After giving up on my search for the perfect backpack a few months ago, and deciding that rolling luggage was the way to go, I may have actually found the perfect backpack! Funny how that happens huh?

I’ve had my eye on the Osprey 24/Seven series for some time now, but last year’s models just weren’t quite right for me. The 2014 models have just arrived in New Zealand stores (only about 6 months after the rest of the world) and some of them have clearly been designed as carry-on bags. They feature a TSA-approved, checkpoint friendly padded laptop compartment which zips completely open to lay flat when passed through airport security screening. My local outdoors store were having a 40% off sale, so I managed to pick up the largest women-specific backpack in the range, the 33L Nova, for just $90.

Osprey Nova - Front

Osprey Nova 33L Backpack

Sorry about the poor photo quality. I still only have my smartphone camera to work with and no nice staging area. However there are so few photos of this bag online that I figure even shitty photos like these will be helpful to anyone considering buying this bag.

The backpack comes in three different colours – Black, Moody Blue and Jam Purple. Unfortunately the Jam Purple colour doesn’t appear to be available in New Zealand, so I picked up the plain black one which was probably a good thing too as it’s less conspicuous. As this is a relatively new model, there are very few reviews of the Nova online so I hope someone will find this review helpful. I hope to give a more in-depth review in a few months once I’ve tested it out more fully in Europe.

Inside the padded laptop sleeve, which has a velcro tab to hold your laptop in place, there is also a second padded and zipped pocket for a tablet. In addition, the Nova also has a decent size main compartment, a front organiser compartment, a small pocket at the top,  a front mesh stuff-pocket and two side mesh water bottle pockets. The interior of the bag is mint-green which I think is a brilliant feature. It allows you to more easily see what’s inside your bag.

Osprey Nova - Laptop Sleeve

TSA-approved laptop compartment (left) and zipped tablet sleeve

The laptop sleeve is quite roomy. I suspect it’s designed to carry up to a chunky 15″ laptop. I have a 13″ Macbook Air which will slide around a bit if not placed within another sleeve or case. I have a black foam sleeve I zip it into before putting it in the backpack and it works well (and gives even more protection), though there’s still quite a bit of room left even then. The tablet sleeve looks like it will accommodate up to a 10″ tablet. It’s a good spot for computer cables, accessories or a hard drive instead, but if the main compartment is stuffed full then there can be quite a lot of pressure on this pocket. I would stick to putting only flat items in there if that was the case.

Osprey Nova - Main Compartment

Main compartment. A pair of chunky hiking shoes fit snugly in the bottom.

The main compartment feels quite cavernous given the overall size of the bag. A pair of hiking shoes fit snugly in the bottom with a medium-sized packing cube on top and there’s still room to stuff a toiletry bag or whatever else is needed. There’s also a document sleeve for keeping any paperwork nice and flat, and an internal zipped pocket. If the main compartment is full-to-bursting, then space in the front organiser pocket is sacrificed, and vice-versa.

Osprey Nova - Organiser Pocket

The front organiser pocket has a lot features

The organiser compartment has 3 great little foam pockets at the top – the centre one is ideal for a smartphone. Below is another internal zipped pocket and sleeves for pens etc, and there’s also a key fob. Above the organiser compartment is a small pocket for things you need to access quickly.

The front mesh stuff-pocket is something I was really happy about it’s the perfect spot to stuff any wet items, such as a rain jacket, towel, bathing suit, that you don’t want to put in the main compartment. I also think it’s a handy spot to put your liquids bag for easy removal when going through airport security.

The Osprey Nova has a comfortable mesh back panel, chest strap and a thin waist belt.

The Osprey Nova has a comfortable mesh back panel, chest strap and a thin waist belt.

A few things about this backpack may cause some people to think twice about using it as their primary travel bag. The zippers, while having great zipper pulls that allow easy access to the bag, are not designed to be lockable. You could still lock them up if you had a thin wire lock though I reckon, but you would need to bring along 3 of these to securely lock all the main pockets. Secondly, the bag doesn’t have an internal frame, so you wouldn’t be able to carry really heavy loads. I personally have loaded up to 9kg in this bag and I found it much more comfortable than some hiking packs I’ve tried (including this one), but everyone is different. What I might find comfortable, you might really struggle with and vice versa. 7kg is the sweet-spot for me and this bag I think. And that’s the limit of most airlines’ carry-on restrictions anyway.

It's the perfect size for me!

It’s the perfect size for me!

I’ve said before that I’m quite happy travelling with carry-on sized rolling luggage and never found it an issue in the past. So what prompted me to buy this backpack?

I read this news article about Jetstar’s decision to cut their carry-on allowance from 10kg plus a personal item, down to a 7kg COMBINED limit. That’s a problem for me as my carry-on luggage weighs 2.9kg when empty (and that’s lighter than most), leaving only 4.1kg for everything else. That wasn’t an issue before because I could include a laptop bag or large purse as a personal item (even the relatively light Macbook Air still weighs over 1.5kg when you include the charger). If this is a sign of things to come, with other airlines following suit, rolling luggage will no longer be suitable. Yet I don’t want to carry a traditional hiking pack, as I have found all those that I’ve tried on so far uncomfortable and they often still weigh 1.5kg or more.

The Osprey 24/Seven series backpacks are very lightweight, with the Nova weighing only 920g! I needed some sort of laptop bag anyway, so I figured if it didn’t work out for travel, it would still be perfectly fine to carry my laptop in to work. But you know what? I find it the perfect travel backpack for me and I love that I can use it as an everyday bag to take to work as well so it won’t just languish in my wardrobe when I return from my travels like luggage does. I can’t wait to wear this backpack on my upcoming trip to Europe.

What do you think of the Osprey Nova? Do you think it would make a great travel backpack, or do you prefer hiking packs, rolling luggage or duffel bags?