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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Osprey Talon 33 Pack > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes

Osprey Talon 33 backpack
Test Report Series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: November 30, 2007
Field Report: February 22, 2008
Long Term Report: April 20, 2008
Talon 33 (image courtesy of Osprey)

Tester Coy Starnes
Gender Male
Age 45
Weight 238 lb (108 kg)
Height 6 ft (1.8 m)
Chest 44 in (112 cm)
Location Grant, Alabama, USA

Tester Biography

I live in Northeast Alabama.  I enjoy hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities but backpacking is my favorite pastime.  I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo.  I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer.  My style is slow and steady and my gear is light.  However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability.  A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.

Initial Report: November 30, 2007

Product Information
Item Talon 33 M/L (medium/large size)
Manufacturer Osprey
Year of Manufacture 2007
Capacity M/L 2000 cu in (33 L)
Listed Weight 1 lb 14 oz (0.85 kg)
Measured Weight 1 lb 15 oz (0.88 kg)
Color Spicy Chili (red)
MSRP Not Available

Product Description
The Talon 33 is one of 4 "Talon" packs in the Active Light Pursuits series.  It is the second largest in the series and is described as best for "Day-long adventures, Light Overnighters and Adventure Racing".  With a capacity of 2000 cu in (33 L) and a load limit of 30 lb (13.6 kg) it is certainly not an "expedition" pack but think it may be well suited (for me at least) as a two or even three day pack.  In fact that is how I plan to test the pack as I am not an Adventure Racer and my backpacking loads are generally less than 30 lb (13.6 kg).

From the Website;  "The Talon 33 is the most versatile pack in its series, meeting the needs of everyone from the expert light and fast backpacker to hardcore do-it-in-a-day alpinists.  Easy top loading and a floating top pocket keep you organized and on the move."

The Talons all share the AIRSCAPE BACKPANEL, "a mesh covered, 4 mm HDPE ridge molded foam backpanel with integrated air channels."

The 44, 33 and 22 all have TORSO ADJUSTABLE HARNESS which provide "exceptional fit and adjustability".  



WARRANTY: "The Osprey Packs Lifetime Warranty covers defects in materials and craftsmanship for the lifetime of the backpack."

Initial Impression
talon 2The pack looks exactly like what is depicted on the website which to my eyes is very nice.  The only real surprise is the AirScape Backpanel, "a mesh covered, 4 mm HDPE ridge molded foam backpanel with integrated air channels."  I think I must have read "ridge molded" as ridged molded.  It is not "wet rag" limp but not as ridged as I expected.  I also was expecting the top lid to be adjustable on all four corners with little straps and buckles but it is sewn all the way across on the side connecting it to the pack so it is more like a flap.  There won't be much of a chance to sneak gear between the top lid and the main pack compartment.  Other than that, I am still Ooohing and Ahhhing over how great it looks and fits.   I will cover pack fit in more detail in my Field Report but I crammed it full of gear and put the TORSO ADJUSTABLE HARNESS in the the middle indicator and adjusted the shoulder straps and hipbelt properly.  I must say, it feels great!  Also, with the pack crammed full of gear, it was very ridged, and the 4 mm HDPE ridge molded foam backpanel kept all sharp/hard objects like my mess kit from poking my back.  To be honest, I put my sleeping bag and a jacket in closest to what will be next to my back and crammed the rest of my gear to the outside of this.  The photo on the left shows the Talon 33 loaded for a short overnight hike.

Test Plan
I plan to use the Talon 33 as my overnight backpack for the duration of the test.  I will try to do a couple of three day/2 night hikes when the weather cooperates as I don't want to overload the pack with a lot of heavy winter gear (read extra clothes and my winter sleeping bag).  Since winters around hear are often a mix of real cold weather and almost balmy weather, I will try to make my trips during the latter.  My testing will center on how well a pack this small adapts to my winter hiking needs.  I will also use the Talon 33 while cycling as it is intended for that use also.   In general, I will be looking to answer the following.

Fit and Comfort: Second only too shoes, a proper fitting (and well carrying) pack is essential in my book.  I will see how well the pack fits/wears in all the various areas I usually notice a pack.  Will the shoulder straps rub my neck after wearing it all day (they do seem a little narrow for my bull neck)?  Do they make my shoulders ache or hurt in any way?  Will the lack of a ridged frame cause the pack to sag uncomfortable with maximum loads?  On the same note, will the 4mm HDPE ridge molded foam backpanel keep my back protected from sharp and or hard objects?  Does the pack limit my freedom of movement too much?  Is the hipbelt comfortable and does it help transfer some of the load off the shoulder straps?  How comfortable is the pack while riding my bike?  Will my back sweat a lot more than normal, whether climbing a mountain on my bike or on foot?

Practicality:  I will be the first to admit that a 2000 cu (33 L) capacity pack is cutting it close for a multi day winter pack.  However, I see the pack is listed with Stretch Woven Front Pocket and Stretch Woven Side Pockets. These 3 pockets can hold a lot of stuff (believe me I know from experience) and since I use an 854 cu in (14 L) lumbar pack on all my backpacking trips to carry my water (along with other gear), the side pockets most folks use for water will be free.  Therefore, I think it will hold my gear but I expect I will need to be a little more particular in choosing what I take.  Regardless, what gear will fit where and what gear will I strap on the outside?  Is it easy to take the pack on and off at rest stops?  Is the pack generally waterproof or will I need to purchase a pack cover or put all my vulnerable gear in dry bags?

Testing the Key Features
1 Fixed top-pocket with internal stash pocket and key fob: I think this is the lid pocket? What will I carry in it? talon 3

2 External closure/compression and front pocket compression strap: How well do the compressions straps work for smaller loads?

3 Dual side, bungee tool tie-offs: What gear will I use this for? How well does it work?

4 Harness with adjustable sternum strap and stretch woven energy gel pockets:  How comfortable is the harness and will I eat the energy gel pockets?...LOL  It took me a few minutes to figure out what the energy gel pockets were but they are 2 mesh pockets on either shoulder strap.  I actually thought they might be cell phone pockets before re-reading the pack features again.  Both photos on the right show the energy gel pockets.  The first shows both and the next shows a closeup of one pocket.

5 Front and side stretch woven pockets: As I mentioned before, I will use these for gear small enough for them that wouldtalon 4 otherwise take up precious interior pack space.

6 Integrated blinker/attachment patch: I have one of these lights on the back of my bike for night riding. I will use the pack on a few bike rides and see if my light fits.

7 Side compression/carry straps: How well do these work when the packs is less than full?

8 Mesh covered, perforated foam hipbelt with zippered side pockets: To my mind, perhaps the most critical element in a pack. I will report on how this hipbelt feels on longer hikes. What will I put in the zippered pocket?

9 Tow loop: I don't expect to need this, especially since I hike solo most of the time, but just in case, it's there.  

10 Dual ice ax loops: I don't use an ice ax so I will see what gear I can attach? I expect I might put my trekking poles here when not in use.

11 Additional tie off points: What can I use these for?

Durability and Ease of Care:  Lastly, I will report on any issues of durability I might encounter.  Is the pack material up to the rigors of everyday trail conditions like scrubbing on brush or when squeezing through narrow places or blowdowns. Do all seams remain intact after miles of near maximum loads or gear crammed in?

I found that Osprey recommends Nikwax products for pack care.  "Tech Wash - Use this with warm water for washing and cleaning your pack.  Tent & Gear Proof - Use this spray-on to optimize wet weather performance of your pack.  UV Proof  - Use this spray-on product to protect your pack from UV exposure and to improve water repellency.  I plan to at least buy the Tent & Gear Proof but may use a gentle laundry detergent (Woolite) for cleaning.

Anticipated Testing Locations and Conditions
I will be making several short overnight hikes and a few longer hikes over the next 4 months. I will be testing in the southeastern US with trips into the local mountains of Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.  However, most testing would be done in Northeast Alabama. Elevations will generally be less than 4000 ft (1219 m).  Winters in the southeastern US are generally mild, with some short stints of very cold weather. I generally see some rain while backpacking, often in the form of sleet and ice in the winter.  

Field Report: February 22, 2008

Testing Locations and Conditions
All my testing thus far has been here in the local woods near my home in Northeast Alabama.  This involves hiking down some steep trials to a creek. I also used it several times while dayhiking on the same trails and twice riding my Trek 520.  The temperatures have been mostly mild with the coldest overnight experienced at 34 F (1 C), the coldest day hike at 26 F (-3 C) and the coldest bike ride at 52 F (11 C). The warmest was on a day hike at 65 F (18 C).  I didn't get rained on but sweated a lot and was riding in a fog once.

Field Test Results
Before I start, I have to say, the Osprey Talon 33 is a very nice little pack.  I was a little leery that without a solid frame of some type that I would find it uncomfortable when in fact it has proven to be very easy on the back.  It's hard to describe, but I felt more freedom using this pack than with packs with a solid frame.  However, it was either too big or too small for each and every application I have needed to use it for thus far.  Let me explain.

I used the Osprey Talon 33 on a couple of short overnight hikes but both were in cold weather with lows in the mid 30's F (around 1 C).  Also, the way I use my sleeping bag around my hammock calls for a warmer bag than I might need on a pad.  In fact, I don't even use a pad, so, it was too cool for my 30 F (-1 C) bag but not cold enough for my 0 F (-18 C) bag.  However, since I'd rather be too warm than too cool, I used my 0 F (-18 C) bag.  And even though this is a down bag, it still took up most of the space inside the Talon 33, even though the bag was stuffed in its stuff sack.  I did use my Day (a large lumbar pack) worn in the front, and between the two packs, I was able to fit all my gear.  I ended up putting my water, headlamp, food and stove in the Day and carried my sleeping bag, hammock and fly in the main compartment of the Talon 33.  I put my down socks in the top lid and stuffed my gloves in one of the side pockets and my heavy duty "mad bomber" hat in the other. I put my Frogg Togg rain jacket in the front stretch pocket.  I put my knife in the hip belt zippered pocket but didn't need it for anything else.  I had on a down jacket most of the time but on some of the uphill climbs I got too warm and crammed it in the top of my pack.  It was too big but with the top lid helping to contain every thing I managed.  In other words, the pack was stuffed full but incidentally it was not all that heavy.  In fact it weighed just 12 lbs, and since the pack itself weighs 1 lb 15 oz (0.88 kg) it was holding about 10 lb (4.5 kg) of gear.  I only hiked about 5 miles (8 km) on each overnighter but the pack was very comfortable on both trips.

I have used the Talon 33 on several 3 to 5 mile (5 to 8 km) dayhikes recently and generally on the same trails as my overnight hikes.  These were mostly just hikes to get exercise.  For one, it was too cold to ride my bike on several days and two; I switched from using the Day to the Talon 33.

As a day pack the Talon 33 is really more than I need but it does work, and with such light loads I could really move.  On the first hike I carried some water in one of the side pockets and a few snacks and my other water bottle in the main compartment.  I also threw in a down jacket just to take up some space.  One good thing about my down jacket is that it is light enough that I don't mind carrying it even if I doubt I will need it.  Of course being down, it was not perfect at filling out the pack but by very gently snugging down the compression straps I managed to maintain some semblance of the packs normal filled out shape.   Still, my load was so small that all the compression straps ended up with quite a bit of excess webbing hanging off the back.  I found that my biggest water bottle, the SIGG 1 L (34 oz) Traveler, was too big to fit well in the side pocket so I just put it in the main compartment.  This was a tad aggravating but I had a 0.6 L (20 oz) SIGG which fit in a side pocket much better.  I ended up putting my fleece jacket, gloves and boggin in the pack before this hike ended but I could have fit a lot more inside.

On another dayhike it was very cold and it never got above 26 F (-3 C).   But instead of wearing my down jacket, I wore the same fleece jacket, and again, to take up space, put my down jacket in the Talon 33.  I wore a light boggin and light gloves but never needed to take them or the fleece jacket off during the hike.  My head sweated a little but my back did not.    

I also used the Talon 33 for two rides on my upright bike.  I rode my recumbent a lot more, but due to the back rest on the bent, the Talon 33 will not work on it.  I could not attach it to the seat like I did the Day because it was too long and would drag on the tire.  Anyways, I ran into the same problem one these rides (on the upright) as I did when dayhiking.  The pack is just too big for what I needed to carry.  I was usually wearing a light wind jacket but I put my down jacket inside the Talon 33 for these rides for the same reason as my day hikes.  And as with hiking, without a frame, the Tallon 33 needs to be pretty full to hold its shape well.  However, I think the back of the back being able to bend actually was a plus on the bike due to the bent over position I am in when riding my upright.  I also expected the belt to be uncomfortable with me riding bent forward all the time but this proved not to be the case.  I really would have forgotten it, were it not for the constant flapping of the sternum strap and to a lesser degree, the compression straps.

Summary Thus Far
I have now used the Talon 33 for the two overnight hikes as well as around a dozen dayhikes and two bike rides for a total of about 60 miles (97 km) hiking and about 20 miles (32 km) biking. So far I have not had any issues or problems with the pack other than the size not being ideal for the loads I carried.  I have come to like the energy gel pockets but wish one was a tad bigger so it would hold my small camera.  The narrow neck opening of the shoulder straps have not caused any discomfort on the fairly short hikes and light loads I have carried so far.

Future Testing
I hope the weather warms up enough to get in a good warm weather hike as I feel the Talon will be more suited for this than either as a day pack or a winter backpack.  I am planning a 3 day hike next week but it won't be real warm yet so I expect to use my lumbar pack again.    

This concludes my Field Report.  Please check back in approximately 2 months for my Long Term Report to see how the Talon 33 is doing. 

  Long Term Report: April 20, 2008
talon 5
Recent high winds made for some intersting trail conditions

Testing Locations and Conditions
All my hiking and biking was in Northeast Alabama.  The one hike I had planned in North Carolina was a bust due to a late season cold snap and icy trail conditions.  I would have needed to use a bigger pack for conditions that cold with my present gear. I did use the Talon 33 for two more overnight hikes.  One was cool but not cold with a low of 46 F (8 C).  The other was even warmer with a low of only 57 F (14 C).

I have used the Talon on about a dozen more day hikes. Most of these hikes were in cool but nice spring weather with temps in the mid 40s F (around 7 C) to mid 60s F (around 18 F).  However, in the past few weeks it has warmed considerably, and I actually hiked in mid 70s F (around 24 C) several times.

Since the Field report, I have used the Talon 33 for a total of 123 miles (198 km) of bike riding spread out over 11 rides.   All these rides were short in nature, anywhere from 8 to 12 miles (13 to 19 km) long, but included going down and back up 600 ft (183 m) in elevation. The coldest ride was at 41 F (5 C) and the warmest at 77 F (25 C).

Long Term Field Performance
The Talon 33 has continued to work well for backpacking.  My last two trips were in warm enough weather that I didn't need a lot of winter clothes or a winter bag.  Using my hammock and a 30 F (-1 C) rated down bag and only enough food for one night kept my loads relatively light and the loaded pack only toped 16 lb (7 kg) on my bathroom scale.  I even left my fanny pack at home and still had a little room left over for more food.

The weather was warm enough that I could hike in shorts and a tee but not so hot that I was uncomfortable.  Each hike was about 6 miles (10 km) round trip so even though my back sweated just a little, I wasn't hiking long enough or far enough to really work up a major sweat.  I never really noticed any discomfort around the shoulder straps or hipbelt, but again, I was only hiking a few hours each way.

The most appreciated part of the pack is the little pockets on the hipbelt.  I kept my knife, comb and house keys in one and my camera in the other.  Out of curiosity, I took everything out of these pockets and put them in the front pockets of my shorts.  It was immediately apparent that this was nowhere near as comfortable as walking with empty pant pockets.

I also found that keeping my phone in the shoulder strap pocket (meant for energy bars) worked really well.   The only problem was getting it out fast because of the way the top elastic strip closed in around the top of my phone.  I missed one call and barely got it out in time for a few others.

The front stretch pocket was the perfect spot for my jerky pouch as I could grab it out without undoing the top lid. The center strap does hinder removing or putting things back in but not enough that I couldn't bend the jerky pouch when removing it and then put it back in and straighten it back flat.    

Since I left the fanny pack at home I needed to find a place for my water treatment kit, toilet paper and headlamp.  The small Aqua Mira bottles do not take up much room so they found a home in the small net pocket on the underside of the top lid.  I kept my toilet paper and headlamp in the top lid for quick and easy access.
For day hiking the Talon 33 has remained a good pack, even if a little big for my needs.  I packed a light down jacket along with my water and snacks to help fill out the pack.  While trying out some new shoes, I hiked 7 miles (11 km) which is further in one stint than on either overnight hikes.  I sweated more than when doing the overnighters but even when climbing a section of trail with 400 ft (122 m) gain in elevation in less than half a mile, it was not all that bad.

On this same day hike, I decided to jog just a little.  I don't jog much due to bad knees but wanted to see how the pack performed.  My first surprise was how much the pack bounced.  I stopped for a few seconds and tightened the shoulder straps and it was a new ball game.  However, once I had had enough jogging (not far at all) I found the pack rode more comfortable loosened back off a smidge.  

I only used the Talon 33 on my upright bike so I made it a point to ride it more.  I carried about 10 lbs (5 kg) of gear including some snacks.  As with the day hikes, I kept a down jacket inside the pack to help fill it out.  I really liked the feel of the Talon 33 when riding my bike.  However, on a few of the climbs up the mountain in warmer weather I really worked up a good talon  6sweat.  However, the back panel of the Talon 33 seemed to hardly get wet. In fact, I sweated so much I am surprised that it is not showing sweat stains (white marks) that I am accustom to seeing on a pack after wearing it a lot in hot weather.  I attribute this to the coarse mesh over a slicker material compared to the almost foam like back panel of my other packs.  Osprey calls it the AirScape Backpanel, "a mesh covered, 4mm HDPE ridge molded foam backpanel with integrated air channels."  I just know it seemed to work great.

I have yet to find anything torn or not working properly.  About the only visible sign of wear are the dirt stains at the bottom of the pack where it rested on the ground while I rested on a log or rock.  I took the photo on the left near the end of a long warm hike and as can be seen, my face is pretty flushed.  I took another photo of the bottom of the pack that does not show the dirt well but shows the pack could take the heat better than I could.
talon 7

The Talon 33 is a generously sized day pack that can be used for overnight hikes if the load is compact and kept under 30 lb (14 kg).  Some ultralight hikers who pack even less then 20 lb (9 kg) might find it suitable for extended trips.  Personally, I found a little room left over on my last two overnight hikes and plan on using it for some three day hikes (two nights) this summer.

For negatives, I had to really nitpick but I thought the compression straps would work better for small loads.  The biggest problem I encountered was I didn't have enough stuff to keep anything up toward the top of the pack so the compression straps didn't have anything to work against.  Adding my down jacket solved this problem even though I didn't need it when hiking in 70 degree (21 C) weather.  And for longer hikes with more gear in tow, I would personally like to see a top lid that would raise up on all sides so that I could cram extra gear in between it and the main compartment.  Small nitpicks aside, I found it to be up to every challenge I threw at it.      

This concludes my reporting on the Osprey Talon 33 pack. I would like to thank and Osprey for allowing me to test this fine pack.    




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