Osprey Nova Backpack review: Laptop bag and much more

I'd been looking for a larger laptop backpack with separate compartments for my MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and other necessities. I've found it in the Osprey Nova. Plus, it's adjustable, so you can use it as a slimmer pack if you don't have much else to pack. When you need to carry more items, release the straps to expand the bag to its full capacity.

The Good

  • Separate padded compartments for laptop and tablet
  • Large 32-liter capacity
  • Many organizational compartments
  • Two water bottle pockets
  • Adjustable via compression straps
  • Comfortable

The Bad

  • Pricey

For school, work, travel, or adventure

Osprey Nova Backpack: Features

Osprey Nova Backpack

The Osprey Nova is a large 32-liter multi-purpose laptop backpack. It has separate padded compartments for up to a 17-inch laptop and a large tablet. The Nova is comfortable for everyday use, nice-looking, and designed to take you wherever you need to go. I'll be using it primarily for travel, and for when I need to take my "home office" on the go. But you could certainly take it camping or use it as your school bag. Osprey has designed this bag is specifically for women, but there is nothing overtly feminine about it. It comes in five colors: Ethel Blue, Black, Red Herring, Aster Purple, and Juneberry Purple, but none of the colors are particularly girly. There are no pinks and the purples both lean blue. There is a men's version of this bag, the Nebula, which is similar but slightly larger at 34 liters. Frankly, I believe any gender would be happy with either bag; it's more a matter of which size and color you'd prefer.

Osprey offers a lifetime guarantee on their products. They will repair damage or replace the bag indefinitely.

Both the laptop pocket and the tablet pocket end before they reach the bottom of the bag, which is a nice touch. So, when you set your bag down on the ground, your precious tech won't contact the ground at all, even though padding. The back of the backpack is thick, tough, and ridged. The laptop compartment is a velcro-tabbed sleeve within its own zippered compartment, though there is another large zipped pocket within the compartment. This entire compartment opens up completely so your laptop can be laid out flat within its sleeve even if your backpack is upright, making it TSA-friendly (i.e. you won't have to remove the laptop at airport security.)

The Osprey Nebula safely holds up to a 17-inch laptop, large tablet, and so much more.

The backpack's main compartment houses the tablet sleeve, which is only padded on one side and doesn't have a closure. There is also a small zippered pocket in that compartment. There are two more zippered compartments in the front, one of which has three organizational pockets and a clasp for keys and such. There is also a non-zippered stretchy mesh pocket on the front. I wish all totes and packs had a water bottle pocket; Osprey Nova has two. The well-padded straps, breathable back panel, and the harness that clasps across your chest make this a comfortable backpack to carry.

A rather unique feature that the Osprey Nova has is compression straps that disappear into their own mini pockets. So, if you want to carry a smaller bag, clasp the compression straps and your bag will stay slim and close to your back. However, if you want to fill the bag to its full capacity, undo the straps and tuck them away in their little pockets.

Every feature I'd want

Osprey Nova Backpack: What I like

Most importantly, I feel that my MacBook Pro and my iPad Pro will be well-protected in their padded sleeves within compartments of this bag. It's a nice touch that these tech sleeves end several inches from the bottom of the bag, preventing any possible contact with the ground when the bag is set down.

There are so many thoughtful touches that went into this bag. I appreciate that the Osprey Nova can be a slimmer or a larger backpack, depending on whether I use the compression straps. I have many bags with no water bottle pockets, but I am almost always carrying water with me when I'm traveling or on the go; I like that the Nova has two stretchy mesh bottle pockets that don't stick out when not in use.

There are so many pockets and compartments, it's easy to stay organized and find what you need quickly. Finally, comfort is important when carrying a lot of stuff, and Osprey designed this bag to be comfortable. It's well-padded and has a harness when helps distribute the weight of what you're carrying.

Osprey Nova Backpack


Osprey Nova Backpack: What I don't like

I really can't think of anything negative to say about the Osprey Nova, other than pointing out that it isn't cheap. There are far more expensive bags out there of course, but no one can call this an inexpensive bag. The lifetime guarantee mitigates the price somewhat, as you may not ever need to purchase another backpack.

Worth the price

Osprey Nova Backpack: Bottom line

If you're looking for a laptop backpack in this price range, you will not be disappointed in the Osprey Nova or its slightly larger "male" counterpart, the Osprey Nebula. The Nova is a big 32-liter backpack for school, work, travel, or adventure. It has separate padded compartments for up to a 17-inch laptop and a large tablet plus plenty of room for all of your essentials. There are lots of organizational pockets including two for water bottles. Hideaway straps compress the bag into a smaller version if you're carrying less and want a slimmer look. Plenty of padding and a harness make this bag comfortable to carry. The lifetime guarantee means that you'd never have to pay to replace a damaged bag.

See at Amazon

Karen S Freeman

Karen is a contributor to iMore.com as a writer and co-host of the iMore Show. She’s been writing about Apple since 2010 with a year-long break to work at an Apple Store as a product specialist. She's also a contributor at TechRadar and Tom's Guide. Before joining iMore in 2018, Karen wrote for Macworld, CNET, AppAdvice, and WatchAware. She’s an early adopter who used to wait in long lines on release days before pre-ordering made things much easier. Karen is also a part-time teacher and occasional movie extra. She loves to spend time with her family, travel the world, and is always looking for portable tech and accessories so she can work from anywhere.