Following on from our rave review of the Osprey Atmos 50L backpack which is sized and designed with multi-day hikers in mind, it’s now time to take a look at the Atmos’ little brother; the Osprey Manta AG 28.
With many of the great features of the Atmos but in a smaller 28-litre format, the Manta should be your go-to for day hiking (or an ultra-minimalist overnighter if you’re that way inclined!).
Disclaimer: Over the years, my personal preference for backpacks has been very lightweight and minimal, quite often having little or no back padding and typically no more than a main compartment with a pocket in the lid for storage. I was initially dubious when asked to review the Manta AG and due to its feature-loaded DNA, and I suspected this pack wouldn’t be right for me. How wrong I was!
Manta AG 28
It didn’t take long for me to become a convert; the first time I tried it on in fact! As soon as I saddled up, I was WOW’ing like an American chat show host! The hip belt hugs your torso like a baby orang-utan wrapping their legs around their mother as she’s swinging through the forest canopy. There is an extreme sense of stability and lightness even with a fully loaded pack.
These hugging properties are thanks to the AGTM (Anti-Gravity) hip belt which is fairly ridged and through some sort of design wizardry gives the sensation of being spring loaded. This allows the majority of the weight of the pack to sit more naturally on your hips where it should be, rather than on your shoulders or back.
In addition to the hip belt the load carrying features of the pack includes a LightwireTM semi exoskeleton frame and the BiostretchTM harness. These features allow the upper sections of the shoulder straps to stretch ever so slightly, adding to great on-back stability of the pack.
The most noticeable feature of the pack is the mesh back-panel that sits away from the back of the pack. Whilst this is not a new idea, the Manta manages to provide added stability, far superior to other’s attempts. The gap that is created between your back and the pack both allows for increase airflow and less moisture build-up, as well as providing all-day comfort.
When it comes to storage, there is no shortage with this pack. One of its most convenient features is the 2.5 litre water bladder storage section with its own independently accessible pocket. This allows the bladder to be removed and replaced when full of water even with a full pack, removing the need to half empty your pack when refilling the bladder.
In addition, there are some nice little storage touches, including the soft-lined glasses pocket and two small zipped pockets on the hip belt, which are great for quick access to often-needed items such as GPS devices, phones or snacks.
The main compartment is accessible via a large clamshell zip, which allows the majority of the contents of the pack to be accessed easily. As an added bonus however, the pack also has a large front pocket that is perfect for odds and ends, as well as a flexible mesh pocket that can perfectly accommodate a rolled up wet shell jacket.
Stow-On-The-GoTM Trekking Pole Storage System – The Verdict
One of the features that I was most looking forward to seeing on this pack was the Stow-On-The-GoTM trekking pole storage system. This feature claims to allow you to stow your trekking poles without removing your pack using a fixed loop located just behind the left hip pocket and an elasticised draw cord located on the left shoulder strap.
It could just be me and my short arms, but I personally could not easily get my two poles through the lower fixed strap whilst the pack was on my back. I think the system would be much easier to use if the lower strap was also an elasticised draw cord rather than a fixed loop.
Other features of this pack include mesh water bottle holders on each side of the pack for easy removal without taking your pack off; four side compassion straps that secure the bag tight to your back when it isn’t fully loaded; an integrated rain cover and a helmet and tail light attachments for the bike commuter.
Not For You If…
The hip belts on the Manta don’t fold away, which means that if you are someone who only sometimes “straps in,” this pack won’t work for you as you will find it difficult to get a good fit on your back without the harness buckled up.