Osprey Archeon Carry-On Kit Review: Hack Airline Rules

Osprey Archeon Carry-On Kit Review: Hack Airline Rules

I tried really hard not to smirk as my partner pleaded her case with the American Airlines lost luggage attendant. It wasn’t easy; after all, I had packed just as much as she had, but I was wearing it all — wrapped in 360 degrees of modular, organized packs.

The funniest part was that this was exactly the reason I jumped on Osprey’s offer to test out its newly revamped Archeon travel packs. The system comprises a 40L carry-on backpack, laptop sling, expandable pouch, and — my favorite — “chest rig.” Each distinct piece served a portable purpose, but when combined, made me a veritable luggage Voltron — formed up, no carry-on restrictions could (or did) stand in my way.

I took my Archeon kit from Minneapolis to Miami, Los Angeles, Bozeman, and back. I used it for overnight trips and stays just shy of a full week. My goal: Don’t. Check. Anything. Here’s how the Archeon held up to my coast-to-coast test.

In short: If you’re tired of being stung by strict carry-on rules, or you’re as terrified as I am about losing a checked bag, the Osprey Archeon is an airline ally! Each piece is a cleverly designed, modular piece of a system that can help you navigate airports and planes with greater ease. It’s not perfect in every scenario, but for most travel, it’s a little win when you want to avoid excess fees and hassle.

Hack Carry-On Rules: Osprey Archeon Kit Gives Power Back to Passengers

  • Carry-on pack sizes
    40L, 30L, 24L
  • Accessory sizes
    Sling (7L); Chest Rig (4L); Laptop Case (9L/16-in. laptop); Pouch (3L)
  • Materials
    Bluesign-approved 100% recycled nylon (840D main & bottom; 200D accent)
  • Straps/Hip belt
    Stowable, removable

  • Great for squeezing the most out of carry-on space

  • Weather-resistant

  • Makes organization at airport a breeze

  • Handsome, durable build

  • Can’t purchase as a bundle

  • Accessory straps must be undone to access full main zip

Osprey Archeon Carry-On Kit

man wearing osprey archeon carry-on luggage kit in airport
(Photo/Kendra Smith)

If you prefer checking luggage and are happy with any old backpack for your carry-on, the Archeon is likely more pack than you need. This pack is ideally suited to folks like me, who opt to hold airlines accountable to their one carry-on and one personal item promise. Gate-checking bags has become too commonplace (in my opinion), and air travel as a whole has become a relentless gauntlet of shifting rules and dwindling benefits.

And that’s exactly what I said to the Osprey folks at a trade show in 2023 — to which they responded, “Boy, do we have just the thing for you!”

Though the brand ultimately markets the Archeon system more for its convenience, I nonetheless evaluated it for its defiance of an industry that seems hellbent on making life as stressful as possible.

While the Archeon family includes seven pieces, I will focus on the three that I found most convenient (and defiant): the 40L carry-on ($300), Chest Rig ($80), and Pouch ($50).

That said, each of the carry-on bags is designed to work with any and all of the accessories. So ultimately, you can tailor your setup to suit your needs and travel preferences.

Archeon 40L Carry-On

osprey archeon carry on pack
(Photo/Adam Ruggiero)

The foundation of the Archeon is the carry-on pack. I opted for the 40L since my goal was to squeeze as much onto my person as possible, without having to check anything. If you pack a little lighter or want to be a bit more mobile, Osprey also makes 30L and 24L options. These packs’ compatibility with the other Archeon pieces is the same.

All pieces in the collection are made from 100% recycled, Bluesign-approved 420D ripstop nylon with carbonate coating. The result is a highly weather-resistant construction that withstands drops, scuffs, abrasion, and daily abuse. Dust and grime wipe clean off the surface, and I’ve had no scratches over thousands of miles of overhead bins, security checkpoints, car trunks, and countless trips through concrete jungles.

What I Liked Most

This pack has a veritable laundry list of features and design nuance, so I’ll focus on the key aspects that I found the most useful.

First, carry options. I mostly used the pack-in-a-backpack configuration with the waist belt. But you can stow the shoulder straps, remove the waist belt (Velcro), and use duffel-style handles on either side of the pack. You can also wear the waist belt on its own, as it has two zippered pockets that perfectly accommodate a phone and wallet.

Next, pockets. Osprey nailed it here, giving the Archeon 40 only what it needs and not overwhelming the user with options. The main compartment is uncluttered and spacious — this proved perfect for stuffing a light jacket and three packing cubes loaded with a week’s worth of pants, shirts, and socks.

Two zippered side pockets hide a water bottle pocket on either side. These pockets can also carry miscellaneous items like sunglasses, snacks, or charging cords — items you’ll want handy but don’t need instant access to.

Finally, the obligatory laptop/device compartment. This compartment has its own zipper and sits along the back panel. It was perfect for quickly removing the laptop to go through security. And I appreciated the dual sleeves that kept both of my laptops, 15-inch and 13-inch, protected and separate within the compartment.

What Could Be Better

The zippers on the Archeon are stout! Ultimately, this is a good thing, as they are strong enough to withstand the abuse of travel and while not fully waterproof, did a great job of keeping out light moisture and precipitation. But sometimes you’ll need to give a good tug to move these suckers along the track.

osprey archeon water bottle pocket
(Photo/Adam Ruggiero)

I also didn’t love utilizing the side pockets for water bottles. It proved a little cumbersome to unzip a compartment to grab my water bottle, and it’s not ideal to leave the zipper open for quicker access. I’d prefer one side to have an exterior water bottle pocket.

The accessory straps could also be improved. These are the two removable nylon straps you can affix to the face of the pack and allow you to affix other components of the Archeon system.

The issue I ran into was that they overlap the main zipper, so you can’t open that compartment all the way without undoing the straps. You can still open the main zipper about halfway with the straps on, but to access everything, you’ll have to undo the straps and remove whatever item you’d affixed there.

osprey archeon accessory straps
(Photo/Adam Ruggiero)

Archeon Chest Rig & Pouch

By far, my favorite item in the collection was the Chest Rig. This is probably the most well-designed travel companion I’ve seen. Not only is it a great addition to the Archeon system, but I’d recommend this to anyone who travels frequently or wants a safe, comfortable, secure place to keep their valuables while traveling.

The Chest Rig has a stretchy, breathable mesh back panel that goes over your shoulders and secures under your arms and around your ribs with two straps. It felt extremely lightweight and, while I was uncertain how cumbersome it would feel, it proved more comfortable than trying to negotiate tight aisles with a backpack.

I used the Chest Rig to carry my wallet, phone, and boarding documents (when necessary). I also found it useful for carrying my phone charging cord and sunglasses. It has three zippered compartments: A larger main compartment with a couple of organization pockets, a slightly smaller secondary pocket, and a front stash pocket.

The 3L Pouch accompanied me on some trips, but not all. This is effectively a small Archeon-compatible packing cube; it’s a single pocket for stowing … whatever fits. It also has a removable shoulder strap if you want to use it as an around-town EDC sling.

What I Liked Most

osprey archeon chest rig
(Photo/Kendra Smith)

There’s almost nothing I do not like about the Archeon Chest Rig. Even if I didn’t bring the 40L pack for travel, I would still use the Chest Rig. It has all but cured me of the occasional airport panic when I would frantically pat myself down because I couldn’t remember what pocket I put my phone or wallet in.

The Rig provides a safe and comfortable spot for my travel essentials. It’s easy to wear, has just the right amount of space, and was the cornerstone of my travel hacks.

If you’re going for maximum packing, stuff the pack to the gills and leave the rest to the Chest Rig. At 4L, it provides 10% more packing room than the 40L carry-on alone. And because you’re wearing it, you don’t have to count it among your personal items!

As for the Pouch, this proved less useful in my testing, although it did allow me to squeeze just a bit more gear into my carry-on. Specifically, it carried my dopp kit — all my toiletries and small extras. All of that could have fit into the pack, but it was much better organized when consolidated into the pouch. Here again, when you snap the Pouch onto the 40L pack via the accessory straps, you’re still saving yourself a personal item.

osprey archeon pouch
(Photo/Adam Ruggiero)

What Could Be Better

The Chest Rig ain’t broke, so I’m not going to try and fix it. Instead, I’ll mention that the Pouch seems like a solution waiting for a problem. As a dopp-kit carrier, it did its job fine. But it wasn’t strictly necessary. And with the shoulder sling, the Pouch still wasn’t quite enough to be a light daypack around town.

Among all the items in the Archeon ecosystem, I’d say the Pouch would be the first one to skip when you’re deciding the best kit to build.

Osprey Archeon: Conclusions

With the modular design and traveler focus, the Archeon system feels like a big win for Osprey. And while not every single piece offers the same utility — the laptop case and pouch aren’t the home-run hitters the 40L Pack and Chest Rig are — I suspect Osprey will continue to refine and develop this concept.

But right out of the gate, the carry-on packs and the Chest Rig together are a match made in frequent flier heaven. They add peace of mind, organization, and a little extra buffer within the ever-stricter travel rules. If you prefer to keep everything with you, avoid checking bags, and simplify the burden of packing, the Archeon system is designed for travelers like you.

So you can actually sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.


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