Osprey Kestrel 68 Backpack Review
I’ve always had wanderlust, and for my many city breaks around Europe, I managed with a small North Face backpack for years. But inevitably I ran out of space to sew any more patches on it, and it seemed a good time to travel further afield, and for longer. I decided to quit my job and pack my life into a rucksack to travel the world for a year. I needed a rucksack that would take me on lengthy travels to fully explore my wanderlust.
Related: Our 10 Best Travel Backpacks
I knew the rucksack would need to be big enough to carry everything and durable enough to survive mixed terrains. I opted for an Osprey Kestrel 68 Backpack mostly due to the brand’s reputation, and I crossed my fingers it would get me through. A year later, I wouldn’t change it for the world, and this is why:
Plenty of room
My main requirement was being able to fit a ton of stuff in as I knew I’d be away a long time. I went for the 68L because it seemed pretty big without being overbearing. I’m 6 foot 2 and a larger build, so some of the smaller rucksacks just looked lost on me. Plus, I’d have only fit two shirts in and the smaller ones would have been full! I went for the M/L, and the torso size is adjustable so it’s actually a unisex rucksack.
For a guide on Women’s Backpacks, read this article we wrote.
I found that 68L was plenty of room to fit in:
30 items of clothing
- Sleeping bag and bivvy bag
Spare pair of shoes and sandals
A first aid kit
Books, journal, and maps
A few bottles of water
Towel and washbag
Camping tools (Gerber, torch, binoculars etc.)
Electricals bag (camera, adaptors, chargers etc)
- Mozzie net and spray
The size makes the Osprey Kestrel 68 Backpack ideal if you’re going on a long-term backpacking trip, as you can fit in literally everything you need, and some souvenirs along the way!
Lots of pockets
When you’re carrying that much stuff in such a big rucksack and you’re going to be away for a long time, you really need some way to organize it. Otherwise, you might have to empty the whole thing every time you need something small. So one of the best features in this Osprey Kestrel 68 Backpack Review is the abundance of pockets – 9 to be exact. The main compartment is roomy, so great for clothes, then you can use the pockets to pack all of your other items so you know exactly where they are. I really can’t overstate how useful this is when backpacking!
As well as the top opening, the main compartment opens from the bottom too, with a divider separating the sections. I found this brilliant for shoes as it meant they could stay in the main section without getting my clothes dirty. Then there are the other pockets:
Stretchy front mesh pocket ideal for documents and maps.
Side zipped pockets providing quick access to the first aid kit and camping gear.
Hip belt pockets brilliant for small items such as keys, phone, etc. without taking it off my back.
Top lid with two zipped compartments, great for easy access to your bits and bobs.
Inside the top lid, a zipped mesh compartment for books.
Two stretchy side pockets for water bottles
An H2O pouch for a hydration pack.
A zipped lower pocket containing the integrated rain cover.
If you still can’t fit everything in, there’s loops and straps to attach a load more to the outside, including sleeping bags and trekking and ice poles.
If that wasn’t enough, the top lid can be detached so you can use it as a daypack, making the Kestrel pretty versatile. You can leave the main section in the hostel and take the top lid out on your day trips without having to hoik out everything you own every time you want to go exploring.
While its hefty size makes it great for backpacking, it does inevitably mean an additional cost. There’s no way this bad boy will fit in hand luggage – not even close – so you’re obliged to pay the additional luggage costs of putting it in the hold, which can be expensive. You also have to suffer the waiting-around-in-airport-time while they unload the plane when you really want to get out there and see the place. This might be the reason why it’s built so sturdily – to withstand being hauled ungracefully off the plane by baggage handlers!
At 3 lbs. 13 oz it is not as lightweight as the Zpacks Arc Haul Backpack but it also doesn’t feel as heavy as the Atmos 65 AG Backpack. The weight is compensated by the superb build quality, which allows you to carry far more gear and weight than a super lightweight backpack.
Thankfully, the Kestrel is solidly built, and it survived multiple countries and environments without any rips or tears. The exterior fabric is really thick, and the only signs of wear after a year was a faded birdy logo and some snags in the front mesh pocket – pretty good when you consider it was hauled around almost every day for a year. The inner frame makes it extremely durable and stops things digging in your back. And it still looks great after a year – manly, sturdy, and reliable (with plenty of space for patches!).
The comfort factor
The Kestrel is really comfortable over shorter time periods, but I did find that my shoulders ached over longer journeys, even with the hip belt fastened to take the weight off my back. This may well be because the 68-liter capacity encourages you to over-pack, meaning more weight on your back – while smaller backpacks force you to pack light.
The Osprey Kestrel 68 Backpack also includes an AirScape back panel with foam ridges designed to improve air flow, but I found that my back still got really sweaty even with this feature. However, these two issues were my only complaints with the Kestrel backpack.
To sum up:
Despite a few small comfort issues, the durability, cool design, and usability of this rucksack really paid off in the long run. It’s brilliantly designed for backpacking where you need access to a multitude of items – though I urge you not to over-pack. It’s less suited for short-term journeys and city hops due to its size and additional luggage costs on flights. Wherever you are in the world, the Osprey Kestrel 68 Backpack will battle through tough environments thanks to its tough exterior. The things that make this backpack great for long-term travel are its build quality, size, and organizational pockets. If you have been thinking about getting this bag for a while, just get it.
How much is it?
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Osprey Kestrel 68 Backpack Review - If you are planning to go backpacking around the world, the Osprey Kestrel 68 Backpack is perfect for long term travel