Durable—after heavy testing, very little wear & tear
Easy access to gear—numerous ways to get at all that cargo space
Only minor quibbles: No hip-belt pockets
No noticable difference after hip-belt molding
Price is high, but still reasonable
The Osprey Argon 85 backpack is a good choice for those wanting a comfortable backpack that is large enough for an expedition but isn't overbuilt or unnecessarily heavy. Compared with other packs in this heavy load category, the Argon 85 performed at the top of the class, especially in terms of comfort, stability and storage.
Stability I loaded the Argon 85 with 60 pounds, and it was quite to be stable. I would expect the Argon 85 to continue to provide stability with loads in the 65 to 70 pound range.
Backpanel You need a lot of frame to stabilize 60 pounds, but this one wasn’t overbuilt. It rides fairly close to the back to maximize efficiency, but also allows a decent amount of airflow.
Comfort A heavily padded hip belt and shoulder straps make this backpack extremely comfortable. The load lifters, shoulder straps and hip straps, allowed for total adjustment, even on the fly. The ability to adjust your pack while moving is a must and the Argon 85 backpack made this easy.
Durability The Osprey Argon 85 proved to be tough and durable and showed little signs of wear even after being used for months in a variety of weather conditions and terrain. The material on the Osprey Argon repels dirt and debris very well.
Easy access Osprey’s strength is making packs that are really well thought-out for daily use. The large loading opening on the Argon 85 allowed for easy access to the main compartment, while the zippered bottom access provided access to the sleeping bag compartment. It also provided side access to the main compartment, which makes packing and unpacking easier.
It’s a dicey proposition to count on a hydration bladder not popping when you’ve got 60 pounds of swaying load smashing up against it. So bottle pockets on big packs can be welcome. But instead of providing the standard two mesh water bottle pockets, the Argon 85 provides one mesh pocket on the right side, large enough to store a 1 liter size water bottle and a zippered storage pocket on the left side. That zippered bottle holder isn’t large enough for some bottles. And on the 110-liter version we tested in Nepal, that zipper snapped off while forcing closure over one. Not good.
Hip Belt The Argon 85 has a removable hip belt, which—with the loads this thing will carry—is critical for customers with different waist sizes.
The heat molding customization seems like more of a marketing feature than a real performance enhancement. The belt is quite comfortable even without the heat holding, which some retailers charge extra for if you don’t purchase the pack at their shop (I took the backpack to my local Osprey retailer per the instructions, but since I did not buy the backpack from this retailer, there would be a $20.00 charge to provide the heat molding service. This is apparently standard.) The process itself consists of having the hip-belt heated for several minutes and then placed around your waist while still warm. You then wear the belt around your waist, allowing the belt to mold to your hips as it cools, creating a custom fit. After completing the process, I noticed no significant difference in the fit, or look of the belt.