Everyday commuter bags from major outdoor brands tend to be blinged out—pockets, buckles, daisy chains, compartments for everything from laptops to running shoes. Those designs have their place, for folks whose days are packed with diverse activities that require keeping a lot of gear well organized. But sometimes you just need a pack that’s well built and comfortable, without all the sporty-looking bells and whistles. That’s the niche Osprey filled with its new Arcane series, a line of three urban commuter packs.
The waxed-cotton bags are a massive departure from the technical designs Osprey is known for: no chest straps or hipbelts, hardly any external pockets, no stretch mesh or lightweight ripstop nylon. After a few days with the line, we found that, while the bags border on too simple (we could use an extra pocket or two), they hide an array of thoughtful features ideal for everyday carry. And like Osprey’s other packs, the bags are durable and ride well. Here we break down each model.
Osprey Arcane Small Day Pack 10L ($90)
Aesthetics are where this bag shines. The sleek waxed cotton and clean turtle-shell silhouette look as great on the way to the office as they do at the bar afterward. The small ten-liter size is perfect for my daily essentials (coffee mug, wallet, lunch, coat), and the external zippered pocket holds my phone, keys, and even a book or snacks. My only gripes: the top main zipper is covered by a waxed-canvas flap, which offers protection from precipitation but gets in the way of quick access, and there are no external water-bottle pockets. —Emily Reed, assistant editor
Osprey Arcane Large Day Pack 20L ($110)
I like keeping accessories in pockets for easy access, so at first I was on the fence about the Arcane’s über-pared-down design. The internal mesh pocket fits only slim items, and the vertically zippered outside pocket isn’t great for small sundries, which tend to fall out when it’s open. But after several days, I came to appreciate the pack’s simplicity, which made for an easier and more comfortable carry, thanks to the absence of dangly straps and overstuffed side pockets. Plus, the vertical zipper on that external compartment means items are right at hand when I hang the pack off one shoulder. Other small features—like mesh sleeves on the shoulder straps that are perfect for holding a Metro card, an internal sleeve for a 15-inch laptop, and a hook to strap the pack around a chair leg to prevent someone from scooping it up on the fly—make the Arcane Large a great urban commuter bag. —Ariella Gintzler, assistant editor
Osprey Arcane Large Top Zip 18L ($120)
After toting the Large Top Zip on my walks to and from work for a few days, I found myself surprised by how much it offers despite its minimalist design. The side zip pocket is barely visible, tucked away in a fold, but it holds a jacket or other extra layer, keys, wallet, and a phone. Soft ribbed back padding is another delight, adding comfort and breathability. How simple is too simple, though? When I loaded the bag to capacity, the straps started to tug and slip away around my shoulders as I walked. Though a chest strap would take away from the pack’s clean aesthetic, it would add security. —Jeremy Rellosa, editorial assistant