Note: Mountain photos were taken before the Coronavirus lockdown.
In the pursuit of ever-lighter gear, durability can be one of the first casualties. With their new Archeon range, Osprey turn away from this trend, offering a pack that's built to last - and unashamedly hefty with it. The result isn't just a rugged, supportive and weighty pack, but one made very much with sustainability in mind. A 100% recycled fabric, with a PFC-free DWR coating, makes the Archeon more environmentally sensitive than most. Since we could all do with thinking more about the impact of our purchases, and buying fewer longer-lasting products, all this has to be a good thing.
It doesn't look likely to wear out any time soon - to put it mildly - but that means you'll probably still be using the Archeon five, ten or maybe fifteen years hence. You want to be sure you'll get on well with it - especially given the pretty chunky price tag for a pack of this size.
Behind the 'essentialist design aesthetic' (read: nice old-fashioned look) there hides a pack with more to it than you might at first think. I'd have preferred a bit more genuine minimalism, but I'm sure the many features will all find their fans.
Weight and fabric
Made from 1880D recycled nylon, an extremely thick and burly canvas-textured fabric, the Archeon does not do things by halves. This is some of the toughest-feeling material I've seen on a pack, and the stitched seams likewise seem stronger than you'll often find on lighter packs. Thick webbing straps and pleasingly chunky components (including a lot of metalwork) add to the overall impression of robustness.
At 2.25kg (Osprey say 2kg) there's no getting away from it - this is a very heavy bag for its size. It's almost 1kg heavier than some fully featured mountain packs of similar capacity that we've looked at in recent reviews, and a lot heavier still than minimalist climbing or ultralight backpacking models. I'd be willing to bet it'll outlive them all, but you definitely won't be buying the Archeon 45 to save weight, and this will influence the uses to which you're likely to put it. However I've found it a comfortable carry despite (or to an extent, because of) this weight - more on that below.
The Archeon range features several models. The 25, with a roll-top lid and the 30 with a buckled lid, are very much day packs, while the 45 sits in that large daypack/small overnight pack grey zone. For longer trekking trips there's the Archeon 70 (65 for women).
At Osprey's request I'm reviewing the 45 litre version here. I first used it shortly before lockdown started, on an early spring hill day. Its 45 litres would be overkill for most one-day hill trips, but that capacity does suit a bigger winter load, particularly if you're adding camera gear. Since then it's seen service on family day walks, and again when you're carrying jackets and food for four people that space is handy. Although we've not yet had the chance, the Archeon 45 seems the ideal size for an overnight trip, as it's just big enough for lightweight camping gear without too much squeezing. The sturdy build and supportive back system give the Archeon 45 the feel of a full sized backpacking model, and I do think the 70(65) litre size might actually best match the chunky character of the range.
Fit and comfort
All models in the Archeon range are available either for men or women, which is useful since the male and female frame tend to be quite different. The 45 pack comes in two sizes, S/M and L/XL. In addition the back length is adjustable via a very simple and robust Velcro pad, giving you around 8cm of play. I've been using L/XL, which has a back length from 48-56cm. At 1.83m or so I'm tallish but not huge, but even at maximum extension the pack only just fits me, and ideally the belt fins would sit a couple of centimetres lower on my hips. Anyone much taller is going to find the Archeon 45 too small.
The pack is built around a substantial internal frame, with two aluminium stays and a stiffened panel providing loads of support for carrying heavy loads. In a sense it's ironic that this structure in itself contributes to the weighty feel. With a wide body-hugging hip belt, and chunky well-sculpted shoulder straps, the back system would not be out of place on a full sized trekking pack, and I'm not surprised to see that it looks the same as the Archeon 70(65)'s. Given the weight limits imposed by the Archeon 45's relatively small volume I'm not convinced that a back system this supportive is really necessary on the size I've been using, but on the other hand I do find this a very comfortable pack to wear. Perhaps I'd notice the benefit more with a load of camping gear.
Cushioning on the straps and hip belt is chunky but firm, which I really like, while the shallow foam ridges of the back padding are firmer still: in fact I think a little more depth of foam behind the shoulder blades would not have gone amiss when carrying a heavier load. All the cushioning is highly breathable, and I've been using it very happily on warm spring days. The pack has a solid body-hugging fit, and feels well balanced when heavily laden.
If you prefer minimalism in a pack, then look away now; the Archeon 45 is chock full of features. All the bits and bobs clearly add to the weight, and as I'm of the less-is-more mindset I find some things a bit fiddly and unnecessary. However mine is only one opinion, and clearly some people like a lot more features.
The main entry is via a conventional lid and drawcord, plus a top compression strap under the lid. Instead of the usual plastic lid buckles you get metal hooks, and it's the same on the two side compression straps. Oversized for easier use with gloves, and with a tight loop to hook into that reduces the chance of them bouncing open (sometimes an issue with hooks), these metal components promise to be more durable than plastic buckles, but they must also be heavier.
A large over-lid zipped pocket has loads of space for hat, gloves, camera etc, but though there's a bit of a flap to keep out the elements this zip isn't water resistant, so that's worth bearing in mind in wet weather. Under the lid is a spacious zipped mesh valuables pocket, with a key clip (a small but essential feature, for me). An additional zipped pocket on each fin of the hip belt gives you accessible places to carry snacks and a phone.
A quirky feature of the Archeon is the addition of a huge front entry. This opens via two zips, folding back like a flap to provide full kit bag-style access to the body of the pack. The zips are very chunky and robust, so I don't imagine there's much danger of them breaking. However they are not remotely weatherproof, and the flap that covers them would be no protection from wind-driven rain. As a zipped entry sceptic I only ever really want a bottom zip rather than a side opening, and then only on larger trekking packs in which it's hard to reach deep-buried items, and useful to have a separate bottom compartment for camping gear or wet clothing. Perhaps on the Archeon 70(65) I'd be more forgiving, but I can't see myself ever using this way of entering a bag that's only 45 litres in size, since it's easy enough to pack it so that everything you're likely to need in a hurry is to hand. For me this opening is overkill, adding unnecessary weight, clutter and the potential to lose items if the flap ends up open by mistake (and every time you unfasten the top drawcord the zips do slip down a bit). To hold the pack together and take pressure off the zipped opening when you're fully loaded, Osprey have added an internal clipped strap. I find this can snag annoyingly when stuffing things in, and tend to leave it unfastened.
On the inside of the entry flap is a double zipped mesh pocket/sleeve. I'm not sure I'd ever use this, particularly as reaching it involves opening the belly of the pack, but I suppose if you have lots of small loose items then this is a possible place to keep them.
At the base is a zipped sleeve housing a waterproof cover. For mountain use I'd prefer a more wetherproof pack with no added cover, since they tend to flap about in the wind; but on a pack that's clearly designed as a less technical all-rounder the cover does seem a worthwhile addition. It can be removed if not required.
The twin side compression straps work well in their primary function, squeezing down a part-full load. I like the metal hooks here, and the elastic retainer neatly holding the spare webbing tail, but for attaching bulkier items like a foam rollmat a bit more length in the straps wouldn't have gone amiss.
Side sleeves can often be flimsy or undersized, but the Archeon's are great, with plenty of depth to securely hold a big water bottle, and a useful combination of a stretchy top section for easier access and a nylon bottom part for toughness (think trekking pole tips and the like).
I'm not so convinced by the axe attachment. You get two traditional webbing loops for the axe heads (which is ideal - nothing more elaborate required), but where are you supposed to secure the axe shaft at the top? The only place I've found is under the top compression strap, but this puts the axe at an angle with the point hovering somewhere towards the side of your head. In the event of a stumble, could this constitute a hazard? Of course the Archeon is not a technical mountain pack, so it's likely to see only occasional axe use.
Other features include a sleeve for a hydration bag (Osprey's own Hydraulics Reservoir obviously fits well) and a whistle on the sternum strap.
Made to last, and with commendable environmental credentials, the Archeon 45 is an easy rucksack to like. It's not a technical mountain pack, by any means, and certainly isn't one you'd pick for weight-conscious backpacking. But this is a solid and supportive load carrier, with an excellent back system that goes a long way to making up for its very hefty weight. I love the durable feel, and the chunky old-school fabric. However I am not a fan of its massive front opening, and I think a simpler design with no zipped entry would have been more in keeping with the overall feel and function of the Archeon 45. But I'm sure there'll be people who like it!
The Archeon 45 Men's embodies the principles of essentialism and environmentalism for multi-day backpacking. Recycled fabrics, metal componentry and a comfortable backsystem combine to produce a pack built for life in the outdoors.
This season marks the latest milestone in our sustainability journey. For Archeon 45 we have moved towards C0, PFC free DWR coating. The updated chemistry provides a sustainable yet high-performance approach to the hardiness of this series. The fabrics used throughout the Archeon 45 are all recycled and durable enough stand the test of time. Tough metal componentry completes the durable design ensuring longevity on the trail.
The Archeon is also equipped with a close fitting backsystem that can handle significant loads without compromising on comfort. A unique, highly accessible front zip opening allows you to pack, unpack and quickly access your gear. Archeon's sustainable build and features are all wrapped up in an essentialist design aesthetic.
- Weight: 2.0KG
- Dimensions (cm): 71L / 33W / 30D
- Fabric: 1880D Recycled Nylon Canvas
- PFC Free DWR Coating
- Internal hydration sleeve
- Internal mesh side pocket
- Under lid zipped mesh pocket
- Top lid access
- Sternum strap with emergency whistle
- Side compression straps
- Dual access mesh side pockets
- Metal buckles and componentry
- Fully adjustable AirScape™ backpanel with foam ridges for comfort and fit
- Compatible with Hydraulics™ Reservoirs
- Fixed lid with dual zippered pockets
- Internal key attachment clip
- Twin ice axe loops
- Walking Pole Attachments
- Twin zippered hipbelt pockets
- Zippered expanded opening
- Integrated and detachable recycled raincover