Osprey Zealot 16 Review

by Brian Mullin on July 2, 2013

The
Zealot 16 is comfortable, can carry a lot gear with good weight
distribution, uses tough durable materials and comes with their “All
Mighty Guarantee” lifetime warranties.

The Zealot 16 is
Osprey’s first foray into the gravity orientated hydration pack realm.
The fully featured 16 liter capacity pack is comfortable, tough and
carries loads competently, with a nicely padded and well ventilated back
panel. Osprey has been making packs since 1974, and although they’re
headquartered in Cortez Colorado, their manufacturing takes place in Ho
Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Osprey Zealot 16
The Zealot 16
is made with tough and durable 210D Nylon Nailhead, 500D and 1000D
nylon fabrics, and utilizes their molded foam AirScape back panel,
BioStretch ventilated harness and a 40mm straight ErgoPull hip belt with
padded hip wings. It has their brilliant LidLock helmet clip and
blinker light attachment patch. The pack has a 16 liter capacity, and
includes their 100 oz (3 L) Hydraform reservoir and a roll-out tool
pouch. The pack comes in two colors, Pitch Black and Octane Blue, and
two sizes, Small/Medium and Medium/Large, weighs in at 920 grams and
retails for $149. In addition, they have a Zealot 10, which has a 10
liter capacity and retails for $129.



The
large main compartment is accompanied by a padded front compression
pocket, a top stash pocket, two stretch mesh side pockets, two hip
pockets, and a mesh and zippered harness pocket. The main compartment is
cavernous, and the useful back panel opening makes it easy to access
items. I do wish there was some internal zippered pockets, slots and
pouches for better organization of items in the main area, since things
can get lost in the vastness of the compartment. The hydration reservoir
fits into a separate pocket or sleeve on the rear of the main
compartment, which isolates it for easier insertion while the pack is
still fully loaded, and it has an elastic compression cord  system to
hold it tightly in place to prevent unwanted movement. The hip pockets
worked for a gel packs, cameras, and phones, although it was a tight fit
jamming an iPhone in there.

The
top stash pocket has a key clip, and offers enough space for multiple
items, including electronics and food. The padded front compression
pocket can carry a Full-Face helmet, and was quite useful for frequently
required items such as a shock pump, rags, and soft armor, and when
combined with the mesh side pockets, bulky items and armor could be
carried. The pockets on the harness were too small for most items,
except maybe a gel packs or energy bar, and sort of seemed superfluous.
At the bottom of the pack is a zippered pocket for the roll-out tool
pouch, which is quite handy as it keeps the usual heavy tool weight low
on the back, although I found its zipper hard to close when the pack was
fully loaded.

The
Hydraform 3 liter reservoir uses an anti-microbial formula to prevent
most mold and bacteria growth, and its BPA and PVC free. It has an
excellent 180-degree pivot bite valve that rotates on and off in either
direction, and features a magnet that attaches to sternum strap. The
reservoir has a large easy to use handle for holding and filling, and an
integrated plastic back panel for stiffening that has a slight bend in
it to conform to the back. Unfortunately, that stiff bowed panel makes
initial water filling difficult as it pushes the material up into the
port opening, causing spills and messes unless you’re careful or push
the down on things. Cleaning the reservoir isn’t easy since the opening
isn’t large enough for comfortable hand insertion, and the tube doesn’t
have a quick-release system like the competition. The Hydraform does
have the benefit that it lays nice and flat when filled, which help keep
the pack from feeling overly bulged out.

Impressions
The Zealot is impressively comfortable, and carries weight well, and
even when fully loaded it doesn’t unduly bounce around or feel
burdensome. The Airscape back panel with its mesh material, raised and
wavy foam padding, and flexible but stiff body work in concert with the
BioStretch harness and padded hip belt for maximum comfort and weight
carrying. The Airscape has nice air channels between the foam padding,
which offers great ventilation, as does the harness which has small
ports throughout its length.

The
40mm wide ErgoPull hip belt with its padded hip wings is comfortable
and is easy to adjust, though I found the extra strap material sort of
annoying when it flopped around. I remedied the situation by adding some
of my daughter’s hair bands around the belt to hold the excess in
place.
The large main compartment lets you bring tons of gear, so
it was excellent for long trips or when you might need additional gear
during inclement weather. Although I liked being able to toss anything
into the packs main section, I would have liked a couple of extra
pockets, slots or sleeves, to help keep thing organized. The monster
stretchy mesh side sleeves or pockets were handy for just about
anything, as was the large padded front section, where I usually tossed
my armor, shock pump and rags.

The
innovative LidLock helmet clip is a pretty amazing feature, and it
makes attaching a vented helmet a simple endeavor.  You just turn the
clip sideways, insert it through a top hole, and then pop it out flat,
and it securely holds it in place.

The
tool pouch was another handy item, and I really liked how nice it was
to keep all those small and odd items (tools, pump, patches, lube, tire
levers, etc.) in one place in a very organized manner. When you needed
something, you just unzipped the bottom pocket, grabbed the pouch and
rolled it out for usage. I liked the tool pouch so much that I carry it
around in my other test packs.

As
I noted above, I wasn’t a huge fan of their hydration reservoir, though
the I found the bite valve system was a real highlight. The rotating
bite valve shuts off by aligning the valve with the hose, so you know
when it’s closed, which prevents unwanted leakage and accidents. It has a
magnet integrated on its back side that then attaches to another magnet
located on the sternum strap, which helps keep the valve securely
fastened in place, and prevents the hose and valve from flopping around
when you’re bouncing along on trails.

  • Weight – pack only 820 grams,  29 oz, 1.8 lbs
  • Weight – reservoir/tube 340 grams,  12 oz, .75  lbs
  • Total Weight – 1160 grams,  41 oz, 2.56 lbs

Bottom Line
The Osprey Zealot is a well-made pack, that uses heavy materials and
stitching for durability and toughness. The arched Airscape back panel
and BioStretch harness are comfortable and ventilate nicely, and
together they facilitate load and weight carrying, centering and
stabilization. The cavernous main compartment has a back panel zipper
that fully opens for easy access to its contents, though some extra
internal pocket would be nice to organize things. The other pockets are
very useful, especially the front padded sleeve, which was easy to
access and drop items into it. Though the hydration reservoir functioned
just fine, I wasn’t a big fan of it, except for the swivel bite valve
with its magnet attachment. I highlight features were the tool pouch,
which kept lots of tools and other sundry items nicely organized, and
the brilliant helmet LidLock was easy to use whenever you needed to
carry your helmet.

The Zealot 16 is comfortable, can carry a lot
gear with good weight distribution, uses tough durable materials and
comes with their “All Mighty Guarantee” lifetime warranties.

Strengths

  • Lots of storage pockets
  • Bite valve system – rotating closure and magnetic clip
  • LidLock helmet attachment system
  • AirScape backpanel and BioStretch harness – great ventilation and comfort
  • Small/Medium and Medium/Large sizing for better anatomical fit
  • Tool pouch
  • Durable and tough material
  • Main compartment – large, with fully opening back panel zipper

Weaknesses

  • Main compartment – needs some internal pockets for organization
  • Hydration reservoir (I’m picky) – tough to clean, no tube quick release, tricky to fill
  • Superfluous harness pockets
  • Expensive

MSRP: $149

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