I’d been toying with the idea of winter camping. This meant a bigger sleeping bag, which in turn would mean a rucksack larger than my current one, which is aimed at trimmed down overnighters with minimum kit. Like most people these days I am on a budget, and I looked at a range of packs. The one which appealed to me most was the Osprey Kestrel 68, a two section pack with a floating lid.
The sack, despite its designation 68, comes in two sizes. The S/M size is only 66l, the M/L is the 68l sack.Otherwise they are identical, so make sure you pick up the right size for you. I tested the M/L one, which the manufacturers advertised weight is 1.82kg, and which I tested at 1.8kg. Removing the raincover drops it to 1.7kg, and removing the floating lid brings it down further to 1.45kg.
The main sack can be separated into two section using a built in divider, which although it can be undone, cannot be detached. The upper section can then be accessed through the top of the bag, while the lower section can be reached via a zippered access panel. The top of the sack only has one cord lock though, and to take advantage of the removeable lid it should have a double cord lock to minimise water getting in. There are three outer elasticated mesh pockets, (two side, one front) that can be used to stow water bottles, small jackets and other items which you may want close to hand. I would be concerned about their resistance to cuts and abrading, and I’d recommend care is taken not to put anything which could catch or cut in them.
There are two non expandable side pockets which run the height of the sack. The lack of the ability to expand these is noticeable and limits them to small thin objects, or items sich as tent poles and little else. There is a small front pocket which contains a detachable rain cover. Personally I’m not a fan of these, and having fought many a battle with these on a windy day, these are the first thing I look at removing.
The sack has a space between the back system and the main compartment for a water bladder, a nice feature which means you don’t have to empty everything out to top up the bladder. The bladder can be retained by a small loop, and the tube can then be run down the shoulders. Unfortunately there is only one elasticated retainer on each strap to hold the tube in place, insufficient for all but the shortest of tube lengths. There is a webbing strap further down but I’ve a feeling this isn’t it’s purpose, and it’s a pretty tight squeeze.
The vented mesh back system is supported using an adjustable velcro system, allowing the back length to be further tailored to suit. This is further backed up with a stiffened hip belt, on which are mounted two pockets. The belt is easily adjusted and comfortable. The pockets however are, despite their decent capacity, difficult to access when on the move, defeating the purpose. I have found it difficult to get a mobile phone in or out, and would have to take the rucksack off to get any decent access to these pockets.
The shoulder straps are foam filled and are comfortable, with a stiffened runned fixed for a chest strap with the obligatory built in whistle. Aside from the elasticated drinking tube straps there are two lower material straps which you can attach smaller pouches or karabiners. There is also a feature which allows you to attach your walking poles to for short term stowage. It seems a great idea, but in use I found it quite ‘footery’ and flimsy. The first one I had snapped, leading to the whole sack being replaced for me. I also found it hard to use, and had to go online to find a video explaing how it should be used. I’m not sold on this at all. A good idea, poorly executed.
The floating lid can be removed or raised/lowered to allow more to be carried if required, It has two outer pockets (one with key retainer) and an inner mesh pocket, all zippered. The lid has two quick release clips to close the sack, and four loops to allow straps to be fitted, should you wish to.
The bag has a few other features. All zips on the bag are fitted with finger pull loops. There are two ice ice-axe loops and two sets of retainers mounted on an adjustable ladder, and they are retained in such a way that it would be very difficult to lose them. There are a pair of compression straps on each side, allowing the load to be cinched in nice and tight. Finally there are two removeable sleeping mat loops on the front.
In use I found the bag of sufficient capacity that I had no need to strap a sleeping mat (or anything else bar walking poles) to the outside. It is comfortable to carry and stable, a feature I found particularly useful when scrambling across rocky terrain. On the down side, I found the hip-belt pockets infuriatingly hard to get into, and the lack of sufficient retainers for a drinking tube a minor annoyance. My only other concern was how easily the mesh can become damaged and how flimsy the walking pole retainer is.
Otherwise this is a really well designed and good value rucksack with a few minor flaws. If you are after a reasonably sized multi day sack this should be given serious consideration.
Water bladder can be accessed from outside the rucksack.
Lack of expansion on side pockets.
Difficult to access hip-belt pockets.
Lack of double snow lock closure
Flimsy Stow-On-The-Go walking pole retainers.
RRP: £130 (it can be found cheaper online)