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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Hornet 46 > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

OSPREY HORNET 46 backpack
OWNER REVIEW by Richard Lyon
May 30, 2011


Male, 64 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.91 m), Weight: 205 lb (93 kg), Torso: 22.5 in (57 cm)
Email address: montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I've been backpacking for almost half a century, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986.  I do a weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too.  Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit of extra weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.


Osprey Hornet 46The Hornet 46 is the largest of Osprey’s new Hornet line of packs, marketed by its maker as "Superlight" for “active light pursuits.”  This is a top-loading nylon pack with an internal  frame and a detachable top pocket.  It is available in two sizes: M/L (which I have) and S/M.

Manufacturer: Osprey Packs, Inc.
Website:  The photo at left comes from this site.
Dimensions, listed:  25 x 11 x 9 in/ 64 x 27 x 23 cm; measured: 22.5 x 11 x 9 in/ 57 x 27 x 23 cm
Weight, listed: 24 oz / 680 g, measured: 22.25 oz / 631 g
Capacity, listed: 46 liters/2760 cubic inches
Load Range™, listed: to 35 lb / 16 kg
Fabrics: 70D x 10D triple ripstop nylon (the crimson portions) and 70D x 100D nylon shadowcheck (the grey portions). This color combination is the only one available.
Related products: Hornet 32 and Hornet 24
Warranty: The All Mighty Guarantee – lifetime repair or replacement for “any damage or defect in our product”
MSRP: N/A [Osprey does not sell directly through its website, instead pointing a customer to online distributors.]
Year acquired: 2010

The Hornet 46 has an exceptionally large roster of features, pockets especially, for a pack marketed as “superlight:”  

    The lightweight internal foam back pad is said to be removable, but I've never removed it.  The back panel has spacer mesh for ventilation.

     The main pack compartment cinches up with a toggle-adjusted cordlock.

    inside pocketThe detachable top pocket has a zippered compartment on top and a zippered mesh pocket on its underside (see photo), and a plastic key holder in the top compartment.

    Each side has a mesh sleeve and compression straps.

    There is a large mesh pocket on the front of the pack.  This and the side sleeves are made of something Osprey calls TwinStack™ stretch mesh that employs InsideOut™ compression.  Whatever these are, they really work well.  The mesh on my pack hasn’t lost any of its stretchiness.

    Each end of the hip belt has a zippered pocket.

    There is a small mesh pocket on each shoulder strap.  Nicely sized for sunglasses, a flashlight, or a small camera.

    The pack is sewn to the mesh that lies atop the frame on three sides, but not at the top, making a large hydration pocket.  This feature, called by Osprey the “external hydration pocket,” is clever design work, allowing a bladder to seat outside the pack bag to avoid drips or worse on the pack’s contents.   

     The sternum strap, hip belt, and shoulder strap adjustments are made of 0.5 in (1 cm) mesh fabric; each connects with a buckle and is adjustable.  The buckle on the sternum strap is a whistle.

McKinnon PassThis pack has all adjustments available on many larger packs I’ve owned. In addition to the sternum strap and hip belt, the shoulder straps adjust at the top and bottom, and compression straps on the side panels (same fabric but 0.25 in/0.5 cm width) may be tightened or loosened to take account of whatever is stored there – SIGG bottle, fly rod (as in the picture at left from McKinnon Pass on the Milford Track), water shoes (even my size 13s fit), or smaller stuff such as a blister kit or energy bars.


Since being selected in June 2010 as a beta tester for this pack I have worn it at every opportunity.  Backpacks have included four or five overnighters in Texas and Montana, a four-day llama-supported trip last September in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and a four-day traverse of the Milford Track in Fiordland, New Zealand this past March.  I’ve also worn the Hornet on at least a dozen day hikes, in Texas and the Rockies, and on two ski days last winter.  Except for New Zealand, when mist and drizzle were a daily event, I’ve enjoyed mostly fair weather, but one big thunderstorm, a morning snowstorm when skiing, at temperatures from 10 to 90 F (-12 to 32 C).  The photo at the bottom is from a day hike earlier this month in Fort Work Nature Area, Texas.

Pack weight has varied from 10 to 35 lb (4.5 to 15.9 kg), including food and water.  I usually use a 2-liter Platypus or Source water bladder, stored either in the external hydration pocket or the front pocket.


Fit.  I begin with this because it is this category in which the Hornet 46 differs from any other pack (day pack or backpacking pack) that I own.  With my long torso I routinely order the largest size in any pack I purchase.  As noted above, for the Hornet 46 that means M/L, not L/XL.  Osprey’s sizing chart (not particular to any one pack) indicated that only XL would accommodate my torso length, but in email correspondence with the company I was assured that the Hornet 46’s M/L would fit “a tall guy.”

Natural BridgeAnd so it has, and very well at that.  As might be expected the pack sits high on my back, and the hip belt girdles my stomach, not my hips, as visible in the photo at right from last summer.  This means, of course, that I’m carrying the pack, not “wearing” it as many pack companies recommend.  But this hasn’t been a problem on any hike, including an overnighter in Lost Maples State Park, Texas, in April when I intentionally overloaded the pack as part of an instructional exercise.  At 35 lb (15.9 kg) this was the pack’s largest load, and I had only minimal difficulty with the load pulling away from my shoulders or otherwise hindering ordinary hiking.  Even with the top pocket completely full the Hornet didn’t brush my hat or the back of my head.  All my reservations have evaporated – this has been a comfortable pack to carry.

Capacity.  I agree with Osprey that 35 lb (15.9 kg) is this pack’s outside limit, as by the end of our moderate hike in Lost Maples the shoulder straps were beginning to chafe just below my shoulder blades.  This is the only time that’s occurred, and also the only time I lashed anything (in this instance a sleeping pad) to the front of the pack, so it may have been weight distribution rather than overall weight that caused the problem.  

Non-ultralighter that I am, the Hornet 46 is ideal for an overnighter, particularly when I’m hiking solo and can’t split group gear.  It’s too small for my service trips, which require (among other things) camp shoes, heavy-duty work pants, and a hard hat – overall too much for the Hornet.  What’s really great about the pack is the ability, using the compression straps, to cinch it down when I’m carrying much less, as I typically do on a day hike.  I tighten up the front closure and the compression straps on the side and leave the lid empty except for items I want stored inside a zippered pocket – car keys, wallet, and cell phone.  Comfortable, and no noise or nuisance of gear sloshing around inside.  Tight compression similarly allows me to wear this pack while skiing and without having to take it off to ride the lift.

Features.  I think I’ve used them all except the ice axe loops, and I like all those I’ve used.  High on the satisfaction list are the divided top pocket, commodious front mesh pocket (large enough for a 2-liter water bladder plus a rain jacket), and hip belt pockets (a feature I hope I never have to do without).  While not strictly a feature I’ve been especially pleased with the lightweight, slender fabric used for the compression straps, sternum strap, and hip belt (and the as-yet-unused ice axe loops).  I have noticed no deterioration in performance from the wider and much heavier material used on my larger packs – genuine weight saving without any compromise in functionality.  Despite all the features the Hornet 46 doesn’t seem overbuilt or gimmicky – each feature has a purpose (or two or three) and handles that purpose quite well.

Lake WorthDurability.  After probably thirty or more days in the field, I’ve had no mishaps of any kind.  No rips or tears, no broken buckles, no loss of stretch in the mesh pockets, nothing even requiring needle and thread.  Truly impressive for gear aimed at the lightweight crowd and has seen its share of bushes and briars.

Care.  I’ve cleaned spot soiling with a mild soap-and-water solution every once in awhile.  Nothing more has been needed.


Except for my service trips, on which I need more capacity than the Hornet 46 can offer even with the kitchen sink strapped to the back, this pack is my backpack of choice for just about anything.  Comfortable, lightweight yet fully featured, and tough, the Hornet 46 is an exceptionally versatile pack.



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