Field Test: Osprey Kestrel 48 Backpack

Kestrel Front

I’ve been anxious to give my Osprey Kestrel some field time, but I’ve been unable to break away for an overnight trip.  This weekend I planned to make a day trip to Redfield Canyon Wilderness so I decided to pack the Kestrel as if it was a two day trip and see how it did.  I was very happy with the pack.

The pack weighed in at just over 50 pounds out the door with 9 liters of water.  Still a bit heavy, so I need to trim some more gear or look for lighter alternatives.  I still had plenty of room for additional clothes and food, and even though that is at the extreme end of the design limits for this pack it was snug and comfortable around the house.  Enroute to the trailhead I met another hiker who was obviously dehydrated so I gave him 3 liters of water, which put the pack at about 44 pounds.  Even up and down some very steep terrain, the Kestrel was extremely stable and comfortable.  I did need to mess around a bit to get things fitted, but that is to be expected with new gear.

I seem to have a knack for choosing hikes without trails and today was no different.  I had to scoot down loose hillsides, push through thickets of mesquite and acacia, and scramble over, under, and through deadfalls along the streambed.  The Kestrel held up well.  Other than some minor fraying on the embroidered logo (the Y in Osprey must have caught a thorn), I can’t find any rips or scratches.  I was a little worried about the mesh pockets, but even those survived intact.  So the pack passes the initial durability test.

I really like all of the pockets.  In addition to the main compartment that can be accessed from the top and bottom, the Kestrel has three pockets in the top cover, two long side pockets, and two hip belt pockets.  It also has mesh water bottle pockets on each side and a large mesh pocket on the back.  This makes it easy to organize my gear and keep things accessible.  As you can see from the picture, it is also generously endowed with loops and straps in case you are into the Beverly Hillbillies look.  I also liked the water bladder pocket behind the back pad.  The bladder does take away some volume from the main compartment, but it provides a bit more padding for your back.

A final nice feature is the trekking pole retainer.  These elastic loops on the left shoulder strap make it extremely easy to stow your poles without the need to remove the pack.  The larger, lower strap is easy to reach and is designed to keep the poles from flapping.  The upper strap cinches down easily to secure the poles.  I really like this feature.

The only thing I’m not crazy about is the configuration of the lower side compression straps and water bottle pockets.  The straps lay over the pockets and I’m sure the intent is to help secure your water bottles, but the angles are a bit awkward and I found it difficult to adjust them when putting things in and out of the pockets.

Overall, this pack is a keeper and perfect for a 3-4 day hike.  In moderate weather, it would probably work for a couple more days, but I’m not sure I could get a week out of it with cold weather gear.  Hopefully I can check that later this year, but for now the Osprey Kestrel passed its initial field test with flying colors.

Shopping Guide:

Altrec Outdoors

Kestrel 32: $128.95

Kestrel 48: $158.95

Amazon.com

Kestrel 48: $159.00

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About the Author: Tucson, AZ Realtor & Investor. My true passions however are hiking and whisky (although generally not at the same time). If you have a question about any of these just drop me a line!

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