Gear Review : Osprey Nebula 34 first Impressions.

I’m about to become a full time mature student. Like absolutely any other event in life, I decided that this meant I would need a new rucksack. This would mean an upgrade from last years very good Dakine Campus (see seperate review). I did quite a bit of looking around and after whittling down my shortlist to two, The North Face Surge, and the Osprey Nebula 34, I decided on the latter.

The main reason those two ended up on the shortlist was that both have a lay flat, separate laptop section. I’ve found that after the last year at college, taking binders and books out of my bag to get my laptop out was a massive faff. Once I realised this was a thing with some bags, it was an essential on my list of requirements. Both bags have a similar design in this respect; a floating padded section for your laptop that you can have confidence in and access quickly.

I ended up with the Nebula rather than the surge for one main reason really and I’m not proud of this, but it is the ‘Osprey’ tag on the bag. I’ve always loved their rucksacks for hiking, and I want just about every bag I own to be multi-functional. While this will be for more urban use, I had half a mind on using it as a day sack or bivvying. Even though both would perform almost identically, I went with the ‘walkers’ brand. The Surge looked amazing and if anything looked more hard wearing than the Osprey so if you are in the market for this type of bag, it is worth considering.

I’ve used the Nebula several times now, and for various tasks. Yesterday, I specifically took it out on a day hike to see how that went. Without having too lofty expectations going in, I was pleasantly surprised. The bag comes with a removable hip belt, but I took this off as I really dislike the thin webbing belts that are used for this type of pack. I was worried therefore about the pack rubbing, but amazingly it stayed in place almost as if a hip belt was being used. This was partly down to my packing method, and the flexibility of the pack when it does not have a laptop on board. (Not too bendy but enough to ‘go with’ the load).

The pack has two adequately sized water bottle stretch pockets on the side, with sinch down straps, and also the laptop section can double as a hydration compartment, with loops on the straps for your tube, so drinking on the trail is no problem.

The most crucial section regarding hiking, for me would be the back panel. There is not much ventilation here. My main hiking pack is a Lowe Alpine Airzone Pro, which is amazing for air flow, so this one seems potentially very sweaty. It should be said though that many people do not worry too much about this, with Montane and various military style packs not really bothering about ventilation. Personally, this would stop me from using this pack for an all-day hike. 2-3 hours would be my limit for this type of back panel.

While cycling and pottering around town, the bag is in a class of its own. Superb weight distribution helped by good packing. (Not being big headed!), and the fact that the bag stands on its base when loaded means quick and convenient access to your stuff, also aided by the excellent while not over the top front organiser section. Quick access is exactly what you need with this kind of bag, and it delivers no end.
The typical Osprey front stretch pouch on the front is ideal for a bike D lock, or a waterproof, while above the previously mentioned (deep) organiser pocket is a discreet, soft valuables section, ideal for a wallet or phone. Then behind the cavernous main section, is the truly life altering separate laptop section, with an added zipped mesh pocket that I assume is designed for a tablet.

All in all, I am delighted with this bag. It doesn’t quite cover ALL bases, but any shortcomings would be nit-picks. I would have liked to see Osprey add one of their famous helmet stash attachments seeing as this bag will likely be cycled with by a lot of people. There is a blinker light loop after all. Also, I would personally have preferred a heftier waist belt, though I accept that this might be overkill for some. Lastly, I do love an integral rain cover. The pack is supposedly water resistant, but as heavily reliant it will be in protecting my electricals, I would have loved to not have to buy a seperate one. 

If you are looking for a bag for school, university, work, and a general EDC, with the occasional short trip outdoors, this is as good as you will find in my opinion. There are decent competitors, and that will come down to taste for many, but the Osprey lifetime guarantee and good deals you can find, I imagine will sway people in this direction.

It's always worth shopping around, but mine came from Amazon and a bit of research/waiting for a good price helped me at least :

Key Features
  • Stretch front pocket
  • Padded laptop compartment with direct zip access
  • LED light attachment point
  • Zippered scratch-free sunglasses and electronics pocket
  • Removable webbing hipbelt
  • Sternum strap with emergency whistle

Weight: 0.96 kg
Maximum Dimensions (cm): 50 (l) x 33 (w) x 30 (d)
Laptop Sleeve Dimensions (cm): 39 (l) x 28 (w) x 5 (d)
Main Fabric: 210D Nylon Oxford


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