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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Kestral 48 Pack > Test Report by Andrew Buskov
Osprey's go anywhere, do anything multi-day lightweight pack
Field Report: March 15, 2008
Long Term Report: May 15, 2008
I've been hiking since I was around 10 and have hiked in all kinds of environment and terrain: snow, rain, and steamy heat; desert, mountains, as well as grasslands. I prefer hiking in the colder weather and snow, but will get out any time of the year. My typical pack weight is roughly 25-30 lbs (11-14 kg) and usually includes a tent or hammock. I prefer comfort over going ultra light, though having lightweight items in my pack sure makes the hike more enjoyable. Additional information about the author can be found at http://www.corridor9.net.
Product Overview:As stated above, the Osprey Kestrel 48 is Osprey's light weight multi-day pack. It's designed in such a way as to be comfortable, completely adjustable to provide a custom fit, yet have superb comfort and ample room to pack not only the necessities but also the items that make the trip enjoyable. Available in two torso sizes, the Kestrel 48 is adjustable for various frames and sizes. Designed with the wearer in mind, the Kestrel 48 includes a peripheral steel spring rod for comfort, and a unique attachment system for stowing hiking poles on the fly. Multiple attachment points on the top, back and bottom allow for lashing gear to the outside of the pack if you simply can't fit it inside. While there are twin stretch Lycra pockets that are big enough to hold wide mouthed water bottles with ease, the Kestrel 48 is still designed with an integrated hydration pouch for bladder style hydration systems. An integrated rainfly helps protect against inclement weather and being stowed in its own pouch brings that extra bit of luxury that Osprey is known for.
Initial Impression:The Osprey Kestrel 48 pack arrived at my house wrapped inside a protective plastic sleeve and in a slightly oversized shipping box. It was well packaged to prevent damage while shipping. Attached to the pack were two hang tags, while the owner's manual was stuffed into the front outside pocket. Unfortunately, because of the way the backpack was packaged, when I removed the pack from its plastic bag and took it out for examination the first thing that I noticed was a loose thread. In the front center of the pack, just underneath the lid, there is a lose thread that is easily noticeable as seen in the picture above. It doesn't appear that it's going to pull out, and is tucked between the fold of two other fabrics. The only other imperfection that I could find was just below the integrated rain cover pouch. It appears that something rubbed the fabric and scuffed it. It's only about 1 mm (0.04 in), and only lightly scuffed. It was noticeable though, so I thought I'd better document it. I'll definitely keep my eye on these though and provide information on this for my Long Term report if they begin to pose a problem.
After inspecting and obtaining a weight, I thoroughly looked over the pack and all its features. I was surprised at how many features were stuffed into this pack. From the key clip inside the three pocket lid, to the integrated rain cover tucked in its own pouch on the front of the pack, all the way down to the breathable hip belt I couldn't help but notice little extras everywhere I looked. It's obvious, however, that Osprey didn't just cram a bunch of useless stuff into the pack. All the features I found are items that I've used in various other packs, or items my other packs lacked that I wished were included. I'll go over the features in detail further below.
I guess the best place to start discussing this pack would be with initial fitting. The Osprey Kestrel 48 pack uses a hook and loop style system making it easy to adjust, or change on the fly, without tools. On the shoulder strap assembly is a set of markings resembling a bird that when aligned with the chevron on the pack body indicate specific measurements. One of the things that is missing from all documentation though is the rate of adjustment; what are the increments at the different indicator marks? I ended up calling Osprey's customer service and speaking with Eric to figure out exactly how the measurements are. He was very nice and quickly looked over his documentation and informed me that the markings are set 1 in (2.54 cm) apart. Since I have a M/L pack, when the top bird is aligned with the chevron the pack is setup for a person with a 19 in (48 cm) frame. There are 4 additional markings on the shoulder harness assembly allowing for 5 in (13 cm) of travel.
Something to note though is the fact that when adjusting for a larger frame, more of the strap assembly is outside the body, and therefore less of the hook and loop closure is available to secure the strap assembly to the pack. As I have this pack setup for a 20 in (51 cm) torso size, I don't foresee a problem, but I'll keep an eye on this throughout the test. Also, to note, while I am technically a 21 in (53 cm) torso, I am able to shorten it a bit and still be extremely comfortable. Because the torso sizing is done with hook and loop closures, the sizing can be tweaked to the smallest increments if I wanted, and I'm not limited to 1 in (2.5 cm) minimum spacing.
In addition to the adjustable shoulder harness, the chest strap is also adjustable. Unlike the shoulder harness though, there are only three available settings for the chest strap as seen in the picture above. Having only 3 settings isn't really a problem for me as I tend not to use the chest strap all that much anyway. However, this is definitely something to note for those who need a finer adjustment than this. In addition, it must be noted that adjusting the torso length also moves the positioning of the chest strap. This could potentially be a problem if the wearer is at the either end of the shoulder harness adjustment limits.
Adjustment of the hip belt was a breeze thanks in part to the way the belt is designed. Most traditional belt designs have the straps sewn to a part of the hip belt then threaded through a cinch on the buckle. Because of this the user is forced to pull the straps towards their hip and rearward to tighten the belt buckle. This is very inefficient and not necessarily the easiest way to tighten a belt. Osprey has designed a system that actually loops the hip belt in a V shape from the hip belt, to the buckle, and back to a plastic cinch sewn to the hip belt. This makes tightening the hip belt much easier as the strap ends are facing away rather than toward the rear of the wearer. Pulling these is a simple matter of grabbing the straps and pulling them forward away from the user. Much easier, and more user friendly.
This pack is hydration compatible, a definite plus. However, rather than having the bladder stowed inside the body of the pack, there is a bladder compartment that is accessible from the outside of the pack just behind the shoulder adjustment harness. This makes filling the bladder much simpler as the user doesn't need to fuss around with the gear inside the body to remove the bladder. The back side of the bladder compartment is actually the front side of the main compartment body. Since this is the case it's only natural that if a larger hydration bladder is used, less main compartment space will be available. I'll have to see if this poses a problem throughout the life of the test. The pack has a small hang clip at the top of the hydration pouch to hold the bladder up and prevent it from sinking to the bottom of the compartment. This helps keep the liquid flowing smoothly rather than allowing the bladder to collapse upon itself or kink up around the hose coupling. The clip is rather small though and can be difficult for large hands to operate. Being as how the clip is roughly the same size as my thumbnail, I found it really hard for my fat fingers to release. As the bladder I use has an open ended hook, disconnecting this clip repeatedly will not be a problem for me, but it is definitely something to consider.
Another feature of the Osprey Kestrel 48 is the integrated Stow on the Go pole attachment system. With two elastic straps, the user has an easy way to attach poles while walking, without stopping, and without removing the pack to cinch the poles to the daisy chain as with other packs. The elastic straps are located on the left shoulder strap and around the left hip area. Using the system is as easy as grasping the elastic cord around the hip, inserting the pole tips in between the cord and the pack, grasping the cord at the shoulder area and inserting the pole handles in between the cord and the shoulder strap. If necessary a cinch adjustment is available at the shoulder strap to provide for a tighter hold. I often hike without poles, but have found that I have a tendency to do this even when I need them simply because I don't want to keep stopping to strap or unstrap my poles from the back. Having a system such as this might make that a thing of the past.
There are numerous pockets on this pack allowing for ample placement of gear; a total of 11 including the main compartment. In the lid of the pack alone there are three separate compartments; two on the outside of the pack and an additional mesh one located on the inside. A red key clip is located in one of the outside compartments. Also on the top of the pack are four 1 in (2.54 cm) straps sewn in as additional lashing points for external gear. On either side of the pack there is one full length zippered compartment as well as one 1/4 length mesh stretch pocket. This same stretch material is used for a front pocket that spans roughly half the pack's length. One either side of the hip belt is an additional small compartment that is good for trail bars or small cameras.
The top lid is not removable, and therefore does not double as a fanny pack as some tops. This isn't a problem for me as I have never used a top in this way, and prefer carrying an additional shoulder style daypack as opposed to this system. However, one thing that I did note about the top portion is the elastic curve it has. Rather than leaving the top material loose and allowing the compression straps to tighten the top down, Osprey has embedded a stiff elastic cord on either side of the top section. This creates a noticeable curve as seen in the picture above, and makes it difficult to get the top cover to fit the pack when it is fully stuffed. I have packed the Kestrel a couple of times and have noted that getting the top lid to fit snugly can take a bit of time, but I'll be reporting on this more in depth over the life of the test.
The compression straps are designed in such a way as to operate easily and without binding. This is especially noticeable around the side mesh pockets. The straps, while extending over the outside mesh pockets, do not seem to prevent use of the pocket. More on this aspect throughout the test. On the plus side, I have noticed that the straps are designed to be reversed. In what Osprey calls the Reverse StraightJacket Compression system, I am able to not only use the compression straps to tighten gear, but also to lash gear to the back of the pack without changing the clips. The picture above right shows the compression straps reversed in lashing mode. While the strap pulls are on the inside, they are still easy to pull and tighten. This makes it easy to lash a tent or extra pad to the back of the pack with ease.
Additional bells and whistles include the Cord Lord system of closing the skirt around the main body of the pack. This system does a good job of keeping the skirt closed and not allowing the drawcord to slip as with some other systems. In addition, there is a whistle on the chest strap that is integrated into the clip providing a backup, or primary for the daring. The integrated rain cover can be used without removing it from the pack. It is attached via a hook and loop closure to a keeper cord inside its dedicated pocket. This is a definite plus as I have found the rain cover to not fit as snugly as I would like. From the packing that I have done, I have found that the elastic drawcord that holds the rain cover around the circumference of the pack slides off the bottom rather easily. I would hate to see this rain cover fall off somewhere on the trail.
In short, I am very pleased with the quality of construction that Osprey uses in the Kestrel 48 pack. I have found that I am able to pack the little extras that make a hiking trip safer and more comfortable. I haven't found any negative aspects so far, and am really looking forward to putting some miles on the trail with this pack and the extra space it provides me.
I'd like to thank Osprey and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Kestrel 48 pack.
Field Report: March 15, 2008
Field Conditions:During the Field Report phase of testing, I was able to use the Osprey Kestrel 48 on two different occasions for a total of three days of use. My primary backpacking trip occurred in late November when I took a 2 day jaunt to the Red River Gorge area of Kentucky. As part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, Red River Gorge has roughly 36 mi (58 km) with an elevation ranging from 700 to 1300 ft (200 to 400 m). We traveled approximately 16 miles of trails. Temperatures for this trip ranged from 40 F to 20 F (4 C to -6 C) with precipitation in the form of freezing rain and snow. Additional testing occurred on a day trip to the Pennyrile State Resort Park area of the Pennyrile State Forrest, a 14,000 acre (5600 hectacre) section of forest that has roughly 23 mi (37 km) of trails. The elevation for the area is between 400 -700 ft (122 - 213 m). The temperature for most of my trips was around 50 F (10 C) with no precipitation. My pack weight for this trip started out at 28 lbs (12.7 kg). Naturally this got lighter as water and food was removed from the pack.
Performance:I thought for a long time that all packs were primarily the same; a place for gear when walking. However, the Osprey Kestrel 48 showed me that there is a lot more to pack construction than I previously thought. My previous multi-day pack was a simple design with two unusable side pockets and no other features. While it served me well, I was always upset at the fact that it wasn't user friendly. In order to retrieve anything from the pack I had to take it off, often having to set it down in muddy conditions. In addition, I was always digging around the inside when I wanted to grab a snack, rain gear, parka, etc.
Hiking with the Kestrel was completely different though. Because of the numerous pockets and ease of access I didn't have to take the pack off at all if I didn't want. I was able to stash snacks in the hip belt pockets along with my compass, camera, lighter, headlamp, and whistle. In addition, I had strapped my rain poncho to the side of the pack on cloudy days and my parka on cold days. This made it easy to retrieve my gear without having to stop, doff my pack, or risk it getting muddy while it was setting on the ground.
My comfort level while wearing the Osprey Kestrel was second to none. It was nice and tight to my back without shifting around a lot even when I overloaded it by a few pounds. The shoulder harness did not shift around causing blisters, but remained snugly in the position I set them when I began my hike. Airflow through the mesh in the back of the pack was always adequate enough to keep my back dry and comfortable, unlike previous packs I've owned where my back was drenched in sweat. Both the hipbelt and shoulder strap were easy to adjust while walking making it more comfortable in times when I needed to shift some weight around.
I was able to comfortably carry roughly 45 lbs (20 kg) worth of gear. Anything more than that and I started feeling the pack more; the shoulder straps would dig in my shoulders a bit, the hip belt would want to slide down. However, as I tend to pack light, this isn't going to be a problem for me especially as this pack wasn't designed to carry loads that heavy. When hiking with my load around 30 lbs (13.5 kg) the pack was nice and stable, didn't shift around on my back, and I didn't feel much gear shifting around on the inside of the pack either.
Access into the main compartment was easily made through either the top of the pack or through the sleeping bag compartment. Because of the way the top lid is arched with the elastic straps, I found myself placing more of the gear that I access while hiking near the sleeping bag compartment zipper. This allowed me quick and easy access to additional items for lunch or extra clothing without having to mess with the top lid. It was actually easier and quicker to dig around the pack from the bottom rather than hassle with the lid. The elastic arch on the lid is definitely something I'd like to see changed in the next version.
The Stow-on-the-Go system worked out real well during my trips. Generally when ascending or descending hills, I use my poles a great deal. When hiking on flat even terrain though I don't like carrying them and they don't get used that much. Having a system available to quickly and easily stow my poles on the fly while hiking was definitely nice. In the beginning I wasn't sure how much use this feature would see, but I found myself stuffing my poles in the holder without even thinking about it. Really a nice feature.
Having the hydration bladder outside the main pack body sure was an ingenious addition. Even though the back panel of the hydration pouch extends into the main portion of the pack, I didn't really see have any problems with limiting my packing space when I had a filled bladder in the pouch. Removing and inserting the bladder into the pouch when the main pack body was full was a bit tough, but I found that if I placed a full bladder in the pouch before packing the main compartment it was easier on the trail to remove and replace the bladder. Heat from my back was adequate enough to keep the bladder from freezing down to 20 F (-7 C) for sure, and maybe even a bit colder seeing as how the water was somewhat warm even at that temperature.
In all, I'm exceptionally pleased with the construction, comfort, and features offered on the Osprey Kestrel 48. I haven't found anything that I really dislike other than the top lid. While this pack is loaded with bells and whistles, it's all user friendly and not just extra weight. I look forward to being able to use this during the spring months when I can carry less gear and still be comfortable.
Long Term Report: May 15, 2008
Field Conditions:An additional three nights worth of testing was gained in the Land Between the Lakes Recreational area during the Long Term Report phase. The land is fairly flat with an elevation average for this area around 400 ft (122 m) above sea level. The temperature for this trip was between 45-70 F (7-21 C). There was no precipitation this time around. This trip I had roughly 30 lbs (13.5 kg) worth of gear stuffed into the pack, roughly 15 lbs (7 kg) less than usual. There was quite a bit less clothing due to the warmer temperatures so I was able to take a few more luxuries. This made the 30 mile (48 km) trip that much nicer having a few ammenities that I don't usually get to carry during the winter months.
Performance:In all, I am very pleased with the Osprey Pack. I found it to be quite a good pack during my time testing it. Overall, I figure I carried this pack through roughly 75 mi (121 km) of total trails. I was able to get in quite a lot of gear. During the winter months, I had a lot more cold weather stuff, which took up a good deal of space. I know that down is highly compressable, but when there are so many down items, they just tend to grow and fill the inside of the pack. You can see from the picture on the right the amount of winter stuff I was able to fit into the pack:
I was able to experience hiking with a lighter pack due to the warmer temperatures this testing period though. I found that the pack rides a bit better when it's not loaded down, but I'm sure that is the case for most every pack. I did find though that there was a bit if shift with the gear inside the pack. I'm not sure if I didn't tighten the top down enough, but some of the heavier items migrated more toward the bottom of the pack. No biggie, but definitely something to think about next time I pack.
I'm still pleased with how the pack rides though even with the bit of shifting gear. I never felt uncomfortable or bound by the pack at any time. In addition, it seemed to flow with me and conform to my body when I was making difficult jumps across rivers or scaling rocky ledges. The straps remained nice and tight throughout the life of the test and didn't show a tendency to slip at all. The padding is still soft and pliable, and the coating on the inside of the pack and raincover is still intact and shows no sign of degradation.
I was able to get a bit more airflow and cooling from the back mesh panel during the warmer months simply due to the lack of outer layers. I was cool and comfortable the entire trip. All elastic cords remain nice and pliable, but definitely not stretched out. Zippers remain easy to move, and all snaps & clips are still intact.
Likes & Dislikes:I really like the way the belt is designed; it's so much easier to adjust than a standard belt.
I also like the fact that the bladder pack isn't burried inside the pack.
I don't like the way that the top cover is arched so much. It makes it hard to get it arched over the top of the pack when it is loaded down.
In closing, I expect the Osprey Kestrel to last throughout many years of use. Due to the size, I also expect this to become the first pack I grab when heading out on any 2-3 night trip. I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Osprey for allowing me to test the Kestrel 48.
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