Osprey Kestrel 48L Backpack Review – For Travel

Osprey Kestrel 48 Liter Backpack

The pretty picture of the Kestrel 48, not my pack.



I have only had this pack for about 8 months, but for 6 months I’ve used it every day while traveling, and I have gotten to know it very well.  Each nook and cranny of the pack, its comfort, style, durability, and many uses have become apparent to me in this time.

I’m writing this review for the Osprey Kestrel 48L backpack from the perspective of a travel backpacker(in this review I’ll differentiate between a travel backpacker and a hiker/hiking and camping backpacker), so it won’t be too specific about its functions as a daypack for hikes or a multi-day pack, but of course I’ll touch on it, for the pack is created for this particular type of use.  If you are interested in a more in depth look at the pack for its uses for hikes and outdoor backpacking trips you can check out this review.

Osprey is a brand dedicated to quality packs for hiking, camping, climbing, biking, and traveling.  Founded in 1974 they have been keeping their products up to date with modern technology in design, fabric, and the needs of modern users as well.  The Osprey Kestrel series utilizes Ospreys knowledge of the needs of modern backpackers to create an intuitive, functional and comfortable backpack.  The Kestrel is considered a multi-use pack, and its versatility is a great aid in travel.

I was looking for the perfect travel backpacking pack…

While searching in my local store, I ignorantly tried on packs up to 70L in size, not knowing what I would need for my type of a trip.  Planning on mostly hostelling and couch surfing, I didn’t need a large pack with extra room for a sleeping bag, tent, water filters, and all the other accessories I might need to take with me if I were going to be hiking and camping.  I was directed towards backpacks more appropriately sized – under 50L.  If you are thinking of using the Kestrel 48 on hikes and for camping, you may want to consider going the size up to the 58, although, the 48L could be used, it may be more suited to just a day hike or a one night overnight.  A friend of mine used the 58L, kept all of his camping gear, including travel gear, and the size seemed perfect with a bit to spare.

When searching for your own pack for a travel backpacking trip, you will want to consider:

  • Size and Weight
  • Compartments
  • Comfort
  • Durability

In each category there may be additional things to consider that we will go over.


Osprey Kestrel 48 Liter Backpack

Front view of my pack

For travel backpackers, with starting off with similar plans to myself, the size of the Kestrel 48 is perfect.  I have observed many backpackers in hostels using packs between 60 and 70 liters, and though for some this may be necessary, if you’d like to pack on the lighter side, which I recommend, fitting everything into this pack is no problem.  At the moment in my pack, I have enough clothes to last me about 4 or 5 days without a wash, all of my toiletries, a pair of boots, another pair of shoes, an umbrella, netbook, some books, and I certainly have enough room to fit a travel sleeping bag and tent (one strapped to the outside) if I chose to add them.

If you are a ultra light packer, than they even make this pack in a 38L size.  I can surely fit everything I have into that size pack, but, it would be a bit tight, and it’s better to have a little extra room.  When choosing the right size for you, aim to have a bit of extra room in your pack, it will allow for optimal comfort, as well as extra breathing room and flexibility when packing or taking home gifts and souvenirs.

The Kestrel 48L weighs a reasonably light, 3lb 5oz for the small/medium and 3lb 8oz for the medium/large bag.

Can this backpack fly?

You’re in luck if you’re considering this pack for a trip where you’ll have to take a flight.  I have carried this backpack on a few flights so far with no issue at all – of course different airlines have different standards, but even on the tightest you should be ok.  With the Osprey Kestrel 48 liter or lower you can take your pack on without being nervous about paying extra to check a bag or lose your luggage.  If you intend to backpack without a tent and camping gear, challenge yourself to take as few things as possible so that they can all fit into a carry on!

You’ll thank yourself in the end.


Osprey Kestrel 48 Liter Backpack

Osprey Kestrel 48L Side View

Luckily, you won’t feel cheated when it comes to different pockets, inside and out there are many compartments of all sizes and shapes to utilize on your trip.  All in all, there are 13 different compartments on the bag to keep you organized.  The bag is top loading.  The top flips open, and a pull string holds everything in place in side.  Loosen the pull string and you have a wide open mouth to load everything into your bag.  This allows you to easily fill and organize your main compartment.  Generally, I do not use it for loading, but, to easily access anything on the bottom of your bag, there is a large zipper which reveals anything in the bottom of your bag.  Often I keep my hiking boots and my sleeping bag liner at the bottom for quick access.  Technically, this bottom zippered compartment is considered a “sleeping bag compartment”, yet it leads directly into the main part of the bag, it can be used this way as well.

Large open mouth for top loading!

Large open mouth for top loading!

Top view, closed, with a view of the inside mesh pocket!

Top view, closed, with a view of the inside mesh pocket

The flip open top, head of the bag, is completely optimized.  A friend of mine commented how much he wished he had outside pockets like mine, his Deuter had none, and this Osprey bag as two large pockets on the outside and one on the inside.  The pockets are about 9inX9in, and you can easily slip in items, and could be useful for anything from writing utensils, books and note pads, a compass, first aid kit, or anything else you may want to access quickly.  On the inside of the head, there is one mesh, zippered pocket, of equal size which for me is one of the most useful on the bag.  It is well protected, and simply undo the compression straps and you find staring up at you under the head of the bag.  I use this one for small items I need regularly – my medicines, small electronics, and utility knife.

On each side of the bag are long lengthwise pocket which can fit some large items and accessories that you don’t put in the main compartment.  I slip in shoes and my umbrella to keep them separate from everything else, but are a good size and can be used for many things.  The only drawback is that the pockets take up room from the main compartment, so if you have something bulging out of the main compartment, you’ll have a bit more trouble getting items to fit.

There are 3 elastic mesh compartments on the outside, two for water bottles on either side of the bag, and one on the front which can be used to store a jacket or sweatshirt incase of rain.  Sometimes I throw snacks in one of the water bottle pockets or the front elastic pocket as well.  A full baguette works well right here and for 80 cents it will last you for a full day of walking around Paris!

Some smart additions to this bag are two pockets on the hip belt.  Two zippered pockets on the waist belt make for easy access to small snacks, a watch, camera or cell phone, and what I use them for most is loose change.  The last compartment is a zippered pocket which leads behind the large mesh pocket on the front and contains a rain cover which comes with the bag.  Small items can fit I there if necessary, but it probably won’t be.

What’s missing?

What I’ve seen on a lot of bags, and what one could use on this bag is a lengthwise zipper for front loading.  For this size, the 48 Liter bag, you may not really NEED an extra zipper to load it on the front of the pack.  But, depending on the type of packing you’ll be doing, this could be useful.  It’s the easiest way to view the contents in your pack and have access to just an item or two without having to take everything out of the top.  But, because this has a top and bottom loading zipper, and because the bag is not so large, it is not completely necessary.

Packing Tip:

I pack my bag using Ziplock bags to organize everything; separating my shirts and pants, socks and underwear, outerwear, toiletries, etc. I can easily take everything out and place it back in without having to unfold everything and fold it back up, or dig through 25 separate items.  I have about 5 bags which contain everything in my main compartment – a method I highly recommend using for organization, and also helps for water and spill proofing.  Don’t worry about a suntan lotion explosion!

Everything I keep in my backpack 1

Everything I keep in my backpack 1

Everything I keep in my backpack 2

Everything I keep in my backpack 2


Everyone will tell you to go to the store and try out the bags and see what fits you the best and works well for your body and blah, blah, blah.  And although I agree that it’s a smart idea to head to the store and try it all out, even walking around the store with 30 Kilogram weights won’t really tell you whether or not the pack will fit you perfectly, but, this is only my opinion of course.   I believe it could take walking around with your pack for many hours over the course of many days to get a feel for how to maximize its options for comfort.  As far as I can tell, most modern packs have the accessories you need to stay comfortable, just check before you buy.  This pack is no exception.

When searching for comfort be sure your pack has:

  • Padded Adjustable Shoulder Straps
  • A Padded Adjustable Hip Belt
  • Adjustable Torso
  • Sternum Strap
  • Breathable and Padded Back
  • A Frame – I Prefer an Internal Frame

The Osprey Kestrel 48 has all of these options, and this allows you to adjust the bag for your body type.  It takes time to learn how to wear the pack, so take the time with the Kestrel 48 to get it as comfortable as possible.  After walking for an hour you may notice the need to adjust – do so, test it out and readjust as necessary.  With all of these options, I think you will always find a comfortable position for yourself.  Just be sure to purchase the correct size bag for you – Small/Medium or Medium/Large.  The breathable, Airscape mesh back is very comfortable and padded greatly, with excellent ventilation and an internal frame.  I often find the comfort to be superior.  Sometimes, after long walks I do find it to be a bit much, the weight begins to feel heavier and heavier, but generally I can go many hours with short breaks in between and have no issues with this bag.


The Kestrel Series uses 420D Nylon Packcloth, and 210 Double Diamond Nylon cloth for the pack.   As previously mentioned, for the rain there is an integrated rain cover, bright red so you will have no problem also being seen through the rain and at night.  I can attest to the durability of this bag, over 6 months it has been loaded with weight, carried, tossed, shoved, and thrown without a scratch.  Scratches, however, were produced at some point though, and even though I can’t compare this experience with any other bag, I think this Osprey bag handled it quite well!

What happened you ask?

I’ll tell you – it fell off a moving bus, and rolled down a windy highway, going from Croatia to Hungary at 70Km/hr.  Maybe it even got nicked by a tire on the way down, but I’m not really sure.  All I know is a bus behind us picked up my bag and all of my things were still safe and sound, including my laptop, inside and out.  I even had a bottle of Nutella(yumm) strapped to the outside and even that didn’t fall out of the external water bottle elastic pocket.  The material did give to a few scratches and small tears that I fixed with a quick sow job.  None of the smaller holes that I couldn’t really sow have grown in size, not even a little bit, after a few more months of wear, something I am extremely grateful for.

Overall, I would have to say that the durability of this bag is high.  The material is strong, and besides this issue, I’ve never had any problems with the bag.  The reverse straight jacket compression straps help to keep everything inside tight and secure.


Security may be another category to consider when looking over a bag.  The Kestrel 48 lacks lockable zippers, so in this way you cannot really lock your bag.  Also with multiple entry points this doesn’t make it exactly the most secure bag.  If this is a concern for you, you may want to consider picking up a lockable duffel bag which they make that you can fit this bag inside of.  This is a common solution as most bags on the market are not lockable the way suit cases often are.


As you can tell, I’m a bit attached.  We always sleep in the same room; usually, she’s only inches away.  Six months together and I think many more.  The bag has many features to make backpacking comfortable and organized.  It is built to last, and if you need it, there is a Lifetime Warrantee(when I get home I might send mine in for a few free repairs), so even if you encounter an issue, Osprey is there for you.

Hope this helps anyone interested in the pack if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask!



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