Our relationship started badly. It’s a miracle we’re even friends, to be honest.
About a year ago, I decided to buy a new backpack for day hikes. The one I had was too small to comfortably fit my camera, plus it didn’t have space for a water bladder. I didn’t do a whole lot of research–or any, actually. I chose the Osprey Manta 28 L because 1) it was on sale and 2) it was red. Osprey has a decent reputation and REI has an excellent return policy. So there you go.
Our first outing was a sunrise hike to Old Rag. It was my first sunrise hike of the summer, so I was excited, and I like to think my Osprey Manta was too, if a little nervous. Trying new gear for the first time in the dark is rarely a good idea. (Okay, never. It’s never a good idea.)
My alarm went off at midnight. I rolled out of bed already dressed in my hiking clothes, brewed some coffee, filled the water bladder, and was on the road half an hour later. It’s a 2.5 hour drive to Old Rag for me, and those summer sunrises come obscenely early.
When we got to the parking lot, I realized something was very, very wrong. My backpack was soaked. The water bladder had leaked, leaving a nice puddle on my front seat. I said a lot of bad words, squeezed as much water from the backpack as I could, and searched for a hole. I didn’t find one. I screwed the cap off and on again, hoping that would solve the problem. I still had plenty of water left. The Osprey Manta 28 L comes with a three liter water reservoir. I had fully filled it, even though it was more than I needed, to increase the weight for training purposes.
Off I went, with my wet backpack soaking through my pants. It kept leaking. It was uncomfortable and I froze my wet ass off. I was annoyed.
The sunrise was spectacular.
When I got home, I kicked its red butt into a corner so it could think about what it had done wrong. After a nap and another cup of coffee, I realized I had screwed the cap on wrong–twice. User error at its finest.
We went on dozens of hikes together after that. White Oak Canyon, Big Schloss, Massie Gap. The Osprey Manta has just enough pockets to safely store my headlamp, phone, and a snack bar, and it’s still roomy enough to carry my climbing gear–minus the ropes– when I’m hitting Carderock and Great Falls. When my focus is getting great (okay, decent) shots, it carries my camera and tripod. It’s comfortable. None of the straps dig in or leave painful bruises.
And then there was that time I hiked Gray’s Peak. That was where I truly fell in love with my Osprey Manta.
I had reached the top and was on my way back down. My brain was a wee bit frazzled from lack of oxygen. A lot of the trail was scree, and I wasn’t used to that. My foot slipped out from under me and down I went, landing on my back–or, rather, my backpack. I skidded over the rocks for about fifteen feet before I stopped myself at a boulder.
I stood up. I was all in one piece, with barely a scratch. My lovely red backpack was now a shade of dusty gray. Other than that, it was fine. No rips, holes, or tears. Holy heck, the Osprey Manta can take a beating. Even the water reservoir made it through in one piece.
Today we’re heading back to Old Rag. If my Osprey Manta thinks that icy rocks and clumsy girls don’t mix well together, it at least keeps these thoughts to itself.
“Hey,” I say as I pack it up. “Remember that first time we did Old Rag and you leaked all over my butt and I was super mad about it? Wasn’t that funny?”
My Osprey Manta doesn’t answer. It is deeply offended that I would even bring this up.
I laugh and toss it over my shoulder. It’s time for another adventure.