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Road Tests

Road Tests :: Osprey Momentum 26

by , June 1, 2011

Road Test | Osprey Momentum 26

In the past few years, my city has really stepped up the support and promotion they give to alternative forms of commuting. This all cumulates in May with the Commute to Work Challenge and CycleMAYnia, a collection of bike themed events throughout the month. I have always been a cyclist but only recently have I started commuting and, thus, taking steps to use gear that is functional and practical. Like many Caryologists, I have stuff. Lots of it. And I usually want it with me. While I have plenty of messenger bags and backpacks, and technically, any of those could be used as a commuting bag, I wanted something designed from the ground up to meet the needs of commuters. I think I found it.

The way I picture it, when the designers sat down to create the Momentum, they referred to a commuter’s wish-list of features and started figuring out what they could incorporate and what they would need to get rid of. Fortunately, I don’t think there were too many things crossed out. I was sent the 26 liter pack by Osprey to try out. It’s the smaller of the two packs, weighing just a hair over a pound. For my 5’8″ frame, it was the perfect size. To be honest, I used to be into carrying huge packs just in case I needed the volume. The reality is I don’t really need a large pack.

Highlights
Expandability: The Momentum has an expansion panel which is activated by a single zipper that runs the three-quarters perimeter of the bag. It expands the 26 liter bag to 31 liters. That difference means I was able to fit in a medium sized box to ship out once I got to work. With the expansion panel closed, the bag is nice and compact while still retaining a perfectly usable and spacious main compartment.

Straps: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again but the attention to detail Osprey puts on straps is unparalleled. Let’s face it, straps the difference between a good fitting pack and one that bounces around. There are quite a number of innovations here. The most interesting is that the pack can convert from a backpack to a “briefcase.” The shoulder straps can fold backwards into a specially designed rear panel and completely disappear. There are top and side grab loops and the waist straps can be completely removed. Sometimes when I am carrying a small load on my bike, I don’t use the waist strap and don’t want it flapping around. A nightmare of mine is to have a rogue strap tangled in the rear wheel or drivetrain.

Another cool strap feature are loops to keep excess slack in check. I am a smallish framed person so I have to pull the adjustment straps pretty tight. With other bags, this means upwards of a foot of straps dangling all about.

Commuting specific features: These things sound so simple but I think it really adds to the Momentum’s case as a commuting bag. I attended a bike to work event yesterday and instead of hanging my helmet on my handles or lugging it around with me while I balanced a plate of yogurt and granola in the other hand, I just strapped it to the back of the bag. I also like that Osprey put reflective strips all over outside of the bag, but in a very minimalist way. The entire panel does not light when hit with a light, just small portions.

What’s really neat is they put these strips on the inside of the front panel as well. Why would you need it on the inside? Well imagine you stopped on a night commute and need to grab something out. The tabs help you identify the different pouches so you can quickly find what you need.

There’s also a raincover that is quickly deployed from the bottom of the pack. Now I don’t need to ride with a vinyl pack to keep it dry. I can have a fashionable nylon bag and deploy the cover when the weather gets grim. The front also sports a blinker light attachment point and unlike the Flapjack, it’s a thick reinforced strip so the attachment feels secure.

Compartments galore: They key to a good pack is organization and the Momentum has plenty of features to help you with this. While you are wearing the pack, you’ll notice a pouch on each of the shoulder straps. On the right side, there’s a compartment to hold your keys, complete with a retractable cord. On the other side is a padded pocket to hold your cell phone. They also thoughtfully lined the zipper track to prevent scratching up that iPhone of yours.

The front-most panel has semi-soft heat embossed fabric which offers a non-scratch surface for glasses electronics. While fleece could be used, the material Osprey went with is much easier to clean. Just imagine how many spent energy gel packs you kept in the back of your jersey pocket. Now they can go in the pack and it’s a simple wipe post-ride to get things clean again. The compartment has a pen slot, mesh pocket and a slide pocket, plus a key-clip which I found perfect for USB flash drives and spare keys I don’t need to access daily. I usually keep my sunglasses in a case but for days I go caseless, I make sure to put the keys inside the pocket directly behind the clip, so they don’t scratch my shades.

The main compartment has a document pocket which holds A4 documents and manila envelopes with ease. This is a godsend for me since I always have various invoices, receipts, agendas and notepads with me. There are also three more pocket pouches which are designated for bike tools but really can be used for anything. You lose a bit of room at the bottom due to the raincover.


Lowlights
Oddly shaped cell phone pocket: While I am a huge fan of the cell phone pocket, I am perplexed at the odd shape. It’s sort of ovalish even though phones are almost always rectangles. It fits a smart phone just fit but you’ll soon notice there’s plenty of height available. I really need access to two things post-ride: my phone and my wallet, which includes my RFID security card to access my workplace. What I’ve been doing is putting both inside the pouch. Unfortunately, this is a very tight fit that results in my phone (screen) turning on during the ride and the screen getting marks on it from the wallet hardware. Technically, the pocket is meant for cell phones only but it’s so cavernous, it makes me want to put another flat item in there. I think it’d be nice if Osprey could slim it down or make it a bit larger to accommodate both items.

Cheap retractable key clip: I really dig the retractable keyclip and it’s one of those things that makes you wonder how you lived so long without one on a bag. Unfortunately, when I took a look at it, I found it to be a little cheap. The Osprey logo print on it looked like it was already fading, even on a brand new bag. I know it’s such a simple mechanism but my only fear is it potentially wearing out early. I do realize this is a totally bonus piece of hardware that Osprey did not even have to include. Luckily, for the nitpicky like myself, the retracting mechanism is completely replaceable. As a side note, here’s a protip for the readers: attach a micro carabiner clip to the ring and you’ll be able to easily remove and attach your keys to it.

Lack of U-Lock slot: I received the latest iteration of the Momentum but if you look at earlier versions, you’ll notice two differences: the older ones had zipped pockets on the sides instead of mesh pockets and they had U-Lock slots. While I prefer the mesh for water bottles, I really wish Osprey kept the U-Lock slot. Where am I supposed to put it now? They are such heavy things that putting it into the main or front compartment where I might have delicate items is not and attractive idea.

Best suited to

Commuters who don’t carry too much gear: The bag is perfect for commuters who are just carrying an average amount of things to their destination. It can handle a large number of items, but not any single item that takes up a large amount of volume, save for a laptop. Small cameras, flash drives, notepads, multitool, spare tube, etc are perfect and all will find a home in one of the internal pockets. There are no large cavernous pockets here which is a con to people trying to carry six-packs but also a boon for people like me who don’t like losing my Square reader on the bottom of a bag.

Professionals who commute to work: I won’t claim that this is a professional looking pack. Osprey is a technical pack company and this is another example of that. However, with the ability to stow away all dangling straps and the sturdy side strap, a professional would not draw too much attention carrying the Momentum briefcase-style into a lobby or office.

Not suited to
Non-commuters: While anyone could clearly use this bag as a day to day bag, the main draw is obviously the commuter specific features it boasts. The three-compartment design results in smaller main compartments and really would be annoying for anyone who needed the volume for a large jacket or other sizable equipment. With no hydration pouch support, this also would not be an ideal bag for hiking or trail-running.

Any niggles?
I supposed I’d want to see strap retention on all the straps because I really don’t like the slack dangling around. Also, the helmet attachment uses elastic cords and it is very very difficult to work. You can’t get enough leverage with one hand while positioning your helmet with the other hand. I’d like to see more slack given. That way the user can just attach the helmet and tighten everything down with the cord clip on the end. On a recent trip to the farmer’s’ market, I realized that the compartments are very difficult to access with a helmet attached.

Any envy for a similar bag?
To be honest, besides panniers, I don’t feel like the industry has really shown any love for backpacks for commuters. While it’s not perfect, the Momentum is pretty darn close.

Conclusion
When you are riding your bike to work each day, you want a pack that does exactly what you need. No more, no less. I think the Momentum 26 really hits the sweet spot between size and functionality. It has everything including the kitchen sink. Its series of compartments keeps things separated and organized and its cycling specific features such as a helmet attachment point and pocket for keys and your cell phone show purpose-driven design philosophies.

Clearly, the team at Osprey either commute themselves or sat down with those who do. At the price point and considering how much use one would get from such a bag, I would not hesitate to recommend it.

Reader's Review

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  • http://www.imawesome.de Dean

    Actually looks quite promising. I am so sick of most bags not having a proper place for your keys and you having to take your bag off. Its uber annoying at my Chrome Metropolis, which is why don’t use it in favor of my monsoon gearslinger sometimes.

    Otherwise it also seemed quite…big. Are there comparison pictures?

    • Beaver

      I wanted to like my kodiak gear slinger but having no proper place for keys is sometimes a little less frustrating than 13 proper places, eh maybe I am wrong. I am just to scatterbrained to have more than 4 pockets.

      The maxpedition site is being a dick, does the monsoon have strap pockets? For a minute I was attaching my keys to the clip on the strap of the Kodiak but it felt too exposed.

  • Pingback: Elsewhere | Osprey Momentum 26 | Gear Unlocked()

  • hc

    they also make a 34L version. I think I’ll get the 34L, since I always over-pack. I believe the 34L is pretty much same as the 26L, except that the 34L has a U-lock pocket.

  • http://www.jito.co.uk Laurence

    Hi,

    Thanks for the review! I don’t suppose that is a 17″ macbook in the picture is it? I’m looking for a bag big enough and I’m struggling.

    Thanks,

    L

    • http://www.sygyzy.com/ David

      Hi L,

      Sorry but that’s a 15″ Macbook

  • http://www.vicfryzel.com/ Vic

    Thanks for the review, super helpful! One question I had though: can you list exactly what you were able to fit in the pack? e.g. were you able to fit a complete second set of clothes, shoes, and laptop? Is it “overloaded” if you do that?

    Thanks again!

  • Pingback: Osprey Packs Media Spot » Carryology.com – Featuring: Momentum 26 – June 2011()

  • Tbro

    I have the 34L and by all means I am glad I bought the larger one. The bag carries everything but the kitchen sink and when compressed it feels no bigger or cumbersome than the Gregory Miwok 22. The stowaway straps are genius and the interior organization, pull tabs, and retractable key ring show how much Osprey put in to making the bag. My only gripe is the laptop protection. There isn’t much of any but if there was it would just add weight and not everyone wants to carry a laptop in their pack. The easy solution is just to use a slim laptop sleeve and slide your laptop in the furthest back part of the pack.

    Overall, I give this pack 5 out of 5 stars and I have a Deuter, Gregory, Mountainsmith and REI pack but the Osprey just shines above the rest.

    • http://www.vicfryzel.com/ Vic

      Thanks!

      What I ended up doing was ordering both, and returning the one I didn’t want. Turns out you’re exactly right. Side by side, the packs look almost identical. The 34L is almost suspiciously similar in size. They seemed to be about the same height and width when compressed.

      I’m keeping the 34L for sure. The difference in weight wasn’t noticeable. And the compression system, as you’ve mentioned, is just fantastic.

      I commute 24 miles each day (~12 to work, and ~12 back) by bike.

      Before the Momentum 34, I had a Chrome Citizen messenger bag, which is 26L. I have to say, the Momentum 34 is so much more comfortable with the same amount of stuff in it. In the Chrome bag, I would put a pair of shoes, jeans, shirt, 13″ Macbook Air, wallet, cell phone, and keys . What would happen is the bag would really weigh down on my chest, and make it hard to breathe after a while. It wasn’t unbearable, but it was annoying and dragging me down. Also, to access anything on the Chrome bag was a pain in the ass. You’d have to flip the bag around, unbuckle 2 clips, and then unvelcro the front flap. Then, you’d have to dig through either one huge pocket or 3 front ones that were too small to access easily.

      It was also a bit difficult to fit things like a multitool, spare tube, and U-lock in the Chrome bag.

      My biggest gripe with the Chrome bag is that the laptop sleeve is separate, and on the outer edge of the bag. You have to buy a special laptop sleeve from Chrome with is just like any other laptop sleeve, and it velcros inside the bag. But then, when you fill the bag with stuff (e.g. shoes or clothes), those things are bunched up against your back. It makes the bag protrude awkwardly against your back. If the laptop had been against the inner edge, it would have just been flat against your back. It makes the whole bag pack really awkwardly, and goes against the packing rule of keeping the heaviest things closest to your back.

      Now, I put the same amount of stuff in the Momentum 34 with plenty of room to spare. I’ve noticed the weight sways less and is more balanced and distributed across my back, and it straps down super flat. The same amount of stuff actually feels lighter. Also, my work badge, slim wallet (Saddleback Leather Wallet Sleeve), and keys all fit up front in the 2 shoulder pockets. My Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone (which is a huge, flat rectangle) barely fits in the front left shoulder pocket if I take its protective case off. Even then, though, I use a Garmin Edge 500 bike GPS, so not much reason to keep my phone up front any more.

      I have an Osprey Kestrel 32, and for commuting, the Kestrel is inferior to the Momentum in all but one way. I wish the Momentum 34 had the air suspension back, so that it was a bit cooler. I’ve worn the Momentum 34 casually for a few days now, and it has gotten my back slightly sweaty. I intend to use the pack for bike commuting though, which will make this not a problem, because I’ll sweat a lot anyway. I think that Osprey didn’t include the air suspension back because that back doesn’t work very well when leaned forward on a bike. I think the suspension really only works while a person is standing upright, but leaning forward would put the pack right up against your back anyway. The Kestrel also has a few more backpacking features, and a ton less commuting features. I’ll probably use the Kestrel for day trips still, and use the Momentum for daily commuting.

      All in all, I love the Momentum 34, too, and am glad I got the 34 and not the 26.

  • Tony

    Nice review. I actually ordered after reading it.

    As suggested in other forums and reviews, including the feedback of this one, I also purchased both the 34 and the 26 to see which one I liked best. Honestly I wanted to like the 34 better because I love the extra zip pocked on the inside of the pack and the external pocket was pretty nice as well. But, the lack of even a single mesh pocket for my 20 oz. Contigo water bottle was the deal breaker.

    They both hold a ton of stuff, even the 26 when expanded held almost as much as the 34. I actually didn’t notice much of a difference. I filled both packs with the same gear and they both fit it just fine. The 34 seemed like I could have squeezed in a little more, but not as much as I expected given the difference in capacity. I went with the M/L on the 26 but only the S/M was available on the 34, so maybe that was the difference.

    All in all, I was shocked at how well thought out the bag was. I would have been happy with either the 34 or the 26, but the 26 fit my needs best because of the external water bottle pocket. I have always been a North Face and Camelbak fan for this type of bag, but this one easily beats them both for a commuter type or even as a plus one air travel bag.

  • Scott

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the great review.

    You said you were 5’8″, did you get the S/M size or the M/L for your sized frame?

    Thanks, -Scott

    • http://www.sygyzy.com/ David

      Scott, so sorry I didn’t reply. I totally didn’t see this question. I got the S/M.

  • Scott

    It looks like this thread may be dead, but just another follow-up from me since this is the first result that come back from google so maybe this will help someone.

    I ended up trying out both the S/M and the M/L and ended up going with the S/M.

    I’m just under 6′ tall and my torso measurement of 19″ put me right at the border of a S/M or M/L, I first tried the M/L and found it was just way to long for me. I had to put the straps all the way up just to feel comfortable while riding, and even then when I dismounted at stop-lights, etc the bag would hang down onto my butt hit the bike seat when standing. It just generally didn’t feel right. and having to cinch the straps all the way to their max was a bad sign.

    I returned it for a S/M and all of my problems were solved. Feels comfortable on my back without hanging down below my tail bone and I still have plenty of room to since the stap up if I want to wear the bag higher.

    • http://www.sygyzy.com/ David

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for the feedback. Sizing is always a tricky issue for our readers, especially when order sight-unseen online. My issue with bags is I am often between sizes as well, especially on Osprey’s scale. I often exhaust all the slack in the waist-belt and shoulder straps. I definitely err on the side of smaller nowadays.

      Feel free to revisit this thread in a few weeks time to let us know how you like the bag.

    • Scott

      Hi David,

      I’ve had a few weeks to test out the Momentum and it’s awesome. Perfect for biking.

      Some additional thoughts:

      Tons of places to store stuff. As you mentioned in your review, the cell phone pocket is pretty useless for smartphones, but it’s a great place to store anything small.

      The back is is very comfortable. I wasn’t so sure when I first saw the “washboard” design, but it feels great.

      If someone is an average build and have around a 19″ torso, definitely go Small/Medium. It’s gives the ability to carry it high or low on the back, depending on the situation.

      I’m glad I got this one instead of the Momentum 34 liter. I’m happy NOT to have the external U-Lock pocket that the 34 liter does. I do a lot of trail riding as well as city riding, and after riding on the trails this weekend, ducking under trees and brush, I relized that either two things would have happened with that pocket: It would have gotten caught on a tree and pulled me off my bike or the pocket would have ripped off.

      I also like that the 26 has the two bottle holders on either side (the 34 does not) and the fact you can tighten the strap to hold in bottles is nice, especially on the trails. The 34 does have two zipper pockets in the same place, but I’d rather have mesh to the sweat from the bottles can evaporate instead of collecting in a pocket.

      Thanks again for your review and pointing me in the right direction.

      -Scott

  • Joe

    All the reveiws have been very helpful!
    I’m trying to figure out if the pack (either 26 or 34) can carry a dress shirt, pants, and shoes comfortably. Ideally I’d like a pack that the shirt and pants would stay somewhat in place so there not wrinkled at work. My typicaly commute is 5 miles each way and I usually bring work clothes to change into. Besides that, everything else about the pack looks appealing.

    • Scott

      Hi Joe,

      I don.t think you’d have a problem carrying your work clothes in the 26 liter. I think they would definitely fit (the 26 liter also expandable to 31 liters), and as far as keeping them in place there are cinch straps that could probably be tied down enough to keep things from moving around.

      -Scott

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