My Review of the Osprey Fairview 40L, the Best Carry on Backpack for Women.

If you are reading this, then you are likely researching the highly reviewed Osprey Fairview 40L like I did. I have to say, this backpack has won me over!

I had a large wish list from a carry on style backpack for our upcoming trip to Germany. My husband is a bag collector and I dug through his stash without much luck. He had a great, cheap duffel/back pack by Ozark Trail that I was very tempted to use, but it lost out when I did a trial packing, put it on, and the sucker came down past my rear end and pulled back at the top. I am 5’3 with a short torso. There was no way I could carry that around comfortably from town to town and through Christmas Markets. However, it did have some good features like waterproof material and zippers, outer compression straps and clamshell type opening for easy access. I also liked that the opening would face your back when wearing it, making it difficult for a pickpocket to get into. So, defeated, but armed with a better idea of what I needed to fit myself and some of the features I was looking for, I started the great travel backpack hunt.

There are umpteen reviews on carry on style backpacks. I went through website after website and stumbled upon the Osprey Fairview 40L. After reading many reviews I took the plunge and purchased it. I’ve done a couple trial packings with it now. I’m, admittedly, an over packer, usually putting in 3x’s as much as I need because I know I’ll have days that I’ll try on everything I brought and not want to wear any of it. It’s either uncomfortable after I’ve eaten too much desert I shouldn’t have, or the bathroom mirror and hotel lighting just made my beloved sweater add 30lbs to my waistline. Ugh. I am determined, however, to make this trip carry on only as I don’t want to be lugging around extra large bags through public transport or rolling my luggage for the hike to the next hotel. I did that through S. Korea and it was miserable, especially when the wheel of said luggage busted on day 2 and I had to roll/drag the darn thing until I got settled in a hotel close to a market to find a replacement. Anyway, not to get side tracked… I’ve gotten my Osprey Fairview down to a weight of 15lbs fully loaded, I’m pretty proud of that considering I started with it at 22lbs… Here she is all stuffed and ready to go (a month in advance… Who’s counting?)

Osprey Fairview 40L in Misty Gray

To point out the elephant in the room… Osprey’s “misty gray” color is more like army green. I can’t say it’s my favorite, but the alternative was a bright rainforest green which wasn’t really me either. The men’s version (Osprey Fairpoint 40) comes in red and black and their other bags come in all kinds of unique colors… But they chose some pretty blah ones for the Fairview. At least the misty gray has some cute turquoise accents… (Update: The women’s version now comes in black as well.)

Fully stuffed this bag has 2 thick sweaters, 1 thinner sweatshirt, 1 long sleeve T, 2 pairs of fleece lined leggings, 1 pair of jeans, 1 JJ Winks nightgown, 1 set of 32 degree top and bottom base layer, 6 pairs of underwear, 1 bra, 4 pairs of merino wool socks, 1 pair of shoes (that are fairly smashable), a toiletries/cosmetic bag, liquids bag for shampoo/conditioner/lotion, 1 electronic bag for chargers and my Movi camera stabilizer, Ipad mini, 1 microfiber body towel (in case we stay at a hostel), a flat easy to pack crossbody purse, packable 20L backpack for hiking, gloves, hat and scarf. I’ll be wearing my winter boots and jacket on the plane as they are too bulky to pack.

While I wish I could get it down a little flatter, I would say it’s not too bad considering I do have thicker winter shirts in there. And yes, you would probably be happiest packing this much if you use a good compression packing cube. I use these by Taskin and they are pretty durable, I only needed one large and two medium sized ones. I don’t like to use the large too much but one did fit all of my bulky shirts for this packing.

So on to some of my favorite features… This bag FITS! This is the S/M size. I did debate about getting the XS/S for my short torso but found one review from someone who purchased both sizes and found the only difference was that the bag sat 2″ higher on the frame and made it more awkward as it was bumping the back of her head when she had it on. Didn’t want that! So the S/M adjusts to fit me very well. I love the load lifters to suck the top tighter to your back. The frame keeps the weight balanced nicely and it’s very lightweight, you don’t really know there is a frame in there when you have it on. The straps are really nice, padded and comfortable. I love how they are positioned closer together than a standard backpack. Even if I do not clip the chest strap the shoulder straps do not want to slip down at all. The chest strap slides up or down to adjust it where you need it. I don’t know if I’ll use the hip strap a whole lot, but likely will when I’m getting tired. It is comfortably padded but know that I’m a size 10 and it doesn’t have much room left to let out. It will just fit me over my thick down jacket. Osprey does sell an extension piece if that is a problem for you. If you don’t use the hip strap, they stay folded behind your back just fine. The backpack straps also fold up easy and quick to zip into the bag to throw into the overhead bin or heaven forbid, they make you check it. I am worried that if they check the size, it is too thick to be considered carry on the way I have mine stuffed. It will still fit, but technically, it’s over for my airline. There is a nice strap to convert it to a duffle bag as well as a side handle and a top handle that are nicely padded. It is VERY well constructed, as it should be at this price point.

Of course, the main compartment of the bag fully unzips back like a regular clamshell suitcase. Makes it super easy to get your gear out without unloading everything searching for that item from the bottom. The laptop sleeve is nicely padded with easy access. I like that the plastic loop to attach the duffle strap can double as a spot to hook a carabiner if you have a water bottle to hang on it, or shoes that are drying out, etc. The small top pocket is waterproof if you want to store your phone in it and a hook for your keys so they don’t get lost in the bag, but for me, my liquids bag will go there to protect my other items in case of a leak and it’s easy access to get that back out for airport security check. The hook will be handy for my flight ear plugs container so it’s easy for me to get to on the plane.

Key hook in the top, water proof pocket. I won’t have keys on this trip so I’ll keep my flight ear plugs there for easy access.

One of my other concerns was security. I wanted a bag I could easily lock and that zipper pulls were not easy to get to. Osprey uses high quality zippers and the pulls have metal loops to slide your lock through. One of the nicest locking features I’ve seen on a bag. Once you snap the outer compression strap and tighten them down, you can completely hide your zipper pulls under the fabric those straps are attached to. The only exposed zipper is to the laptop sleeve, but you can hide it’s pulls the same way and the zippers being better quality will be tougher to break if someone tried.

All that being said, there are a few cons. A big one is the laptop sleeve location. While it’s easy to access, it could cause damage to your laptop if you pack your bag too round and it pushes against it. If walking around in the heat, you could risk bowing the laptop and damage it permanently. They really should have located that sleeve against your back instead of on the outer portion of the bag. I also don’t like that the mesh pockets on the front really can’t hold much once you have the compression straps snapped shut as the lower strap goes across the middle of the pockets. Those pockets could fit a water bottle if it wasn’t for that. I just have the duffle strap stuffed in one. Might pack some snacks in the other for the flight. I feel like they could have added a couple small pockets here and there, maybe on the hip strap or sides just for minor things you want to get too quick if everything is locked up. I also do not believe this will be waterproof. I would recommend bringing a rain cover, but I did spray my bag in scotchguard waterproofer and hope that will do the job should I get caught in a shower. I’m out of packing space.

The not so great location of the laptop sleeve. You can see my bag is packed and more rounded in the center which could apply pressure to your laptop and break it. I only travel with my ipad mini, so that will be ok, but something to keep in mind.

So, do I recommend this bag? 100% yes. For the price point, it was a little hard for me to shell out that much on a backpack… But it does reflect in quality and well thought out design, fit, and comfort. The only comparable bags I found may not have fit my short torso as well and were at least $100 more. You also can’t beat Osprey’s lifetime guarantee, so I know this bag will last me for years to come.

Happy travels!

UPDATE: on my 4 week trip with this bag my son started having issues with his backpack and I somehow stuffed all his items in my bag too and carried the load for 4 days until I found him a new suitable backpack. As you can see, my Fairview was crazy big, yet I didn’t struggle with the weight at all. Testament to a well fitting backpack!

UPDATE #2 One Year Later: I’ve used this bag on numerous weekend trips and my husband has taken it on two international trips himself. He’s a bit of a bag snob, but this one has quickly worked it’s way into his favorite list by how much he can stuff in and it’s easy clamshell opening. I guess I can’t complain about the color of it anymore since if it had been offered in purple he would have never touched it. At least it’s getting well used! lol

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