I was looking for a new backpack the other day, and one not too big: a bag that I can take with me outside with friends and not worry about it getting damaged on the road.
So I went and purchased the Osprey Kestrel 38 and write about it because it came highly recommended. We all know that the Osprey backpacks are great but is this the perfect pack? Is this a high-performance backpack?
Read the full Osprey Kestrel 38 review to find out if is the best hiking backpack for you.
Osprey Kestrel 38 Specifications
Starting with the dimensions, this Osprey pack comes in two sizes S/M (for torso length below 19 inches, 48 cm) and size M/L (for torso above 19 inches).
Let’s get the details out of the way first. The Osprey Kestrel 38 has a volume of 38 liters (about 10 gallons) and can carry up to 18 kg of stuff (about 40 lbs). The backpack itself is fairly light for its size, with only 1.4 kg (3 lbs) and has the capacity to carry quite a bit of weight.
It is made of very durable ultralight 210D and 420HD Nylon. It comes in three colors: black, loch blue, and picholine green.
It has a bunch of great compartments we would expect from a good quality backpack, even some specific for day hikes and weekend camping trips.
The compartments I find the most useful for my travels are the 2 belt pouch compartments near my hips that are easy to access at any time. These side pockets are where I would keep my passport, phone, and small, important stuff.
Osprey Kestrel 38 Features
You can tell the Osprey Kestrel 38 was made with the weekend hiker and camper in mind, with a feature-rich design for outdoor use.
The separate sleeping bag compartment is big enough, and the sleeping pad straps are strong enough so it doesn’t hang annoyingly when you walk.
The sleeve for the water bladder is in the back panel, in a separate compartment, so it is easy to refill, and you don’t have to worry about it leaking and messing up your stuff in the main compartment.
The Osprey Kestrel 38 has side zippers so it is easier for you to reach your stuff in the main compartment. Speaking of the main compartment, you can access using the sleeping bag compartment as well, which is very convenient.
On the top of the backpack, you can find a zippered top lid pocket, with another mesh pocket below it. The zippers are smooth but also beefy, with good-quality pulls on them.
During our product testing, we discovered that it features a side loophole mount, also known as “stow-on-the-go,” for attaching trekking poles. I personally found this feature to be quite handy.
It comes with an integrated removable rain cover with its own external zippered pocket, and it covers the entire backpack nicely.
It’s not sewn to the bag and can be detached if needed, so you can take it out and dry separated from the bag. Or if you just want to use the pouch for other stuff.
It looks like the backpack was made with the winter season in mind because you can attach all sorts of ice tools and even snowshoes if you want.
It also has a lot of extra straps for carrying gear outside of the Osprey Kestrel 38, and a mesh front pocket.
Everything looks and feels very durable.
See also: Best Luggage for European Travel
What Can You Fit Inside Osprey Kestrel 38?
Ok, but what can you fit inside it? Or carry outside of it? Well, you could carry enough stuff for a weekend trip or heavy overnight camping. The Osprey Kestrel 38, just like the Osprey Farpoint 40, is not a travel day pack, but it is also not a pack for traditional backpacking.
It is something in between the two. Something that you can take with you for a camping trip that is not lasting longer than a week.
Or maybe an epic one-day hiking trip, when you need a lot of extra supplies and you are not sure if you are going to need to stay for the night too.
Instead of describing everything it can fit, and to save you time, here is a picture of everything I managed to pack with me (and it still had some room left for other stuff).
Microspikes for hiking, a first aid kit, a book, trekking poles, knee braces, a phone charger, shoes, camping gear, a water bottle for hiking in the side pocket, and different hiking accessories, all in the same backpack.
Wearing Osprey Kestrel 38 – How does it feel?
Let’s talk about how it feels to wear the Osprey Kestrel 38. I’ll just say it now: it feels great. It sits a little on the small side of things, but maybe that is good: it is a very light backpack.
The comfort factor here is truly amazing. Through our evaluation of this product, we determined that the ergonomics are well-designed.
Moreover, it features a unique Velcro system that allows for adjusting the torso length.
Getting the Osprey Kestrel 38 to fit just the way you want is pretty simple: you just ‘unvelcro’ the back of the pack and fit the torso straps just the way you want it.
You can adjust the sternum strap too, just slide it up or down and get it the height you want. The hip belt is wide enough and adjustable, which is always nice.
After subjecting it to examination, we observed that the back panel offers exceptional ventilation due to the well-designed meshing and sturdy foam.
It feels a little closer to the back than larger backpacks from Osprey, but it is extremely comfortable regardless.
The Osprey Kestrel 38 is about comfort and making it fit the way you want it.
This bag is fully customizable, with a lot of straps along for you to use the way you want. The cinch straps are also very nice. The bag will always look good and your stuff inside will be secured from juggling around.
The frame is slightly curved not only for better ergonomics but for letting the airflow on your back. This is a great feature for the summer days.
The build and the materials feel very sturdy. It feels very good overall. Better yet is that Osprey has a great insurance policy called “All Mighty Guarantee”.
Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge on your Osprey Kestrel 38, or replace it if repairs are unlikely. That is to show how much they believe in their bags.
How Does It Compare With Other Backpacks?
The Osprey Kestrel 38, as mentioned above, comes equipped with many features that set it apart from other hiking backpacks.
However, when compared to the Osprey Exos 38, you will find that the Kestrel 38 suffers from some disadvantages, such as being much more weighty and having a slightly dated harness system.
However, what the Kestrel 38 has over the Exos 38 is its slimmer and more environmentally conscious design.
As a hiker, there may be many instances where you need to venture through tight spaces or jagged terrain.
As a consequence, the larger and more wide Exos 38 may make travel around these areas more challenging.
Additionally, the Exos 38, despite its more updated design, sacrificed versatility for modernity. The Kestrel 38 has a sleeping bag compartment with a floating removable divider, an integrated rain cover, front panel, dual-stretch, and zippered pockets.
This is also bolstered by the fact that the Exos 38 is more expensive and provides less weather protection, making the Kestrel 38 the ideal choice for hiking conditions of all types.
Osprey Kestrel 38 vs Osprey Stratos 36
The Osprey Stratos 36 is a design that shares some similarities with the Kestrel 38, such as the integrated rain covers, mesh pockets, sleeping bag straps, and some other concepts.
However, the Stratos 36 offers a lightweight AirScape back panel with an adjustable harness, which changes the way this hiking bag feels compared to the Kestrel 38.
The AirScape back panel is meant to provide additional suspension against tension, which eases the amount of stress on the hiker to give additional support.
Unfortunately, while this does allow the Stratos 36 to provide additional comfort, it lacks certain accessibility to its pockets, especially the side mesh water bottle holders.
In fact, in order to access some of these pockets, you’d end up having to take the entire thing off, which is a real hassle when you’re moving around and can’t stop or simply don’t want to.
When we reviewed Stratos 36, we found it excels in ventilation and comfort, but compared to the Kestrel 38, it performs poorly in terms of convenience and gear capacity.
Whereas the Stratos 36 tends to compress gear when you’re making certain motions or carrying certain types of items, the Kestrel 38 does not. Overall, I would recommend the Kestrel 38 over the Stratos 36 due to its versatility in various hiking situations.
Osprey Kestrel 38 Pros & Cons
So, here are the pros and cons of the Osprey Kestrel 38!
- Lightweight, sturdy and flexible
- Customizable, with lots of straps including comfortable shoulder straps
- Fully adjustable: it will fit a good variety of different backs
- The bottom compartment can carry a sleeping bag, or open and access the main compartment
- Fully integrated, removable, and easy-to-access rain cover
- Stow-on-the-go option for keeping your trekking poles without having to open the bag
- Excellent back panel design, comfortable and cool
- The hip belt includes 2 zippered pockets for the most important/used small items
- Separated hydration compartment for hydration bladder
- Dual upper reverse straight jacket side compression straps
- Zippered sleeping bag compartment
- If it gets damaged, Osprey will repair or replace it for you
- Larger than regular day-trip bags
- Smaller than long-term backpacking backpacks
- The exterior mesh may get caught in some bushes occasionally
Is Osprey Kestrel 38 for you?
The Osprey Kestrel 38 is clearly a very good quality backpack. But it may not be for you if you just want a simple traveling bag to take with you on the plane.
It is also not the best for a long backpacking journey, it is simply a bit too small for that. If you are looking for long-term travel bags, then check our guide for the best travel backpack with wheels.
What it is perfect for is one-day epic hikes, when you need a lot of gear or fear that you may need to sleep out there. It is for the weekend and the overnight trip, and also for trips up for a week.
Like most Osprey packs, it is amazingly comfortable, extremely durable, and adjustable. Osprey Kestrel 38 has a lot of flexibility, pack it how you want it.
It may not be the largest bag around, sure, and because of that may not be for everyone, but it can be your perfect backpack!
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Last update on 2023-09-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API