- Buyer's Guide
Osprey Farpoint 55 Review :: Drive By
Epic adventure is the name of the game for Matt Williams, who has explored South America from Columbia, through the Amazon, down to the edge of the world in Patagonia. Top it off with time spent discovering and settling into life in Germany, and it’s fair to say he’s well traveled. But what bag would accompany him on his South American adventure? Matt picked the Osprey Farpoint 55 as his carry travel buddy, and gives us the scoop on how it performed below…
My partner, Kat, and I were off for an adventure through South America, starting at the beaches of the Caribbean, working our way through lively salsa-dancing cities, the high altitudes of the Andes, the wet and wild Amazon, right down to South America’s crown jewel, Patagonia. There was a lot to cover and at the front of our minds was the obvious question — what bag will rule them all?
We needed a bag that we could move in and out of easily, big enough for all of our essentials while constraining enough to force us to reconsider extra luxuries. Something with a little security for extra peace of mind and that could still keep up with us when we ventured off the beaten path.
The Osprey Farpoint 55 was the obvious choice, a travel backpack with a 42L main pack and a 13L daypack. It is a well traveled bag and a favorite amongst backpackers around the world. I wanted to see if it lived up to its fame.
Who It Suits
This is a generalist traveler’s bag. Good for people who want a bit of versatility on longer trips moving from hostel to the outback.
Who It Doesn’t
This is not for a specific-purpose traveler. If you are off for a hiking adventure or a city tour I would look towards bags designed for those conditions.
We were constantly on the move and always changing our setup so quick access was super important. This is where the Farpoint truly is king. The main pack has a front full-length zip to get complete access to every corner of the pack. It’s a big open compartment and its simplicity is its biggest asset. To make the most of this space we picked up some Stuff Sacks from Kathmandu and arranged them by weather conditions so we could quickly reshuffle on the go. There were countless times on our travels where we would be ready to go, or at a bus terminal and would need something at the bottom of our pack. It was always such a moment of stoke to get to the bottom of the bag hassle-free, no need to repack. While our friends with top-loaded bags were constantly emptying and repacking their bag.
The 42L main compartment turned out to be the perfect size for us. I toed and froed at the start on whether I could get away with something smaller — I tend to use all the space I have, so it made sense to limit this from the start and then work out how to get by with just the essentials. The 42L, for me, was just right. There were a few tough decisions that we made along the way on what to leave behind, but we had enough space to bring the things we really needed/wanted.
“The main pack has a front full-length zip to get complete access to every corner of the pack.”
On the outside of the main pack there is a handy array of straps — two compression straps, sleeping pad straps on the bottom-side and some well placed hoops for hiking sticks. These straps give the bag the extra versatility that we needed. We used them as a clothesline to dry our towels and bathers; to expand our storage once we added a tent and sleeping pad; and to hold on to and air out our hiking boots.
The 13L daypack was a nice little companion to the main bag. It is again the simplicity that makes this bag as useful as it is. The main compartment opens up fully for easy access to all the corners of the bag. I really loved that — on day trips where we had everything tightly packed it was always a pleasure getting to a peak, taking off the hiking boots and opening the bag right up to find that extra Snickers that would have otherwise been forgotten in the bottom of the bag. There is also a laptop sleeve sitting on your back — we didn’t have a laptop but this was good for keeping any travel documents and sketchpads uncrinkled. And the small quick-access pocket was helpful for those things we were constantly reaching for.
“The 13L daypack was a nice little companion to the main bag. The main compartment opens up fully for easy access to all the corners of the bag.”
As a daypack the size was mostly good albeit tight. It fit my DSLR camera, a jacket and a few snacks; not much more than that. For wandering around the city or going for a day hike, it fit everything we needed nice and snug. We did stretch the limits of this little bag when we went on a 3-day hike around the Quilotoa loop in Ecuador. We were lodging overnight at small towns along the way so there was no need for tents and sleeping mats. We took advantage of the hooks on the front of the bag for attaching a few extra little bags to add extra capacity and off we went. It more or less worked well, but it was definitely a stretch for the little bag. Day hike: big ✓; 3-day hike: half ✓. I was happy with that.
The daypack went particularly well in transit. We could happily drop off our main bags knowing all our valuables and in-bus entertainment (Kindle and a few snacks) were on hand. Its small size didn’t take away much of our precious legroom.
Both bags have lockable zips that gave us the extra peace of mind that we needed to fall asleep on the many long overnight hauls. This was an important feature for us when we were comparing the bag, especially to other top-loaders that don’t generally have this.
“Both bags have lockable zips that gave us the extra peace of mind that we needed to fall asleep on the many long overnight hauls.”
On to hiking, we were often off the beaten track on 3 to 5-day self-sufficient hikes. This was where we were most nervous that the bag wouldn’t be up for the task but were happily surprised. The back system is framed with light but comfortable and adjustable shoulder straps and a hip strap to distribute the weight across your body. At most I had 20kgs on my back and had no problem with this. The bag held the weight close to the body and felt pretty well distributed across the hips and shoulders. That said, if I were looking to carry more than 20kgs I would look to a bag with a stronger hip strap. I was conscious of the weatherproofing of the bag compared to top-loaders but a few extra plastic bags in the main compartment made all the difference we needed to keep our gear dry. I have no doubt that a more purpose-built hiking bag would have helped the cause but considering all the other travel we were also doing with this bag we were stoked with its performance.
And lastly, perhaps most importantly, the durability of these bags is a real wow factor. Both our bags held up extremely well. We threw them around a lot and really stretched the capacity of the bag and the only sign of aging was a color fade from the sun. No fraying edges, no busted seams, great durability that you need as a traveler.
The Not So Good
Osprey’s dominance in the backpacker market is probably its biggest downside as a traveler. You will see a lot of these guys on the street making you blend in with the crowd. It’s kinda the VW of the backpackers’ world.
In transit, the support frame of the main pack is too big to bring in overhead storage — so against common travel advice in South America, we would always leave the bag out of sight in the undercarriage storage, forcing us to sleep with one eye open on some of the less traveled overnight hauls.
“In transit, the support frame of the main pack is too big to bring in overhead storage.”
The daypack clips to the front of the main pack or zips to the back. The clips are a bit too fiddly to clip in without a second pair of hands and so I very rarely used them, more often opting to throw the back straps backwards over my shoulders. Zipping it to the back generally put too much weight behind me throwing out the balance, so I also never found myself using that feature either.
Overall, the Osprey Farpoint did live up to its name as the travel king. It gave us the perfect versatility to go from backpacking city to city to hiking mountain to mountain. Sure, if you are purely traveling through cities a roller suitcase might be the best pick, or if you are on a hiking adventure the top-loader certainly would outperform, but for both I don’t think you can do much better than the Osprey Farpoint.