Osprey Argon 85L Review
By Matt Smith

South Haystack Mountain

Trying to find the right backpack is a difficult thing to do. Take the complexity of buying a pair of boots, and multiply it by 5 or 10, and you start to get the picture. There are so many options ranging from fully accessible panel loaders with lots of pockets and attachment points, to lean ultralight top loaders with no pockets. Suspension systems range from nearly unpadded nylon straps to luxurious memory foam inserts on the shouler straps and waist belt. Just finding the right place to begin can be a challenge sometimes. As with buying a good pair of boots, the best place to start is usually at your favorite local retailer. A good shop, with a knowledgable sales staff will be familiar with many packs from several manufacturer's and can help you get started. My local shop Out-n-back is very knowledgable, and helpful. You will probably find that a smaller "mom and pop" shop will have a better sales staff that has actually used many of the packs than at a large chain sporting goods store. Because I have a propensity to go far, carry a lot of stuff, and want to be comfortable doing it, I was excited when the Osprey Argon series was unveiled. The Argon line (for men) and the Xenon line for women offer essentially the same features.

Osprey Argon 85
Panel View

The Argon 85 is Osprey's top of the line in heavy load carrying, deluxe suspension and fit packs. The pack I tested was complete with Airscape back panel, and BioForm shoulder harness and waistbelt. The waistbelt I tested is the CM A/X (Custom Moldable) belt. A special thanks to Scott at Out-n-back for taking the time to mold the belt and custom fit me with the pack, even though there would be no direct sale coming from his efforts. That is the true benefit you'll get going to a small specialty shop versus a large chain store. At any rate, once the pack was custom fit and molded to my unique shape it was time to use and abuse it.

Osprey Argon 85
Side View

I did most of the product testing through July and August, the hottest months of the year here on the Colorado Plateau. With daily temperatures commonly near 100 degrees, I plugged away up foot trails, dirt roads, and across remote virgin terrain exploring. The Airscape panel actually performed as advertised; although I did sweat, I was considerably drier and cooler than with my older Gregory Robson Pro because the air is able to move more freely between your back and the pack. It was actually refreshing when a small breeze would kick up and I could feel the cooling effect. With heavy loads, the Argon functioned superbly. The split custom molded waistbelt cradled my hips perfectly, trasferring the load directly to my legs without cutting off my air suppy. On scree and talus slopes the pack moved nimbly with my body while scrambling. I also carried the Argon partially full on summit bids and peak bagging trips. I was easily able to compress any unused space with the well thought out compression straps. Empty, the pack only weighs about 6.5 pounds, which was worthwhile rather than carrying a separate attack pack. The pack lid can be removed and used as a fanny pack, but I prefer the full harness to a fanny pack so I didn't really use that feature. I found the pack is low profile enough that it didn't get in my way when bushwhacking though trees and brush, but still accessible enough that I could easily get at my lunch, water, maps etc. One late afternoon during a downpour while setting up my tent, I was happy that I could just rip open the entire side of the pack and start chucking stuff into the tent rather than having to fuss with a top loader.

The only real downside that consistently bothered me is that the ReCurve stays were hard to reach around to get things into and out of the stretch pockets on the sides of the pack, and the Airscape geometry pushes those easy access pockets just enough toward the back that I noticed I couldn't just stuff my water bottle in with ease (fortunately I typically use a hydration bladder).

Now for the nitty gritty. The Pack as tested is 5100 cu. in. (85L), and includes both a fanny pack in the top lid, and an ultralight Aquasource Recurve that can be converted to use as day pack to carry your water. Fabrics for construction include high tenacity nylon, lycra, and cordura nylon. More information is available on the Osprey website.

Summary: The Osprey Argon is a top of the line weekend to week long sized pack. It is supremely comfortably if you take the time to get it fit properly, and is well constructed to last a lifetime. MSRP for the pack is about $369, but if you watch sales you can pick it up for about 10% less.

For more information contact:
Osprey Packs
115 Progress Circle
Cortez CO 81321
(866)-284-7830: Toll Free

Matt Smith is a contributing editor at GearReview.com, and enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his soon to be 6 children and wife Patti. Check out his blog with his latest trip reports and product test updates.

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