Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gear Review: Osprey Talon 44 Backpack

Review of the Osprey Talon 44 backpack

I only got into backpacking a few years ago and have slowly been refining my gear since that time. Many of my early purchases proved to be unwise; too heavy, too bulky, poorly designed, or simply totally unnecessary and never used. The one area where I was either uncharacteristically wise or hit some serious beginner’s luck was in my pack choice. For my needs, I cannot think of single improvement I would make to the Osprey Talon 44 beyond the nit-pickingest of nitpicks. In short, I love this pack. I find the Talon 44 to be a perfect marriage between durable construction and lightweight simplicity; all compromises were made in the right places and not at the expense of comfort, ruggedness, or performance. Let’s go over the basic specs before getting into comfort, performance, and durability:

osprey multiday talon 44 backpacking pack
(These specs apply to the M/L model I own)
Capacity: 44 Liters
Weight: 2 lbs. 5 oz.
Dimensions: 28"x12"x11"
Material(s): Ripstop Nylon
Frame Type: Internal
Frame Material: Aluminum
Type: Toploading
Exterior Pockets: 6

At two and quarter pounds, you can find a lighter pack for the same capacity. That said, I’m more than happy with this pack’s weight, especially given its performance. The main body of this top-loader is constructed with a lightweight but durable ripstop nylon while the bottom of the pack incorporates a thicker, more durable ripstop to withstand the extra abrasion that area receives. The internal frame is a thin, light aluminum rod that traces the perimeter of the pack's back. One area where this pack shines is in the quality of the stretch side pockets and front stuff pouch. The weave of this fabric is tight and durable while still offering enough stretch to be useful. I hold all stretch pockets for any pack to the standard of these, and, frankly, most are lacking in comparison. 44 Liters has proven perfect for most multiday trips. I have not used the Talon for extended trips, but I am confident I could manage at least five days without issue, especially in warmer temperatures. Osprey’s website seems to place the pack’s maxium weight around 40-45 lbs. I have carried as much as 35 lbs. very comfortably.

I’ve found the Talon 44 to be very comfy in terms of ventilation, cushioning, and stability. The straps and hipbelt are well ventilated with just enough padding for the weights I typically carry (20-25 lbs. is my average, thanks to almost 5 lbs. of camera gear.) The back is also well-ventilated with a textured panel lined with mesh. The design does not incorporate a suspended back panel, but the air flow is still excellent. The torso length is adjustable so that you can dial in the pack height with precision. With the hip belt nice and tight, I feel like the weight is well-supported by my hips and well distributed overall. The sternum strap is vertically adjustable as well.

This pack offers a straightforward top-loading design. It does include a sleeping bag “compartment,” which just means it provides a zipper at the bottom of the pack (I never seem to use this.) The pack incorporates a storm collar to allow some overstuffing below the removable lid. The lid also serves as a very spacious pocket, which I use often for snacks, a headlamp, first aid kit, and other items I want to easily access. I already mentioned the excellent stretch pockets on the sides and the large stretch pouch on the front. The side pockets also have a compression strap that can be placed inside or outside of them (I find routing the straps outside to be much better for my uses – keeping the straps inside just seems to hinder sliding anything of any size into the pockets.) I typically use one of the side pockets for my travel camera tripod, and the compression straps work well for that purpose. The hipbelt also has pockets on either side which are big enough for a couple of Clif Bars and offers a convenient place to store a phone (I usually keep my pocket knife and compass in one side and phone in the other.) The straps have a couple of tiny pockets I never use but would store thinner energy bars or other small items. The Talon provides a dedicated water bladder storage area that is well designed; I find shoving a full bladder into a full pack a bit easier than with other packs I’ve used. The base of the Talon provides dual ice axe loops, as well as smaller loops suitable for trekking pole tips, and the top incorporates tension loops on either side of the body to hold trekking poles. The pack also features a unique “Stow-On-The-Go” design that allows one to store their trekking poles on the side of the pack without taking off the pack. I almost never use this feature; though I can see it being useful for others. Lastly, the 44 offers nice, long sleeping pad straps which I appreciate when using my bulky RidgeRest foam pad.

I’ve used this pack on multiple trips over the past couple of years, and I’ve also used it for most car-camping and even some general travel use. While I haven’t outright abused it, I have not babied it, either. The Talon 44 has held up beautifully thus far; I've had no problems. I expect to get plenty more use out of this one.

This is an excellent, durable, smartly-designed multi-day backpacking pack. Extreme ultralighters might prefer something a bit more streamlined and lightweight. For most lightweight backpackers, however, the Talon 44 is definitely worth considering. It is one of my favorite pieces of gear.

(no affilation with this site)
REI for $149; ($149 seems to be the going rate almost everyone sans special sales)

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