Osprey Skimmer 20 Hydration Backpack Review

Osprey Skimmer 20 Backpack Review

The Osprey Skimmer 20 is a hydration backpack designed for day hiking and travel that includes an optional 2.5-liter wide-mouth hydration system. To save space inside the backpack, the hydration system fits into a pocket behind the shoulder straps, making it easier to pull out and refill without having to empty your pack contents and repack. The Skimmer 20 (also available in 16L and 28L sizes) has a die-cut foam back panel to keep the pack close to your back for load transfer while still providing for ventilation, with an optional webbing hip belt to keep the pack close to your hips.

Specs at a Glance

  • Volume: 20L
  • Weight: 1 lb 6 oz
  • Gender: Women’s (the men’s model is called the Scarab 22)
  • Type: Internal Frame
  • Exterior pockets: 2 side pockets + main and small stash pocket
  • Torso sizing: 14”-19”
  • Waist sizing: 25”-50”
  • Max carry weight: 15-20 lbs.

The Osprey Skimmer 20 is a top-loading backpack with a U-shaped zipper at the top and a small stash pocket for storing sunglasses and other valuables. The 20-liter volume is fine for a summer day hike, or plane travel, and can easily hold your essential gear. There are two side stretch pockets that can hold thin water bottles, with front cutouts so you can access them while wearing the pack. You’ll want to be careful using tall bottles, however, as they can fall out.

Tall bottles will fit into the side mesh pockets
Tall bottles will fit into the side mesh pockets

The Skimmer 20 has one side compression strap on each side toward the top of the pack that are good for securing tall items stored in the side stretch pockets. You can also attach other items to the front of the pack using carabiners on a pair of daisy chains that run along the front of the backpack. The 20-liter Skimmer does not have a front stash pocket or hip belt pockets. These are available on the Skimmer 28 if those features are important for you.

The Airscape back panel is die-cut foam covered with mesh and offers some ventilation, though not as much as a true ventilated pack. The belt is fine for keeping the pack close to your torso but does not offer support for your load like a true hip belt. The shoulder straps are female-specific and also made of die-cut foam covered with airy mesh.

While the Skimmer 20 has holes cut in its foam backpanel it won’t keep you as dry or cool as a ventilated backpack
While the Skimmer 20 has holes cut in its foam backpanel it won’t keep you as dry or cool as a ventilated backpack

As mentioned previously, there’s a hydration pocket located behind the shoulder straps to hold your water reservoir and make it easier to refill. The hydration hose loops through keeper straps on the shoulder straps and the mouthpiece connects to a shoulder strap with a magnetic connector. The hydration hose is rather long though, so you’ll probably want to trim it down to a more reasonable length so it doesn’t flop around when you take off the pack.

The included hydration system does not have quick-connectors or a mouthpiece cover.
The included hydration system does not have quick-connectors or a mouthpiece cover.

The Skimmer 20 comes with an Osprey 2.5 liter hydration reservoir. However, there is no quick connect feature on the hose which is available on the standalone reservoir that Osprey sells separately. I like to disconnect my hoses after using them to dry, so this is a bit of minus for me. The hydration reservoir fits in a pocket between the foam back panel and the pack bag. This can make it a little easier to put the reservoir in after you’ve loaded the pack unless the pack is full and you also fill the reservoir. Then it’s a tight squeeze. The space is just barely long enough to hold the 2.5 liter reservoir. A slightly smaller reservoir would fit better, so I would recommend not filling it to its full capacity.

The reservoir opens with a fold-over flap & sliding clip at the top. There is a handle melded onto the reservoir. The bite valve has a twist on/off switch to reduce leaking. It does not come with a bite valve cover, but they are available for purchase separately. The reservoir has interior baffles to help it maintain a flatter shape that is easier to carry in a pack. However, their placement on diagonal at the side of the reservoir makes drying it out with a towel difficult. I simply dry it out as much as I can, then hang it with the top propped open so it will dry out.

Comparable Women’s Hydration Packs

Make / ModelReservoir CapacityVentilatedPrice
Camelbak Helena 202.5LNo$100
Camelbak Sequoia 243LNo$155
HydroFlask Downshift 142LNo$145
Osprey Skimmer 202.5LNo$100
Osprey Skimmer 282.5LNo$130
Osprey Mira 222.5LYes$160
Osprey Mira 322.5LYes$180
Gregory Juno 24 H2O3LYes$140
Gregory Juno 30 H2O3LYes$150
Gregory Swift 253LNo$100
Gregory Swift 303LNo$120
REI Trail Hydro 202LNo$90
< a href="https://sectionhiker.com/out/jk1esa9s">REI Trail Hydro 303LNo$100

Assessment

I was satisfied with the Osprey Skimmer 20 on very short, easy day hikes, and it can hold plenty of essentials. However, I see it filling a specialized niche in my gear closet as a pack that can go from the plane to the trail. It is basic and lightweight and will make a great travel backpack next time I take a plane somewhere. If that somewhere offers the opportunity for some outdoor adventure, this pack will easily transition from a travel pack to an acceptable pack for short hikes and light outdoor adventures. For more serious hiking, I really miss having hip belt pockets to store a snack, a map & my phone. When I want to access any of those things, I have to remove this pack to get them out. However, I’m not really that impressed with the included hydration system. It’s not best of breed and seems poorly sized for this pack since it barely fits into the space behind the pack’s back panel.

Overall, I think you’d be much better buying the Osprey Mira 22 hydration pack which I reviewed previously (click for my review). It’s a much better, ventilated, women’s hydration backpack that can go the distance for hiking and can also be used for travel purposes.

Disclosure: The author owns this backpack.

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About the author

Wanda Rice has been backpacking since the late 1980’s. She has climbed the New Hampshire 48, the New Hampshire 48 in winter, the New England 67 and is working on the New England Hundred Highest and the Four-Season 48. Wanda also teaches for the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) Mountain Leadership School, the AMC New Hampshire Chapter Spring and Winter Schools as well as the AMC NH Winter Hiking Series. She leads day and overnight trips for AMC NH year-round and loves mentoring new leaders. She is a gear junkie, a self-proclaimed Queen of Gear Hacks and loves sharing her tips and tricks with others. Wanda lives in southern NH and is looking forward to moving closer to the mountains in the next few years.

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One comment

  1. I have the 28L version mostly for the zipped side pockets. The hydration bladder fits easily into the larger pack. I like having the bladder in a compartment on the outside of the pack – more packs should do this. I bought this as someone getting into hiking and I might change to a fully mesh pack if I get more into it.

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