Best known for their high quality hiking backpacks, over the past few years Colorado-based Osprey Packs has made a strong push into the cycling hydration pack market. The Manta 30 is their multisport offering, designed for any outdoor adventures, from hiking to biking. With a capacity of 1831 cubic inches and a 3 liter hydration bladder, the Manta 30 offers the most carrying capacity in the Manta lineup.
One feature which immediately stood out is what Osprey calls their AirSpeed suspension system. This system consists of a mesh back panel suspended in front of the rest of the pack. This allows air to circulate, reducing the amount of sweating compared to traditional designs, where the pack rests directly on your back. The shoulder straps are also vented – the foam is cut out in several spots, which serves to reduce weight and bulk, as well as increase ventilation. For how large this pack is, the ventilation is excellent. The AirSpeed system worked as advertised, keeping the amount of pack-induced sweating to a minimum.
The Manta 30 has enough space to carry supplies for an epic ride. A roomy, zippered main compartment and two other outer pockets provide room for food and extra layers. There are also two pockets on the waist belt for quick access to commonly used items, like snacks or a small camera. Cycling oriented features include a place to attach a rear blinking light or reflector, and a spot to attach an XC helmet.
If you packed light, this bag could even hold enough gear for a minimalist overnight trip. The pack even has an integrated raincover, which can be deployed to keep the pack dry on wet rides. One downside to the Manta’s design is that the front pocket, typically where tools and a tube go, only unzips halfway. It would be nice if it unzipped the whole way, allowing easier access to small tools which tend to migrate towards the bottom.
Water carrying duties are performed by the Osprey designed, Nalgene constructed 3 liter bladder. The bladder has a rigid back panel, and a handle on the front which makes filling it up extra-easy. The rigid back panel also helps prevent the bladder from collapsing down when the water level drops.
The bite valve for the bladder has a small magnet on the back, which connects to another magnet on the Manta 30’s sternum strap. This creates a half loop of hose from the right side of the pack to the left. It’s a unique feature, but I would have preferred the standard hydration pack design where the hose is on one side. The hose would also occasionally free itself from the magnetic perch, typically when the terrain got rough; the attention required to reattach it would have been better spent focusing on the trail.
Another issue I encountered was with the pack’s hip belt. I couldn’t get the waist belt tight enough – it bottomed out before it was adjusted properly. Cinching it down this far meant there was a big loop of webbing which stuck out on each side of the waist strap buckle. Skinny cyclists will want to try on the waist strap to check the fit. The pack also rode high on my back, which made it want to shift forward on steep downhills. This was noticeable with a cross-country helmet, but with a full-face helmet it was even more of a hindrance. I couldn’t tilt my head up as far as I wanted before the helmet hit the top of the pack. I tightened, loosened and tried all the possible adjustments, but the pack still rode higher than I would have liked.
--It's important to note that the Manta comes in 2 different sizes; S/M and M/L which is an important factor before purchasing the pack. I tested a M/L but could have potentially avoided some of the fitting issues with a S/M. Its nice that Osprey offers different size options, just make sure to properly fit the pack to your body type.
The Manta 30 is a well constructed pack, but it could use some refinement to make it better suited for mountain biking. Cyclists may want to look into Osprey’s recently released Zealot series of packs, which are more cycling specific.