Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Osprey Momentum 34 - My Backpack - Review

I used my last backpack for more than five years, and it served me well, but at the beginning of this semester I realized that it was time for something new. As I contemplated getting ready for med school this fall, I realized I wanted something that will take me through residency, if at all possible, but would be unique and convenient as I plan on biking as much as possible throughout this experience. I searched long and hard to find the best (in my price range) all-around backpack out there, and it is most definitely the Osprey Momentum 34-Liter Commuter Pack. It was originally geared toward bikers, but I firmly believe that it could work for anyone who carries a variety of stuff with them to work or school.

I tried something new with this post, creating the below list of topics that link to each respective section that I'll be touching on. Click the post title or the "Read more..." link below to activate the links in the content list and view the whole review. I know not everyone will be interested in this, but the photos look cool, and if you're in the market for a new pack, you just found a good one. Enjoy!
One side note before I get going: I've been using this pack heavily on my daily commute to and from both work and school, and I didn't clean it up for this post. It hardly seems to get dirty (minus the inside of the shoulder strap key compartment, where some oil from my bike lock transferred from the key to the fabric), and simply feels like the sturdiest bag you could imagine. It's also backed by a lifetime warranty so that if anything EVER breaks on it, all I have to do is send it in and they'll fix it. Simple! So here we go with the Osprey Momentum 34 review...

1. External Compartments

The main external compartment is perfect for holding a water bladder or bottle, no matter the size. This comfortably holds my water bottle and pen case (yup, I'm a pen snob now; I need a case for my pens...), neither of which are tiny.
The attachment point for the pouch's strap is nestled nicely beneath the Osprey logo, giving a more attractive appearance to the bag than if it were out in the open.
The two bottom/side pouches are designed to hold a U-shaped bike lock, though I don't tend to use them for that. I find that they fit fruit particularly well, as well as bags of chips and cans of soda. For some reason, I tend to use them for food... Go figure.
The zippers are made to be accessed without taking the pack off. This is especially nice when you want a snack and don't want to stop and dig it out of your pack. Though you can't see it from the pictures, these pouches actually extend all the way to the center/mid-line of the pack from each side. They're bigger than they look.
No matter what you put in them, you'll be surprised by how much they hold. There's also a little meshed webbing to keep what's inside from tumbling out when you open the zipper.
The smallest externally-accessed compartment is just beneath the logo, and houses a few smaller mesh pockets and a slot for a pencil or pen. It's also got a red plastic clip for keys or something - probably the only feature I don't use.

2. LidLock

[Back to Feature List]
The LidLock feature is one of the most original features of this pack. If you're not a biker, this won't mean much to you. However, if you are, you'll LOVE it.
The thick plastic LidLock is connected to the pack by a durable and adjustable elastic cord. Here, I'm showing how you can loosen or tighten the tension in the cord.
With the elastic cord loosened, the LidLock disc can be pulled away from the pack.
The LidLock disc threads through the ventilation slots on your helmet, holding it securely to your pack. I always wear a helmet, but one of the biggest hassles about doing so is that once you get to your destination, you have to keep track of it, lugging it around with you all over the place. With this feature, that is no longer a big deal.

3. Internal Compartments

[Back to Feature List]
There are two internal compartments - one (pictured here) comprising the bulk of the storage space and one (shown later) designed as a separate laptop compartment.
These three mesh pockets are great for me, but if you're going to have a lot of bulky stuff in them, they might get in the way a little. If you're wondering about the size of everything, I got the M/L pack, and the ear cups of my headphones rise just above any books that I pack.
The side pouch of the main compartment offers a space that's perfect for holding documents or, in my case, my iPad in its case. Please note - that case was made by my wife Nicole.
Talk about talented...
The first main compartment you just read about was accessed by the two zipper pulls that you see together and off to the upper left in the above photo. The second main compartment specifically designed for a laptop is one layer closer to the wearer's back, accessed through the two zipper pulls that are together and off to the lower right of this pic.
The laptop compartment fits my 15.4" Macbook Pro comfortably, and it's the older, 2007-era beast with the bulkier corners, before Apple came out with the whole "unibody" concept.

4. Expandability

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Here you see a side view of the Momentum. Sure, it looks like it could hold a goodly amount, but what if you had to carry a couple extra books? A basketball? A large and squirmy puppy? Have no fear, because this pack expands by 2.5+ inches via a collapsable, zippered extension feature.
Now viewing from the opposite side, you can see the closed zipper's pull all the way at the left, toward the bottom of the pack.
As the zipper is undone, you can see the expanded main compartment begin to emerge.
Here, viewing from the top, you can see just how much extra space this would provide.

5. Rain Fly

[Back to Feature List]
There's a zipper in the bottom of the bag that accesses a secret compartment housing the rain fly.
I can't stress how awesome this is and how useful it has been when I've needed to bike through a downpour. The last thing you want is a soaked laptop or stack of papers once you get to your destination. This will prevent that.
The rain fly is made of an extremely packable, slippery nylon (maybe?) material, and expands to become much larger than expected.
The rain fly is more than big enough to cover the pack even in its most expanded and full state.
The rain fly is attached to the pack by a strong velcro strap. This is great because you can remove it to hang it up and dry, or if you wanted to wash grass or dirt off of it. Avoid packing a damp rain fly at all costs, as mold and mildew will grow, giving your pack an awful case of STANK and compromising the durability and age of the rain fly itself.
The velcro is very strong and doesn't look like it's going to wear out any time soon.
Here is the bag completely covered by the rain fly. The yellow material is very bright and visible by itself, but the silver lettering and external light attachment point (shown in more detail below, and thanks to Sarah and her comment below I now know that's what it is instead of thinking it is a vent...) are especially reflective, maximizing visibility during inclement weather.
Stick your blinky light here.
There are connectors along each side of the rain fly's middle portion that wrap around to connect between your back and the pack. This keeps the rain fly from catching the wind and blowing off, possibly to get tangled and ruined in your back wheel.
Once clasped together, the strap lies quite flat against the pack, and I can't even tell it's there when riding in the rain. I can't overstate how great it is to ride in the rain with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that absolutely nothing in my pack is getting wet.
This is the view from the bottom of the pack with the rain fly deployed. Note that there's also a cinch at the bottom to tighten the rain fly's bungee, ensuring a tight fit around the pack.

6. Back / Shoulder Straps and Retractible Keychain

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Here you have the back-meets-back part of the pack. It's made of a firm yet comfortable foam-like material, molded into ridges to allow good airflow and comfort while maintaining friction so the pack doesn't slide around at all. The straps are the most comfortable I've ever had in a pack, and more than that, they're incredibly convienient.
The right strap's pouch is perfect for a spare set of bike keys. It houses a retractible keychain that came with the bag!
Note: the dirt you see here comes from when I oil the inside of my bike lock to keep it turning smoothly; it is in no way because of the bag.
The other (left) shoulder strap hosts a similar zippered pocket for a cell phone. It is not possible to switch the retractible keychain to this pocket.
While this thick ribbon on the shoulder straps is probably intended for clipping on a water bladder hose, I have found it is VERY handy for storing something else...
SUNGLASSES! Many times, I left the house when it was cloudy, and while on my bike the sun broke through. You can't go wrong having sunglasses ready - even cheap-awesome gas station ones like these...
It's no longer 1995, so the majority of students (myself included) no longer wear their backpacks below their buttocks - the direct result being that most of us now have a significant amount of shoulder strap length that hangs loose. When you're cruising along on a bike and the wind is whipping past you, this can be incredibly annoying, constantly flapping in the wind or flipping up to lash your face. Luckily, Osprey thought of that.
There is a clip sewn to the end of the adjustment strap material designed to clip onto the bottom of the shoulder strap where it attaches to the bag to keep it from flapping about.
Shown here from the back, you can see that it is easy to detach should the need arise.
The shoulder straps connect to the corners of the pack via buckles. Why would this be, you ask? The Momentum 34 is the most epically packable backpack, that's why! Let's say you're at the airport and are going to check this bag, or as you get on a plane you just don't want the shoulder straps flailing all over the place, getting caught in the x-ray machine, etc. You can actually pack the straps!
First, you start by unbuckling the shoulder straps at the bottom.
The bottom buckle and flap stow nicely beneath the back padding.
At the top, the load tension straps attach to the pack via two additional buckles.
Tension strap buckle, unbuckled.
With both tension strap buckles undone, we can see that another secret compartment is revealed.
The straps double over to fold neatly inside this pouch. What's more, it actually zips up to prevent accidental strap escapage:

7. Miscellaneous Features

[Back to Feature List]

Light Attachment Point

There is a special, sturdy loop of material at the rear base of the back to accommodate a flashing light for nighttime riding. While I only have one, which I keep attached to the rear of my bike rack, it's a great place to attaching an extra. More is always better when it comes to visibility while riding your bike at night!

Carry handle and tie-down straps:

Along the right side of the bag, there is a dedicated handhold for carrying the bag sideways. This is great for moving the bag around or into the car, or into overhead bins on an airplane. Instead of having to lift the bag extra high, or move it around two-handed (when you often don't have an extra hand to spare), this added feature, though seemingly insignificant, goes a long way toward increased convenience.

Also pictured here are the various tie-down straps. There are four in total, allowing the wearer to maximize load minimization. Tightening these straps prevents unwanted sway and content jostle when pedaling with a bulky load in the pack.


Susan said...

Wow, this is a REALLY cool pack, Justin. You did some super research on it and I can tell you will use it to the fullest. Some awesome features that'll carry you through med school and beyond! Great buy and great review!

Anonymous said...

I just started looking for a bag and this bag came up in my search. I googled "Momentum 34 review" and up came your review. THANKS!!! So much info and really makes feel good about ordering the bag. Best of luck in School!

Anonymous said...

I know what I'm asking for on my birthday!

Awesome review!

John Yonkers said...

Justin, Osprey sent me the Momentum 26 last winter to check out. You will not be let down by this thing man. Even without the rainfly the material will keep your stuff dry under steady rain conditions.

Not a day goes by that I don't use mine!



Justin said...

That is great to hear - Glad to know that it will hold up to my expectations in the long run! I am loving it so far, and wouldn't have it any other way.

Sarah said...

Awesome review! I'm in the market for a new commuting backpack, and this is exactly the type of information and level of detail that I've been looking for. FYI: That "vent" on the rainfly is actually not intended as a vent. It's a blinkie light attachment so you can have that increased visibility at night even in the rain.

Thanks so much for taking the time to post such a helpful review!

Justin said...

Thanks for the correction, Sarah! I'll have to correct that. Glad you enjoyed the post!

Anonymous said...

hi Justin, nice review. Im considering buying a bag for light backpacking travel. The two options I have are the Momentum 34 and the Osprey Kode 30. Although both bags look amazing I wonder if the lack of an airflow system on the back of the bag will make my back weat from sweat... It would be great to hear your opinion on how has it been your experience with your bag regarding sweat? Any thoughts on the Kode? What bag would you use as a light backpack? Cheers mate, and thank you for the review!

Justin said...

@Anonymous - while I don't have any experience with the Kode, I can tell you that the ventilation on the Momentum has been very pleasing, especially considering the non-bowed nature of the backpack's structure. What I mean by this is that with some in-frame backpacks, the back support will bow away from your back a little bit to give you extra room to breathe, sacrificing a little bit of support and weight distribution or ventilation. With the Momentum, the ribbed nature of the back support allows for great ventilation without sacrificing on support. It helps evenly distribute the weight while allowing air to pass through and cool your back. Again, keep in mind that I don't have any experience with the other pack. That being said, I have been very happy with the ventilation on the Osprey Momentum 34.

In looking at some photos of the Kode, I noticed that the back support appears to be very similar to that used in the Momentum 34. Also, the Kode has hip pouches, which can be very useful when hiking. The waist straps on the Kode also appeared to be a little more padded dan those on the Momentum 34, something that can be very welcome when on longer hikes and wanting to take some of the load off of your shoulders.

For a commuter/travel pack, I would recommend the Osprey momentum. For a hiking day pack, I would recommend the Kode. Hope that helps!

Justin said...

I just realized that in my last comment, I made it seem like the Osprey momentum was an in-frame backpack. It does not have an internal frame. I was just contrasting how the back support on the Osprey momentum compares to some in-frame hiking backpacks.

Justin said...

I also just realized that I forgot to mention the importance of having a rain fly. With the Osprey momentum, the rain fly is built-in, and that is awesome when hit by a sudden rainstorm. If the other pack has a rain fly, that one is definitely the way to go for backpacking. If it doesn't, it just comes down to what is more important for you - rain fly or better hip straps.

Anonymous said...

Hey Justin, that's awesome! Thanks for the answer! Im buying the Momentum =) All the best to you, Raphael from Brazil, now in Thailand

James Ryder said...

For a commuter/travel pack, I would recommend the Osprey momentum. For a hiking day pack, I would recommend the Kode. Hope that helps! bike locks

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review and pics! I was trying to decide between the Momentum 26 versus the 34. I've decided on the 34. The 34 is offered in two sizes, the S/M and M/L. Which size did you get? Were you able to handle both sizes in person?

Also, do you think airlines would fuss if you use this bag as your personal bag? I plan on bringing a roller carry-on and wearing this bag as my personal bag.

Justin said...

@ Anonymous - I'm glad you found it helpful! I got the 34. Though I wasn't able to handle both the S/M and the M/L, I decided to get the M/L because I'm 6'2" tall, and I knew I would probably need the longer variant.

As for the airline question, I have regularly taken bags this size as my personal bag. I don't think you'd have a problem with it, as long as you didn't absolutely pack it full. At maximum capacity it looks pretty big, and you might draw some unwanted attention. Otherwise, I'd say you're probably fine. I would recommend that you review your airline's regulations before using any carry-on / personal bag combination, regardless. Good luck, and thanks for asking!

Jason Simek said...

Awesome review. I'm a consumer researcher fanatic myself and narrowed my selection down to this bag vs. Timbuktu especial tres vs dueter act trail 32. This by far is the most functional commuter out there. Waiting to receive by mail. Thanks again for detailed review!

Kristina Lysen said...

Great review! Just a quick question. You posted a link. Is the Backpack in the link the same as the one you bought ? I was comfused by the pictures in the link. I'm thinking of buying this Backpack as a Christmas presen to my boyfriend.

Justin said...

@Kristina - Yes, the backpack in the link is the same, it's just that Amazon has a crappy picture up that makes it seem like the Carbide color is much darker than it actually is, making it look almost black. My backpack is the Carbide color.

Raphael Werneck said...

Pretty amazing nice review..very detailed.. thank u so much for that..

I have a question before I can get one of these: What do u think about the durability of the materials that osprey used to do this backpack? I ask because its seems kind of weak... The momentum backpack is made for 420/240DEN..thats not much compared with others backpacks..

thanks e english is not so good.

Justin said...

Hey Rafael,

I have been very satisfied with the quality of materials in this pack. I have been using it for almost a year, and I have not had any rips or defects come up. It has been great! I do not think I would ever need anything more durable than this pack, except for maybe when backpacking on a rougher trip than my daily commute. Hopefully that helps!

penny said...

Wow, thanks for the excellent rview! I was debating between the Osprey Momentum and a competitor's bag, and you convinced me this is the right choice. I live in australia and am heading to europe soon on holidays. I love the fact that this bag expands so on the long flight back, via Hong Kong stopover, I can pick up a few goodies at the shops and still have space for them because of the expansion features.

Hope med school is going well.

Thanks again!

Corey Barger said...

If you are worried about the build quality look up osprey's warranty it is the best out there. Their policy is if it breaks they fix or replace it.

Raphael Werneck said...

Thank you so much. I finally get my Momentum and worth every cent. The backpack is great for every occasion.

I was honestly in doubt between Osprey and Deuter.. thanks to your review I made the right decision.

I heard a lot about the All might guarantee from osprey, but here in Brazil that is out of the question. :(

I've been talking to the Osprey guys by email and looks like a new design of the Momentum is coming up. Lets see!!!!


Hugh said...

Just picked up this backpack at your recommendation from searching "med school backpack" on google. It looks fantastic. Will probably pick up your flashcards, too, as I may need to take the MCAT again.

john said...


Thanks for your detailed review of the osprey momentum. I've been looking around for a bag and this seems to be the one for me.

Could I just check with you how it's doing now? Is it strong and durable or are there parts which aren't doing so well now.


Justin said...

@john - Two years in, this bag has held up really well - and I've put it through its paces. I use it all day, every day. The retractable key line in the shoulder strap failed (wouldn't retract all the way) after about a year of pulling it out 10-20 times per day (every time I went in or out of my house, every time I locked or unlocked my bike, every time I accessed my shed), but I just bought a cheap one online to replace it. Simple swap. I used it more than the average person would though, so I'd say it was understandable. Everything else has held up beautifully. All zippers work like new, and none of the straps are fraying at all. It hardly even looks like I've used it, since the charcoal grey color doesn't show dirt at all. Best of all, the rain fly has stayed functional despite using it through two really wet spring seasons. I couldn't have made a better choice, and I anticipate it holding up for several more years of daily use.

john said...

Thanks for the quick reply. This bag looks fantastic and I'll definitely be getting one.


Anonymous said...

Just an update. I got the bag the day after i posted my last comment (20th march 14) and I've used it everyday since. It's incredibly comfortable and adaptable.

Maybe I'll come back every now and then to post updates? (hijacking this really comprehensive review haha)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review. All the info i needed

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. Seems they stopped selling this, and I can't find it ANYWHERE. Shame. Let me know if you want to give it up :)

iketunde said...

wow... been looking for the osprey momentum 34. If anyone plans on giving it up to a good price pls. contact me.

Urology Surgery India said...

Thanks for the great information on this post.

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