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Hot Winter Gear: Love at First Use with Osprey


I didn’t believe in love at first site until… I met Osprey.

My first Osprey love: the Xenon 70 came on adventures in Nepal, Africa, Thailand, Chile & Argentina.

The first time I put on an Osprey Pack was in a store in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was the Xenon 70 and  I sighed out loud the minute it hit my back. The guy in the store who was fitting me was like, “Oh. You don’t like it?” to which I quickly replied, “Ummm…no. I love it.”  The sigh was because I’d been backpacking and hiking for a decade and a half and I felt dumb for waiting this long to buy a pack that actually feels good on.  I know it’s hard to tell how a pack will hold up over the long-term just by trying it on in the store, but there was something different about this one that was noticeable right away. The padding in the shoulders, the molded hip belt, the way the weight sat at exactly the right spot: this was love at first use.

Searching for snow on an early winter hike/snowshoe with the Kode 38.

So, this fall, when I realized that my winter pack was shredded to bits after way too many years of fun in the backcountry I decided to see  what Osprey had in store for winter. Could lightning strike twice?  Yes, in fact, it could….Behold : the Kode 38 for installment # 4 of Hot Winter Gear. Check out the others if you missed them:  Kahtoola Snow SystemsKiller Kicks and Patagonia Must-Haves.

After logging over 30 days with this pack on my back, I feel that I can l honestly say – this is a killer pack for winter adventures.

Here’are some of its unique features and how they’ve worked for me:

  • Insulated Hydration Sleeve  – Keeps water flowing in even the coldest temperatures because not only does the bladder stay warmer since it’s buried in the pack and close to your body, but also the tube keeps working because it is barely ever exposed to the elements.
  • Back Panel Access into Dry Pocket – Lets you keep your soggy clothes away from the dry ones.
  • Top Load Access to Avalanche Gear – Means you can get to the important stuff in a hurry.
  • Expandable Top Pocket – Stretches to fit a helmet and goggles (which rest safely in their own built-in fleece-lined pouch – bonus! .
  • Hip Belt Pockets – Provide easy access to snacks, Chap Stick, compass and other essentials.
  • Big Buckles and Beefy Zipper Pulls  – Allows you to quickly and easily get in and out of the bag with gloves and/or cold fingers which have all but stopped working completely (I especially like this feature because my hands shut down all the time)
  • Multiple Methods for Carrying Toys– Means you can toss a snowboard, skis or snowshoes on this pack and still be comfortable while you earn turns.

    Options abound for carrying skis: A-frame (shown here), vertical and diagonal.
Other features include: ice axe carry, a back panel that sheds snow, foam padded hip belt and suspension that ensures comfort even under some serious loads.

My nerdy Garmin computer (review forthcoming) tells me that I have already logged over 300 miles with this pack on my back and my only gripe so far is that Osprey doesn’t make a bigger Kode. They have the outstanding Variant Series available, but I’d love the Kode’s exact features, performance and durability in an expedition size so I could use it on multi-day winter camping and mountaineering exploits.  Hopefully, that’s on the way for next winter…..

Osprey makes so many awesome packs for mountain biking, day hiking, backpacking, climbing and mountaineering so no matter what you’re looking for, they’ve got you covered. They’re versatile and bomber and as you can tell from these photos, I’m never without an Osprey pack of some form or another.  Check out the Kode 38 for winter and all the others for year-round fun.

Backcountry skiing in AZ w/the Exos 34 (before I got the Kode 38).
Hiking on the Moroccan coast with the Talon 33.
Climbing on Hallett Peak, CO with the Stratos 22.


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