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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Kestral 48 Pack > Test Report by Mark McLauchlin

Osprey Kestrel 48
"go anywhere, do anything overnight pack"
Initial Report 16th December 2008
By Mark McLauchlin

Image courtesy of Osprey

* Reviewer Information

Name: Mark McLauchlin
Age: 30
Gender: Male
Height: 1.76 m (5’ 9”)
Weight: 80 kg (176 lb)
Email: mark at
City: Perth, Western Australia

* Backpacking Background

I have been hiking since 2006 with most of my hiking consisting of day walks averaging 16 - 22 km (10 - 14 mi) and short overnight trips where possible. Most of my hiking is along the Bibbulmun Track and Coastal Plains Trail. I consider myself to be a light hiker with an average pack weight of 13 kg (29 lb), which I am working to reduce. I generally sleep in my tarp tent or huts that are often scattered along the various hiking trails.

* Product Information

Manufacturer: Osprey Packs Inc
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website:
Listed Weight: 1.87 kg (4 lbs)
Measured Weight: 1.87 kg (4 lbs)
Size: S/M
Volume: 46 L (2800 cu in)
Carrying Capacity: 5 - 15 kg (11 - 33 lbs)
Colour: Twilight Blue
Colour Variants: Paprika & Lichen
Materials: 420D Nylon Pack Cloth, 210D x 330D Nylon Shadow box, Nylon Spun Mesh
Frame type: Internal peripheral steel spring
MSRP: not listed

* Product Description

The Osprey Kestrel 48 is described by the manufacturer as "the ultimate go anywhere, do anything overnight pack". The pack is light in weight yet boasts as heap of features that make it ideal for the experienced backcountry hiker. The Stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment, large stretch woven pockets, integrated pack cover are some of the features that make this a truly unique pack. Two torso sizes are available and combined with the adjustable harness system this provides for a very comfortable custom fit.

* Initial Impressions
The Osprey Kestrel 48 arrived as expected after its trip from the US, the package was complete with all tags and instructions. Upon opening the pack I did find some damage to the plastic protective bag it was enclosed in and subsequently  "dirty" marks on a few of the straps. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on which way you look at it, this gave me the opportunity to test how easily the pack materials cleaned and what was the best method to do this. With a soft cloth, dampened in soapy water and a little elbow grease I was quite surprised a how easily the stains were to remove. So far I am very excited about testing this pack and can already see that it will become my preferred pack. It looks great, fits well, provides great comfort and has some very cool and unique features which will be explained.

Main compartment and Extension Collar Main compartment and Extension Collar
The main body of the Kestrel is a single, top loading compartment rectangular in shape. This is the largest volume compartment, approximately 35 Litres (2136 cu in) and features an extension collar with a Cord Lord draw string. The height of the extension collar measures 14 cm or 5.5 in and would probably increase the volume of the main body by approximately 8 to 10 L (488 - 610 cu in). The material is a 420D Nylon Pack Cloth and appears to be very well made and robust. There is very little to say regarding this part of the pack suffice as to say that is should comfortably hold and secure all my hiking gear.



Zippered Top Pocket Zippered Top Pocket
The Zippered Top Pocket is a place I usually store my medical kit, small snacks, and torch for easy access. In the case of the Kestrel there are three pockets, two of which have a zipper that is positioned near where my head would be when carrying the pack. The third pocket is located on the underside of the top pocket and is made from a mesh material. The pocket is not removable and is secured by two side mounted compression straps. I will be testing to see if I am able to get items in and out without taking the pack off (something I can do now). How well the zipper works and how well the whole pocket sits on top of the main body of the pack. The pocket fits very snug which adds to the style of the pack, however I am interested to find out if this may cause any issues when the pack is full or overfull as it maybe. Upon opening the bottom of the two pockets there is a nice small red clip or key fob attached to the body of the pack, very useful for locating and securing items such as car keys. From looking at the key fabrics chart this is made from 420D Nylon Pack Cloth. I would also estimate the volume to be approximately 10 litres (610 cu in). I am also interested to find out if this pocket is water resistant or water proof as the material on the inside is quite different and feels as though it may provide some protection. This is not such a big issue as the pack comes with a rain cover, however in light mist or rain I may not need to use it.


Hydration compatible Hydration compatible
Hydration compatibility is a strong selling point for me on any pack due to the need to efficiently pack quite large amounts of water. The temperatures on the West Coast of Australia can reach up to 40 C or 104 F so the ability to remain hydrated is vitally important. The Kestrel's hydration compatibility means that with the right bladder and valve, water is always easily accessible. The feature is identified with a water drop and the chemical symbol for water "H2O". Once the bladder (not supplied) is full of liquid it is inserted into the cavity between the AirScape Backpanel and the outer lining of the main body of the pack, it is then supported by a small clip and loop setup that is both functional and easy to use. This setup seems to be a way to keep the bladder contents cooler by allowing air to pass over it. The bladder hose can then be guided through the elastic routers on the left or right harness, depending on preference.

AirScape BackPanel The AirScape Backpanel
The AirScape Backpanel is perhaps one of the features that intrigue me the most about this pack. When I initially laid eyes on it I thought to myself “WOW this is really cool” and literally that’s what it is there for. The feature is there to create a gap between the main body of the bag which carries the gear and the back of the hiker. This gap that is created enables air to flow through which in turns helps to reduce heat and sweat build-up. The panel itself is has a layer of mesh supported by a 0.5 cm (0.2 in) ridge moulded foam. The torso adjustable harness and hipbelt are also attached to this Backpanel. During the test period I will carefully monitor how well heat is reduced on my back and at the same time if any comfort is gained or reduced. I will also look for any signs of wear to the mesh.

Torso Adjustable Harness
The Kestrel’s Torso Adjustable Harness has several points of adjustment that make it truly unique. The harness including shoulder straps are perhaps the most crucial part of any pack. If the pack is not comfortable then the whole experience is darkened. The main shoulder straps are fixed to the body of the pack via a hook and loop material mechanism so that the torso length can be adjusted (i.e. the difference in length between the hip belt and top of shoulder straps). Under load I will be monitoring how well the hook and loop hold up ensuring it doesn’t give way. As with most packs the shoulder straps can be adjusted for length by way of a buckle. There is also some adjustment at the top of the shoulder straps to pull the top of the pack closer into the body. There seems to be sufficient padding in the shoulder straps to provide comfort and I do not foresee any points that may cause irritation or sore points on my shoulders.
Sternum Strap

Adjustable Sternum Strap
This setup is quite interesting and provides a few features. It can be seen from the image that the Sternum Strap has three available positions, each approximately 3.8 cm or 1.5 in apart. The oval sternum buckle on the ends of the webbing straps are rotated and pushed through the holes in a similar fashion to a button on a piece of clothing. Once in a suitable position the strap can be tightened by pulling on the excess cord, shown hanging down in the image. One other item I find very unique about this is the dual purpose clip, it also doubles as a Whistle, now there is a great idea. This is one less item I have to worry about now as I usually have one hanging from the shoulder harness (reaching distance for my lips) for safety reasons - really well done!



Stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment
This neat feature is designed to enable the hiker to tuck away their trekking poles so that both hands are free for use in situations such as climbing. The idea is simple as utilises two sets of bungee cords, one located on the side of the main compartment, and the other on the shoulder harness strap. Stowing of the poles takes only a few seconds and is as simple as pulling the bungee cord to the left bottom of the pack and inserting the ends of the poles. The left harness bungee is then pulled over pole handles and tightened. I have only recently started hiking with trekking poles and as I am still getting used to them I can see that having an easy way of storing them whilst hiking (so I don't have to think about timing the movement of the poles with my feet) is a great idea. I have been able to take the pack out on one hike during my initial report period which comprised of lots of photo taking and really liked the easy of using this feature.

Stretch Lycra mesh front and side pockets
The pockets are made from Nylon spun mesh and have a very soft feel about them. Each has an elastic opening to ensure the contents are secure. The side pocket measures 16 cm (6 in) deep and 15 cm (5.9 in) wide and stretches varyingly along the pocket. To give an idea of the size I have easily been able to fit my wide mouth Nalgene 1 L (34 fl oz) bottle without having to over stretch the pocket. There is also a side compression strap, as can be seen from the image, that helps with both securing the items in the pocket and providing an overall compression to the pack. The front mesh pocket is made from the same materials and is approximately 25 cm (10 in) deep by 22 cm (8.5 in) wide. This pocket also has an elastic opening and will be ideal for storing my rain jacket/jumper and my maps.  Due to the very soft feeling fabric and the probability of becoming caught on shrubs and branches I have concerns about the short-term durability of these and will be monitoring very closely.


Hipbelt pockets Hipbelt
The Hipbelt is considered part of the Torso Adjustable Harness. This item is fixed to the main body of the pack and features an adjustable strap and buckle at the front to suit different waist sizes. Padding in this area will be examined and tested as most of the pack weight is carried on the hips so it is a vital item for the manufacturer to get right. I will be looking for how the hipbelt sits on my hips, how comfortable it is under heavy and light loads, does it keep the pack stable on my back when bending over, climbing, walking and rock hopping. Initial trial of the pack leads me to believe the hipbelt will provide comfort and be very functional despite the appearance of limited padding. As the pack is smaller than my current 60 L (3661 cu in) hopefully this will lead me to pack and carry less, thus reducing the load on my hips and in turn meaning less padding is needed.

Hipbelt pockets
As the name suggests these are integrated into the hipbelt, and one can be found on each side. They are fairly small and like most of the other compartments on the pack are opened and closed by way of a zipper. By looking at the key fabrics chart on Osprey's website these are made from a 420D Nylon pack cloth. These are also another feature that I have not been exposed to before and are very interested to see how functional and useful these are. From the initial trial run my Pentax digital camera with the StickPic will fit in one pocket and my keys and lip balm will fit in the other. Perhaps a handful of lollies or trail mix would also be a good idea. I will as best as I can measure the pocket size and performance of this. Do my arms rub up against them when I am walking? Will the Nylon material suffer any punctures or wear from items either inside the pocket or external?
Zippered Sleeping Bag Access Zippered Sleeping bag access and Sleeping Pad Straps
The Zippered Sleeping bag access is feature that none of my previous packs have so I am very curious to see how this will perform and the advantages or disadvantages. I consider my 900 fill down sleeping bag to be of an average size and see no initial issues with fit or functionality. This is basically a bottom opening for the pack, it is not a separate compartment. To best utilize the full opening the sleeping pad strap clips need to be released. The zips can then be pulled to the left and right all the way around to the back panel and to the base of the internal frame. Perhaps the advantage I can see with this feature is that when setting up camp and bedding for the night the entire contents of the pack do not need to be emptied to get to my sleeping bag. As most will testify a sleeping bag or quilt is most effective with a degree of loft which often takes time to achieve. Being able to pull my sleeping bag out as soon as I arrive at camp will give this extra time. The only concern which I have is the possibility that my sleeping bag becomes damaged by the zipper either when stuffing it in or zipping the compartment closed.


Rain Cover

Integrated rain cover
The Kestrel comes with a bright red rain cover and when deployed completely encompasses the pack to provide full protection. The manufacturer's website does not identify the material that this is made from however making a judgment I would say this is a waterproof nylon. Deploying the rain cover simple and effective and takes seconds. As can be seen from the images to the left the cover is contained in its own pocket, symbolized with a raindrop, which also has a mesh covered drain hole to allow any water to escape if the cover is packed wet. I would also see this providing a mechanism to ensure the cover and pocket do not suffer from any mound or mildew. Once the zipper is opened and the cover pulled out it can then be pulled over the pack. The bungee cord and tightening clip ensure that cover and pack are a snug fit which reduces the potential for water to leak in. It is also worth noting the pack cover is secured to the pack compartment via an elasticized strap to prevent loss. With the pack full the cover was both easy to remove and was not compressed by the internal contents and it also fit well with no effort needed to make it stretch.

* Initial Trial
Packing the Pack
Ready to go

I was very keen to try the pack out and make sure that all my gear was able to fit in without any problems or having to leave anything behind so the first night after receiving it I set to work. The above image shows a typical shot of my gear which I would normally take out on an overnight hike. The only thing that really changes when multi-day hiking is the amount of food as water is generally easily topped up along the trails. Packing the bag was really straight forward with all of my gear finding a home except for my tent, which could have easily been strapped to the outside. This is not a preference for me so I will more than likely leave it at home and make alternate sleeping arrangements such as the 3 sided huts which can be found along the Bibbulmun Track. After packing for the first time I am still a little cautious of the zipper on the sleeping bag access ripping a hole in my sleeping bag, hopefully with some practice my confidence will build.

Trying on the pack was my next move and it felt great. Only a small amount of adjustment was needed on the torso length to ensure the hipbelt was sitting comfortably and a little tweak of the shoulder harness and I was set to go - with no place to go! I will mention the adjustment of the pack slightly here and then further explain in the field report. Basically my adjustment was as simple as pulling apart the hook and loop that holds the torso adjustment in place and moving it up and down until I found a happy medium, I then firmly pushed the hook and loop back into place. Like most packs the shoulder harness adjustment is made by pulling down on the excess cord until comfortable.

The table below shows the gear which I packed and its location inside the pack, no real surprises there.

Sleeping Gear Item Packed Location
  Thermarest Prolite 4 mat Main body
  Mountain Designs down fill bag Zippered sleeping bag access
  Tyvex ground sheet Main Body
  Vargo Decagon Stove Main Body
  Denatured Alcohol Main Body
  Orikaso Flat-bowl Main Body
  MSR Titan Kettle Ti Pot Main Body
  Spork Main Body
  Pentax Optio S40 Digital Camera Hipbelt Pocket
  StickPic Hipbelt Pocket
  UCO MightyLite Top zippered pocket
  Trail journal Stretch woven front pocket
  Mobile phone Top Zippered pocket
  Water purification tablets Top Zippered pocket
  Small medical kit Top Zippered pocket
  Maps Stretch woven front pocket
  Towel Main Body
  Mozzie Coils Stretch woven front pocket
  Dehydrated meals – home made Main Body
  Fruit Bars. Top Zippered pocket
  Trail Mix. Main Body
  3 Litre water in Bladder. Bladder pocket
  1 Litre of water in Nalgene Wide Mouth bottle Stretch woven side pocket
  Porridge.           Main Body
  Wine for my evening meal. Stretch woven side pocket
  Beanie Main Body
  Hat Worn
  Spare socks Main Body
  Thermal baselayer Main Body

* Reading the Instructions
There is an abundance of instructions provided with the Kestrel that describe the use of the shared features that are common to all Kestrel series packs. This includes the AirScape Backpanel, Torso Adjustable Harness, the adjustable sternum strap and the external hydration compartment. The inside two pages of the booklet (which is four pages in length) describes many of the key features that have already been addressed in this report. They provide detailed instructions on how to use each of these features. The back cover shows a comparison between the Kestrel 38, 32 and 28 packs highlighting each of their weights and capacity. I was also pleased to see a website link on "How to pack your pack", this has provided some great tips.

Included with the instructions was a warranty card stating;

"Osprey will repair for any reason, free of charge, any damage or defect in our product - whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a quality repair on your pack, we will happily replace it. We proudly stand behind this guarantee, so much so that it bears the signature of the company founder and head designer, Mike Pfotenhauer."

The instructions provided have been clear, concise and easy to understand.

* Summary
Things I liked
The construction of the pack seems very well made and thought out.
The unique features of the torso adjustment, AirScape Backpanel and whistle.

Things I disliked
None as yet, it continues to impress me.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

Field Report
28th March 2009

Pack resting against sign
Pack resting up against one of the Bibbulmun Track signs.

* Field Conditions

The Osprey Kestrel 48 has accompanied me on several day walks and three overnight hikes during from the time my last report was posted.  My first outing was along the Heritage Trail in the John Forrest National Park which was a round trip of 17 Km (10.5 miles). Elevation ranged from 50 m (164 ft) to 260 m (853 ft). Temperature on the day was around 17C (63 F), with some precipitation.

The first overnight hike was along the Coastal Plains Trail in the Yanchep National Park where I camped in one of the three sided huts. The temperature wasn't too low during the night, I would estimate down to about 8 C (46 F). The day was a little different with the temperature being extremely high, sitting on around 35 C (95 F).

The next overnight hike was out to my favourite place, Helena Hut on the Bibbulmun Track. This loop walk is 22 km (13.7 miles) and can be completed either in one day or the night can be spent at the campsite which consists of a shelter, toilet and fire ring. The shelter at this location is also a three sided hut. Temperatures again were high, I estimate approximately 30  (86 F).

My final hike with the Kestrel 48 was a walk in the Helena National Park on a day where the temperature upon commencement was 27.5 C (77 F) and reached a low overnight of 7 C (44 F) with  a mighty cold and strong wind. This was a 22 km (13 miles) round trip on which I stayed the night at the half way point.

* Field Performance

Packing and unpacking of the pack was nice and easy as I had expected from my dummy runs in the Initial Report. The main compartment is large enough to fit my gear for an overnight stay (list of gear can be seen in Initial Report). I tried packing several different ways each with their pros and cons and found the most suitable method to be the same as my other packs. The first piece of gear I pack is my Therm-a-Rest mat, which I insert to form a large cylinder and the remainder of my gear is packed inside of that. Heavy gear in the middle, lighter at the top and bottom. The Zippered sleeping bag access was good to use when my sleeping bag was inside a stuff sack however I did find that the zipper caught on my quilt which I do not use a stuff sack on. Over all packing and unpacking was easy and I did not run into any major concerns.

During the test period I experimented with different methods of carrying the pack, funny as that may sound. Generally, like most people, I carry my pack on both shoulders with the hipbelt and sternum strap in position. The pack performed well like this and was very comfortable even after extended hours of use. I would also like to mention the pack carried well on one shoulder without the use of the sternum or hipbelt straps. I found this to be very comfortable and provided much needed ventilation to my back during the warm temperatures. The AirScape Backpanel did perform well in keeping my back cooler and reducing the amount of sweat created. I did also notice that the design allowed for a increase in airflow across my back, again keeping me cooler and reducing sweat.

My average pack weight for an overnight trip is approximately 7 kg (15 lbs) and the pack supported this very well. It was comfortable to wear and I did not develop any sore spots. Stability of the pack was also great at this weight range.

I found that the side mesh pockets underperformed and was a little disappointed with how difficult it was to remove my water bottle while the pack was on my back. I tried with both a standard 1 L (34 fl oz) Nalgene wide-mouth and also with a taller 2 L (69 fl oz) generic plastic water bottle and still could not remove them easily. The issue does not lie with how physically hard the bottles are stuck in there but with the position of the pockets. My arms were just not long enough and for me this was a big disappointment. On the topic of water and hydration I also note that the bladder sleeve is very tight and for it to work I found that it had to be filled with water and inserted into the sleeve before the pack was packed, trying to do this after was not achievable. Once the bladder was in and the pack full it performed as expected without issue.

In contrast to the side mesh pockets I found the hipbelt pockets to be very functional and well designed. This is the first pack I have owned which has these and is definitely something I will be looking for in any future purchases. On all occasions I stored my digital camera and Stickpic (trekking pole mounted camera stand) in one pocket and snack foods in the other. It is great to have easy of access to these items without having to remove the pack. I even managed to get some photos of the wildlife as I didn't have to fumble around trying to get my camera out.

The stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment is a great little idea which I really enjoyed using. I found it to give much greater flexibility in how and when I use my trekking poles. Using the feature was exceptionally easy and performed just great. Why don't all packs have something like this? One issue that I did find with this was that I felt perhaps the top loop adjustment cord lock was perhaps a little too small and well covered and on occasion I found it a little difficult to release. But that was minor and really didn't cause me concern.

As yet I have not been able to water test the pack cover or the general resistance to water of the pack however I expect to be able to do this during the last phase of the test series as we are moving out of Summer here and expecting some precipitation.

At this stage I still have no dislikes about the pack and would recommend this to anyone that is looking for a feature abundant pack, it gets my two thumbs up. The pack has performed well in the field and met my expectations. Great work Osprey!

I leave you with a picture of a Native Fig tree I encountered on my last hike.




native fig
Native Fig Tree found along the trail.

This concludes my Field Report  for the Osprey Kestrel 48 Pack.

Long-Term Report
30th May 2009

My next few days of testing the Kestrel were on multi-day hike from Gringer Creek along the Bibbulmun Track to the Canning hut some 60 km's (37 miles) away. I managed to cover this distance in two days. The first day I departed at 9:45 am and arrived at a place known as Nerang, 15.7 (10 miles) km from the start, where I ate my lunch and was back on the trail by 1:15 pm. I arrived at camp for the night at Mt Cooke just before 6 pm for a total distance of 29.3 km (18 miles).

The following day was a little difficult; my body was nice and sore. I departed around 8 am and headed towards Monadnocks where I stopped for lunch. At this point my total distance traveled was 42.6 km (26 miles). I moved on from Monadnocks and arrived at Canning hut at 7 pm, this was a long days hiking. The original plan was for this trip to be 4 days, however at the half way point I suffered an injury that would leave me having to get off the trail and return home totally devastated.

From the time I commenced first use of this pack until my Long-Term Report trip my gear list has changed significantly, as has the weight. With 4 days of food, enough water to last me one day and my other gear I hit the trail now at 9 kg (20 lbs). The biggest items I have swapped out include my air mattress and sleeping bag, I now use a Therm-a-rest NeoAir and Golite Ultra 20 Quilt. A lot of smaller incidentals also got the turf.

The Kestrel also accompanied me on two overnight hikes of approximately 22 km (13 miles) each in the John Forrest National Park. These trips were for me to assess how light weight I would be able to hike and what gear was truly needed as opposed to being thrown in just because there is space available in the pack.

Over the above identified trips, 6 days covering over 100 km's (62 miles), the Osprey Kestrel proved to be a great pack that was truly comfortable. I did not feel any discomfort from prolonged wearing of the pack (up to 14 hours). Again I found the stow-on-the-go to be very handy as with the hydration sleeve.

I still haven't been able to test the effectiveness of the integrated pack cover, however I can attest to it fitting over the pack easily enough when full. The rain is starting to settle in now so perhaps I will get a chance to test that out. If I find any issues or concerns I will post an amendment to this report. If you don't hear back from me please assume that it functions as it should and my gear has remained dry.

The pack shows no signs of wear and tear and is holding up well. I have needed to clean the pack a few times with a damp sponge to remove dirt and charcoal stains (charcoal from resting the pack up against burn trees) both of which are removed relatively easy.

I will continue to use the Osprey Kestrel 48 as my primary overnight or multi-day pack as it remains very functional and dependant.

* Summary

The Kestrel performed excellent over the past five months and I still have no complaints that would warrant me not recommending this pack to anyone on the lookout. The Kestrel is light, robust, feature packed and above all it carries a load perfectly. I give this pack a five out of five star rating.

This concludes my Long-Term Report and the test series for the Osprey Kestrel 48 Pack.

Thank you to Osprey Packs and for the privilege of testing the Kestrel 48.


Read more reviews of Osprey gear
Read more gear reviews by Mark McLauchlin

Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Kestral 48 Pack > Test Report by Mark McLauchlin

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