Osprey Kestrel 38 Review: Is It Good Backpack?

Weight and Materials - Osprey Kestrel 38 Review
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9.2/10
  • Backpack Type: Hiking Backpack
  • Materials: 210-denier x 630-denier nylon dobby/500-denier nylon packcloth
  • Volume: S/M: 2197 cubic inches (36 liters) M/L: 2319 cubic inches (38 liters)
  • Weight: S/M: 3.22 pounds M/L: 3.40 pounds
  • Size: S/M: 27.6 x 12.2 x 11.4 inches M/L: 29.5 x 12.2 x 11.4 inches
  • https://osprey.com/

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Marketed as a men’s backpack that’s best for day hiking, the Osprey Kestrel 38 is a great option for all-day or all-night outdoor adventures. This comfortable backpack features a special zippered compartment for your sleeping bag, an external hydration sleeve, a foam back panel, mesh pockets on the sides, a built-in rain cover, and several loops for attaching your gear.

Compared to the 2016 model, the new 2019 Osprey Kestrel 38 has more padding and ventilation along with the back panel, large hip belt pockets, and dual mesh side pockets for water bottles. Not only is the new version more comfortable, but it is also more durable and versatile.

Osprey, founded in 1974, guarantees its gear for a lifetime with its signature All Mighty Guarantee. With its custom-fit philosophy, Osprey promises to build comfortable, robust backpacks which are suitable for all sizes and genders.

Osprey Kestrel 38 pros:

  • Incredibly adjustable
  • Side compression straps
  • Quite lightweight considering the amount of gear it can hold

Osprey Kestrel 38 cons:

  • Doesn’t hold as much gear as some other backpacks
  • Missing a front zipper pocket

You can read our full Osprey Kestrel 38 review here and find detailed information about this backpack before you head out on your next hike.

Things to Consider When Buying a Backpack

Before you purchase a hiking backpack, you should consider the activity that you have planned. How much gear will you need to carry? Have you checked the weather forecast? Are you planning on a day hike, or will you be camping overnight? How much water will you need to carry? 

The Osprey Kestrel 38, with its integrated rain cover, is a good choice if you might encounter some rain.

If your trip will involve camping, the Osprey Kestrel 38 is also a great fit, as it is equipped with a sleeping bag compartment for easy storage of your bed. Also, if you plan on carrying a moderate amount of gear, this bag is an excellent choice, as it can carry a respectable load range of 20 to 35 pounds. 

However, if you are looking for a bag that can hold even more gear for longer hikes, you might want to check out some other options, such as the Osprey Levity 60 or Rook 65 pack. These backpacks are built for trips that last from two to five nights and have a much higher gear capacity than the Kestrel 38.

Overall, if you’re looking for a versatile, durable, and comfortable backpack that’s perfect for day hiking, the Osprey needs to be on your radar.

Features and Benefits

Osprey Kestrel 38
80 Reviews
Osprey Kestrel 38
  • Breathable AirScape ridged foam backpanel with adjustable torso length
  • External reservoir sleeve accommodates up to a 3L reservoir (sold separately)
  • Integrated removable raincover and zippered hipbelt pockets
  • Zippered sleeping bag compartment with floating divider
  • Fixed top lid with external zippered pocket and under lid zippered mesh pocket

Weight and Materials

The main body is made from 210-denier x 630-denier nylon dobby and the bottom of the pack is made from 500-denier nylon packcloth, so the Osprey Kestrel 38 is built to be durable, and it can withstand even rugged hikes. In addition to hiking, the bag’s smaller size makes it great for use as an Osprey Kestrel 38 carry-on.

When empty, this bag in small/medium size weighs 3 pounds 3.5 ounces, while the medium/large weighs 3 pounds 6.4 ounces. 

I found the backpack to be slightly heavier than other packs I’ve tried, such as the Osprey Kamber 22, but I didn’t find it too heavy. The Kestrel 38 has a very sturdy but quite lightweight feel to it.

Breathability, Comfort, and Suspension

The Osprey Kestrel 38 backpack features plenty of overall padding. The back panel is made from a thick, foamy mesh called AirScape, and this also increases the breathability and ventilation of the pack along the entire back surface. This helps keep a user’s back feeling cool, even during warmer weather. 

Breathability, Comfort, and Suspension

There is also a generous amount of padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt, which gives the pack an overall soft feel. The shoulder straps are also very wide, keeping the straps in place and distributing the weight more evenly across the shoulders.

I feel that the Osprey Kestrel 38 is a great option for all-day hikes, when normally I might feel fatigued from carrying an uncomfortable bag all day. I found the bag to be lightweight too, which also helps in the comfort department.

In addition, the back panel is adjustable to fit a torso length range of 16 to 23 inches, which makes it a versatile, comfortable fit for people of many sizes. The hip belt also adjusts to fit a range of 26 to 50 inches, depending on whether you purchase the small or large size option.

The four side StraightJacket compression straps help hold the Osprey Kestrel 38 tight against your body, which increases the comfort level and prevents the bag from swaying or swinging. This helps make the pack feel unnoticeable on your back, even when carrying more weight.

The aforementioned AirScape back panel promises to achieve better weight distribution, in addition to the lightweight internal frame. The overall weight is held closer to your body, as the back panel keeps the bag flat.

Storage, Organization, and Accessibility

Storage

Equipped with two stretchy side mesh pockets for holding water bottles, as well as an external hydration sleeve which holds up to 3 liters of water, the Osprey Kestrel 38 is built with hydration in mind. This is important when on longer day hikes.

There is also a built-in sleeping bag compartment with a divider, so you can easily keep your bed separate from the rest of your gear. This makes it easier to access your sleeping bag when you’re feeling tired after a long day on the trail.

The built-in, bright green rain cover promises to protect your gear in the rain. This is particularly important when carrying food, electronics, or other valuable gear.

Dual ice tool attachments and trekking pole attachment points make it easy to store your special equipment for more technical trails.

The Osprey Kestrel 38 offers side, bottom (through the sleeping bag space), and top access to the main compartment. There is a front hybrid “shove-it” mesh pouch on the bag, which is great for storing items you want to keep separate from your other gear, such as a wet towel.

Unfortunately, the Osprey Kestrel 38 does not have a zippered front pocket. This is a feature I have enjoyed with other bags and I felt it was missing here, as it would provide easier, quicker access to the main contents of the bag when on the go and be more secure than the mesh pouch. 

Instead of a front zipper, there is a fixed top lid with a zipper and, in addition, a zippered mesh pocket underneath, where you can store your keys. In order to achieve top access, you must unclip the fixed (not removable) top lid. The top lid itself can be used to store smaller items you want to access quickly, such as a first-aid kid.

There are also roomy zippered pockets on the hip belts, which are perfect for holding a large smartphone or snacks. I felt that the hip belt pockets were easy enough to access while on the move. 

All these features help compensate for the lack of a front zipper. It was easy enough to unzip the side pockets to access the main compartment and find what I needed without having to remove all my gear from the top.

Osprey Kestrel 38 Specification Table

Feature TypeFeature SpecsWhat This Means
WeightS/M: 3 pounds 3.5 ounces
M/L: 3 pounds 6.4 ounces
The backpack is not too heavy but is slightly heavier than some other options.
CapacityS/M: 2197 cubic inches (36 liters)
M/L: 2319 cubic inches (38 liters)
The full-sized medium/large option holds 38 liters of gear, while the small/medium option holds 36 liters.
FrameInternal frameThe internal frame increases the backpack’s overall suspension.
Frame Material3.5 mm LightWire aluminumThe frame is lightweight but strong.
Hip Belt SizeS/M: 26-45 inches
M/L: 28-50 inches
With an adjustable hip belt, the backpack is versatile and can be adjusted to fit you as comfortably as possible.
Torso FitS/M: 16-20 inches
M/L: 19-23 inches
The Osprey Kestrel 38 is adjustable and fits people of different sizes, which makes it a comfortable fit for almost anyone.
Number of Exterior Pockets6 + main compartmentEquipped with many pockets, the Osprey Kestrel 38 is a great option if you’re looking for a bag with an organization as a top priority.
Hydration SleeveYesThe Osprey Kestrel 38 has an external hydration sleeve that can hold up to 3 liters of water.
Main Pack AccessTop, side, and bottomThe bag is equipped with a fixed top lid with a zipper as well as side zippers and a sleeping bag compartment with a divider at the bottom. All of these provide access to the main compartment.
AttachmentsTwo ice pole attachment points and trekking pole attachment points, two daisy chains, two sleeping pad straps (can be removed)The attachment points make the pack versatile and a good option for use on technical trails.
Materials210-denier x 630-denier nylon dobby/500-denier nylon packclothThe Osprey Kestrel 38 is a durable backpack. The main body is made from 210 denier x 630 nylon dobby, while the accents are 420HD nylon Oxford and the bottom of the bag is 500 denier nylon packcloth.
WarrantyAll Mighty GuaranteeGuaranteed for life: Osprey will repair or replace the backpack, no matter when it was purchased.
Retail Price$150-$200Moderately priced

Customer Review

When I started looking for a new backpack to take with me on my adventures, I found the Osprey Kestrel 38 and was immediately intrigued. So, I scoured the internet and came across several Osprey Kestrel reviews from users who seemed to have had rather positive experiences with the pack.

You can read a few of these users’ experiences below:

Social Proof 1
Social Proof 2
Social Proof 3

Alternatives

Osprey Kestrel 38 vs Stratos 36

The Osprey Kestrel 38 and the Stratos 36 share many of the same features, including the zippered sleeping bag space, trekking pole attachment points, mesh water bottle pockets, rain cover, and hip belt pockets with zippers.

One main feature that the Stratos 36 brings to the table is an AirSpeed Suspension Backpanel, which promises additional suspension against tension for even greater comfort and support

Comparison

  • Kestrel 38 has a slightly bigger gear capacity
  • Stratos 36 is lighter and offers better suspension

If it’s suspension you’re after, check out the Osprey Stratos 36.

Osprey Kestrel 38 vs Talon 44

As an ultralight pack, the Osprey Talon 44 is better suited to shorter hiking days when you aren’t carrying a lot of equipment and want to protect your back from pain.

Both the Kestrel 38 and Talon 44 feature an adjustable torso harness, stretchy water bottle pockets, a sleeping bag space, and attachment points for trekking poles and ice tools. The Kestrel has the advantage of being weatherproof due to its rain cover. Check our review of Talon 22 here.

Comparison

  • Kestrel 38 has an integrated rain cover
  • Talon 44 is more lightweight

If you’re interested in a lighter bag for easier hikes, check out the Osprey Talon 44.

Osprey Kestrel 38 vs Exos 38

The Exos 38 is marketed as an ultralight bag and weighs just 2.46 pounds for the small size, 2.48 pounds for the medium, and 2.51 pounds for the large size. The more lightweight style makes it better suited for quick and easy hikes.

However, the Kestrel 38 has the advantage of being more adjustable and has an integrated rain cover and sleeping bag compartment for added versatility. The Kestrel 38 also has more pockets.

Comparison

  • Exos 38 is $20 more expensive
  • Exos 38 is lighter
  • Kestrel 38 is more weatherproof and adjustable

If you are looking for an extremely light bag which is still suited for all-day hiking trips, you should consider the Osprey Exos 38.

Osprey Kestrel 38 vs 48

Both these bags are built for day hikes, although the higher capacity of the Kestrel 48 makes it a better choice for trips lasting longer than a couple of days. 

Both models have stretch mesh side water bottle pockets, a divided sleeping bag compartment, hip belt pockets, trekking pole attachments, ice tool loops, and a shove-it front pocket. The Kestrel 48 also features a full-length zipper along the sides for better access to the main compartment.

Comparison

  • Kestrel 48 is $20 more expensive
  • Kestrel 48 holds more gear and has an additional access point for the main pocket

If you’re looking for a bag that’s slightly larger but still very similar to the Kestrel 38, check out the Osprey Kestrel 48 here.

Conclusion

For your hiking excursions, it can be a difficult task to find the perfect backpack. Thankfully, there are several great options, including the Osprey Kestrel 38. This bag is moderately lightweight with several pockets. It boasts several attachment points for gear and a rain cover to protect against the elements and is built for comfort. 

Overall, I would give the Osprey Kestrel 38 a rating of 9.2 out of 10 stars for its versatility, comfort, and durability. If you’re looking for a great backpack for your adventures,

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