Thursday, 12 January 2012

OSPREY KESTREL 48 rucksack review

Osprey Kestrel 48 rucksack, Paddington Bear and Machu Picchu
Big enough for a bear.

The Kestrel 48 is a well-featured backpack that boasts an external hydration pocket, separate internal compartments, a waterproof cover, side compression straps, an 'airscape' back-panel and Osprey's patented 'Stow on the Go' trekking pole attachment system.  What more could you want?

Why buy a 48 litre rucksack?
45 to 50 litres is ample for carrying a lightweight tent and sleeping bag, mat and spare clothing, but not so big as to encourage you to pack things you don't need.  Therefore, this pack is a good size for overnight hiking / camping trips or longer, although for real long-distance trekking where you'd be carrying cooking gear, food and extra clothing, you'd probably want something more roomy.  One of our reasons for choosing the Kestrel was the Stow on the Go pole attachment system, more of which later.  

On test.
We tested this pack on two- to five-day camping treks  in the Lake District, Peru and the Japanese Alps.

  • The back is adjustable, allowing modification to be made for the height of the user.  Adjustment is simple, made via a velcro flap in an external sleeve.
  • The water pouch pocket is external, meaning that you don't have to unpack the sack to refill, and has a loop to attach to the water pouch to keep it upright.
  • Drinking tube attachments on the the straps are, unlike those found on many sacks, elasticated and large enough to actually fit the nozzle through.
  • Three stretchy mesh pockets are provided, which are great for storing things you could need in a hurry (waterproofs, water bottles).
  • Side compression straps are effective.
  • The Stow on the Go trekking pole carrying system is useful (although not quite as easy to use as it could be).
  • We rather like the look of the rucksack, and the built in waterproof cover is useful in wet weather.

Osprey Kestrel 48 pockets
Large waist-belt pockets are the perfect size for a chocolate bar or two.

  • When fully laden, this pack is uncomfortable.  Despite making numerous adjustments to back length and the shoulder straps, we still suffered from painful cramps in the shoulders on the first two or three days of any walk.  You might expect this to some extent from any heavily laden pack, but we've never suffered with other packs like we've suffered with this.  Maybe it's just not a great fit for us, but we think the back / shoulder carrying system is more suited to a daypack; it's simply too insubstantial and lacks the padding you'd expect on a larger capacity rucksack. We suspect the system would work just fine on the smaller Kestrel 38.
  • It's heavy; nearly 2 kilograms unladen.
  • It's fussy: on the hipbelt it has ridiculously over-length straps which unravel from their holsters and dangle; three pockets on the lid is just overkill, straps seem to dangle everywhere and need chopping to length.
  • The shoulder strap adjusters on our Kestrel slip, requiring frequent adjustment.
  • One of the side compression straps on our rucksack was assembled back to front, meaning that the strap is twisted.  The compression strap still works, but we expected better quality of construction for the price.
  • The 'airscape' back system does little to promote the flow of cool air, which invariably results in a sweaty back. 
  • The downside to the water-pouch carrier is that, sitting as it does between the internal compartment and the 'airscape' pad, it tends to deform the latter, which can result in an uncomfortable carry (a partial solution is to ensure that air is squeezed out of the water pouch before you close it and insert it into the pack).

Osprey Kestrel 48
Ridiculously long waist-belt straps held in place - for now, but not for long - by an elasticated strap. 

Those slippery shoulder strap adjusters.  The H2O symbol shows where the water pouch can be fitted between the airscape panel and the exterior of the pack.  The clip for the water pouch is a well designed feature. 

Had this rucksack been comfortable to carry we could have forgiven its weight and over-fussy design.  However, when it's heavily-laden, we've come to dread wearing it.  The shoulder straps and back system are just not padded enough for a rucksack of this capacity.  Because of this, we suggest you shop around before opting for the Kestrel 48.

Score: 6/10  

For a range of alternative sacks (most of which we haven't yet tested) try Amazon Rucksacks

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