Building on their heritage-inspired Archeon line of outdoor packs, Osprey have released a chest rig: an accessory designed to be worn, as the name suggests, on the chest. These rigs can be used with a backpack or standalone, to keep small items and emergency gear within easy reach, when out on the trail.
Although fly-fishing vests, binocular harnesses and military chest rigs have existed for some time, for the past decade the only outfit producing a dedicated chest pack for backpacking, bushcraft and mountaineering has been Hill People Gear. HPG have been making their Kit Bags since 2010 and, as well as being directly replicated for the short-lived chest-pack fad of 2017, certainly inspired Osprey’s design here. There are however, several qualitative differences, and each user will need to decide which brand’s offering suits their needs better.
Primary Fabric: 1880d Recycled Nylon Canvas C0
Quality & Comfort
Coming from Osprey’s Archeon series, the Chest Rig takes a softer aesthetic than most technical mountaineering gear. As with the Archeon 24 backpack I tested earlier in the year, the fabric has a chunky weave and a lovely feel to the hand, reminiscent of a traditional canvas. This is probably a good call, as a chest rig stands out somewhat, even in around other technical outerwear. Friends remarked on it. Try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to wear it into town, and felt self-conscious even on local country trails.
The Chest Rig diverts from the rest of the Archeon line’s heritage appearance a little by adding a large loop field across the front, for ID or Morale patches, as well as an increasing range of hook-backed accessories. Osprey don’t normally include this feature and it’s an interesting choice here; I’m personally glad to see it, but the shape and embroidered Osprey logo make it less obtrusive than the loop areas on many of the packs we cover at The Perfect Pack. Additionally the straps feature small reflective strips, marking the Archeon Chest Rig as a piece of mountaineering gear rather than kit for military or hunting use, where the added visibility would be a firm disadvantage.
Despite a soft feel, the fabric is tough. In testing, I deliberately pushed through dense foliage, crawled across rocks, and got out in all kinds of weather, and haven’t put a mark on the chest rig. The other materials are great as well: zippers are YKK with big, glove-friendly pulls. Plastics are Osprey-branded but feel sturdy, buckles closing smoothly and solidly.
One downside to this soft fabric is that, despite a DWR application, it does hold moisture, and the exposed zips will allow water to seep through if given time to soak in rain or snow, which means any sensitive gear stored inside the Archeon Chest Rig will need an extra case to keep dry. It’s also heavier than other common materials, but in a piece of gear this size, the total weight is never going to be high enough to really bother me.
What weight the Chest Rig has is shored up by a four-point harness, with straps that meet in an open mesh panel between the wearer’s shoulders. The straps themselves are lightweight and low profile, so they won’t conflict with a backpack when worn together, but supportive enough that I didn’t feel them cut into my neck or shoulders at any point. The harness is easy to adjust and get right on the chest. I found it bounced a little when running but, by and large, things held in place when active.
Body-side, the Archeon Chest Rig is backed by a soft mesh and a layer of stiff foam, which means gear inside the bag won’t poke against the wearer’s chest. Anything worn in activity will result in heat and sweat; compared with other chest-worn designs, I can’t say that the mesh drastically improved breathability at all. That said, testing through autumn into winter, I was actually glad of the additional insulation this created.
Organisation & Access
The internal space of the Archeon Chest Rig is divided into three sections, each with a separate zipper running across the bag’s body, to be accessed while worn. The first is a slim pocket, behind the Chest Rig’s front panel. The zip is front facing, which means it won’t open as wide as the other compartments. I reserved this space for emergency gear that I might not need in a hurry, since it’s generally slightly harder to access.
The centre zip opens wider, and the pocket is deeper and wider than the front space, though it is still rather slim. It also has a key-leash for retaining loose items. After trying several different approaches, all I have ended up keeping in this pocket is a waterproof notepad, and pencil. An A5 Pad fits the pocket, and the standard A6 Rite In The Rain will be easy to draw from here.
These two compartments don’t share a space in the way that I’ve seen in other packs, but I wonder whether the volume would be better used as a single, larger compartment, with some slots for organisation. I’ve been critical of overcomplicated pocketing in the past, but I feel like, given the purpose of the Chest Rig, Osprey could have added a lot of functionality with little more.
That being said, the rear compartment has plenty going on. It’s capacious, features two mesh basket pockets, and an extra internal zip pocket, meaning there’s room for a map and compass, a bulky zebralight headlamp, a battery bank with charge cable and more. The zip opens horseshoe style, with pleats to prevent the panel opening past 45-degrees. The corners to this pocket are rounded, meaning the zip won’t ‘pop’ open for quick emergency access as some chest packs will – if that’s a specific need you have, then the Archeon Chest Rig won’t work as well.
I would have loved to see more organisation like this further forward in the Chest Rig, and I suspect that, for many users, this rear compartment may be all they need.
Externally, the only mounting points are three strips of webbing, along the base. I don’t think these are PALS-compatible, but are a convenient place to hang a Grimloc for gloves or other gear I want ‘at hand.’ The exterior isn’t slick, of course – I mentioned the loop field which makes up much of the Chest Rig’s front, but this doesn’t add much functionality.
- The Archeon Chest Rig is well-built, from good quality materials.
- The harness used handles the appropriate weight well, and is comfortable in activity with or without a backpack.
- The rear compartment is well laid out, with thoughtful pocketing.
- The two front compartments are overly simple, and hard to use optimally.
- Exposed zippers risk water ingress in rain or snow.
In my experience, chest packs like this serve two basic functions: to keep frequently accessed gear at-hand without the wearer having to drop their backpack, and to hold ‘possibles’ that will get someone through an emergency, even when separated from their packs. At first I thought the idea was a novelty, or filled a role role served by the pockets on my jacket, but I quickly became a fan of these chest mounted packs and will continue using them, in the right contexts.
Though I’ve tried to minimise it for the review, comparisons with Hill People Gear’s Kit Bags are inevitable. Although the overall shape is clearly different, certain parts of the Archeon design strongly resemble that of HPG’s (the harness, for example) and many readers will have feelings on that matter. I would hope there is room for both on the market; certainly both are good, each has their strengths and weaknesses, depending on the role.
Ultimately the dividing line between the two may simply be a matter of target audiences: the Archeon Chest Rig is made in Vietnam rather than the USA, it sports high-visibility features, it is slower to open than the ‘concealed carry’ purpose of the Kit Bags mandates – none of these are outright weaknesses in my mind, but they fly in the face of HPG’s standard design philosophy, and likely won’t appeal to fans of the company. By contrast, Osprey have a much broader appeal – folks who’d never consider HPG will be exposed to the Archeon Chest Rig, which probably lead to chest packs becoming a much more common sight on mountainsides around the world.
Disclaimer: the Archeon Chest Rig was provided by Osprey Europe for use in this review. The content of the review was not shared with Osprey prior to publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never altered to keep a brand happy.