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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Kestral 48 Pack > Test Report by Peter Spiller

Osprey Kestrel 48 Backpack

a test report by

Peter Spiller

Initial Report:  (November 19, 2008)Tester Information
Field Report (March 25, 2009) Product Information
Long Term Report (May 18 2009) 

Tester Information:

Name:Peter SpillerBackpacking Background: I have been camping and hiking avidly since childhood.  In the last several years my passion for backpacking and kayaking has grown.  I am a Chapter Outing Leader for the Sierra Club, I have trained in Wilderness First Aid, and am a staff member for a wilderness basics course.  I enjoy solo backpacking and group trips.  I have an adaptable style that is fueled by my interest in backpacking gear.  I pack as light as possible when the situation dictates, but I am not against hauling creature comforts. I average 1-hike a week, and 1-backpack a month year-round.
Age: 38
Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83m)
Weight:190 lb (86 kg)
Torso Length:18 in (46 cm)
City, State, Country:La Mesa, CA U.S.

Product Information:

Osprey Kestrel 48
Photo from Osprey's Website
Manufacturers Website:
Model:Kestrel 48
Size Tested:M/L
Weight (manufacturers):Average (size M/L): 4 lb 8 oz (1.9 kg)
Weight (as delivered):(Size M/L): 4 lbs 10oz (2.1 kg)
Volume:2800 cu in (48 L) size M/L
Fabrics:420D Nylon Pack Cloth
210D X 330D Nylon Shadow Box
Nylon Spun Mesh
Model Year:2008

Initial Report:

November 19, 2008

Product Description:

The Kestrel 48 is a moderate volume internal frame pack designed to carry loads below 30 lb (14 kg).  The Kestrel has a top loading design with a zippered sleeping bag opening on the bottom of the pack, a stretchy external pocket, long narrow zippered pockets on each side of the pack, and three separate zippered pockets in the lid.  The pack features two ice axe loops, fabric daisy chains with bungee cords, a pair of sleeping pad straps on the bottom, and a unique compression system that also doubles as method to secure objects externally to the back of the pack. The waist-belt has a small zippered pocket on each side. There are stretchy water bottle pockets on the lower portion of each side of the pack. The space between the pack and the suspension opens up to reveal an external pocket to hold a bladder, including a buckled strap to hold it in place.

SuspensionThe suspension of the Kestrel 48 includes lightly padded shoulder straps and waist belt, and an adjustable sternum strap with a built in whistle in the buckle. The suspension transfers weight between the shoulders and the waist using lightweight wire stays and a corrugated close-celled foam back panel covered in mesh.  The suspension is adjustable to accommodate different length torsos. The tensioning system on the hip-belt runs through the buckle, back through another plastic “D” ring, and back towards the buckle, allowing me pull the straps towards each other, making it very easy to tighten and loosen the waist belt.

The Kestrel 48 has two features I have not encountered on a pack before.  It had an integrated rain cover, accessible through a small zippered pocket located below the stretchy back pocket.  It also has a trekking pole storage that consists of two bungee cords (one on the main pack and one on the left shoulder strap) that are positioned so that I can secure my trekking poles, out of the way, under my left arm without removing my pack.

Initial Use:

Upon receiving the Kestrel 48, I took some time looking through the instructions, and noting the different features the pack is equipped with.  I then threw some camping gear into the pack and tried it on.  It took only a few minutes to adjust the back-panel to fit me comfortably and to adjust the straps and hip-belt to distribute the light load evenly.

I then proceeded to pack it up with a typical overnight load  of about 18 lbs (8 kg), and determine if the volume was large enough to hold all my gear, water and food. I have room to spare.  My typical overnight kit  consists of:

  • 3-season sleeping bag
  • inflatable sleeping pad
  • bivy shelter
  • backpacking stove and fuel
  • cook kit
  • rain gear 
  • down sweater
  • camera and accessories
  • spare clothing
  • hydration Bladder
  • water bottle
  • 10-essentials
  • first aid kit
  • water filter
  • map and compass
  • journal/pencil
  • book
  • food

Rain Cover

Initial Impressions:

I was a little nervous before receiving the pack about my ability to utilize the Kestrel 48 as an overnight pack.  I own another style of Osprey pack that has 50 L (3000 cu in) of capacity that is a challenge to pack due to a very pronounced curve in the back panel leaving a significant amount of marginally useful space.  The design of the Kestrel 48 includes a voluminous main space that easily holds my overnight gear. The suspension and hip-belt appear to be adequate to support a light load, yet only time in the field will tell. The pack is very comfortable, and was easy to adjust to my frame.  The rain cover deploys easily, yet I will never be able to fold it as neatly or as compactly as is came form the manufacturer.  The trekking pole holders are easy to use, and I look forward to determining their usefulness.

Water Bottle Pocket  Side Pockets  Hydratiion Pocket
Quality Assessment:

The Kestrel 48 by all appearances is a well-made pack.  The fabric all seems durable, and the stitching is all solid and secure.  The Kestrel 48 is chock-full of those little details that give me confidence that the pack was thoughtfully designed and well engineered.  Details such as the cutouts in the zipper pulls to reduce weight, and the removable sleeping pad straps are all signs of a quality piece of gear.

Inspecting the pack I am a little concerned that the bottom of the pack is made from the same material as the rest of the pack and there was no attempt to make it sturdier. Only testing will tell if this is really going to be a problem.



I am impressed with this pack at this point.  I am excited to take the pack into the backcountry and test its capabilities.  I like the unique features such as the “Stow-On-the-Go” trekking pole storage, and the built in rain cover, and look forward to seeing how useful these truly are.


Field Report

March 17, 2009

Test Locations

I have used the Osprey Kestrel 48 for two overnight trips in the Anza-Borrego Desert in Southern California.  The trips have featured mild weather, with little or no rain. The Kestrel hauled all of my gear for these two trips.

Arroyo Tapiado- Anza Borrego Desert, California

Elevation: 900 ft (274 m)
High Temperature: 77.9   F (25.5 C)
Low Temperature: 47.5 F (8.6 C)
Precipitation: None
Total Distance: 12 mi (19 km)
Pack Weight: 27 lbs (12 kg)

Ghost Mountain- Anza Borrego Desert, California

Elevation: 2500 ft (762 m)
High Temperature: 65.2 F (18.4 C)
Low Temperature: 48.6 F (9.2 C)
Precipitation: .1 in (0.25cm)
Total Distance: 8 mi (13 km)
Pack Weight: 25 lbs (9.5 kg)

Field Performance

The Osprey Kestrel is ideal as an overnight pack, with enough capacity to hold gear, food and water for one.  I have had to leave the pack at home for trips longer than one night, or trips that I need to carry gear for my young daughter, as the capacity is not great enough to handle the volume that I need to pack.  The Kestrel has an inflexible volume due to the top pocket being sewn onto the pack, rather than “floating” via adjustable straps.  The top opening has a significant expansion collar, but when filled to the top, I cannot effectively clip down the top lid, and the elastic that arches the lid make the problem worse. 
Pack Contents 
The typical overnight dry load of the Kestrel 48 was 19 lbs (8.6 kg).  I then added 6 lbs (2.7 kg)  of water,  and 2 lbs (1 kg) of food for a total weight of  27 lbs (12.3 kg).  This was an acceptable weight for the suspension, and I carried it for about 4 miles (6.4 km) on one trip and 6 miles (9.6 km) on another.  The suspension has a lightweight appearance, but was more supportive than I suspected.  I was able to adjust the shoulder straps and the load lifter straps to transfer most of the weight from my shoulders to my hips when my shoulders began to tire.  The load is stable on my back, although I have not encountered any severe terrain while wearing the pack as of yet.  One of the high points of this pack is the comfortable suspension.  It is cool, stable and supportive. 

I really like the multitude of pockets that are featured in the lid of the Kestrel 48.  I am able to keep snacks in one pocket, my personal belongings in another, and my map, compass and journal in the third, and I am able to access all of these things without disturbing the others, or worrying about a stray item dropping out as I dig for an item.  I am not as crazy about the tall narrow pockets on each side of the pack.  The only thing that fits well in these pockets is my bivy sack.  Anything that is not long and narrow fits awkwardly and makes them hard to zip up.  The pockets expand inward into the main body of the pack, so using them does not add volume to the pack.  I would prefer an access zipper into the main body of the pack over these pockets.  The stretch pocket on the back, on the other hand is very useful.  I normally carry my jacket and rain pants in it for easy access, but I have also put damp socks into this mesh pocket to help dry them out. The side mesh pockets work just fine holding 1-liter (32 oz) water bottles, and the external hydration sleeve is useful, but like all hydration sleeves I have encountered it is hard to slide a full  2-liter (2 quart) bladder into it with a full pack. The external nature of the sleeve makes it very easy to route the hose. The hipbelt pockets are nice for small items,  and the zipper tracks nicely, making them easy to quickly open and close.  My point and shoot camera fits perfectly in one, and a small bottle of sunscreen rides in the other. The bottom of the pack has remained damage free to this point.  I have set it on dirt and rocks numerous times, not taking any specific care to protect the bottom, and it have not shown any signs of wear or damage.

The “stow and go” trekking pole attachments are a nice touch, but you have to collapse the poles in order to use it.  I would love to be able to stow my poles extended for short periods of time, while shooting pictures for example, but threading the extended poles through the bungee is a bit awkward and time consuming. I tend to lean the poles on my torso, as I have always done, rather than take the time to thread the poles into the attachment system.  I have yet to use the built in rain cover, but that is only because the bulk of my Southern California backpacking in winter takes place in the arid Anza-Borrego Desert. I expect I will use it as I transition to backpacking in the damper more mountainous regions during the spring.


The Osprey Kestrel 48 pack has proven to be a good pack for overnight backpacking trips.  For me, the volume of the pack is too small for anything longer, and the ability to overstuff the pack is hampered by the sewn on top lid.   The suspension has proven to be comfortable for loads approaching 30 lbs (13.6 Kg), although I have yet to hike for an extended amount time with a heaver load.  The pockets in the Kestrel make it an organizers dream but some of the pockets are more useful than others.  The “stow and go” trekking pole attachments, and the built in rain cover are great details but they have seen limited use in my backpacking trips thus far.

Long Term Report

May 18, 2009

Test Locations

pack on backThe Osprey Kestrel Pack was used on one very demanding four day backpack, and a quick overnight trip during long term testing.  The pack saw a variety of different conditions including rain, heat, and even a little snow.   During the entire testing period I was able to use the pack for a total of seven nights over a total of four trips.

Grand Canyon National Park- Arizona
Elevation: 6,800 ft (2,072 meters)-2,200 ft (670 meters)
High Temperature: 42 F (5.6 C)
Low Temperature: 18 F (-7.8 C)
Precipitation: 0.1 in (0.25 cm)

The Osprey Kestrel was my primary pack for a 4-day backpack below the rim of the Grand Canyon.  I experienced a variety of different conditions during this trip including rain and snow.  I carried the pack fully loaded for about 25-miles (40.25 m), and more than 1 mile  (1.6 km) of elevation change.

Laguna Mountain San Diego County, California
Elevation: 4000 ft (1219 m)
High Temperature: 57 F (13.9 C)
Low Temperature: 33 F (0.6 C)
Precipitation: 0 in (0 mm) Snow

This trip was a short overnight backpack.  I carried the pack with about 22 lbs (10 kg) for approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) the conditions were very mild during this backpack.

Field Performance

varmant hookThe Osprey Kestrel 48 performed very well in very demanding conditions during the long term testing period. I struggled deciding whether I would use the Kestrel or a larger pack for my 4-day Grand Canyon backpack with my daughter.  I was worried about fitting all of what I perceived I needed for this trip in a 48 liter (2929 cu in) pack space.  One evening when I was going though my gear for the trip, and still mulling over which pack would make the cut, I thought of a quote I remembered from a Ray Jardine book on the subject of gear in the wilderness.  He wrote; "If you don't have it you don't need it".   This quote provided just what I needed for a perceptual shift on packing, and it was not long before I was able, with some creative arranging and strapping, to fit all my gear in and on the pack. At a total pack weight approaching 40 lbs (18 kg) it was apparent that the pack was approaching the limit of its weight capacity.  This did not stop the pack from performing well for the entirety of the trip, and I never regretted taking the Kestrel pack on this trip.  The pack carried the load in relative comfort, although I did feel the weight in the shoulders more than I liked, and experienced some minor soreness in one shoulder due to the problem I will explain in the next paragraph.

I had some problems with the fabric on the shoulder strap rolling around the internal padding.  This caused the seam to move under the pack strap directly on my shoulder, causing mild discomfort and soreness where it dug into my shoulder.  After I realized what was happening the evening of the last day, I was able to reposition the fabric and move the seam so it was not pushing into my shoulder. In my opinion the cover of the shoulder padding could use some sort of stitching onto the padding to prevent this from happening. I did also notice that the edging of one of the water bottle pockets was coming loose towards the end of my Grand Canyon trip.  The rest of the pack has held up well, not showing any signs of excessive wear, despite the rugged conditions of the canyon.
rolled shoulder strap

I used the both the Stow-On-The-Go Trekking Pole system, and the integrated rain cover during the long term testing period.  In fact, the Stow-On-The-Go Trekking Pole system was a perfect place to hold my daughters trekking poles when she was tired of using them, while continuing to use mine.  The integrated pack cover kept the pack dry through several rain storms, and a snow storm.  It was very convenient to pull the cover from its dedicated compartment, and not have to root around in my pack looking for a separate one. The non floating pack lid has proven not to be as annoying as I first suspected.  The lid and the elastic sides accommodate over stuffing better than predicted.
loose seam

Continued Use

I will continue to use the Kestrel 48 pack for overnight trips and gear intensive day trips.  The pack is perfect for moderate to medium loads,  and has been a joy to use. The attention to detail, and the numerous features that are employed throughout the pack make it one that I will reach for again and again.  The size is perfect for over night, or light weekend trips, and it is very comfortable to carry with moderate loads.


While I was not completely sold on the Kestrel 48 during the field report testing period, I have grown to more fully appreciate the pack as I have used it more.  While I still do not feel it is an ideal pack for longer more gear intensive trips,  I have learned that it can be used for slightly longer trips, and carry a 40 lbs (18 kg) load in relative comfort.   This type of trip does push the limits of the capabilities of the pack.  This pack shines for me on overnight and weekend trips.  The features and details of the Osprey Kestrel 48 pack combined with the relatively light weight, and comfortable suspension have been a great companion in the wilderness.

-    Comfortable suspension up to 40 lbs (18 kg)
-    Well ventilated back panel
-    Plethora of pockets for organization
-    External hydration sleeve


- The floating fabric on the shoulder strap migrates, causing a seam to rest on my shoulder.
- The side pockets are an awkward shape.

This ends my report of the Osprey Kestrel 48 Backpack.  Thank you Osprey and for the opportunity to test this fine Pack.

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