Tested: Osprey Savu Hip Pack


If you've never heard of “Tiny House Hunters” on HGTV, find someone who still pays for cable and watch one episode. I defy you not to get sucked in. I can't say the same about HGTV's original “House Hunters.” Where's the conflict? What are the stakes? Most of those houses are fine. No matter which one the prospective buyers end up in, it will meet their needs. There's no real consequence in “House Hunters.” “Tiny House Hunters,” on the other hand, is loaded with consequence. Too little closet space could literally destroy a marriage.

Likewise, a hip pack with too little storage space could literally destroy you. As we try and do more with less, the fiercest battles are being fought around packs made for more than just a lunch loop. The Bontrager Rapid Pack or the Mission Workshop Axis were never meant to carry more than a few hours' worth of supplies. Several shades up the spectrum are the packs that are meant to keep you out there all day. And the best one I have ever used is the Osprey Savu.

The ultra-light backing material provides support and ensures even pressure across your lower back, no matter how lopsided your load.

Instead of a small lumbar bladder, the heart of the Savu is its two bottle sheaths. The sheaths are then flanked by two 27-cubic-inch zippered hip pockets, and between them is a 190-cubic-inch main compartment. The construction is unmistakably Osprey. It feels lightweight, high-tech and frankly under-priced for $55. Structure and ventilation are provided by Osprey's AirScape back panel, made of a material that's more air than material, but is still remarkably firm. And the fabric that makes up the bulk of the pack feels paper-thin, but there's no flex or stretch. The non-scratch glasses/phone compartment even uses a thin nylon-like material that is lighter-weight and takes up less space than a traditional fuzzy felt pocket, but still feels as gentle as dryer lint. The whole pack is built with the kind of construction normally meant to shave solid kilograms off multi-day backpacking trunks.

The open floor plan lets your imagination run wild with possibilities.

Though it only shaves a fraction of that on a hip pack, I'll take it. Every little bit helps when you've forfeited the benefits of shoulder straps. And the weight you carry inside the Savu is carried well. Most notably thanks to how it holds its bottles. The dual vertical setup makes for a taller, wider contact patch. That approach is nothing new, but the way Osprey executes it is. There's a semi-rigid structure to the bottle holds that keeps the bottles from moving independently of the rest of the pack and vice versa. That's partly thanks to the adjustable straps that reach across the bottle holds, from each hip pocket to the main storage compartment. They keep things tight and together, though I never found a need to adjust them.

The bottom edge of a bottle will find its home with ease. The bungee at the top is purely optional, but useful for holding to slightly smaller-diameter vessels.

The firm shape of the holds also makes them easy to find when fumbling blindly behind your back to replace your bottle. Even when I had the main compartment full and the waist strap tight, they wouldn't deform or flatten out … unless I wanted them to.

The bottle holds fold away so the pack can sit even more flush against your back.

In a genius design move, the plastic panels that hold the bottles both curl up and snap in place when you need them, and can be unsnapped so the pack sits more flush against your back when you don't. If I only wanted to have one bottle on the pack, I'd run one side flat and one side open. It kept the pressure on my back evenly distributed, and I wasn't distracted by the slightly lopsided weight. It was only when I was on a bike with room for two bottle cages that I flattened out both of the Savu's bottle holds. Let's face it, if you're on a one-bottle ride, you probably don't need 244 cubic inches of storage. That said, it was a mighty comfortable place to stuff my puffy, my balaclava and my winter gloves after the sun came up on my pre-office-hours epics.

Two snaps, and your bottle holders are round and ready or flat and flush.

The Savu's internal layout is simple. There aren't multiple sub-compartments or internal straps. After all, it's a bag, not a utility belt. But the zippered hip pockets are large enough to fit an average smartphone if you find the soft pocket at the back too much of a reach. That size also helps the load stay wide until it reaches the relatively broad waist strap.

The side pockets are actually big enough to hold a modern smartphone, and the waist strap is actually wide enough not to damage your small intestine.

Of course, it's possible to overload the Savu with more weight than a hip pack should bear. Two full-sized bottles and a compartment full of dense peripherals like inner tubes, C02 and heavy foodstuffs would be better carried by a traditional pack. But smart packing is part of the skill of the hip-pack lifestyle. Just like hiding drawers underneath your stairs, putting a Murphy bed in the living room or installing a toilet in your shower, it takes some thought to get the most out of a hip pack. The Savu does a great job at meeting you halfway.