs and rough sea stack rocks that I had to traverse. The pack was scraped on the rocks, sat on driftwood and coarse beach sand and still looks good. On Rainier, I used the pack to carry my ice ax and some other climbing tools with no damage. I even wore the pack while doing some glissading on the Muir Snowfield with no damage. All the straps are in good shape and don’t show any pulls or tears. On my Rainier summit day, I wore the pack for almost 12 hours straight and the padding stayed supportive the entire time. The foam in the straps and the hip belt molded to my body well and always bounced back once I took my pack off. The zippers continued to operate smoothly even with the sand that got into everything while on the coast.

The large volume of the pack has been great. On my last two trips I didn’t need to carry my full load of winter gear so I was able to easily fit all of my gear inside of my pack which made the pack look and feel more streamlined. The large main and bottom compartments just swallow gear and the lid has plenty of room for quick access items. The extra long straps on the outside of the sleeping bag compartment are great. I was able to use them to carry my bear canister that was required on the coast.

Hiking through the rainforest to the coast
Crossing a headland on the coast

Because of the cold temperatures of my other trips I hadn’t fully explored the water storage capabilities of the pack but this was remedied on my last two trips. On my coast trip, I was able to use the Aqua Source hydration pocket for my hydration needs. My 100 oz/3 L bladder fit easily into the pocket and the quick release buckle held it in firmly in place. I have found that internal hydration bladder pockets can take up a lot of space in the main pack compartment; however, the Argon main compartment is so large that I didn’t notice any reduction of usable space. Another area where the Argon excelled is the “H20 routing port” design. The port is large enough for me to easily fit my hydration hose and bite valve through the hole, making it much easier to remove and replace my water bladder. Another feature I was able to use on my Rainier trip was the water bottle pockets on the side. They easily fit my standard size 32 oz/1 L water bottle with no problem. However they are hard to reach while wearing the pack. I can remove my water bottle from the elastic pocket but I cannot put it back and I cannot get the zippered water bottle out at all while the pack is on. This is challenging especially if I were hiking solo in cold temperatures where I wouldn’t be able to use a hydration bladder. I don’t want to have to take my pack off all the time to get a drink of water.

The pack also worked well when I stripped it down for my summit day on Rainier. I only needed enough space for my climbing tools, puffy jacket, sleeping bag, and food so I removed the top lid and put everything on the inside of the pack in the main two compartments. The side compression straps really helped shrink the pack down and hold the reduced load tightly in place. Just another way that the Argon is versatile.

Overall I think the pack is a great pack and certainly can haul a lot of gear. Even though it has shown good durability thus far, I would like to see a little stronger bottom fabric that is more abrasion resistant. This is an area where I have had problems before. Getting a pack to fit is always tricky, and this is the first time I have had a pack not fit. Not Osprey’s fault, that’s just how it goes sometimes. This concludes my Long Term Report. Thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and Osprey for allowing me to participate in this test.



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