I use this Osprey Pandion pack mostly as a three day travel pack for business. While at 28L it is on the small size, I love the light weight, the mesh back, and the kickstand for travel.
Starting with the main compartment, here is where I put my clothes and toiletries. I use a small packing cube for things that I can roll up like t shirts, and a pack-it folder for shirts. I have a LL Bean small toiletries bag. All these and one or more smaller organizer pouches fits in the main compartment together with my laptop. The laptop compartment is suspended and well padded. There is a document pocket in front of the laptop area, followed by a medium size slightly padded zipper pocket. Maybe a small tablet can fit in there. I seldom use that pocket because my iPad Pro only fits in the document pocket.
The Pandion has a slightly larger brother, the tropos which has a separate laptop compartment. The size of that pack is 32L because the laptop compartment gives maybe another inch of depth. While sometimes I wish I can pull the laptop out easier, I do not want the extra depth and weight. The Tropos and the Pandion also differ in the front of the pack:
The Pandion has a elastic front stash pocket that is extemely useful for travel. I stuff my light weight outer layer in there when I go through TSA Pre or in and out of cars. It probably won’t fit a winter coat, but any light weight puff jacket or hoodie will fit just fine.
The Tropos has a center zipped compartment and I think is less useful.
The Pandion also has two large elastic and mesh water bottle pockets on each side. They are very deep, certainly fits a large 20L bottle. During travel they are more useful as extra dump pockets for things like snacks as well.
Finally there is a slightly padded, sunglasses pocket at the top of the pack that I use for dumping my phone when I go through TSA.
Second large compartment
There is a second compartment in the pack that runs the full height of the pack. The back wall has organizer pockets up top, and a zipper pocket in the bottom half. It is useful when I have random things I want to be able to get to quickly, like my Amazon Basics foldable iPad stand. This compartment is pretty deep (front to back) and I can fit my bond travel gear pouch in there with all my electronics.
Suspended Mesh Back and Kickstand
These are two innovative features of this osprey. I find the mesh back really comfortable for walking around the airport. Often I ended up walking 10, 15 mins or more around the terminals and the suspended mesh definitely makes the walk easier. Together with the load lifters, and the chest strap, the fully loaded feels like nothing during the walk. The pack comes with detachable half inch waist webbing, but I removed them since I don’t find that I need them.
One thing about the mesh back — if I am wearing something smooth like a synthetic hoodie, the mesh tend to move slightly as I walk and I can hear a whoosh-whoosh side is it run against the synthetic materials.
I read some reviews that said they do not like the kickstand and I never can understand that. Especially with the thinner profile Pandion (comparing to the Tropos) I find that the bag will stand on the kickstand 90% of the time. It is really useful when I am waiting in line at the TSA, or working in a conference room. I can just put the bag down anyway.
This is a great travel pack for business. I have used this for 10+ trips in the last few months. My alternative is the Cotopaxi Allpa pack that I also like a lot. I can fit more things in the Allpa but I have to leave it at the hotel once I get to my destination. Whereas the Pandion I take that to work each day at my destination.
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The Katara 16 is a 16L everyday carry backpack that can be converted easily to a left or right single shoulder sling bag. There are a lot of options out there for a 16L day pack. The Katara serves this space well with smart design and nice styling.
While the pack is only available in tactical colors (coyote tan, wolf grey, black, multi cam black) , I find the multi cam black can pass for, must to the dismay of true fans of tactical gear, more of a fashion statement because of the pack’s overall styling. The Katara has a much softer outline. The low profile hypalon MOLLE and the low key Vangquest logo on the front helps as well. Both the front and side profile are much softer. The two external pockets has a wedge shaped side profile that make the pack more distinct and also giving it more capacity.
The use of 500D really make the pack softer and lighter. Note that high wearing areas are still made with 1000D. The inside are all done with 210D high visibility Vanquest orange that I personally really like. There are also several zippered translucent pockets in all of the compartments.
Design and Usage
The compartments in the Katara naturally falls into three categories. The main compartment is the largest one with a hydration or laptop pocket. I can fit my 13 inch MacBook Pro with touch bar and my 10.5 inch iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard attached in there. Note that with a slim profile( 3.5 inch from my measurement although their spec says 4), these electronics will eat into the rest of the available space. This laptop pocket cover is tapered at the top so that you can get to whatever is inside from the sides when you use this pack as a sling. I am not sure this design is needed. If I have a small iPad or kindle in there I can get to it from the side. But with my MBP there is no other way to take it out other than from the top. The front of this pocket is looped covered which is great, but with that tapered top it drastically reduce the usable area for the looped back.
The top of the main compartment, on the front side, has a full wide zippered pocket that is just over 4 inch tall I find I can get to this pocket by zipping open just the top of the pack. The zipper stopping webbing on both sides help with keeping the rest of the pack close. For a EDC pack, it is all about quick access to many items and I find this design very smart.
There front of the main compartment also has a three way opennng pocket. Again this is designed for side access. In this case it works well and let me keep some items separately from the main content and get to them quickly. If you do not want to use this pocket, you can also unzip it completely and roll it down to the bottom, giving you a simpler main compartment.
But there is more! The sides of the main compartment both have a pocket and webbing at the top. If you have narrow longer items, you can put them in there. Flash lights and tools perhaps?
Let’s take a break. As you can see at this point — this pack in typical vanquest fashion, has (too many) many organization features. This is a good thing because while you cannot use all the organization at the same time, you can fit the pack to your particular usage. This is a signature design of Vanquest and I am a huge fan of that.
The two front compartments both have an interesting side profile. The bottom one is deeper at the top, and the top one is deeper at the bottom. Both compartments have open pockets in the back and a zipped pocket in the front. The top compartment’s open pocket also have one row of elastic webbing. I find that with these two compartments, I can sort out my EDC items between them. I put the most frequently accessed items in the top compartment, and secondary items at the bottom compartment. The Katara design is not perfect, I wish there is a pen slot somewhere. I ended up just slotting my pens behind the elastic webbing. I also wish there is a fleece lined eye glasses/phone pocket.
The outside of the top front compartment is completely covered with loop materials so that you can decorate your pack with a lot of patches. The vanquest logo is sewn on discretely. The only problem I have with the loop front is, because of the shape of front and the lighter backing material, it is slightly difficult to make the patch stands out.
The Back and straps
The back panel is very well padded. The last quarter of the back padding is extra thick. This helps this small pad rest on the lower back. The design of the convertible straps to switch from backpack mode to sling mode is very well designed. The pack comes with stowaway waist straps. I don’t think anyone would use the waist straps with such a small pack. At least the straps are small and easily put away.
The shoulder straps have a lot of design feature. The straps are well padded and S shaped. There is a one inch webbing sawn on top, segmented for easy lashing There is a detachable chest strap. The straps can be opened near the bottom, and the buckle is covered by a elastic loop for security.
There is a padded top carry handle on the pack. The padding is great, but there is a small seam that runs along the center underneath. The padding is nicer than the padding on the same handle on the Javalin 3.0.
This is a very well designed small everyday carry pack. It is a good balance of organization feature and weight. Think of this as the other extreme from a Goruck Echo. While I like the sleek look of the Goruck, I always think for smaller packs, well design built in organization is important. For that I really like the Vanquest Katara 16.