Osprey Kestrel Review

Osprey Kestrel 38l Backpack

The test

An opportunity to test the Kestrel 38 fell perfectly with my up and coming training sessions with Ten Tors and DofE groups.  The need for a good day sack that has enough room for additional ‘leader’ gear plus the usual personal stuff had been on my mind.  I usually use my Talon 22, but often, while it’s a great lightweight sack is just a bit tight on space.  So, with the Kestrel packed and ready to go we went out on a very rough day up and around Dunkery Beacon on Exmoor.


My main rucksack requirements;

  • Comfort
  • Storage
  • Ergonomic design

The features

The Kestrel has 4 main compartments; one draw cord opening large top loader with a smaller one below with its own zip.  The top flap has a large external pocket – great for stuffing in gloves, food, hat etc. There is also an internal mesh pocket with a useful key clip.  I used the lower compartment to store my bivvy bag. There is a separating flap buckle threaded on the inside, so it can be easily released to make one big compartment if so required.

The pack comes with an integral rain cover kept in its own pocket - useful when really wet, as was the case on Exmoor!

Although there is Hydraulic reservoir slot, I prefer bottles, so the side mesh pockets came into their own – though I must admit they were positioned in such a way I couldn’t easily retrieve my bottles while on the move – but hey, I like to stop and slurp with time to look around and enjoy the view – not that storm Freya provided one!

Osprey has their technical/jargon terms, like any top brand, so describing the front storage feature the ‘shove it pocket’ is no different!  Just shove in your over trousers or any other item and the stretch sides expand to take up the space – I really liked this feature as you can access items without having to undo the main pack.

Stability, may not be too much of an issue on much smaller sacks, but if scrambling about, it is important.  The Kestrel has 4 strategically placed compression straps that really do keep the sack nice and compact.  The pack is also no wider than your back, so less likely to get snagged. However, the key comfort element is the harness and back construction.  On the Kestrel, Osprey use their ‘Airscape’ system - a stiff but flexible ribbed foam panel.  The Velcro adjuster was easy to use in getting a perfect back length fit. With wearing a Goretex jacket all day the vented rib system seemed to work very effectively. The waste harness (complete with zip side pockets for small items) is adequately padded and not too fussy, and along with the lumber pad I found it really comfy. After an hour I hardly noticed the sack on my back – a good sign!

Complete with daisy chain attachment points and loops to carry a roll mat, there is no excuse for not finding a place to fit something.  As with many Osprey packs there are ‘stow on the go’ walking pole attachments.

The 38l version is an ideal daypack and could be used for multi day trips if a tent is not required.  It has a good range of functional features, which make carrying your load pretty stress free.


Overall, the Kestrel is well-engineered and made from tough 210 and 630D fabric - it should last years.  I liked the fit and would certainly make this my go to sack for daylong moorland/mountain trips.  Highly recommended.

Keith is a Dof E assessor and runs training expeditions for Ten Tors and DofE. When he is not hiking and wild camping he also enjoys cycle touring and climbing.

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