I got this pack because of the rave reviews it got…
Design: It's complicated
Size: 40 Liters
Number of Pockets: 4
Max. Load Carried: 20 lbs
Height of Owner: 5'8"
Price Paid: $100
I got this pack because of the rave reviews it got in the 2005 Backpacker Magazine for its unique Taco System. It also looked really cool and that helped my decision when I saw the price tag was close to $200. Nevertheless, I got a late season online sale and paid 50% less which had me stoked until I tried to take this pack out in the field.
First impressions of this pack left me confused. The stiff taco shell set up on the sides and round pouchy shape on the front is very clumsy for packing oddly shaped gear like climb shoes, fuel bottles, or anything square and hard in both the front and rear compartments. The larger rear compartment was impossible to get to without taking the pack off, unzipping the shoulder straps, fighting the multiple zippers snags, and then you have to blindly stuff your gear thru (or pull it out from) a very small dark opening.
As an alpine and ice climber (something I got into shortly after buying the Switch 40+5), I found the pack virtually useless for holding rope, climbing hardware, crampons, and ice tools. As for shovels, snowboards, snow shoes, skis and poles you would need the pack to be 50% empty in order for the taco system set up to support the lashing-on of these technical gear on the exterior.
So with that said, the Switch 40+5 is best used as a daypack for light runs in the hills and nothing more. At the end of the day you paid $200 for a clumsy 4 lb. heavy daypack that is barely good enough for lashing on even heavier gear for your ascents. Whereas a lighter weight, smaller, pack with more lashing options would be more superior (see Dana Design Tattooish or Mammut's Snow packs).
That brings me to this important lesson I've learned over the years when buying packs. Daypacks are best when they are between 10-30 Liters and under 3 lbs. Alpine/Cragging/and Weekender packs are best at 50-60 Liters and at or under 4lbs. Then we have the "no man's land" 40 Liter pack family. These packs tend to be more pricey than other sized packs and tend to be labeled as specialized packs or as I found out with the Switch 40+5 these packs will eventually fall in the "useless-zone" between daypacks and weekender.
Unless you are a expert at packing light during a weekend overnight or you like to carry a house on your back during a dayhike eventually you will end up not using this pack. This is exactly where I fell out with this Osprey pack and it just ended up sitting in the laundry room for a few years.
Actually after a few weeks of having it, this pack BECAME my laundry bag for hauling dirty clothes down to the laundromat.
Another negative; the fit of this pack is off. I'm an 18 inch torso/33 inch waist (a.k.a medium) and the medium size was too big for me in both the shoulder straps and waist belt and the whole system was tricky to adjust so I ended up ditching the belt (which is useless deadweight if you are going to use this as a daypack).
The few positives of this pack were the hydration pocket was very useful for keeping fluids from freezing and close by whenever I needed a sip. Also the front pocket had an umbrella sheath and a few well placed mesh compartments for keeping gear sorted (if only the main compartment had this). The ski-goggle pocket was useful as well.
BOTTOM LINE: Osprey radically modified this series a year after it debut and most likely did so as a response to user complaints similar to my own. The modified packs look very ugly but can only be more functional and easy to use than this first version Switch.
Three stars for bold style, durability and that umbrella pocket for all those snowboarders that carry umbrellas with them on the slopes.