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Beta Editors’ Choice: Osprey Savu 2

Making the most of it

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I’m about to stage a mutiny here at Beta. Every one of us owns a Bontrager Rapid pack. It was chosen, pretty much unanimously, as our favorite pack when we put together the Editors’ Choice feature in our premiere print issue a few months ago. But if Osprey had sent me this Savu 2 before we voted, I’d have been the lone dissenting juror keeping everyone in the Marriott conference room until 2 A.M. debating ventilation, bottle re-entry, and functional storage space. As far as my lumbar real estate is concerned, the Osprey Savu 2 wins on all accounts.

It’s pretty clear that Osprey makes nothing but bags. And not just cycling bags. They make everything from urban tote bags to wheeled luggage to multi-day backpacking packs. You can see Osprey’s nearly five decades of experience in the world of canvas and zippers through how well thought-out the Savu 2 is. There’s not much to work with when designing a small hip pack. They’re small, they sit on your hips and they pack stuff. Everything is more or less settled. Osprey found a way to innovate. Starting with the angled bottle holster.

That isn’t new. A few other riding packs and plenty of running packs use this concept. I don’t have to reach as far or pull in as unnatural a direction to get the bottle out as I do a centered vertical bottle … like on the Rapid Pack. But it really disrupts what it’s possible to do with the rest of the pack. the Camelbak Podium Flow belt moves the bottle off to one side, but it limits the pack’s potential overall width in the interest of staying balanced. Mavic actually made a pretty cool pack with a diagonal bottle in the center, but it made one side of the storage into a bit of a write-off. Deuter widens each side to make for two fully-formed compartments, but to keep it from outgrowing its category, those pouches are small and structurally pretty flat. Same goes for most running packs that will hold a bottle flanked with 2-dimensional items like cash, cards and phones. The Savu 2 solves this with what, I think, is its most ingenious feature. It connects the two side pockets into one.

Yes, the Savu 2’s main storage compartment is accessed by two zippers on either side of the bottle, but it stretches from end to end and is loose-fitting enough to allows bulky iterms to wrap around the bottle from one side to the other. The connection even extends down below the bottle holster itself. This does add to the net cubic inch capacity of the pack, but that’s not why I’m such a fan of this feature. Filling the Savu 2 to the gills, like many hip packs, is too much. But most mid-sized hip pack compartments are always somehow just slightly too small for one bulky item I want to put in. My hand pump is a little too long or my windbreaker will need to evict every other item to allow the zipper to close. In the case of the Savu 2, the two small side pouches share the load while still offering most of the advantages of having two small side pouches. But not all of them. If I put a multi tool or a CO2 cartridge loose in the pack, it will sink down to the difficult to reach bottom of the pack like a cell phone underneath a car seat … a passenger’s cell phone, of course. Small items best carried in the mesh pockets affixed to the rear wall of the pack. Interestingly, one is narrow and deep, which is great for those tools and CO2s. The other is wide and shallow, perfect for bars and gels.

In the middle of all this, the bottle holster is almost a magic trick. It’s made up of firm structural foam, so even when the bottle is bottoms-up, the holster keeps its integrity despite being crowded by the rest of the cargo stuffed on either side of it. And then it’s integrated seamlessly (well, I guess there technically are a couple seams) with the top outer surface of the pack. Not only does it look clean and simple, but there are no lips or ridges to catch when you’re searching with the edge of your bottle to find its home. And interestingly, any items in the pack will fill out its shape, making the canvas around the holster flatter and tighter. Unlike most one-bottle hip packs, I feel like I can’t miss.

And then there’s how it works on your body.  Osprey does an ok job at ventilating the surface that sits on your back. That’s a losing battle, if you ask me. Even if we wore our packs on bare skin, it’d be hard for a weighted surface to allow a breeze to pass through and bring any body heat along with it on the way out. Best they can do is be comfortable. And the Savu 2 is comfortable. The structural foam is well placed and well shaped, the material that flanks it is flexible enough to be form-fitting but firm enough to not stretch and bounce. But the overall shape is what makes the most sense. Extending from the buckle, around to the pack and back again is one nearly flat horizontal ring hugging your waist. The bulk of the pack “hangs” below it, but the tension lines up when it’s under load such that it never actually feels like it’s “hanging.” All of the forces are managed perfectly, and the load is distributed evenly.

And you can theoretically keep this pack for life. Osprey offers a free repair service (fine print to be found at that will fix or replace your bag, regardless of age. They don’t make a big deal of it, but they should. It’s the sort of feature that makes sense coming from a brand like Osprey. A brand that only makes bags.

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Photos: Anthony Smith