Osprey Kestrel 68 review.

Osprey kestrel 68 on SAR Truck tailgate

As a member of Search and Rescue/ mountain rescue UK I need a good backpack. Something that I can carry helmets, rope, clothing, food, emergency equipment in all weather through (I mean through) and over various mixed terrains. I frequently find myself on hilltops, in woodlands, on moorland-generally in rain (living in Cornwall does have benefits honest) and always always wading through head-height brambles and nettles. They will make and leave their mark on you.

For years I’ve been using a Regatta pack. Something I didn’t mind abusing. I had a love/hate relationship with it. It was fantastic in a weird tough reliable way. We had been through a lot together. Alas it was time at last, to surge forward. The Osprey Kestrel 68L  was where I ended up. I looked and looked at packs. Module systems, military. All seemed good but can get expensive and complicated. The Kestrel by Osprey  was around but I ignored it at first, thinking it almost identical to my Atmos-not as good even as it had no AG system. Anyway I re-considered it and decided that perhaps it’s a contender. I looked and summarised, and looked. I procrastinated and procrastinated some more. AFter weeks I decided I liked it. First impressions were that its is simple. Less ‘highly strung’ perhaps. The nylon felt way thicker than the Atmos. Perhaps heavier-but I need, I want something tough. Something thorns and brambles will simply bounce from.

What’s in my pack?

  • 24 hours worth of Longlife food
  • hot drink
  • water
  • helmet
  • goggles
  • harness
  • set of spare clothing
  • warm jacket
  • gloves
  • hat
  • waterproof trousers
  • waterproof shell
  • radio
  • map
  • gps
  • compass
  • glow sticks
  • emergency shelter
  • spare socks
  • spare laces
  • medical gloves
  • first aid kit
  • cascard(medical recording form)
  • Headtorch
  • torch
  • batteries
  • pens
  • map


I’ll be packing this with some sort of ordering. Stuff that isn’t used much will be pushed further down the pack. Stuff that’s always in and out will be near the top/near an opening.

Whilst packing the bag I thought I would try the big “U” opening on their front. In the past front opening bags were a pain to open. The storm flaps would get jammed, there were straps in, through, under and over where you needed to be and all in all they were a massive pain. The Kestrel was refreshing. It had a few clips that could be undone easily. Zips were big and chunky, and smooth. It opened easily, and more importantly it closed easily. I loaded up my bag with loads of gear and simply zipped it all away.

I put the pack on and always considered it a poor mans Atmos (With AG). In wearing it I discovered it was a simpler pack than the AG, not a poor equivalent. I enjoyed/enjoy the simplistic air-speed back, the no nonsense-ness of it, and the feel. It feels secure, it feels trusty. It feels dependable.

Whilst on the move access to the bag-whilst using it is good and simple. I’m pleased to see that Osprey have improved their drawstring opening to the pack. Before, on previous packs it always seemed a little counter-intuitive, but now-not sure what they have done, but the pack closure has been improved ten fold. No longer does it seem like you’re forcing a drawstring through a hole, it feels like the drawstring opens to allow free-movement.

My petzl helmet fits well in the pack with enough elasticisty in the fabric to allow it to squeeze in anywhere.

The pack comes with a built in rain cover, and multiple lashing points all over he pack-this I simply love. If I need to carry extra gear-the bag has load bearing loops designed for carrying more. Ideal.

The top lid-took a while to get accurately set up , so that it closed correctly and covered the opening to the main bag…

Osprey kestrel 68 at SAR base with petzl helmet next to SAR truck

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