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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Talon 44 > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Osprey Talon 44 backpack
Test Report Series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: January 4, 2010
Field Report: March 23, 2010
Long Term Report: May 12, 2010
The Osprey Talon 44 backpack
image courtesy of Osprey
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: January 4, 2010
The Talon 44 is one of 6 Talon packs in the Active Light Pursuits series. It is the largest in the series. With a capacity of 2600 cu in (44 L) and a load limit of 40 lb (18 kg) it is certainly not an "expedition" pack but I think it will 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 my backpacking loads are generally less than 40 lb (18 kg).
On the website it is listed as good for "Overnighters, Thru-hiking, Climbing and Cragging." They go on to say, "The Talon 44 is our lightest multi-day backpack. It features top-loading with zippered sleeping bag access, a floating top pocket, front and side stretch woven pockets and an aluminum rail with composite side struts for superb load control." Having used the next size down (the Talon 33) for an overnight pack several times, I am curious to see if the extra room in the Talon 44 does in fact work out for multi-day backpacking trips.
The Talons all share the AirScape backpanel which is a mesh covered, 4mm HDPE ridge molded foam backpanel with integrated air channels. The Talon 44 adds an aluminum rail with composite side struts. Given the 40 lb maximum load range of the pack I was expecting these components to be a tad stiffer than they are but time will tell if they will handle the loads comfortable. However, they are quite flexible which makes sense for a pack in the Active Light Pursuits series.
The 44, 33 and 22 all have the same torso adjustable harness. This harness is infinitely adjustable within a certain range. In other words, if I feel the hipbelt is a little high or low, I can undo the hook and loop fastener that hold the harness to the backpanel and move it up or down just a wee bit or several inches. The Medium/Large which I am testing is for Torso's longer than 19 in (48.5 cm) while the Small/Medium is for Torso's shorter than 19 in (48.5 cm).
Other nice features include an adjustable sternum strap, external hydration compartment, blinker patch, hipbelt pockets, ice ax attachment, rope carry, stretch woven front pocket, stretch woven side pockets, tow loop and a zippered sleeping bag access. And for the record, this is not a separate area inside the pack for the sleeping bag, just an access zipper across the bottom of the pack where many pack makers put a sleeping bag compartment.
It is called the All Mighty Guarantee which says: 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.
The pack looks exactly like what is depicted on the website, and since I was already familiar with the Talon 33, I found this pack pretty much what I expected. I did expect that the padding on the shoulder straps and hipbelt might be a tad thicker for the heavier load limit this pack allows, but as far as I can tell, they are not any different than the ones on the Talon 33. Of course the addition of the frame and struts should allow for heavier loads, but a wee bit thicker padding on the shoulder straps would be nice as they are very thin. The pack also looks busier than the Talon 33, with more straps and attachment points. But this is not a comparison between those two packs so I'll just say, the 44 looks like a well made pack with lots of adaptability as far as being able to handle different types of loads and gear, both inside the pack and attached to the outside using the various attachment points and straps.
I am glad to see the Talon 44 has a top lid that floats. This is handy when the main pack is full as it is still possible to stuff a few small items in between the top of the pack and under the top lid. I know this is not ideal, but at the beginning of a hike, when I have all my food in the pack, space can be limited. I often remedy this by putting things that are not likely to come loose in between the lid and main body.
I loaded the pack with 22 lb (10 kg) of gear for a short overnighter and set about adjusting the pack to fit. I ended up setting the shoulder harness down just past the third mark which is actually a little past where the maximum torso length is set, but I needed it there to get the waist belt down to where I like it on my waist. I believe this is due to me being a fairly husky guy with a large chest. The sternum strap was already in the lowest position but it rides rather high on my chest. In fact, when looking at the pack on me from the front, it looks a little small on me.
View of the pack from the front
I also had to let the hipbelt straps out all the way to fit over a light jacket, and in fact, it would not let it out enough to fasten when I had my heavier jacket on. Since it was 28 F (-2 C) when I left the house I had planned to wear the heavier jacket but after walking down into the woods a little ways and getting out of the wind, I was fine in the lighter jacket. I guess the bottom line is, if I need to wear a heavy (thick) jacket then it is going to be so cold I will probably be using one of my larger winter packs anyways, so this should not be a problem. If my waist were larger, I would need to consider a pack with a larger hipbelt period. For the record, I wear size 38 jeans but they are tight right now, mainly due to a combination of eating more and getting out less the last month and a half because of really cold and rainy weather.
I don't want to get into how I felt the pack performed until the Field Report but I hiked just shy of two hours for about 3 miles (5 km) and the pack felt good. I think most of the weight was on the shoulder straps or at least that's how it felt to me. As for how I loaded my gear, I had no trouble getting a 5 lb (2.3 kg) 0 F (-18 C) synthetic sleeping bag and my hammock inside the pack. Mostly because I had my large self-inflating pad strapped on the bottom of the pack. This pad is 25 in (64 cm) wide and I did bang it on a few limbs etc on the trail, but never had any problem with it trying to slide out. I put the smaller bubble pad made for the pad sleeve of my Hennessy Deep Jungle hammock in between the main compartment and top lid. It rode very securely here with the top lid pulled down snug. I also used the two ice ax loops to hold my camp slippers.
View from back showing my self-inflating pad strapped to the bottom, bubble pad under
top lid and camp slippers strapped on the back. Water bottles also visible on the sides.
I packed a lot of snacks but no cooking gear. I am looking forward to a warmer hike with one of my light weight and much smaller stuffed down bags. I won't need the big pad either so I will be interested in seeing if all my gear fits inside the pack.
This concludes my Initial Report. Please check back in approximately two months for my Field Report to see how the Talon 44 is doing. I would also like to thank BackpackGearTest and Osprey for letting me test this pack.
Field Report: March 23, 2010So far I have used the Talon 44 on five more overnight hikes and on five day-hikes, all in local woods here in north Alabama. I went on several other day-hikes but the Talon 44 is just not really intended for this use so I used a more suitable fanny pack for most them. A couple of the day-hikes saw temperatures in the mid 20s F (around -4 C) and one of the overnight hikes was in a light drizzle. I estimate that I have hiked about 40 miles (64 km) total with the pack. I still hope to get in a long multi-day hike but with some things going on right now I have not had a chance yet.
Using the Talon 44 on a cold day hike - notice my gloves in the rear stash pocket
Testing Locations and Conditions
Field Report Results
I have used the Talon with two different sleeping bags that represent opposite ends of the scale in terms of weight and volume. Three nights were with my Eureka Kaycee 0 F (-18 C) synthetic bag and two nights were with a Brooks Range Elephant Foot 15 F (-9 C) down bag (a half bag really) that relies on a good jacket to complete the system. On the nights I packed the Kaycee I wore a light fleece jacket under a good wind/rain jacket. I say wore because it was so cold I wore both on one hike when the low hit 14 F (-10 C). I also needed to strap both pads (I used two because neither alone was enough) to the outside of the pack. On the other two milder nights I just had on the fleece while hiking and kept the rain jacket in my pack. The Kaycee weighs 5 lb (2.27 kg) and takes up about half the Talon 44's interior while the Elephant Foot bag weighs 14.6 oz (0.41 kg) and takes up about 1/4 of the pack (if that much) and even with my big down jacket, it still takes up less than half the room in the main bag of the pack. I say this to emphasize that the Talon 44 is a pretty versatile pack for short overnight hikes. I can use just about any sleeping bag and pad combo within reason because I don't have a lot of extra food to worry about packing. On my last hike with the Elephant Foot bag the low was only 51 F (11 C) and I only packed my bubble pad (similar to a windshield sun shade). I was able to fold this pad against the padded part of the interior of the main pack and get all my food and gear inside as well. And even then the pack was not crammed plum full. My total starting weight on this hike was 18 lb (8 kg)
I found the Talon 44 to be extremely comfortable with all loads so far. It has helped that my heaviest load has been right at 25 lb (11 kg) but this is a pretty typical load for the short hikes taken thus far. And with the Elephant Foot bag I should not get much heavier even on two or three day hikes. I like the way I can strap a pad on the exterior which was a big help when packing the Kaycee 0 F (-18 C) synthetic bag. In fact it would have been just about impossible to get the bag and a pad in the pack and have any room left over for my other gear like my hammock.
I have noticed a few things I'm not crazy about on the Talon 44. First are the two side pockets I used for my water bottles. The compression straps go over this area and when cinched down, it makes getting the bottles in and out very difficult while hiking. Of course this might not have been a problem if I used the hydration sleeve but I like water bottles so I just deal with it, mainly by just stopping and taking my pack off when I need a drink. On a couple of the day-hikes I was with a friend or my daughter so I had them retrieve my drink bottle and then put it back in for me. I've been lucky so far in that I haven't been hiking in heavy rain when taking my pack off might be a problem since I now use The Packa as my main rain gear. And just for the record, on short hikes when I was not expecting rain I usually choose a different outer rain jacket that is warmer but wore the same fleece jacket under either outer jacket.
The one other small complaint I have is the waist belt used on this pack. I just don't like it. To be fair, it works well enough, but it just seems flimsy. It holds my cell phone holder which is made to clip on a belt but it does not seem as secure as when on a wider belt. And yes, I know the idea of hiking is to get away from cell phones, but with my wife at home with a broken foot and her mom being very ill as well, I realized she might need to call me and have me come home. In fact , I have pretty much limited myself to hiking in areas with cell coverage for just this reason. Of course I might be being a bit picky because there are two pockets sewn onto the hipbelt (one per side), but I like to keep my camera in one and my snacks in the other. And besides, I tried it and found I was slow getting my phone out of this pocket. I don't know or care if a wider single hipbelt adds a few ounces (grams) to the total pack weight. And even if the cell phone holder were not in the equation, I just know I like the traditional hipbelt I am accustomed to better. I will add that since my waist is right at the limit of being too big for this hipbelt, it could be that a person on whom the padded part of the hipblet fits further around might find the two thin strap arrangement much more agreeable. In other words, if I were skinner, more of the padded part would be working to help support the pack and less of the four (two on each side) skinny straps would be involved.
As for the positives, there are many. The biggest would be how comfortable this pack feels while underway. To give a more complete assessment I need to cover more miles in one day while wearing the pack but I did cover 6 miles (10 km) in a single day twice, and both times involved a lot of ups and downs plus scrambling around fallen logs on the trails or balancing while rock hopping and log walking to get across streams. It remained rock steady on my back but I could bend or get into all kinds of weird position and still maintain my balance pretty well. In fact, I would have to say that I felt more agile in the Talon 44 than with just about any other full suspension pack I have used.
I also like the stow pocket across the rear of the pack. It has proven to be a great place to keep my jerky which comes in a big flat zip-lock like container. It has also proven to be handy for keeping small odds and ends I want to keep handy but are too big for the two hipbelt pockets which usually already held my camera and some snacks. The top lid is also good for this purpose but getting things in and out quickly was not as easy. I know on several hikes I wore gloves and a boggin but after warming up I would take them off and the stow pocket was where they usually ended up. I do have to take the pack off to access this pocket since it is all the way to the rear but the same could be said for anywhere else on the pack except the hipbelt pockets which are not big enough for my winter gloves or boggin.
One thing I did notice on the next to last hike was that with a sub 18 lb (8 kg) load I really didn't need to fasten the hipbelt. I say sub 18 lb (8 kg) because this was my starting weight, but by the time I packed up for the trip home I had drank most of my water, eaten my overnight snacks and was wearing my down jacket. The jacket was still in the pack on the hike in the previous evening when it was 44 F (7 C) but it felt good the next morning when it was a chilly 27 F (-3 C). I had been wearing a thinner fleece jacket on my previous hikes and was always able to fasten the hipbelt, but with the down jacket this was just about impossible so I just hiked out without it fastened. I did notice the pack flopped just a little but not enough to be a concern. But overall the pack just felt fine riding this way. I was slightly surprised by this because the shoulder straps are rather thin on this pack.
And speaking of the shoulder straps, the two energy bar holders (one on each shoulder strap) are a pretty neat addition. I wish one was big enough for a small camera but non-the-less they worked great for the intended purpose. I also found it a handy place to carry my knife.
Talon 44 hanging from the ridegeline of my hammock
I'll close by mentioning that when I had two pads strapped on the outside of the pack I couldn't get the pack cover part of my The Packa rain jacket to fit over it. Fortunately, on those nights there was not any rain in the forecast so I wore a different jacket. And even if it had rained it probably would have been in the form of ice or snow. I mention this to bring out the fact that when I did have my pad inside the pack my The Packa rain jacket was a great fit.
This concludes my Field Report. Please stay tuned for the Long Term Report which should be forthcoming in approximately two month. I would also like to thank Osprey and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test this pack.
Long Term Report: May 12, 2010
Talon 44 along the rim of The Fiery Gizzard trail. Note water bottles in the rear stash pocket
Locations and Conditions
I used the Osprey Talon 44 on three more overnight hikes during the last two months of testing with a total distance hiked of around 17 miles (27 km). Two of the overnighters were short trips here in local woods and included about 4 miles (6 km) of hiking on each one. The low on one trip was 38 F (3 C) which is the coolest temperature encountered during this last phase of testing. The warmest trip was on the hike to The Fiery Gizzard in Tennessee with a high of 81 F (27 C) and a low of 63 F (17 C). This trip was 9.2 miles (15 km) and was on slightly steeper trails than I normally encounter but the elevation and elevation changes were similar. The trip was planned for two nights but bad weather caused the trip to be cut to one night.
Long Term Test Results
For starters, the pack has held up well to everything it has been asked to do. It has also been a good pack for the trail conditions encountered, namely, the pack is pretty flexible and allowed me to negotiate steep climbs without much trouble. My main gripe has been and remains to be the hibbelt used on this pack. However, a lot of this is probably because the hipbelt is just barely long enough to snap when let all the way out. I explained this in detail in the Field Report but had not really loaded the pack down yet. My latest hike saw my heaviest load due to packing food for two days so I was even more aware of the belt not being very sturdy.
The hike was on The Fiery Gizzard and I had a starting pack weight of 31 lb (14 kg). With this weight I felt the shoulder straps more than I prefer. In fact, I normally like to have my pack set to where I can easily place a finger or two under each shoulder strap, but the hipbelt on this pack just did not allow me to adjust it to where it carried enough of the weight to allow this. I hiked roughly 3 miles (5 km) to get to my campsite over some pretty steep trails. I took the long way which led down below a waterfall, then below some bluffs and then up and out onto the plateau again. By the time I got to camp I decided to set up my hammock and also cache a little of my water. This put my pack weight at around 25 lb (11 kg) for the rest of the hike. And while 6 lb (3 kg) don't seem like much, I could tell a big difference in how the pack felt. The reason I set up camp so close to the trail-head was to have a short hike out the next day since the forecast called for storms overnight and severe weather the next day. Anyways, I hiked another 2 miles (3 km) past the campsite and then back by the same trail.. This part of the hike went down into another creek bottom even steeper than the earlier one. In fact, there was one section that had a cable along the trail to help assist in getting up and back down. But with only 25 lb (11 kg) in the pack I had no trouble getting up and down this section or over the large rocks strewn along the trail.
The Packa over the Talon 44
It stormed pretty heavily off and on overnight and the pack stayed under my hammock during the night. The rain was blowing hard enough to come under the hammock so I covered it with The Packa. I then put The Packa over the pack for the hike out the next morning because the skies looked dark and threatening. Fortunately, the rain held off, and other than a few light sprinkles it was a pretty dry hike back to my truck. I did notice a squeaking sound on the way out that I have never noticed before. I assume it was from the way I had the bubble pad packed but I stopped and tightened the side compression straps and got it to stop. I also used the rear bucket pocket instead of the side pockets for my water bottles on this trip and it was much easier to get them in and out. I had my hiking partner do the honors while hiking along but I had already learned to do it this way on one of the overnighters at home just previous to this trip. When alone it still means I have to take the pack off but I had to do this when using the side pockets so it was worth doing to make it easier to get the bottles out. I stored small items I did not need very often in the side pockets.
Talon 44 under The Packa and under my hammock during the rain
My other small gripe would be the side pockets. When the main pack compartment was stuffed full I found it very difficult to get things in and out of these pockets. It does not help that the lower compression strap goes right across each pocket. In fact, these straps are really two straps in a V shape, so one goes right across the top and the other crosses the pocket about midways down. Regardless, they made the side pockets aggravating to use.
Despite a few negatives, this pack is a real winner in my book. With loads from 20 to 25 lb (9 to 11 kg) it is very comfortable, and even with the 31 lb load (14 kg) I had no real problems with the pack. I would not hesitate to use this pack for a long hike as long as my loads stay reasonably light. After around 30 lb (14 kg) I might consider a pack with a stiffer hipbelt, say a trip when I will be needing to pack a lot of water. I really found the pockets on the hipbelt to be useful. I always carried a camera in one of the pockets and snacks etc in the other. This made stopping to get pictures along the trail very convenient.
One of the most positive aspects of the Osprey Talon 44 is that it bridges the gap between standard weight and ultra-light packs. And by standard, I mean packs with a similar volume that weigh 4 to 5 lb (around 2 kg) or thereabouts. I like it because I am not real comfortable with the super ultra-light packs I have tried with about 25 lb (11 kg) of gear. And since this is a pretty typical summer load for me I don't really need the rigid support the heavier packs give. This pack has just enough support to be comfortable but is flexible enough for scrambling or moving fast, not that I am very fast.
This concludes my testing for the Osprey Talon 44. I hope my findings are beneficial to all who may read the report. I would also like to thank Osprey and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test this pack
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