Osprey Kestrel 38 Backpack | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Osprey Kestrel 38 Backpack | Review

Osprey’s classic workhorse pack in a versatile size for big mountain days or overnight camping trips, now with a more sustainable design

If you don’t already have a 35-to-40 litre pack in your quiver, it might be time to think about getting one. Occupying the sweet spot between a large daypack and a small overnight pack, it’s a versatile size that you can use for spur-of-the-moment wild camps or the biggest hill days, including winter adventures when you’re likely to be carrying extra gear and bulkier layers.

Osprey’s Kestrel 38 (or the Kyte for women) is one of our favourite packs in this class. It’s the smallest pack in the well-established Kestrel/Kyte series, which also comes in 48, 58 and 68-litre capacities. But it’s built just as tough as its bigger siblings, with rugged nylon fabrics designed to withstand off-trail hikes and rocky scrambles. In short, it’s a true workhorse pack, ideal if you’re out and about a lot, or just pretty hard on your gear.

And this year’s model is also more eco-friendly than ever. Osprey deserves credit for pursuing maximum sustainability and minimum environmental impact here.


Back in 2022, Osprey’s Talon Earth series of packs were the first to put sustainability front and centre – an initiative that we highlighted in that year’s OM Green Gear Guide.

All the photos in this article show OM editor Will out testing the Kestrel in the Scottish Highlands. Photos: Dave Macfarlane

Since then, the brand has been hard at work rolling out sustainability improvements throughout their entire product range. The AW23 Kestrel pack is a great example. The main body of the pack is now made from bluesign approved, 100% recycled 420D nylon, and finished with a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment made without harmful PFCs. Similarly, the rugged base is made from bluesign approved, 100% recycled 500D high-tenacity nylon, also with a PFC-free DWR.

If you’re not familiar with bluesign approval, this is a sustainable certification that assures consumers that textile products are safe for the environment, workers, and customers. It applies to chemicals, processes, materials, and products, helping manufacturers properly manage chemicals and replace harmful substances with safer alternatives.

Osprey’s overarching approach is to aim to source recycled fabrics and components (from zippers and webbing to labels and thread), aiming to reuse materials rather than using virgin resources as much as possible.

The structure of the Kestrel 38 comes from a 3.5mm LightWire peripheral frame, designed to effectively transfer the load from harness to hipbelt. Meanwhile, a supplementary Atilon (HDPE) framesheet spreads the load across the entire backpanel to the peripheral frame.

When it comes to carrying comfort, the harness and hipbelt are made from padded mesh-covered ridged foam, which allows maximum ventilation while keeping the load close to the body. The mesh has an edgeless design to avoid irritation from stitching seams and offers a soft breathable contact surface.


As you’d expect from an Osprey pack, the Kestrel 38 offers plenty of practical features. Firstly, and arguably most importantly, there is ample on-board storage and a profusion of accessible pockets. It’s a classic top-loading design, so as well as a generous main compartment, you get a top lid with a large, zippered pocket; top panel lash points and an under lid zippered mesh pocket with a secure key clip. That main compartment also incorporates an internal hydration sleeve, fitted with Osprey’s Hydraclip for easier reservoir hanging. The bottom of the pack features a zippered sleeping bag compartment with a floating divider. Externally you also have removable tent/sleeping pad straps. Those features reflect this pack’s versatility – it’s one you could use for overnight camping trips, not just as a large day hiking pack.

The front of the pack has a roomy shove-it pocket with stretch mesh gussets, ideal for stashing wet waterproofs. The front panel also has stitched dual daisy chains, offering configurable lashing points for extra gear.

To cinch in the load, there are dual quick release upper and lower side compression straps. The top set of straps also act as axe/trekking pole holders. Meanwhile, lower webbing loops at the base of the pack keep the sharp ends of such tools securely out of the way.

The hip belt also boasts two zippered pockets, while the shoulder strap incorporates Osprey’s Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment system, providing somewhere to quickly hold your trekking poles while you hop a stile, open a gate or similar.

Otherwise, it has the same mesh-and-foam AirScape back panel as various other packs in the Osprey range, ensuring decent comfort levels and a close, stable but ventilated fit.

Osprey has long paid attention to how packs fit. As such, it actually markets the Kestrel 38 as a men’s pack – the female-specific equivalent is called the Kyte 38. The main differences are in the length of the back panel and the contouring of the shoulder straps – the Kyte is designed to curve and contour comfortably to suit the female body shape. There are also two sizes available in each model, so you can pick the right pack for your torso size, ensuring optimum carrying comfort.

Tester’s Verdict

Will Renwick, editor of Outdoors Magic

I can’t really fault this pack. It’s comfortable, it handles loads well, it has loads of useful details and it’s incredibly versatile. I suppose if I were going to be really picky then I guess I’d say it’s a little on the heavy side, but that’s only looking at it with my ultralight hat on. I’ve tried out the last few iterations of this pack and I’ve liked each one. This latest version isn’t a radical update – all the same useful details are there – but switching to recycled materials is a commendable step by Osprey.

Buy the Osprey Kestrel 38: £190 at Osprey.co.uk 

Osprey Kestrel 38 Backpack

Selected for the Outdoor 100 Winter 23/24
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