Is the Osprey Ozone 36 the best wheeled carry-on pack?
I’m a backpacker at heart: I take dusty trains across far off landscapes, I dash through metro stations, walk along ancient cobbled streets looking for tucked away accommodation, ride questionable buses on questionable roads, I stay in dorms, in hostels!
I didn’t think I could work a wheeled luggage into my travel style, but I found the perfect wheeled pack: the Osprey Ozone 36!
While I’ve considerably downsized my backpack since my first big trip, I still look on in mild envy at those carefree travellers with wheeled cases. Carrying a hefty DSLR camera, plus lenses, and a laptop, as well as a backpack can be a bit of a strain, especially in blisteringly hot, humid countries. I love to be on the move but I can dread transit days when I know there will be lots of changes and walking.
That was the reason I chose a carry-on size, 40 litre backpack for my rail trip to South East Asia in 2013/14. It was so refreshing to have such a small pack, yet even then, I found it heavy and cumbersome: the backpack strapped to my back, my camera bag strapped to the front, I looked like a sweaty tortoise!
I had an inexpensive wheeled case that I used for the occasional weekend break, but it was frustratingly bad to drag along, it would always flip over, the wheels were wobbly and the case looked completely cheap and ready to fall to pieces at any moment.
I’d looked into upgrading it for my northern Europe rail trip over the winter but all the fancy carry-on cases just didn’t seem to do it for me.
Then I came across the Osprey Ozone range, all my backpacks have been Osprey and they have been excellent. Their smallest, lightest carry-on sized wheeled pack is the Ozone 36: I was immediately won over!
It was a bit of a last-minute buy: 2 days before I set off on the Eurostar to Belgium. My only concern was that, at 36 litres, it had 4 litres less capacity than my carry-on backpack (the Osprey Farpoint 40), I would have to travel even lighter!
This wasn’t a huge problem, I have this packing-light lark down to a T; despite heading to Nordic Europe in winter I still managed to fit everything into this compact, light bag. I share my secrets in this post!
I travelled with it for just over 2 months, giving it a thorough road test. My now-beloved Ozone 36 has successfully coped with Europe’s abundant cobblestone streets, snow, rain, and countless train journeys.
Here is a little tour of my bag, and the reasons why I completely love it!
First off, it doesn’t look like a wheely case: it still looks like a backpack. Yeah, you still look a little bit adventurous with it!
The best thing about the Osprey Ozone 36 is the wheels, they are amazing. It’s like having a Landrover instead of a car, this thing can go off-road! The wheels are big and robust, they coped magnificently well with the cobblestones; I’ve pulled it across grass, through gravel and through snow with no problems.
These wheels have a high clearance: you can pull the pack up curbstones with ease and I’ve pulled it up steps too. It never flips over, it feels sturdy and well-built.
The Osprey Ozone 36 is with packed with useful pockets, like this one on the very top. I use it for my chargers and cables, for easy access without having to open the full bag. I think it was designed for the clear plastic liquids bags needed for carry-on flights, I would use it for that if I flew with this bag. No such need for this when overlanding on the train though, hoorah.
A useful, slim pocket in the back of the pack is perfect for magazines, books and tickets. I kept my umbrella in here, it would also be great for flip-flops too.
Inside the Osprey Ozone 36 there are internal side pockets and a big webbed pocket on the inside of the lid. Robust straps compress your things securely: I use stuff sacks and they fitted perfectly in here.
The pack zips wide open like a clam giving you easy access to all your things, and making it quick to repack.
When travelling with it on the train (on many trains!) it fitted easily into the overhead luggage racks, and at less that 9 kgs fully packed it wasn’t a struggle to get it up there either.
I rolled it on its back under the seat sometimes, if there was room, its dinky size means it’s not a challenge to travel with.
More than any other form of transport, this pack was made for adventurous train travel. It made my Euro rail trip effortless. I can see that it would be excellent as a carry-on bag for flying too (which is what the Ozone 36 was really designed for!).
It has a sturdy, retractable T shaped handle that fits neatly down into the pack when not in use. I found it comfortable to use and a good height.
Empty, the Osprey Ozone 36 weights less than 2 kgs, which is pretty light for a wheeled pack and it has padded handles on the top and sides for when you need to carry it.
I really cannot fault this pack, it was a joy to travel with and I will definitely be using it for most future trips. I think I will still use my Farpoint 40 backpack for some destinations, the Ozone 36 wouldn’t be so good for taking on motorbikes, and not everywhere in the world is suitably paved. It maybe awesome off-road, but there is only so long you can repeatedly drag a pack over challenging ground before it becomes a chore.
The destination will pick my pack, but at least now I have two amazing packs to choose from.
Here’s the technical details:
Weight : 1.92 kg; Maximum dimensions : 460 mm (l) x 360 mm (w) x 200 mm (d)
It retails for around £100.
I heartily recommend the Osprey Ozone 36, if you’ve been looking for a lightweight wheely bag, this may well be the pack for you too.
Disclaimer: I bought the Osprey Ozone 36 with my own money; Osprey have not contacted me, paid me or requested this review. All thoughts are entirely my own, I’ve used this bag thoroughly on my travels.
Are you considering wheeled luggage? Have you used it too? Share your thoughts below!