Hiking, Trekking, and Backpacking with the Osprey Stratos 36 Backpack


If you have ever thought it would be a great idea to throw some gear in your trusty old backpack from college and go on a hike, there is a good chance that you quickly realized it was not such a good idea after all. You wouldn’t go for a run in your dress shoes (at least I hope you wouldn’t), and you shouldn’t try to go hiking with a bag made for carrying books around a college campus. Not to mention, your doctor would probably tell you that the typical book-bag is not good under any circumstances. With this in mind, I figured it was time I follow my own advice and invest in a real backpack. Enter the Osprey Packs Stratos 36, small enough to easily double as a personal item when flying, but large enough to get Michole and myself through a day hike, or me through an overnighter.

Ridgeline Between Bighorn and Ontario Peak.


The comfort level for this pack is through the roof. Osprey “airspeed suspension” keeps the pack just off of your back, allowing you to keep your back cool, and shifting the weight firmly onto your hips, and off of your shoulders.

Carry capacity

At 36 litres, the Stratos is not really a backpacking pack, but it served me well for two overnight trips, using compression straps (bought separately) to hang a tent and other necessities off the sides and back of the pack.  While there was plenty of sway from the load being too far away, the weight stayed on my hips, and the hikes were not unbearable, though admittedly they were both only a few miles. In short, it’s a great daypack for two, and a solid overnight pack for one. Anything longer and you might venture into the realm of the Stratos 50, unless you are an ultra lightweight camper.


The dual entry system, front and top, allows for easy access to gear. Though perhaps not quite as convenient to pack and unpack as a true front loader, it really does a great job of combining top loading stability with front-loading ease of access. The Dual sleeping pad straps worked well, though they may come up a hair short depending on the size of your pad. They worked well with my Thermarest Prolite long. Anything larger might be a stretch though, as they are fully extended for my pad. The “stow on the go trekking pole” attachment did not work for my Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec trekking poles. They were too short to reach from one to the other. With that said, they did fit well in the dedicated ice axe carry loop. This was convenient, but obviously doesn’t work if you are also carrying an ice axe, as unlike the Osprey Atmos or Aether, the Stratos only has one ice axe loop. For these instances, I was grateful for the stuff sack that Leki includes with the poles, as I would store them in my main compartment.

Would I Recommend?

ABSOLUTELY! This is a fantastic pack, and though it lies at a somewhat awkward size between daypack and backpacking pack, it fills that middle ground with grace. If money’s no object, perhaps a Stratos 24 and 50 could round out your kit perfectly, but for a hiker on a budget, the Stratos 36 is about as well rounded as they come.

One Word of Warning

The pack fits me perfectly in a large, but I am told that for those few who fall between sizes, the patented airspeed suspension that is such a boon for most of us is quite uncomfortable. With this in mind, it might be worth trying the pack on if you can, or ordering the pack from REI, who has a one-year no questions asked return policy. If you wear it a few times and decide it doesn’t sit well on your hips, just return it for a full refund.

On the Way to Ontario Peak.


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