Pick A Pack: Osprey Kestrel 32
In the never ending search for a "perfect" backpack, I came across this Osprey Kestrel pack. It had been recently redesigned, and I liked the new look of this pack quite a bit. This review is of the updated 2017 version of the pack.
I tend to prefer "front load" packs, not a big fan of top loaders, so this is a nice treat in a line of Kestrel bags that are all top loading. The Kestrel offers a lot of organization, some great comfort features, and a large main pocket which is compressible. The pack is really perfect for a wide variety of adventures. It is a little "outdoorsy" looking, so perhaps not ideal for the more urban trips, but I've used it for city traveling a few times.
The first thing that I loved about my pack was the color. The bright green Osprey color is one of my favorites. The next favorite thing is the customization for the torso sizing. Osprey is one of my favorite pack brands just because of this feature. The Airscape back keeps your back cool, and also hides the Velcro part that allows you to adjust the straps. This design allows you to dial in the fit to be just right.
The panel load front was my first requirement for my new pack. The opening on the Kestrel is big, so even better. The opening goes about half way down each side, so you can easily access the big interior section. When I load my camera gear insert into the bottom, this big zipper still allows me to get into the insert, even with a bunch of other gear stacked on top. And lots of stuff can get stacked in there - this bag holds a large amount. It also nicely compresses, when it is not super full!
So let's talk about pockets - this bag has a few. Hip belt pockets, side bottle pockets, a big mesh pocket on the front, an interior hydration pocket (which easily holds a 2L bladder), an interior "small stuff" pocket... so many pockets. It also has an integrated rain fly that fits in a little pocket on the bottom. There are also trekking pole attachments that work well.
This pack is a great one for day hiking and photo hiking. The pack easily holds my camera and a lens, a jacket or sweatshirt, snacks, first aid, lots of water, and all of the little extra's. I took it on a couple of trips on planes, and it fits well under the seat and holds enough clothes and stuff for a weekend trip. The pack is also the typical high quality you expect from Osprey. I've used it a good deal, and it's been plopped in dirt and on gross floors and even hiked in snow and rain - it still looks practically new.
The stretch mesh pocket on the outside is worth mentioning... that pocket can stretch to hold just about anything. From a little coyote friend that went on a hike, to a jacket or snacks. It's super handy and holds a lot that's easy to access!
I wish there was a tuck away spot for the hip belt, when it isn't needed. I also wish it had the straps on the bottom for attaching a chair or sleeping pad. It does have great compression and lots of places to attach things, so I make do with that straps that are there.
If you're a hiker who likes to carry along a camera and some gear, this pack is a great one to look at!
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