In 2011 I went walking around Ben Nevis and realised that it was to invest in a backpack to accompany my multifarious mountain pursuits – single and multi-pitch climbing, mountain walking and winter mountaineering. My first port of call was Manchester Oxford Road Cotswolds, as they are stalwarts in reliability and good customer service. Being a clearance store they didn’t have a full range so, instead I went to the Manchester Deansgate branch.
At first glance I thought that buying a pack would offer a straightforward choice, but I was, firstly, dazzled with the array of packs available, and then very quickly became suitably disappointed by the very few packs from which I eventually had to choose. Why? I am small. When I say small I mean 5ft tall (155cm) and with a waist of about 28 inches. The staff member in the shop was brilliant, helping to work out the best fit using realistic weights and assessing my needs. My resulting purchase was the Osprey Talon 44 in Indigo blue. So, more than a year in, here’s my review of the bag…
Activities I’ve used the bag for:
- Multi-pitch trad routes – left at the bottom of the crag and carried with me
- Long mountain days – Summer
- 2 full days out on Gabbro – up chimneys and all sorts
- Scottish Winter Multi-pitch mixed route
- Single pitch trad routes in the Peak
- Single pitch sport routes in Wales
- Shopping in Manchester
- Weekends away – non mountaineering/climbing
I really rate this bag. Both the Cotswolds woman and Osprey got it spot on for my needs – an adaptable bag, which can be stuffed full when you have lots of gear, but works equally well for a short day of walking. It feels super lightweight to me, which is a big factor, as I’m only around 50kg (8st). My pack needs to weigh as little as possible.
Design & Functionality
This pack has fulfilled all of my needs – I love the design because it works so well for me. It has the right sort of pockets in all the right places – the waist belt pockets hold snacks, an inhaler, firelighter, headtorch … all the things you want to hand quickly. The side pockets are good for a flask and water bottle, with adjusters that do their job well.
The top cover pocket is great, because I can just about open the pocket and reach on for a hat and gloves without taking off the pack – brilliant when you’re in a hurry to get down to the pub/café/ice cream shop before it closes!
The main body of the pack is large, with the bottom entry zipper, which was invaluable in Scottish winter, when every second stood still seemed to take a degree of warmth from my body! The bag accommodated a pair of Ice Axes in the winter and also walking poles in the summer, although when the pack is empty, as it has started to become now the sun has come out, the poles were less stable and wobbled around a bit – I think a smaller pack would be better for quick summer routes, or you could put the poles inside the pack.
All pockets have a round pull cord, so your finger slots in and it’s easy to open and close pockets whatever gloves you have on.
The double clip hood is sometimes a bit of a faff, but not annoyingly so. It’s also very useful to have two clips when securing either a jacket when it’s too warm or a rope, when you’re out climbing.
The front pouch expands exponentially it seems, so usually houses my lunch, map and guidebook with space to spare.
The shoulder straps have a series of really good features – each side has a phone/gps/compass slot. There is a built-in whistle, precluding the need for extra weight. The elasticated strips stop your hydration system from flying around in the wind. There’s a handy little walking pole slot too, if you don’t want to stash your poles away, but want your hands free for a few minutes.
Osprey have designed a system that I feel works really well to ventilate the back area and prevent sweatiness – the Airscape system. There is a mesh back that sits slightly proud of the actual back plate. When you walk, air circulates at a low level and ventilates, so you don’t get sweaty. I’ve never felt any draughts, but always seem to remain relatively sweat free.
The clever people have also designed the integrated area for your water pouch, with a custom ‘hydraform reservoir’ which you can get in different sizes. After battling with a cheap version that dripped water down me on five consecutive munros I bit the bullet and forked out for the 3litre Osprey hydration pack. It has served me exceedingly well and never caused me a single problem. Review on this to come soon.
There is the odd occasion that I want to slot my helmet into the top pouch and the zip is just a tad too small, so it has to go inside the main bag or tie to the exterior, but this is a minor point.
The fit of this bag is really very good. The Talon waist-band fits me really well, sitting on my hips and going tight enough to not jiggle around and rub. There is sufficient padding, but not too much that would add to the weight. The shoulder straps also sit perfectly, so I rarely get rubbed shoulders.The bottom of the bag sports a series of clips, which allow you to tie your sleeping bag or sleep mat underneath. If you’re running short of space this is a really useful function.
When the pack is very full I struggle with the weight and balance. Being so small and relatively light I think this is always going to be a problem. Keeping the heaviest items close to my hips towards my body seems to have minimised my overbalancing act! The fact that the front pocket is so easily stuffable may bring the centre of gravity farther back than with other packs and hence create a little more instability.
I’ve recently started exploring much larger packs for a two-week adventure in the alps and I can see already that I will struggle to have any choice as the standard ‘small’ sizes are just too big in most brands.
Osprey seem to have cornered the market in really well fitting packs for women with exactly the features that you need. They have a ‘women’s small’ sizing on some packs, which I have recently tried and that seems to be a really good fit too. Ultimately women have different sized and shaped bodies to men. A lot of us are much smaller than most men and, as such, the design of packs needs to accommodate that.
This bag went through the wars on Skye – being gabbroed to within an inch of its life. The pockets on the waist belt show some damage, but then each and every other item of clothing I took to Skye bears the scars of the horrifically abrasive rock. I’ve used some gaffa tape to repair the worn areas and that seems to be holding up well.
The other area of the bag that took wear and tear is the chest strap. Having pinged off during a Scottish Winter adventure, I tried to get it back on, but was unable to, due to the bunching of material beneath the clasp. In a desperate attempt to get the chest strap working out on the hills I cut the material and slid the clasp back on, only for it to slide off repeatedly. This issue has been resolved with my trusty gaffa tape. The other option, which the Ellis Brigham staff in Bethesda pointed out to me this morning, is to replace the shoulder strap system – Osprey design their bags a bit like the way Dyson design their vacuum cleaners – for replacement of parts rather than replacing the whole thing. I love this idea as it really works with my values in terms of repairing rather than replacing. In alI feel that the pack is holding up very well – I’m happy with the durability.
To sum up this bag I would say it’s a great bag, with lots of features, heaps of functionality, a good design and it has lasted well. I would really recommend it.
If you want to see another review check out:
Osprey does a range of bags – their website is a useful place to start your search: