In chess, the Rook – sometimes called the castle – is the least interesting of all the pieces. It has no regal title or fancy moves. It just sits in the corner like a naughty child until required. With a no-nonsense style and dependable method, Rooks are often amongst the final pieces remaining on the board as the battle ends. It’s the same with Osprey’s new Rook pack – a solid performer which will quietly see off much flashier alternatives.
Osprey is a respected American pack manufacturer of over 40 years standing, who offer a vast range of packs. Last year we examined Osprey’s lightweight model, the Exos, and we also recently reviewed the Osprey Atmos.
The Osprey Rook has a new adjustable torso system, a straightforward feature set, and comes in 50 and 65-litre volumes. To complement the Rook, Osprey also has the companion Renn model, designed to fit women’s anatomy with specially shaped and contoured shoulder straps and hip belt.
Key features: The Osprey Rook is an attractive looking backpack – it has the classic slim flattened pear shape design with few external interruptions, giving it an elegant and clean appearance. It helps that Mallard Green is an attractive colour too.
Frame: The standout feature of this bag is its external frame. Like the Exos we previously reviewed, the heart of this bag is formed from two metres of 4mm diameter high tensile steel, which loops around the entire back perimeter of the pack in an hourglass shape. This frame supports a tightly sprung ‘trampoline’ back panel which provides comfort without the weight of conventional padding. This perforated pad provides for excellent ventilation to keep your back dry from sweat. The Rook is a lightweight framed pack, so you need to take some care not to drop it heavily onto the ground while loaded.
Harness: The Osprey Rook is a one size fits all pack. The harness is adjusted by moving a hook bracket into webbing loops. While it looks a bit agricultural, it’s simple and effective. The overall range of adjustment is a useful 140mm achieved with four 35mm steps. The load lifters (straps which cinch the tops of the chest straps back to the bag) have two positions.
The chest and hip strap padding feel quite firm – much stiffer than the Exos. This stiffness, of course, allows for greater comfort with heavier loads. Osprey say this bag will carry up to 18kg, but the softer straps would tend to dig in with this weight.
Sternum strap: The non-stretch sternum strap is held by buttons under a flap on the chest straps. It looks a bit pragmatic but works fine. Three positions are available, and a whistle is moulded into the buckle.
Lid: A conventional two-strap lid with a large zippered pocket. I prefer this to the Exos’ fiddly ‘floating lid’ concept. The pocket has an internal key clip.
Hydration: The Osprey Rook features an internal sleeve attached to the back panel for a water bladder. It is complete with a hanging hook, tube routing aperture and elastic loops on the chest straps. Osprey has even put an eyelet at the bottom of the sleeve to drain any condensation or leakage to the outside of the sack.
Hip Pockets: These are great for small items you want to access on the move – snacks, camera, smartphone, etc. Once you have used a pack with hip belt pockets you will miss them if a bag doesn’t have them. The Rook’s hip pockets are a generous size and can be accessed on the move.
The pack’s lower compression straps double as hip belt stabiliser straps and are connected to the end of the hip pockets. This setup looks a bit odd, and while I had initial concerns about it, the configuration serves to keep the zipper under tension, allowing the zip pull tabs to move more easily. Another clever detail by Osprey.
Rain Cover: The Rook comes with an elasticized external rain cover in its own zippered storage pocket. It is secured with a thin leash and toggle. While I’m not a big fan of rain covers – (they can catch on scrub and I’ve seen them blown off and lost in alpine gusts) – many people swear by them. Either way, it’s a nice inclusion at no extra cost.
The Rook also has many features often not found on lower priced packs:
- Load lifters: a buckle on the top of each shoulder strap to cinch the load in closer to your back for more stability.
- A central internal compression strap to squeeze down the load before snapping the lid on. Coloured red to distinguish it from the other straps.
- Two large mesh side pockets capable of each holding two water one-litre bottles.
- Nice details: all zips have natty pull rings and drainage eyelets. A Leave No Trace minimum impact principles script is printed inside the throat.
There are some omissions, though. The Rook has no ice axe loops, walking stick stowage system, chest strap pockets, or large front pocket for your wet tent fly or raincoat. However, all of these can be overcome by other means if needed.
The Bag: The Rook’s packcloth is mainly 600 denier polyester, with some 450 denier polyester accent panels. The bottom of the pack is 1000 denier nylon for improved durability in this higher wear area. The polyester cloth is not as strong as nylon, so this is one area where Osprey have sought to reduce costs. Other pack manufacturers typically use similar density pack cloth fabric, but of nylon. The Rook cloth looks and feels durable, and I would expect it to last for many years.
Rook has a large U-shaped zip in the bottom of the pack, intended for sleeping bag access. A droppable flap inside completes the compartment. This feature is apparently well received by customers, who warm to the idea of securing their sleeping gear separately from the main compartment.
I find it hard to see where I’d want to get at my sleeping bag without also accessing my other gear. In fact, the sleeping bag is the last thing I want to extract from my pack, except on rare occasions for airing in lunchtime sunshine. Even if you did remove your sleeping bag out through this zip, there’s no way it would go back in unless the rest of the sack was emptied. It’s a pointless inclusion, but one which other pack manufacturers are happy to also offer.
History Lesson: The idea of a lower “sleeping bag compartment” is vestigial from the H-frame glory days of bushwalking when you lashed your sleeping bag and foam mat onto a step at the bottom of your pack since they were generally too bulky to fit inside.
(A dubious navigation technique back then was to follow the blue or yellow foam breadcrumbs, produced as the soft mats were eroded by anything they touched along the track. I have a reliable report back then of a complete sleeping bag found beside the track, said to have slipped off the bottom of an H frame pack.)
Going from the external lashing of sleeping bags onto the bottom of framed packs, to our modern monocoque designs, it’s easy to see how incorporating a zip to enable access to a sleeping bag came about.
While it’s covered by a storm flap, this hull penetration compromises the water resistance and integrity of the sack. A “sleeping bag compartment” has no place on modern packs and Osprey should have resisted the temptation to include such a dubious feature. The effort would have been better placed in providing a large front stretchy mesh pocket, or in further cost reduction.
Warranty: Outdoor Agencies, the Australian distributor, warrants the product for two years.
Weight: The Osprey Rook 65 litre model weighs 1680g, including the removable rain cover at 105g. It gives a very good load carrying capacity for its weight.
What about real-world performance?
I took this pack on a weekend off track walk around the Chimney Pots in the Grampians National Park. This was a difficult exploratory walk through thick scrub and narrow rocky canyons, with a lot of rock scrambling – conditions which are very harsh on equipment.
The Rook was loaded with 16kg of gear to bring it the middle of Ospreys recommended range of 14 to 18kg. Visually, the Rook seems to have similar volume as other 65 litre packs, and all my usual gear was readily accommodated. The gap between the trampoline back pad and the sack ensures there are no digs in the back from poorly placed items.
My 2-litre hydration bladder slipped into the sleeve easily, I poked the hose through the slot and slipped the nozzle through an elastic loop on the chest strap without any issues.
Due to the nature of this terrain, a clean profile is helpful to reduce snagging so on this occasion I didn’t put any water bottles in the side pockets. The Rook’s side pockets are made of non-stretch mesh with elastic trim. This mesh is more durable than the stretchy mesh used on the Exos. Two one litre bottles can be accommodated each side.
The throat and top lid all cinch down neatly. I did find the top pocket’s zippered opening a bit narrow, making it hard to see inside and to reach into the back corners, which are deep. A bonus of the narrow slot though, is when you inadvertently flip the lid back with the zip open, everything doesn’t fall out.
Rook performed flawlessly on the weekend. The mesh pockets were unscathed by any probing sticks. The firm hip and shoulder padding felt good. I did drop down to the lower load lifter buckles as I was getting a top end wobble (because my water was stashed up high- it wouldn’t have been an issue if I had it in the side pockets). The lower buckle setting did the trick.
The bag sits up by itself when empty which makes it easy to load the gear in. One feature which I really like from Osprey is the ability to open the throat drawstring with one hand. None of my trail-mate’s backpacks can do this, and it’s something Osprey should claim as a feature.
Steady rain commenced mid-morning on the second day, so I fitted the rain cover. This is just like a giant shower cap. It fits well and does its job. It didn’t snag on any scrub as we were heading down off the rocky tops through some more open forest. The rain beaded up readily on the rain cover and rolled off. I may be a rain cover convert.
Overall, I was very pleased with the field performance of this pack. The profile of it fits well within my body outline, so my pathway through the bush was rarely impeded. The close fit gives security on exposed rocky scrambles – I didn’t feel like I would fall or be pulled back off a rock face by the pack, even when the rocks became greasy with rain.
Design, Comfort & Durability (Rating: 85%)
Osprey’s pack design experience is clearly evident in another well-resolved product.
The high tensile frame and trampoline back panel set the foundations for this pack’s solid performance. It’s hard to set a foot wrong when it’s based on such an innovative structure, and Osprey has simply built it up from there.
Durability is slightly reduced with the polyester rather than nylon pack cloth, but make no mistake, this is a strong, well made, dependable pack, capable of serious use.
Functionality & Ease of Use (Rating: 90%)
I really like Ospreys attention to detail, which is clearly informed by field use.
All zips have pull tab loops, the pack is freestanding, and you can open the throat with one hand. Osprey doesn’t boast about any of this, and they could.
The Rook’s torso length and sternum strap adjustment mechanisms are simple, but they work well in practice. Osprey has deleted some rarely used features to make this pack a highly competitive proposition.
Osprey provide a detailed Owner’s Manual which explains the Rook’s features and most importantly, how to fit the pack.
What I Like
- Clean lines, simple non-fussy appearance.
- Excellent weight carrying capacity.
- Trampoline back panel for comfort and ventilation. No sweaty back.
- Thoughtful, experienced design. Nice details, faultless build quality.
- Getting the extensive Osprey experience and features in a budget product.
What I Don’t Like
There’s nothing to seriously dislike about this pack. Some minor gripes are:
- External side pockets don’t have stretch mesh. The pocket openings are elasticized though.
- No large front pocket, for wet items like a tent fly or raincoat.
- Access to top lid pocket difficult due to narrow opening height.
- Sleeping bag access zipper and internal trapdoor flap. Just not needed.
The Osprey Rook 65 litre hiking backpack is available online via Wild Earth.
Disclaimer: The above link is an affiliate link, meaning The Bushwalking Blog receives a small percentage of any purchases made after clicking the link. This has no influence on the opinions presented in the review.
Have you tried the Oprey Rook backpack? Or any of Osprey’s other hiking backpacks? Got any questions or comments? Let us know by commenting below.