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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Packs Argon or Xenon > Test Report by Josh Moffi

OSPREY - ARGON 110 - BACKPACK

Test Series

Initial Report - March 05, 2008

Field Report - May 14, 2008

Long-Term Report - July 15, 2008

 

 

 

 

Tester Information:

Name: Josh Moffi

Age: 37

Gender: Male

Height:  180cm (5 ft, 11 in)

Weight:  95 kg (210 lbs)

Email address: joshmoffi AT gmail DOT com

City, State, and Country: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

 

Backpacking Background:

I have been backpacking since I was 3 years old, owned my first pack at the age of 4, my first tent at 9. I have backpacked in various locations New York, Vermont, Ontario, Michigan, Oregon and Alaska. Once I introduced my wife to backpacking, we expanded our activities to anything that gets us out into the woods. I usually carry the heaviest pack in any party I hike with. I have recently started getting rid of some excessive weight from my pack. I am expanding my range of activities by to include winter backpacking and camping.

 

 

INITIAL REPORT

 

Picture of Osprey Argon 110

Image courtesy of Osprey

 

 

Product Information:

Manufacture:

Osprey

Website:

http://www.ospreypacks.com

Model:

Argon 110 L

Frame Size:

Large

Hip Belt Size:

Extra-Large

Volume:

113L (6900 cu. in.)

 

Listed

Measured

Weight

3.09 kg

(6 lb 13 oz)

3.12 kg

(6 lb 14.2 oz)

Colour:

Delta Blue, only colour available

Fabrics:

210D x 330d High Tenacity Nylon

Stretch woven Nylon with Lycra

315D Cordura High Tenacity Nylon

40D Sil Nylon

Weight Load:

25 – 37 kg (60 – 80 lb)

Year of Manufacture:

2008

MSRP:

Not Listed

-->Note: Measured pack weight with large frame and extra large hip belt.

Features:

The pack has many common features, such as a removable lid which doubles as a waist pack, horizontal and vertical compression straps, sleeping pad straps and it is water bladder compatable. There are also other features which make this an impressive pack.

These features include:

  • So far I have identified seven different pockets, including the main body of the pack. The main body of the pack is a top loading design as well as having a zipper running almost the entire length of the pack, thus allowing two ways of accessing items. There is also a sleeping bag section to the main pocket, which is separated by a piece of fabric which clips into place. This area is accessible from the top by an access panel which clips into place or from a zipper on the outside. The main body of the pack has two pockets on the back, one zippered down the side and one stretch pocket which closes with a clip. There is one pocket on each side of the pack, one is waterproof and closes, the other is a "dual entry stretch woven" pocket which has two different access points. There are also two pockets to the removable lid, both of which are accessible from the outside and are closed using zippers.
  • The frame is constructed of a curved aluminium rod. Osprey says that the curving has been designed to provide extra support for heavy loads as well as shock absorption.
  • There are six points to attach gear to the outside of the pack. Two bungie tie-offs high up on the pack which would work well for items like ski poles or items which do not have to be accessed quickly. These attachments can be cinched down with a cord lock to keep the item tightly secured. The next attachment points are the two ski loops and the two ice axe loops. Both are similar in design and are just simple loops. The ski loops are located at the sides of the pack while the slightly smaller ice axe loops are located towards the back of the pack.
  • The hip belt is made of BioForm CM A/X padding. This padding is designed to be heated in an Osprey custom hip belt molding oven and then fit to the owner. This ensures that the hip belt fits the wearer as well as possible. The other molding option is to wear the belt for a few days to mold the hip belt.
  • The pack has a water bladder pouch which is clipped into the inside of the pack. This water bladder pouch can be removed and used as a stand alone water pack using the sleeping bag straps.

 

Initial Impression:

When the Osprey Argon 110 backpack (herein called the pack) arrived I unpacked it from the box it was shipped in and thought that it was not as huge as I had expected. Then I started loosening straps and opening the pack up, it is indeed huge. There was a merchandising tag attached to the bag which said that the owner's manual was inside the pack. It took me a full two minutes to find the owner's manual. That was when I realized just how many pockets the pack had and how big it truly is. The pack is well laid out and easy to figure out if one has used a large capacity pack in the past.

I received a large frame and an extra large hip belt, as suggested by my measurements and the Osprey website. While the frame fits me, the hip belt is too large. My hip measurement is 107 cm (42 in) and the Osprey site recommends an extra large hip belt. But there is less than the recommended 7.6 cm (3 in) separation between tips of the pads and when cinched down tight it feels like the hip belt is going to slide off my hips.

I have fit the frame to my torso and find the pack comfortable when loaded with 9.07 kg (20 lb) of barbell weights. The hip belt has yet to be molded to my body, but it is comfortable. I will get the hip belt molded and fully load the pack before I adjust the frame further. One thing I learned from the owner's manual is related to fitting. Osprey talks about proper fitting of the pack as "You'll adjust the suspension onto your body and then you'll adjust the pack onto the suspension." It made me realize how I had always loaded a pack and then fit the load to a pack, put the pack on then adjusted how it fit my body. I will try the method recommended by Osprey and see if this makes for more comfortable pack. I look forward to getting this pack out into the bush.

So far the Osprey Argon 110L meets my expectations. All of the features on the pack are as they were outlined on the Osprey website. The only issue is that the hip belt sizes seem to use waist measurements when the site sais specifically to measure the hips not the waist. 

This concludes my Initial Report on the Osprey Argon 110L pack. Check back for my Field Report in early May 2008.
Thank you to Osprey and Backpackgeartest.org for allowing me to be involved in testing this item.

FIELD REPORT

Test Conditions:

In the last two months I have managed to get out twice for an overnight trip, thus the Osprey Argon 110 has seen four days, about three hours a day with a total distance covered of about 20 km (12.42 mi) of off trail travel so far. Both of these trips took place in the Algoma Highlands, an area off the south eastern edge of Lake Superior. I hiked through upland bush of open maple and white birch stands, heavier cover cedar and spruce low lands as well as thick tag alder swamps. The weather was between overcast and sunny with temperatures between 0 and 20 C (32 and 68 F). 

Test Results:

I wore the BioForm CM A/X padded hip belt around the house without the pack for a total of about 5 hours over two days before I fit it to the Argon 110 pack. After initially finding the extra-large hip belt too large and exchanging it for a large size hip belt I found the large hip belt to be a good fit. After wearing the hip belt around the house for about three hours I noticed it had started to curve and maintain a "C" shape. After about 5 hours I found that the hip belt maintained this shape. At this point I attached the belt to the pack. The hip belt attaches to the pack by means of two aluminium stays and four web straps. I found the belt very easy to attach to the pack.

After attaching the hip belt I put on the back to adjust the way the frame fit my body. With the pack empty I  found that the way the Argon 110 was set up at the factory seemed fairly comfortable. I then  loaded with 9.07 kg (20 lb) of barbell weights and tried the fit again. Even with the weights I found that the way it was set up felt comfortable. I then set the pack with my other backpacks until my first trip about a month later. 


picture of gear on first trip with Argon 110When it came time for my first trip with the Argon 110 I assembled all of my stuff  and the pack in the living room. This is usually the way I pack my pack so that I can inventory everything before I load a pack. For this trip I packed Silva Ranger compass, Go Lite Hex 3 tent and bathtub floor, cook set in mesh stuff sack (stainless steel two liter pot and  lid, titanium cup, fork and spoon, a small container of biodegradable dish soap), snacks in a small green stuff sack (beef jerky, chocolate covered espresso beans, a Clif bar, 4 small packets of sports drink crystals, and a candy bar), a can of bear spray, Svea 123 Stove, 1 L (33.81 fl oz) Sigg bottle (full of white gas), small emergency kit, a paperback novel, a small mesh bag of miscellaneous kitchen items (salt and pepper, pot holder, stove pump, two lighters, and matches), red nylon stuff sack with bear rope and pulleys, a 1.2 L (40.58 fl oz) stainless steel water bottle (full of water) and neoprene case, a 3 L (101 fl oz) CamelBak water bladder (full of water), a Sweetwater water filter,  stuff sack with candle lantern, Parabolic Side Reflector, Pac-Flat Reflector and two spare 9 hour candles, a purple stuff sack with two headlamps, and spare batteries, a compression sack with a Lafuma One Kilo sleeping bag, a Big Agnes Dual Core wide long sleeping pad and stuff sack, a fleece sleeping bag liner, a compression sack with spare clothes (a fleece, long underwear, two pairs of socks, long sleeve SmartWool shirt, and UnderArmor T-shirt), rain jacket, rain pants, softshell jacket, a 0.30 m (12 in) bowie knife and sheath, a 0.60 x 0.91 x 0.10 m (2 x 3 ft x .05 in) blue closed cell sleeping pad (for the dog), Tevas, food for two people for three days and a kitchen sink.  After reading that list you quickly realize that I am not one to pack light. I packed the Osprey Argon 110 twice before I was happy with the way things fit. I tried it on after loading it each time and could not detect any difference in balance, but found things fit better the second time. Both times I had the section divider across the bottom of the pack, making the sleeping bag area separate from the main pocket of the pack. With the exception of the sleeping bag compartment I loaded the pack from the top both times. I weighed myself with the loaded pack on a bathroom scale, then myself only, I then subtracted my weight from the initial weight and determined that the pack weighed about  27.22 kg (60 lb), this is the low end of that Osprey says the functional weight is for the Argon 110. I managed to fit all the gear into the pack with the exception of the blue foam sleeping pad which I attached with the sleeping pad straps.  I found that the Argon 110 had  very little room at the top of the main compartment. 
Pack loaded in car.Once on the trail I found that the Argon 110 felt great on my hips but it seemed like the top was a way from my shoulders and very wobbly. I released the lower straps on the shoulder straps and tightened down the top straps. Right away I realized that the pack had moved in closer to my back and was not moving around any more, it felt much more comfortable overall. I hiked to our camp site, about 4 km (2.48 mi) from the trail head, over mixed terrain all of which was off trail. I really enjoyed the way the pack carried, I did not feel any excess weight on my shoulders or back. The hip belt and shoulder straps were very comfortable.  
The next morning I repacked the pack  the same gear into the pack but released the divider thus making the sleeping bag compartment and the main compartment into one area. I found that I had more room at the top of the main pocket then I had the day before. By packing this way I also found that I could get the weight lower in the pack. I also shortened up the length of the frame from where it was. I found that both of these things made the pack even more comfortable than the day before.

On my second trip I packed all the same gear with the following changes: I did not fill the CamelBak, I did not take the blue foam sleeping pad, carried a second sleeping bag and silk sleeping bag liner, food for one person for three days, a 22.86 x 15.25 x 6.35 cm (9 x 6 x 2.5 in) tackle box and lures, and a 1 m (3.28 ft) aluminium rod case and fishing rod. I used the same method to determine that the pack weighed 24.95 kg (55 lb). Once again I packed with the sleeping bag pocket and the main compartment as one large area. I again found that the pack carried very nicely. I attached the rod case to the outside of the pack using a ski loop and side straps.  Even when hiking through very thick cover I did not feel like the pack was pulled from my back or shoved around. I found that the fishing rod case always stayed where I had attached it and did not work loose from the pack.

On both trips I removed the AquaSource ReCurve pocket to carry my CamelBak to a water source to filter water. I found this very handy as I could have my hands free while pumping the water filer. It also makes carrying a fill CamelBak back to camp very easy. I also found it very easy to get the mouth piece of the CamelBak out of the hydration vent in the pack. On my second trip I left the sleeping bag straps attached to the outside even though my sleeping pad fit inside. I wanted to have them again to use with the AquaSource ReCurve so I decided to tie the loose ends of the straps to the cross strap further up the pack and see if they would stay out of the way. They did stay up out of the way can there was no issue with having the extra straps on the pack even in dense cover.

On my second trip the temperature was higher and I found the pack warm against my back. I hiked with an external frame pack for many years and have always worried about getting too hot with an internal frame pack as I have a tendency to get warm very quickly. I have found that many of the internal frame packs that I have tried on in stores were very warm on my back even just standing in the store. While I did find the Argon 110 warm on my back it was not uncomfortably so and I found that I got use the temperature. I found that if I stood still I cooled down very quickly even with the pack still on my back.
Stream crossing with the Argon 110
Likes:

There are a few features that I like about the Argon 110. The first is the size, I found it a very roomy pack and did not feel like I was trying to squeeze in all my gear. I have not even made use of  the front zippered pocket. I like the way the pack fits and carries. The AquaSource ReCurve system, it is really nice to be able to easily remove the pocket and have a method of transporting a water bladder.

Dislikes:

I do not like the fact that there is not a small pocket somewhere in the pack to stash car keys, a wallet and a cell phone. I think that the extra security of a double pocket would be great. There is no place to put a can of bear spray and keep it handy. I ended up tucking it into the stretch side pocket behind my water bottle. With the water bottle in the side stretch pocket it is very hard to reach the water bottle.

Overall:

While it may be a heavier weight than what a lot of people want to carry, the way I pack I would rather have the extra space. I like the AquaSource ReCurve system, it is a great idea. The way the pack fits and carries is very nice.  I really like the Osprey Argon 110L pack as tested so far.

The Osprey Argon 110 will be further tested on an extended trip and the results will be reported in the Long Term Report.

This concludes my Field Report on the Osprey Argon 110L pack. 

LONG-TERM REPORT

Test Conditions:

In the last two months I have worn the Osprey Argon 110 on one ten day backpacking trip covering a total distance of about 50 km (31.06 mi) of off trail travel. This trip took place in Lake Superior Provincial Part which is located on the eastern edge of Lake Superior in northern Ontario. The terrain covered was dense coniferous forests, open hardwoods and logging roads. There was one deep water crossing and numerous creek crossings. I wore the Osprey Argon 110 backpack  for about 5 hours a day  during this trip.

The weather was varied and over the ten days the pack saw sun, rain, sleet and snow. The temperatures varied from 0 to 25 C (32 to 77 F).  During wet weather I lined the main pocket of the pack with a heavyweight contractor's garbage bag as I do not have a pack cover large enough to fit over the Argon 110. There was nothing used to cover or line the hood pockets during this time.

The weight of the pack varied as food was consumed and gear was removed. I left the house with a pack weight of  43.09 kg (97 lb), as measured using a bathroom scale to weigh me and the pack and then subtract my weight. After spending about 10 minutes with the pack on moving between the house, the car and then to the cabin where we spent the night before we hit the trail, I realized that I needed to cut weight. After cutting obviously excess gear I got my pack weight down to 39.46 kg (87 lb), as measured on a hanging scale. I carried this weight for a distance of  3 km (1.86 mi) on the first day. Over the course of the day I covered areas of very dense conifers, as well as open areas of  old logging roads and stream beds.  At the end of the first day, I realized I would need to cut still more weight in order to cover the the planned distance. I removed and cached an additional  8.16 kg (18 lb) of food and gear, this weight was determined at the end of the trip using the hanging scale.  Final pack weight at the car at the end of the trip was 24.95 kg (55 lb) as determined using a hanging scale. This was without the cached gear which was recovered later. 

Test Results:

After spending 5 hours a day with the pack on for ten straight days I have come to know the pack very well. I experienced how the pack handled under a variety of new conditions including a heavy pack weight, a large volume pack in dense brush, shallow water stream crossings, deep water river crossings, wearing the pack for extended trips, and prolonged pack use.

Shallow water crossingThe weight of the pack prior to starting the trip and the first day was at or even above the manufacturer's recommended  weight. The pack performed fine during this time but I knew that my legs and body were going to take a beating.  I do feel that the pack could carry this weight but I was not up to the task. The first day on the trail the pack performed great with a weight of  39.46 kg (87 lb). I found that the pack transferred this heavyweight well to my shoulders with most of it being on my hips. I saw no indication that the pack would have failed if I had carried this weight for the entire trip. There is only one issue that came up over that first day and that was due to the size of the pack. I had a difficult time manoeuvring in dense bush due to the width of the pack. At this point the pack was very full and the expansion straps were slacked off  but not completely.  I found that the Osprey Argon 110 was very wide this was due to the amount of gear and food being carried. The manoeuvrability issues were due to trying to get around close trees and brush. In open areas I found that the pack performed very well and the large pack size was not an issue on open sections of old logging roads.

The night before we hit the trail and the first day on the trail also showed that the amount of gear I could fit in the pack had increased due to better packing. In fact even after cutting gear the night before I still had more gear and food when I left the trail head than I had carried on the previous overnighters. After caching gear and food, I found I could start to cinch the expansion straps down tighter resulting in a smaller pack volume. On the second day with the reduced weight and volume I found the Osprey Argon 110 a very comfortable pack. With the reduction in gear and food the pack weight was about 30.39 kg (67 lb) on day two, this is about the centre of the manufacture's recommended weight range. When packing that morning I found that there was a noticeable reduction in the volume of the pack as well. From the second morning on I found that the way the pack handled in dense bush was greatly improved.  

At the end of the ten day trip I hiked back in the approximately 3 km (1.86 mi) to recover cached gear. This was done as quickly as could possibly be done with off trail travel and the entire trip in and out was done in three hours forty five minutes. During the trip in I had minimal gear in the pack for the trip in. I carried emergency food, two Clif Bars, water filter, rope, a 1.5 l (51 fl oz) stainless steel water bottle with water, rain gear and a fleece. I had the all of the expansion straps of the Argon 110 cinched down as far as they would go. I found that the pack fit comfortably and did not bounce around at all. On the trip out all I loosened the expansion straps, put the 8.16 kg (18 lb) of food and gear right into the backpack in the dry bag it had been cached in, cinched the expansion straps down, put the pack on and readjust the shoulder straps and waist band. During the trip out I found that the pack carried very well and the load did not shift at all.  I am very happy with the way that the Osprey Argon 110 carries different loads so well.

Deep water crossingThe route of the trip called for crossing numerous creeks and rivers of different sizes. On the first day I wore the pack across waist deep water. Crossing conditions varied,  from slack water to steady speed with bottom substrates sizes ranging from sand to cobble. I found that the Argon 110 backpack was very well fitted to my body and I did not feel off balance at all regardless of the substrate. I could manoeuvre across and up streams much as I would have if I had not been wearing a backpack. At the end of day five the route called for a deep water river crossing. This meant that the packs would be wrapped in waterproof covering and roped across a 61 m (200 ft)  river deep enough to require the hikers to swim the entire width. While I am not sure of the pack weight at this point I would guess it to be about 28.12 kg (62 lb).  Once I had the Osprey Argon 110 backpack wrapped in a ground cloth it was placed in the river to determine how stable it was, this was to ensure that it did not roll over in the middle of the river, take on water and sink. The Argon 110 preformed amazingly. This may have been due to its very curved shape allowing  better stability, and it was the one of most stable of the packs which were roped across the river.

During wet weather I lined the main pocket of the Osprey Argon 110 backpack with a heavyweight contractor's garbage bag but did nothing to waterproof the top pockets. I found that while the fabric of the pack did absorb water it did not transfer any large amount of moisture to items on the inside of the pack. The pack dried quickly once the weather dried up.


photo of the side pocket

Over the entire test series I have found a couple things with the Osprey Argon 110 which  are a nuisance. The first issue is the location and shape of the side pockets. While I did get use to getting items into and out of the zippered side pocket the location of the pocket makes it difficult to access with the pack on and hard to retrieve small items from the pocket. I did find that the zipper was easy to open and close once I got use to the location and the angle of the pocket. The second issue I had was the "dual entry stretch pocket" I got use to putting my water bottle into the pocket and being able to retrieve it with the pack on. But I could not access it through the top access even with the pack off. In addition this is the only spot I found to keep bear spray and I could not access my water bottle at all with the pack on when I had the bear spray in the pocket, unless I had help. I did find I could access the bear spray by myself with or without the water bottle in the stretch pocket, while wearing the backpack. This may be more important as there is a place for a water bladder in the Argon 110. The other nuisance item was that the straps for the hood would often catch on the releases for the shoulder straps resulting in the top adjustment of the shoulder strap becoming loose during rest breaks. This is not really a problem when the pack was carrying a heavy load as I loosen and readjust the pack every time I put it on. But when there is less weight in the back I often put it back on and go. I would usually realize within ten or fifteen minutes of being on the trail that one shoulder strap was loose and readjust the pack.

Picture of hole

While I did not have any failures due to design or materials I did have a major failure with the way the pack was put together. On the second day of my ten day trip, I set the pack on the ground and leaned it up against a clump of alder stumps about 7.62 cm (3 in) in diameter. One of the ends came to rest against the back pocket there the mesh material is welted to the stretch fabric, the welt separated immediately. Once I returned home I checked to see if it was just this area or if it was the welt, it was evident that the welt was going to continue to come undone if left. I contacted the manufacturer's  warranty division and told them what had happened. They had me send the pack in for repairs. When I got the pack back I inspected it to see what had been done to correct the problem. They did not re-welt the seam but instead stitched all the way around the area where the mesh joins the stretch material. It looks like it was part of the original design.  I have yet to get the pack out into the field to see how well this repair will hold up.

Picture of the repairs


Likes:

The thing I continue to like most about the Osprey Argon 110 is the volume. I feel that I could put whatever I need for an extended trip into the pack and not have to squeeze it in. I know that I can get more food and gear into the pack than my body will carry. I have continued to use the AquaSource ReCurve system in and out of the pack and find it a great bonus. After many river crossings I have also come to enjoy the mesh on the back pocket. I think that it is a great place to put water shoes, allowing them to dry and not bounce on the outside of the pack.  

Dislikes:

I do not like the fact that the hood has the tendency to release the adjustment at the top of the shoulder straps. But I do not see what could be done to fix this. I do find that by releasing all the adjustments and refitting the pack every time I put it on it seems to carry better, so this may be a blessing in disguise. I also do not like the fact that the mesh material was just welted to the stretch material of the back pocket. Considering this is an expedition pack which seems to be very well built I think way the mesh fabric is attached the the stretch fabric of the back pocket is an area which is under designed. My other dislike about the Argon 110 continues to be the side pockets. I just do not like the way they are laid out and their accessibility.

moose shed

Overall:

I have really come to love the Osprey Argon 110. I like the way it fits, carries, the weight to volume ratio and the way it is laid out. I love the fact that I can pack my gear without trying to put bulky stuff into compression sacks and pack around them. I enjoy the AquaSource Recurve system for increasing the transportability of my water bladder. Overall the positives of the Osprey Argon 110 far out way any down sides, this is a good expedition pack which I will continue to get a lot of use out of.


This concludes my Long-Term Report and thus my test series on the Osprey Argon 110L pack. 

Thank you to Osprey and Backpackgeartest.org for allowing me to be involved in testing this item.

 

 



Read more reviews of Osprey gear
Read more gear reviews by Josh Moffi

Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Packs Argon or Xenon > Test Report by Josh Moffi



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