Pack-maker Osprey introduced the Osprey Zealot line a few years ago. It’s aimed at mountain bikers who need to carry more gear than the standard flat kit and water bottle. The Zealot was previously available in 16 l and 10 l options, but in 2015 Osprey thinned the line to a single 15 l pack available in two sizes: small/medium and medium/large.
The Zealot is designed with enduro style riding in mind: there are options on the outside of the pack for strapping on a full-face helmet. You can use the lid-lock device for a trail-style helmets when it’s not in use. There are also large mesh stretch pockets on both sides that are great for storing elbow and knee pads. An easily accessible pocket lined with non-scratching material is located on the top of the pack for quick access to sunglasses or electronics. A shove-it pocket is on the front of the pack, which is great for jamming in a raincoat or layer quickly when you don’t need it anymore. You will have to undo the shove-it pocket straps to access the main compartment that has plenty of room for a lunch, extra clothes or anything else you might need for an all-day adventure on the trail.
The Osprey Zealot comes equipped with a 3-l reservoir that is accessible via a zip pocket in the main compartment. The pack also has a tool roll stowed in a zipper pocket on the bottom of the bag. The tool roll is quite nice, with plenty of room for any tools you may need including a small pump. I tested the atomic orange colour, which is plenty visible in daylight. For added visibility, just above the tool roll pocket is a place for a light in case your ride starts before the sun rises or ends after it sets.
My favourite feature of the Zealot, and what makes it one of the better high-volume bike-specific packs, is the harness and strap system. Osprey uses its BioStretch harness, which has die-cut foam for great comfort and ventilation, as well as an mesh hip belt. Those features, paired with Osprey’s AirScape back panel, keep the pack tight to your body. The whole pack flexes and conforms to your back, while staying light and airy. Even when packed full, the Zealot distributes the load evenly over the straps and hip belt, letting you forget about the pack and focus on the trail.
Another feature that I used a lot was the mesh pockets on the shoulder straps and hip belt. They were great for stashing nutrition for quick access. They could also hold a small camera in case you feel the need to film a short video for Instagram. You are not going to grab the Osprey Zealot for a quick lap on your local trails, but it has everything you could want or need in a high-volume mountain bike pack for longer adventures. If you’re the type who needs to bring along the kitchen sink, you can probably fit it in, too.