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The Osprey Fairview 40L Travel Backpack: Carry-on + Petite Friendly (2020 Update)

osprey fairview 40 backpack reviewed

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It’s not often you hear that a backpack saved a honeymoon!

Comfort plays a huge part in any backpack decision, but when Kate Tooley and her wife made it through a 2-week honeymoon across four countries without major back drama, she attributed that to the Osprey Fairview 40 backpack.

In fact, after nearly 2 years of use on trips both big and small, Kate continues to like, use, and recommend her Osprey Fairview 40L backpack for women travelers – especially those with petite frames and those traveling carry-on only (even on budget airlines).

Read on for more of Kate’s Osprey Fairview 40 review and why it could be the perfect backpack for your next adventure. 

Osprey Fairview 40 Quick Review

  • TOP PICK FOR: Carry-on only travelers, petite women, women with minor back trouble, and those seeking long-term backpack quality from a trusted brand.

PROS

  • Awesome hip belt and harness takes weight off back.
  • The XS/S size works well for petites.
  • Carry-on friendly
  • Trustred durability

CONS

  • No included daypack like larger versions.
  • Awkward water bottle pocket and color choices

Why I Chose the Osprey Fairview 40L

When my best friend and I decided to go urban backpacking the summer after my first year of college, I spent a big piece of my limited budget on an Osprey pack. I’ve never regretted it. 

However, budget airlines have changed travel drastically, and while planning my backpacking honeymoon, I realized the time had come to downsize. That’s how I found the Osprey Women’s Fairview 40L

I specifically bought the XS/S in Misty Grey. It typically retails for $160, but you can get that down as much as 30% using eBags discounts. (Osprey is officially excluded from their sales, but it’s worth getting in touch with customer service via chat.)

[Editor’s note:  The XS/S version of this backpack is actually only 38L in size, but we will continue to refer to it by the 40L model name.]

osprey fairview 40l backpack review

I wanted to keep all the features I loved in my old Osprey Waypoint, but in a size that I could carry on budget airlines as well as small puddle jumpers in other countries without incurring a fee.

The must-haves were: 

  1. A quality frame and harness system: At 4’11” most clothing stores consider me a twelve year old boy, on top of which I have narrow shoulders, so finding a harness that fits and distributes weight evenly is both vital and challenging. 
  2. Suitcase style/front loading: When I’m city hopping (and sometimes hostel hopping within a city) being able to pack up/unpack quickly and efficiently means more time to see and do, and I find this style helps me stay organized.
  3. Carry-on compatible: Standards vary, but after talking to friends I decided I wanted something under 22 inches and preferably closer to 20. 

One note I’ve seen others mention online is that this bag is not as adjustable as some past versions. Knowing that, I’d be extra careful about measuring yourself before ordering or hit up a local outdoors store to do a fitting. The sizing for my small frame was a game changer.

Osprey Fairview 40L Features

The Osprey site lists the following features for the Fairview 40L. 

  • Large panel zip access to main compartment
  • Lockable sliders on main compartment zipper
  • Dual front compression straps
  • Dual front mesh pockets
  • Heat-embossed scratch-free zippered slash pocket
  • Padded top and side handles
  • Stowaway back panel, harness and hip belt with zippered rear flap for protection
  • Laptop and tablet sleeve secure in lockable compartment
  • Two internal compression straps hold contents securely
  • Internal front flap zippered mesh pocket
  • Shoulder strap included
This product tour highlights some of the best features of the Fairview 40L directly from Osprey experts.


Best Features

Durability + Convenience

On the durability and convenience front, the Fairview continues to shine. I’ve used it consistently and it’s yet to show any wear, living up to my expectations of the brand. 

So far it’s survived subway, train, bus, air travel and even went through customs. The harness is easy to get in and out of, and the pack was light enough to quickly store in and retrieve from all kinds of overhead bins, sleek enough not to get stuck in those annoying bungeed bus shelves, and narrow enough to hold between your legs on the subway without too much “spreading.” 

The Harness

The harness held up to long days of walking and the balance and suspension were excellent, even on steep, uneven or cobbled streets. (I’m looking at you, Bruges.) We were caught in a bad downpour in Brussels and never had any water leakage. 

Because the harness is small and doesn’t have to attach to the top of the pack, folding the straps away is incredibly quick and easy: you can even do it standing in security without slowing down the line!

back panel of osprey fairview 40 backpack open and stowed
The back panel of the Osprey Fairview 40L backpack with harness out and stowed away.

The Shoulder Strap

While I am a bit paranoid the shoulder strap is going to get caught in something (I usually wind it around the handle before stowing it), that fear has so far been unfounded.

It was the feature I didn’t know I was missing from my old bag, and has been a total game changer, making carrying this pack easy when you have those awkward middle distances to transport it (like when trying to get through the airport quickly).

Front Pocket + Laptop Sleeve

After using the bag for shorter domestic trips where I’ve been carrying my computer, I can see the value of the front organizational pocket. It’s easy to access your computer going through security, and the fact that the laptop sleeve keeps the computer from hitting the ground when the bag is set down is a real plus.

If you don’t travel with a laptop or tablet, see my notes in the downsides section below.

Little Features Worth Noting

The Fairview has lots of little features that are easy to overlook, but good to have:

  • interlocking zippers to keep your belongings secure
  • a scratch-free top pocket for sunglasses, etc.
  • compression straps in all the right places
  • super padded side-handle
  • deep mesh pockets on the front (great for water bottles and maps)

The top pocket also has a key hook, which I love, but makes it less ideal for sunglasses. 

The Downsides

Front Pocket + Laptop Sleeve

While it’s nice to have the option of a laptop pocket, if you don’t usually travel with a computer, the sleeve and massive zipper pocket become less than useful.

I’d have preferred either more small organizational pockets or an open space. That said, I roll my clothes and use packing cubes, so the laptop sleeve has been a great place to stash one or two nice flat-packed dress shirts.

I’ve used the zip pocket for paper tickets and maps, which worked somewhat, though everything does tend to sink to the bottom and bulge.

osprey fairview laptop sleeve and pocket
View of the front organizational pocket with laptop sleeve.

The Water Bottle Pockets

The inaccessible water bottle pockets are frustrating because not only are they impossible to reach without assistance (if you can do it, I applaud you and your octopus-like arms), they prevent the compression strap from working properly.

Additionally, they can cause your water bottle to pop out unexpectedly, but that’s a story for another day.

The Color

I’m not sure who thought “ooh olive green and turquoise, how pretty!” but they were wrong. (Pro tip, when Osprey says grey, it’s typically a very green-grey). Color-wise it’s one of the uglier bags I’ve owned, but the other option is a very bright forest green, which I didn’t like any better.

This being said, I do appreciate the light interior, which makes it easy to find things (no more lost black thongs or missing socks). 

inside the osprey fairview 40 backpack
Opens like a suitcase: Inside the osprey fairview 40 backpack.

No Daypack Attachment

A previous commenter brought up a great point- there are no straps to attach a daypack to the back. You could probably rig something with the compression straps, but it’s not designed for that. 

Editor’s Note: The buckles on the shoulder straps are attachment points that work with Osprey’s Daylite daypack if you want to carry an additional bag on the front.

For my honeymoon I took a small Fjallraven Kanken that I like both for its water resistance and comfort. There was no way to attach it, packed, to the Fairview and at times that was incredibly annoying. If it was empty I could shove it in the front pocket, but generally I just carried it rather than unpack between towns. 

What I’d recommend, especially if you’re doing some hiking (which I wasn’t), is to get a completely “packable” daypack, like the Osprey Stuff Pack or the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil and not put anything significant in the large front pocket. You lose some capacity, but I think it would be relatively simple to drop a lightweight bag inside, even packed. Folded up, I bet it would even fit in those otherwise useless mesh pockets. 

Fit and Comfort

I didn’t realize I’d spent years trying to compensate for a too-large harness frame until I tried on the Fairview and barely had to adjust anything. It distributes weight just as well as, if not better than, my old Osprey, but feels drastically less claustrophobic: think more camel, less turtle.  

Osprey Fairview 40L in XS/S for petite
The Osprey Fairview 40L in XS/S is perfect for someone with a petite frame.

Even fully loaded this bag was fantastic. I tend to have shoulder and neck pain from packs, but this one allowed me to really put the weight on my hips. Don’t get me wrong, I could feel that I’d carried some weight on my back by the end of the day, but I was never in any pain.

Usually, my pack isn’t filled to capacity, and it feels more like carrying a heavy daypack. I can imagine that even on a longer trip with more distance walking it would be extremely comfortable. Carrying it with the shoulder strap is also surprisingly painless, and the strap is wide enough not to dig in.

For anyone who wants a female designed pack but is a little taller, the Fairview also comes in a S/M size.

My wife is about 5’7” and has this bag in the S/M. She sometimes deals with severe lower back issues, but on our honeymoon she had virtually no pain even while carrying a fully loaded pack for extended periods of time. 

One of our concerns for the trip was that her back would go out and she wouldn’t be able to walk. It never happened, so I guess you could say the bag saved our honeymoon.

Here’s a great picture of her with the bag packed out. 

Osprey Fairview 40L in Small/Medium
Even fully packed, the Osprey Fairview 40L is very comfortable.

Additionally, the non gender-specific Farpoint is essentially the same pack, but comes in even larger sizes (and less strange color combinations). 

Size and Travel Logistics

I haven’t had any trouble with size on this bag in the US, Europe, or the UK, and I’ve yet to find an overhead bin it can’t squeeze inside. It even fit in the tester bins at the airport. 

Do be careful about packing the front pocket out too far if you’re travelling on very small planes, it can really bulge out.

When I asked my wife if she had anything to contribute to the review, I received this text: “It’s just the right size for two weeks. Boom. Review done.” 

I agree with her at least about the first part. For a mid season trip (think sweaters, light boots, and a puffy jacket) I didn’t need any extra space and was even able to stash one or two items I picked up during our travels. 

Initially, I thought it would be too large for a long weekend. What I’m really enjoying about the bag, though, is how well it compresses down. Even if I don’t need to fully load it, it still keeps everything organized and doesn’t feel too large. 

It helped me to not over-pack, but didn’t force me to leave necessities behind. 

One other unexpected perk I’ve noticed is that this pack fits an average sized hostel locker, something I’ve encountered problems with when travelling with a larger bag. We were especially grateful for them when we stayed in a pod hotel in Amsterdam that had limited storage. 

Overall Recommendation

The longer I use the Fairview, the more I appreciate its versatility and comfort. 

Color and minor flaws aside, this is a well-constructed pack that has and continues to last. There are some design features I’d love for Osprey to take a second look at, but they’ve hit all the big marks for me.

I’m excited to have a pack designed for a small person that will carry what I need and keep my back in condition to keep exploring for years!

osprey fairview 40 backpack

About the Author: Kate Tooley is a writer and theater director currently making her home in Brooklyn, NY. She’s a compulsive traveller who’s never met a city she didn’t want to explore, and is always on the lookout for obscure museums, new food experiences, and great hikes. You can find travel photos and recommendations on her Instagram @talking2walls.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Mary says

    Thanks for the review! I’m 5-2″ and just bought the Farpoint because I just couldn’t handle the colors on the Farview. The forest green reminds me of my good ol’fashioned Kelty backpacking bag, and the misty grey looks like my great-uncle’s WWI button bag. (I’m not young.) I wanted something I could use for work travel and got the Farpoint in black. I let Osprey know if they came out with better colors I’d hand down my Farpoint to my son in favor of the Farview. (Wouldn’t grey with colorful contrast top-stitching be awesome? And of course the interior lining has to remain light-colored so you can find things.) Happy travels!

    • Kate Tooley says

      Thanks for reading Mary! Hope you’re enjoying your Farpoint; I’ve had the older model for years and while I’m finding the Fairview is distributing weight a little bit better, the Farpoint is sill a fantastic and super comfy pack. I wish all outdoor companies would put out black bags for both genders– not all women want funky colors!

  2. Sarah says

    Thank you so much for this review! I just got my new Fairview after traveling last week and realizing that not only had I completely overpacked my Timbuk2 Wingman, but I really needed something with a waist belt to help support the weight. Passing my Wingman on to my husband, and excited to travel again soon with my Fairview!

    • Kate Tooley says

      Thanks for giving it a read Sarah! A waist belt is such a game changer! I hope you fall in love with your Fairview once you get a chance to take it on the road!

  3. m says

    Great Review! the locker info is very helpful. I think the smaller size is actually 38L, so you are doing even better than you thought on keeping it light.

    • Kate Tooley says

      I’m not sure what the concept was on Osprey’s part; I think it should always at least be an option. That said, for me personally, when this bag is filled to capacity, I think adding something onto the back would put too much weight far away from my body. I opted for a small collapsible day pack that I could shove inside. Helped me even more with not being tempted to pick up extra stuff on the trip.

  4. MaK says

    I read somewhere the extra day bag only comes with the larger versions of this bag (55 and 70? I think).

  5. MaK says

    Great review with lots of details. Thank you. Sooo with you on the colour choice ! Yukky forest green or turquoise blue…!? What a choice 🙁 I’m thinking of doing what the other reader did and go for the male version in a nicer colour.

    • Kate Tooley says

      You’re correct in the above comment. Only the larger sizes come with a day pack. I’ve finally become accustomed to the color (and I have to admit the light color inside makes it super easy to find things), but I’m still hoping Osprey starts making a black or grey option for both male and female packs. Thanks for reading!

  6. Rocio says

    Hi, I am looking for a 40 liter backpack for my trips, I am a woman with 5’3 “(about 163 cm) and weigh 132 pounds (about 60 kg). My problem with the Fairview 40 is that I do not like colors, but being I do not know if the Farpoint would fit well, since the smallest size is the S / M while the smallest size of the Fairview is the XS / S … Any help? Any alternative for less than 140 dollars ? I like the Farpoint 40 but maybe it’s too big for my height 5’3 “

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