Whether it’s Bic pens, Zippo lighters or a boutique hand-welded titanium frame, I have an appreciation for quality goods. It’s nice to know some companies strive to make products that stand up to real-world abuse, and Osprey is certainly no exception. Last year I got to test their Syncro 15 hydration pack, which quickly turned into my pack of choice. This year I was sent a Viper 9 to try, and while it’s not as deluxe as the Syncro it left me with little to complain about.
The Viper 9 is a smaller 9L pack but still carries a decent amount of cargo. Its slim shape helps keep you reasonably cool, and I find the shoulder straps quite comfortable. Osprey’s construction quality is excellent so there are no problems or damage to report, but read on for the details on the Viper 9’s storage, reservoir and other features…
For hauling cargo the Viper 9 offers a full-length main pocket, an external pouch with compression straps, a front pocket with dividers for small tools, a soft-lined smartphone pocket, and elastic pouches on both sides. Despite being a smaller pack vs. the 15L model I tested previously, all my usual cargo fit into the Viper with room to spare (I typically carry a spare tube, tire pump, levers, allen key tool, trail map, chainbreaker, chain lube, bug spray and a few other small items).
As far as carrying an extra layer, you’re fine if you have a rain shell or technical mid-layer that’s thin and compactable, but anything bulky wouldn’t fit easily in the Viper’s external pouch or main pocket. When I went to shoot photos I realized my DSLR camera is too big for this pack- you’ll have to rely on your smartphone for Instagram gold.
The Viper 9’s reservoir has a capacity of 2.5L, and the magnetized straw holder has been redesigned a bit but is just as delightfully easy to use as the previous type. The Viper’s reservoirs are made by Hydrapak, and feature their fold-over and clamp closure system which opens up wide for easy filling. The hose no longer includes the quick-release mechanism found at the reservoir on last year’s Syncro 15 which is a bummer, but the hose and bladder still easily detach from the pack with one quick zip.
(Note- I just realized there is one elastic loop that the hose is supposed to be routed through- I have never run my hose through it and find the routing totally fine and non-disruptive this way. If you use the loop you’ll have to feed the hose through it to fully remove the reservoir from the pack.)
Osprey’s shoulder straps are very comfortable, and the soft foam inside is generously cut out to keep air flowing. However, the Viper’s basic waist strap lacks the mesh ‘wings’ that I enjoyed on the Syncro model. The wings provide a bit more of a snug feel when the pack is on tight, and are softer on your hips than bare straps. The simpler waist straps kept the pack from shifting around just fine, I just liked the Syncro’s design better. Also, the Viper’s chest strap can be adjusted up or down for a precise fit.
The Airspace ventilated back padding does an OK job of keeping you cool but it’s simply not as good as a floating mesh panel design (even compared with a larger pack). The slender Viper allows you to breathe because it doesn’t cover much surface area, but it will leave a sweat spot where it makes contact.
One thing I didn’t like about the Viper was the pocket on the left shoulder strap. I literally laughed when I saw it- it looks like it was made for a late-90’s flip phone! I jammed my iphone 5C in there, and while it will fit it looks kinda silly, and it would be downright distracting riding with it there. I could see this being useful for a GPS unit, but if you’re out navigating through the backcountry you’d probably be wearing a larger pack than the Viper 9. I say axe the pocket, it’s not needed.
As for other details, the Viper includes a helmet carrier on the outside, pull tabs on every zipper, a top carry handle, reflective accents and a rear blinker light loop. The shell fabric features a snake skin like texture (appropriate for the Viper) which adds some aesthetic appeal and feels durable.
I’ve been really pleased with the quality and performance of Osprey’s Viper 9 (and the Syncro 15), so I’d happily recommend anyone check out their offerings if you’re looking for a comfortable, durable hydration pack. The Viper 9 is available in Wasabi Green, Blaze Orange or Basalt Black, and retails for $100 USD.