Osprey Skarab/SkimmerThe Osprey Skarab/Skimmer series offers a range of sizes for the day hiker or outdoor lover. With easy bucket top loading and enough storage for water, hiking poles, and extra clothes, your next outdoor adventure will be a pleasure. View Latest Deal
Are you looking to get a lightweight hiking backpack with hands-free hydration? Or did curiosity get the better of you, and you want to know everything about the new and improved Skarab and Skimmer backpacks?
Whichever it is, you will find all the answers right here in our detailed review!
Is this the backpack you are looking for? Scroll down to find out!
First thing’s first: the Skarabs are men’s backpacks, and the Skimmers are women’s backpacks. The differences between the men’s and women’s packs aren’t drastic – the female versions are slightly smaller, lighter, and have smaller capacities. But they don’t lack any important features.
As you can see, there are three size options for each of these backpacks. And not all sizes come with the same features. Now, this is a little bit tricky – there are actually very few features that all six of the backpacks share. The correlating sizes of men’s and women’s backpacks are pretty much the same, but the Skarab 18 and the Skarab 30 are two vastly different backpacks.
I will make sure to emphasize which features are shared between all six backpacks. Look for red headings to see the features that are exclusive to certain sizes.
But there is one important thing that all of them have in common, and that’s the premium 210D Nylon Diamond Ripstop fabric that they’re made of. This material is extremely durable and tear-resistant, and even water-resistant without any additional coating. Because of that, any one of these Osprey backpacks should easily last you years, even with frequent use.
One thing I have to point out is that you need to be careful when buying the Skimmer 16 backpack. The Plum Red is the newer version, and the Orange is the old version. If you want to get the backpack that I am talking about in this review, you will need to buy the Plum Red version.
These backpacks were recently fully redesigned. They are smaller and lighter than their predecessors, which ultimately makes them better for shorter and easier tours. Anyway, you can see just how different they look in the photos below:
That’s the Osprey Skimmer. On the right side, you can see the old, 30-liter backpack. And on the left side is the newer, 28-liter backpack. Let’s play a little game of spot the differences – how many can you actually see?
I didn’t want to actually mark them because there are so many, and you would barely see the packs! The first and most obvious one is that they reduced the size of the packs. The old Skimmer featured three size options – 16L, 22L, and 30L. The new Skimmer also comes in three sizes, but they are a bit smaller – 16L, 20L, and 28L.
The newer backpacks are lighter and more minimalistic. They have different opening styles, different side pockets, and a completely redesigned front shove-it pocket. The 28L Skimmer is nearly a pound lighter than the old 30L Skimmer, which is a huge improvement. But, Osprey did remove some features completely – you don’t get stretch side pockets on the new big packs.
Which is reasonable, I think. Hear me out; the stretch side pockets on the old Skimmer were primarily designed to fit water bottles. With a new and improved hydration system (and an included reservoir!), you don’t really need to bring water bottles on your hikes. So, they put zippers on these pockets, to make them more secure for some smaller items.
In addition to that, they put small cutouts on the back of the pockets, so that you can reach them while you are wearing the backpack. And the new, zippered pockets are larger and more spacious than the previous ones, so I actually think this is a good thing.
However, if you can’t live without stretch side pockets, go for the smaller versions of the backpack – they are still included on them.
Even before the redesign, Skarab and Skimmer were lightweight hydration packs. Now they are even lighter – but does that mean that they are also more comfortable? Or that Osprey just made the backpacks smaller?
Let’s find out.
I think Osprey realized at some point that not a lot of people want to buy a hydration pack that weighs 2.5 lbs. They even had lighter and better alternatives in their own range of backpacks, so they figured it was time for a redesign. And I 100% agree with their decision.
The new Skarab and Skimmer backpacks are remarkably lightweight. As you could see in the table in the previous section, the Skimmer 28L is the heaviest out of the bunch, at 1.68 lbs. This makes them great backpacks for easy hiking tours, where you don’t need a lot of gear. And where you don’t need a heavy backpack weighing you down – mind you, these backpacks weigh just as much as a decent pair of hiking boots.
All of these Osprey backpacks have AirScape backpanels with bump-foam ventilation. These are extremely comfortable back systems, with superb ventilation and stable load distribution.
AirScape keeps the weight of the backpack close to the body, to ensure your carrying comfort. This is actually Osprey’s most stable back system, and it is best suited for fast-paced activities. This is exactly why it is often included in their hiking backpacks.
The outer part of the backpanel is covered with mesh, which wicks away sweat immediately. The bump-foam also plays a big part in the ventilation of the back, as it allows for airflow and keeps you cool. Not to mention how comfortable the foam padding feels against your back.
Another thing to note about the backpanel is that tiny hole at the bottom, just above the rain cover compartment. In case the hydration bladder ruptures for some reason, the hole is there to allow the water to drain quickly and efficiently. It protects the contents of your main compartment and ensures that they won’t get soaked in case of a reservoir malfunction.
The shoulder straps are almost identical on all four backpacks. They are padded, covered with mesh on both sides, and fully adjustable. That it is a tiny downside – I was hoping that the Skimmer packs would have slightly more ergonomic shoulder straps, which would be a better fit for a female body. Bud sadly, they don’t.
It is important that you tighten (or loosen) the shoulder straps until the backpanel lies completely flat against your back.
The sternum strap is a fairly basic feature – it helps with transferring the load of the backpack away from your shoulders, and ensures that the straps stay in place. Osprey’s sternum strap usually doubles as whistles, but that’s not the case with the ones here.
Instead, they feature a magnet, which is supposed to hold the reservoir hose in place, for hands-free hydration. In this particular situation, I think that the magnet is a much more useful feature than a whistle.
The Skimmer 28 and Skarab 30 feature a padded spacer mesh hipbelt. It is comfortable, ventilated, and effectively transfers the load of the backpack away from your shoulders. You can easily adjust it to fit you perfectly, and that is one of the first things you should do when you receive the backpack!
If you want to ensure that you are comfortable at all times, you have to properly adjust the shoulder straps and the hipbelt. That way you the backpack will not feel too heavy, and you won’t get tired quickly.
The Skarab 18/22 and Skimmer 16/20 feature completely different hipbelts. They are actually removable webbing hipbelts, and they are much smaller. That is because these backpacks have much lower capacities, so you don’t actually need a big hipbelt in order to stay comfortable.
These do a good job at transferring the smaller loads to your hips, and will still keep you comfortable in your adventures. Especially because they are also ventilated, to keep you from sweating in the warmer days.
I think that accessibility is more important than an organization with smaller hiking backpacks. And what I mean by that is that I do not really expect any additional compartments or 20 different pockets in these backpacks. That level of organization is more important in backpacks with very large capacities.
But, Osprey still made sure to include enough organizational features that make most of your gear easily accessible. So, let’s talk about them.
The new versions of these backpacks feature a wide-mouth bucket-style opening of the main compartment.
When you unzip the lid, the entire top part of the main compartment is exposed. Everything inside is easily accessible, except maybe the items on the bottom. But that will only be an issue on the two largest backpacks.
This design of the main compartment opening is pretty different from what we are used to in Osprey backpacks. It is innovative and fresh, and definitely worth trying out. Also, it allowed them to put an internal pocket in the lid in some of the packs.
The smallest and largest Skarab and Skimmer packs feature an underlid zip pocket. It is a mesh pocket, and it is fairly small.
This pocket is easily accessible – it’s the first thing you see when you unzip the lid of the pack. So, it’s best for any items you want to have handy in your adventures.
Also, there’s a key clip in this pocket, which is a pretty useful feature. Not only will it stop your keys from scratching your phone on sunglasses (especially useful for the 16/18L packs), but it also means that your keys can’t get lost in your backpack. And if you’re anything like me, that key clip hits spot on.
The four larger backpacks feature a small, heat-embossed scratch-free pocket. It’s just below the zipper of the main compartment, and it is designed for the items you want to protect at all times.
The pocket is separate from everything else on the backpack, so it’s actually perfect for your sunglasses or cell phone.
It is also positioned so that if someone tried to rob you, there is no way they could open up this pocket without you noticing.
The four smaller backpacks feature stretch side pockets. As you can see in the photo, the pockets are dual access, with openings both on the top and at the back.
This allows you to reach into them while you are wearing the backpack – a small, but really convenient design feature.
These pockets are made from mesh, which is both stretchy and firm. You can easily fit a water bottle inside these pockets, but you can also fit a map, and the mesh will hold it firmly in place. It is of premium quality, just like most other materials Osprey uses.
This pocket allows you to quickly put away a spare jacket or a hoodie – it’s great because you don’t have to put that clothing inside the main compartment. It increases the capacity of the backpack, without actually adding any weight to it.
To put something in the pocket, you need to undo the upper compression straps. They hold its contents firmly in place and guarantee that nothing can fall out of it.
I told you a little bit about these at the very beginning of our review. I’m sure not all of you will be huge fans of the zippered side pockets, but you have to admit that they are a bit more practical than stretch ones.
The side pockets of the Skarab 30 and Skimmer 28 have a zippered closure. This makes it safer than traditional stretch pockets – you can put your smartphone in one of these without worrying it will fall out.
Additionally, you can also use these for water bottles and leave them open. The lower compression straps, which are exclusive to the larger packs, will hold the bottle safely in place.
The big Skarab and Skimmer have coveted hipbelt pockets. It goes without saying that these are extremely useful features, as they allow you to have certain items handy at all times.
They are just the right size to fit your GoPro, some snacks, cash, or GPS – any smaller items. And they have zippered closure, so everything inside them will stay perfectly safe.
The hipbelt pockets are not included in any of the smaller backpacks because those don’t have proper hipbelts. So, if this is a feature that you like and want to have on your pack, you will need to go for the 28/30 version.
The number of compression straps depends on the size of the backpack. The Skarab 18 and Skimmer 16 don’t have any compression straps. Which kind of makes sense, because of their small size and capacity.
The Skarab 22 and Skimmer 20 feature two compression straps. They are on the upper part of the backpacks, one on each side. These straps are there to help keep the trekking poles in place, but you can also use them to tighten the backpacks a bit when they are not filled to capacity.
The two largest backpacks, Skarab 30 and Skimmer 28 (featured photo) have a total of four compression straps. There are the two upper straps that you also see on the 20/22 packs, as well as two lower side compression straps. These help tighten the backpacks even more, and also keep the contents of the side pockets in place. This is particularly useful if you are carrying a water bottle in zippered side pockets.
Because they are so small and lightweight, you can use them on a daily basis. They might lack some features of a good everyday backpack, but the comfort makes compromising worth it. Additionally, most of these are short enough that they would be allowed as carry-ons, which is a big bonus.
Anyway, here are the features that make these Osprey packs suitable for various uses.
All Skarab and Skimmer backpacks feature daisy chain attachment points on the front panel. There’s one on each side, with a total of 10 attachment points on the backpack.
This is a very useful feature, especially on the smaller packs that don’t have the front shove-it pocket.
Daisy chains allow you to attach pretty much anything to your backpack – you just need a carabiner to attach it.
That could be a tripod, a backpacking knife, or an umbrella – whatever it is that you want to bring on your hike, but don’t want to put it in the main compartment.
I like that it is an external compartment because it doesn’t take away from the capacity of the main compartment. This way you can fit more gear inside your backpack, and that’s really nice.
On the other hand, if the reservoir sleeve was inside the pack, it would have been a more versatile feature. An internal sleeve would easily double as a laptop sleeve, for those scenarios when you want to use this as a daypack. But I don’t think it’s a big deal.
The four larger backpacks feature walking pole attachments on the front panel. They work in conjunction with the upper side compression straps, which ensure that the poles will stay in place.
While these are useful additions to the backpacks, I think they are not the best design feature. Mostly because Osprey already has trekking pole attachment points on some other backpacks that are on the shoulder straps.
That way you can securely attach the poles to the pack without taking it off – I think that’s a much more convenient option.
The two largest backpacks come equipped with an ice axe loop. Whether or not this feature is useful, depends on your hiking habits.
To secure the ice axe properly, you need to slide the axe shaft through the loop at the bottom of the backpack, and then place it under the seam of the front shove-it pocket. Tighten the compression straps to completely secure it in place.
One downside to the loop is that it interferes with the trekking pole attachments. Technically, you can secure both to the front of your backpack, but it will be tricky to do so.
Plus, you will need to be extra careful when securing the poles in the bottom loops.
The new design also brought about new prices. The Spring 2019 Skarab and Skimmer backpacks are somewhat pricier than their older versions. So, is a lightweight hydration backpack with a 30-liter capacity really worth some $130?
The short answer is yes. And the long explanation is below.
For a limited time, Osprey is giving away hydration bladders with each purchase of these backpacks. The good news is that you also get all the accessories needed to set up hands-free hydration. And the better news is that the deal is also happening on Amazon.
They are including 2.5-liter hydration bladders with each pack, which usually costs around $30 (£28 in the UK). That brings the price of the smaller backpacks to some $70 – which is not really cheap, but definitely not ridiculously expensive. Especially considering the quality of materials and all the features you are getting.
But there is more.
The four larger backpacks come with an Osprey rain cover, which has its own compartment at the very bottom of the pack. For these backpacks, you would need a size S rain cover (for packs that have 20-35L capacity), which usually costs around $25.
The rain cover alone does not justify the higher price point of these packs. But with the addition of the reservoir, that’s $55 worth of gear you are getting with your backpack. Gear that you would have to buy separately if you didn’t own it already. This brings down the price of the Skarab 22 to some $45 – and that’s a bargain.
Sure, there are lots of cheaper third-party options you can buy, but can they really compare to Osprey’s quality and durability?
It was really difficult to rate the Skarab/Skimmer as a whole, and it is still difficult to give you my final impressions. That’s because the backpacks are so different – the Skimmer 16 and the Skimmer 28 are like two completely different packs.
So, I will try to do this size-wise.
The Skarab 18 and Skimmer 16 are great lightweight backpacks. They are an amazing choice of you carry very little gear when you go hiking because they will not weigh you down one bit. But they are also the packs with the least features – by getting the smallest two packs, you are giving up on compression straps, a scratch-free pocket, a rain cover, and much more.
But is that necessarily a bad thing? If you’re looking for minimalism in a backpack and prioritize weight and comfort, then this is not a downside at all.
What about the Skimmer 20 and Skarab 22? I think that these are the backpacks that I would recommend to most people who are looking for a lightweight pack for easy tours. You’re still missing quite a few features, but these sizes are without a doubt the best value for money. And they are still lightweight, durable, and can fit just enough gear for those casual hikes.
But if you want it all – and by all, I mean a spacer mesh hipbelt with pockets, a front shove-it pocket, an ice axe loop, zippered side pockets, and four compression straps, you will need to get the Skarab 30 or the Skimmer 28.
The final question to answer is are those two backpacks worth it? Sure, you do get quite some value in the gear that Osprey gives away with them, but that still doesn’t change the fact that you need to pay more than $100. Which can get you a lot more, when you look at Osprey’s competitors.
But it will not get you that AirScape backpanel, the hands-free hydration system, or that signature Osprey quality. The Skarab 30 and Skimmer 28 truly are premium backpacks. They are designed for people who don’t want to hike with a 50-liter backpack, but still want to be able to carry a lot of gear. And those people don’t mind paying a premium price for premium products.
If you are one of those people, head over to Amazon to see which colors are available and how much they cost. And don’t worry, you will get all the additional equipment when you shop there.