Braam, our Bristol Store Manager tested the Osprey Kestrel 38 on a trip to Snowdon and here's how it performed...
I have been looking to add to my back pack range for a while with the Kestrel 38 and Talon 33 the main contenders. I was offered to test the Kestrel 38 for a weekend in Snowdonia and I jumped at the chance. The Kestrel have a number of features that appeals to me, the close fitting airscape back system, the deeper stretch side pockets and the separated bottom compartment for a sleeping bag or your downy on a day hike.
We were going to climb Snowdon but unfortunately the weather was one of the worst weekends of 2019 to date. There was horizontal rain with poor viability, no more than 30ft once on the snow line. The winds reached 80mph at the top so we stayed just under the ridge line, although it was still about 50mph in some parts. As soon as you went above this you would be blown to your hands and knees. Each day we hiked about 6 miles and 750m elevation and the raincover was certainly tested!
The Fit and Ventilation
The new airscape corrugated foam is an improvement on the previous model in that it isn't as stiff due to the gaps that separates the foam panels. This makes for more air movement, but I feel it fits better due to the flexibility in the panel. I can't say that I noticed the difference in airflow because it was wet and cold during the weekend. I can say though that it fits like a glove. The Kestrel has, like the Talon, the closer fit compared to a Stratos that relies on the curved frame and mesh panels to suspend the bag off your back. This feature works a treat in getting the weight really close to the centre line and in doing so makes it very efficient at carrying weight and also makes it stable when moving over rough terrain at speed.
Any one that know me, knows that I love moving fast in the mountains and this bag allows me to do just that. The shoulder straps are further adjustable via a velcro patch, this allows for the refined torso length adjustment. The Kestrel 38 carries like a bag half the size. I really didn't notice it on my back and certainly was not restricted by it. I would say that the fit and comfort of the bag was the most impressive feature.
In terms of other features it doesn't try and pack too much in.
The usual stretch pockets on the sides and back panel is more than generous with a litre flask fitting comfortably in the side pockets. The stretch panel on the back is also ample for a waterproof jacket and some gloves.
Side Access Panel
Another great feature is the side access panel that allows you to access the bag through the side making it easier to find what you need if it's tucked away in the bottom of your bag.
Sleeping bag compartment
The sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the bag can be split from the rest of the bag if needs be. I found it fits a couple of down jackets perfectly.
Easy access hip pockets are ideal for trail snacks and a must for a modern backpack.
The integrated rain cover also works well, I do think though that the previous design with a clip holding the cover in place in the small of your back would make it more secure. That being said we had 50mph winds and it stayed on just fine.
The lid is like a tardis and I had to stop piling more in it to avoid the bag getting too top heavy.
I would suggest this bag to anyone who wants to carry a bit more than usual, photographers and the like. It's the most versatile as far as I'm concerned because I can see it being used for a day bag, hand luggage, spring/summer wild camping. I'll be happy to use it for a mountain marathon because it's so comfortable. If I had to only choose one bag that does it all, this would be it.
Braam is our Bristol Store Manager and is passionate about trail running and everything that goes with it. He has run in ultra marathons, from 40 to 100 miles and runs across the South West and Brecon Beacons.