This is an expensive bit of baggage, however beautifully purple it is, so it’s fair to demand greatness from Osprey's Women's Raven 14 backpack. Pleasingly, there’s a lot of awesome about the Raven – it’s obviously a carefully considered piece of kit.
Top of the list is the roominess of the internal pockets; they're big enough for digging into in wet and bulky gloves. Second is the generous waterproof pocket for chunky phones or unlaminated maps. Then there’s the helmet carrying system, which is frankly a blessing on sweaty climbs. There’s even a rollaway tool organiser in a secret compartment in the base and two biscuit-sized pockets on the waist belt. Pure genius!
But with all this room for trailside sandwiches comes heft: the Raven is not minimalist. But if you’re not racing and just want something stylish and practical for long rides then it should be on your list. It carries 3l of water, which is plenty in all seasons bar the height of summer. I’ve never needed the bladder full during testing, at any rate.
The wide neck is fairly easy to refill – particularly thanks to the asymmetric zip, which makes it easy to whip out and get under a tap – and so far the screw cap hasn’t jammed, which has happened with most competitors I’ve tried.
The Osprey Raven 14 includes an integrated tool roll to store your trail essentials (tools not included, sadly)
Even with a part-filled bladder, throw in a bunch of tools and waterproofs and the pack will get pretty bulky. There are, however, straps for compressing in the weight as close as possible to your back and prevent swinging on the climbs. This works well, and the weight distribution feels comfortable across the three large contact pads on the back.
For me though the shoulder straps are an awkward fit. Despite the women’s-specific design and my average build, they fail to sit flush across my upper chest and shoulders.
This is, to be fair, more aesthetically irritating than uncomfortable. But more serious is that if I nudge the horizontal chest strap high enough for it not to dig into my boobs then I stop being able to glance down and locate the magnet that holds the mouthpiece. Despite all the design superiority of the Raven I still end up sticking the mouthpiece down my jersey.
This shouldn't detract too much from what is a well-engineered pack for long rides with long lunches. However, it's worth checking the fit at your local bike shop, to ensure you’re compatible with the strap setup.
The Osprey Raven 14 will be available around February 2016.