Osprey Salida 12 Hydration Pack Long-Term Review

At a Glance

  • The Osprey Salida is a women-specific mountain biking hydration pack available in 8 and 12 liter sizes for longer days on the trail.
  • The Osprey Siskin is the men’s version.
  • I’ve tested my Salida 12 over 600 miles of bikepacking and mountain biking.
  • Though I have a few small complaints, it’s overall a great pack with comfortable fit and many practical features.

When taking on big miles, remote trails, or questionable weather on our bikes, we need to carry more stuff. Enter the Osprey Salida (women) and Siskin (men). This MTB-focused hydration pack carries 2.5 liters of water and either 8 or 12 liters of gear in relative comfort, leaving us free to focus on the trail ahead.

I originally bought my Salida 12 for rugged bikepacking trips where the bike itself needs to stay as light as possible. I also use it for mountain biking day rides. In this review I’ll share my impressions of the Salida over 600+ miles of riding including rough trails, bad weather, late-night pushes, and other adventures.

As a preview, here’s a short video of me packing the main compartment of my Salida 12 for a bikepacking trip. It’s amazing how much stuff disappears in there:

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Overview: Osprey Salida 12

Price: $140 (previous season sometimes on sale for much less)
Gear capacity: 12 liters
Water capacity: 2.5 liters
Weight: 1.32 lbs
Other sizes: 8 liter

My rating: 4.3 / 5 stars

Shop Osprey Salida at:

What I love:

  • Comfy fit, even for all-day rides
  • Generous capacity for gear and food
  • Compression keeps load tight and close to body
  • Well-ventilated back panel
  • Lots of pockets

Could be better:

  • Lacks accessible phone pocket
  • Hip pockets are hard to use
  • No tail holders for long straps
  • Magnet hose clip could be stronger

My conclusion: The Osprey Salida 12 hydration pack gets all the must-haves very right including comfy adjustable fit, tight compression, well-organized compartments, and a quality hydration bladder. I have a few minor gripes about pockets and straps, but overall this pack has worked well for me over 600 miles and I plan to keep using it for many more.

When you buy through affiliate links in this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks for your support! I always offer unbiased opinions based on real experience from the road and trail. Learn more.

How I Tested the Osprey Salida 12

I use my Osprey Salida 12 hydration pack mainly for bikepacking, especially when trying to ride fast and light in bikepacking races. Normally I try to avoid bikepacking with a backpack, even a small one like the Salida, because packs can be annoying when worn all day. But when a route has long sections of technical riding and/or hike-a-bike, it’s super helpful to take some weight off my bike and transfer it to my body.

So far I’ve used my Salida for about 600 miles of bikepacking. It holds my water, part of my ultralight sleep system (bivy and sleeping pad), part of a multi-day food supply, and the batteries for my helmet light.

Bikepacking around Lake Tahoe with my Osprey Salida 12 at the Bones to Blue bikepacking event.

Sometimes I also use my Salida for mountain bike day rides. The capacity is a bit more than I need, but there’s not really a downside to having the extra space. On day rides I’ll use it to carry water, a jacket and warm gloves, snacks or lunch, sunscreen, and other odds and ends (my tools and spares live on my bike).

Riding trails in Tahoe with the Salida 12 hydration pack

I’m usually riding a mix of trails and dirt or gravel roads with this pack, often in the middle of nowhere. I dabble in technical riding but am not aggressive or particularly skilled; I like my wheels to stay on the dirt.

Capacity

The Salida 12 is very similar to the smaller Salida 8, but with 4 extra liters of space and hip pockets. If you’re mainly doing shorter day rides in not-too-remote places, 8 liters should be plenty of space for you. The 12 liter version is ideal for backcountry adventures, all-day rides, and bikepacking.

On the other hand, there’s little downside to the 12 liter size in my experience. It’s a bit more expensive and weighs a quarter of a pound more, but the compression straps do a great job of compacting smaller loads. If you want the extra capacity on occasion, the Salida 12 will work for shorter rides too.

Twelve liters is quite a bit of space in a mountain biking context. When bikepacking I can fit my ultralight bivy and sleeping pad, a day of food, and a couple warm layers in this pack. On day rides it would be plenty of space for food, layers, and tools / spares.

Main Compartment

Most of the 12 liter capacity comes from the roomy main compartment, which has some simple yet thoughtful design features. The double zipper forms a full U-shape all the way around, so you can grab small items easily from either side. It also lets you open the whole thing like a suitcase, if needed.

The main compartment unzips all the way around for easy access.

There’s also a partial bottom pocket that helps keep items contained when the zipper is open. The flap has two zippered mesh compartments and a key holder, helpful for keeping track of small items.

Overall I think Osprey did a really nice job making this compartment roomy yet usable for a wide range of situations.

To give a better sense for it, here’s a quick video of me packing this compartment:

Fit and Comfort

Sometimes I ride with this pack for 20 hours straight, so fortunately it’s very comfortable. I haven’t had any issues with rubbing or chafing, and there’s no particular spot that bothers me when I wear it for a long time.

The shoulder straps are nicely padded and all edges are smoothly finished. I’m a fairly small person (5’5″ and 120lbs) and I have no issues with the fit. The pack is one-size-fits-all and the waist and sternum straps are very adjustable.

When mountain biking it’s important to keep loads tight so they don’t bounce or shift around, which is annoying and makes technical riding harder. I’m not particularly aggressive with my technical riding, but I like how the Salida’s adjustable fit and compression straps keep the weight tight and close to my body even on rough trails.

The harness distributes weight well, especially when not overloaded. If I fill this pack with five pounds of water and a few pounds of gear and food, my shoulders and neck do feel tired after a few hours. But that’s to be expected, in my opinion. The full capacity of this pack is best used for light and bulky items like clothes, while small heavy things like tools are carried on the bike if you can manage it.

Minor gripe: I wish Osprey included a little elastic band on each strap to keep the tail contained. This is a one-size-fits-all pack so the straps are very adjustable, and on me the tails are really long. I’ve tried various ways of knotting and looping, but they always end up dangling. I may cut them, but I hate to lose the nice finished ends.

Hydration Bladder and Compartment

The Salida hydration pack comes with a 2.5 liter Osprey Hydraulics bladder. I’m picky about my hydration bladders and expected to replace this one with a favorite from my gear shed, but I’ve grown to like it.

It’s relatively easy to fill, even from a sink, thanks to the rigid red handle and extended collar. The baffles do a nice job of reducing slosh and keeping a slim profile. The bite valve is easy to drink from, though I do recommend buying a valve cover to keep it clean when setting the pack down on dirt or floors.

The bladder gets its own compartment with a top zip, so you don’t need to futz with gear when it’s time to refill. The bladder slides in and out of the compartment fairly well even when the pack is full, thanks to the bladder’s baffles and slim profile.

The hydration bladder gets its own dedicated pocket.

It’s a bit awkward to refill this bladder while it’s in the pack, and it’s not easy to get out of the pack with the hose attached. Current versions on the Osprey website show a quick-connect link on the hose, which mine doesn’t have, but this would definitely be handy.

The hose attaches to the sternum strap with a magnetic clip, which is perfect for biking. While hiking I prefer an actual clip because it never comes loose on its own, but when biking I love being able to just hold the valve in the general neighborhood of the clip and feel it engage.

The magnetic hose clip is very convenient, but I wish the magnet were a little stronger.

With the added weight of the valve cover I feel like the magnet is not quite strong enough to be really solid. Sometimes it bounces loose or I brush it loose with my arm while riding. I wish the magnet was a little stronger to prevent this.

Pockets

The Salida 12 has plenty of pockets. Some are fantastic, and some could be better in my opinion. Here’s an overview.

Sunglasses pocket: This shallow zip pocket at the top is lined and slightly padded. It would be great for sunglasses, but I usually use it for the batteries that attach to my helmet light when I’m riding at night.

The smoothly lined top pocket is intended to carry sunglasses, and would also work well for a phone.

Front panel shove-it pocket: The entire front panel, attached to the compression straps, can expand into a pocket. This is extremely handy for adding yet more capacity to this roomy pack. I’ve used it to carry a jacket and a burrito, among other things.

The expandable stash pocket is great for carrying a warm layer.

Waist belt pockets: This is one of my biggest complaints about the Salida 12. The shoulder straps inexplicably pass right over the opening of the hip belt pockets, making it very hard to unzip them fully. Because of this I rarely use them for anything besides a chapstick or gel. The design seems so obviously flawed that I wonder if I’m missing something or if this works differently on different body sizes.

The waist belt pockets are oddly designed so that the shoulder strap blocks the zipper.

(Lack of) phone pocket: Another big bummer for me about this pack is the lack of an easy-access phone pocket. I use my smartphone for navigation and prefer to carry it on my body, even while bikepacking. To be fair, most mountain biking packs lack this feature and I haven’t found another that’s better. I actually added a phone pocket from Gossamer gear to my Salida 12 using zip ties! It looks funny but meets my needs.

My DIY solution won’t work for everyone, but I added a phone pocket to the Salida.

Other Handy Features

Magnetic sternum strap clip: I really like the clip that fastens the sternum strap. It’s magnetic with a bit of mechanical engagement, so it’s both secure and quick to use even with gloves. When bikepacking I take the pack off and on quite a bit to change layers and this feature makes the process less frustrating.

The magnetic sternum clip is both secure and super quick to engage.

Glove-friendly zipper pulls: Every zipper on the Salida has a nice loop zipper pull that’s easy to grab, even with warm gloves on.

Helmet carry features: I rarely use this, but the LidLock helmet attachment can carry both half-shell or full face helmets.

Ventilated back panel: A sweaty back is a reality of biking with a pack, but the Salida’s ventilated back panel — a mesh layer atop foam ridges — works well. It’s noticeably better than packs without ventilation features, like the running vest I was using previously. When the pack is very full the channels press outward against the mesh, reducing the airflow, but with moderate loads this isn’t a problem.

The ventilated mesh panel helps fight back sweat on hot days.

Price and Value

At $140 the Salida 12 is mid-range for a mountain bike pack. The similarly sized CamelBak MULE retails for $130, while the more expensive EVOC Stage 12 is $160 without hydration bladder. For budget-minded folks the REI Co-op Link 15L is only $80.

Within Osprey’s line of mountain biking packs, the Salida (and men’s Siskin) are more affordable than the Raven (and men’s Raptor). For $175 the 14 liter versions of those packs offer extra features like a removable tool pouch and even more pockets.

All that said, it’s possible to get the Salida on sale for FAR less if you’re patient. As I’m writing this, the past season’s Salida 12 is on sale for around $70, which is almost 50% off! For that price this pack is an absolute steal and an amazing value.

It’s also worth considering that the Salida works well for other sports too, not just biking. I’ve worn it for hiking and plan to wear it for skiing this winter. It’s a great size and a well-rounded pack for many types of adventures.

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About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve traveled over 19,000 miles by bike and still can’t stop planning my next ride (and helping you plan yours). Pavement and panniers or singletrack and seat bag, I love it all. On my bike I feel free. Learn more about me here.

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