The first thing that you should know before reading this is that I am an avid rucksack collector. Not in a geeky way, but more of a 'I need one for every occasion' kind of way. I have a small pile of them in the corner of our apartment that my boyfriend despairs of and considers totally unnecessary.
I've used this bag for multi-pitch rock climbing, cragging, walking, alpine climbing, skiing and just wandering around town. It has proved itself to be very versatile and a good all rounder.
Osprey have a very good reputation when it comes to rucksacks and are many people's 'go to' brand. Their bags are always very well made and designed, and the Kestrel is no exception.
|Heading down the Mer de Glace ladders, with rucksac in tow|
The most important thing about a rucksack is that it is comfortable to wear. I really like the back systems on the osprey packs, as they are well ventilated, but haven't resorted to the 'trampoline' style ventilation which I consider to be a complete waste of space. The material that they have used to make the straps is really comfortable, and dosen't wear badly on bare, sweaty skin which is definitely a plus.
|Holding out on a rainy day on Cnicht|
The pack works well when completely full, and also when it has less contents as the compression straps reduce the volume really well. The waist strap also clips back into itself very tidily, something that I find essential when climbing. The bag itself is also quite narrow, so allows for a full range of movement with your arms. For trad climbing, I found that I could happily fit in my personal gear (harness, shoes, helmet etc), two half ropes, a couple of extra layers, lunch and water for the day with no problem for the approach and during the day shrunk down enough to climb VS multi-pitch happily. On the other hand, when not full, it is small enough that you can just use it as a day bag for wandering around town.
|Everything above fitted in with space to spare|
Some people hate a rucksack with accessories, but I don't see what the harm is! The side pockets on this rucksack fit a map or water bottle perfectly and don't eject them without warning when you aren't paying attention. The big front stretch pocket is great for stashing layers when you can't be bothered going down into the main body, as you know that you will want your jumper/coat/t-shirt again when it stops being warm/starts raining, or the sun disappears.
|Outside pocket stuffed with a jumper, axe and walking pole stored down the side|
The bag itself seems fairly waterproof even before you bring in the rain cover, and is also made out of good durable material. Be careful about putting pointy things (Ice axe, walking poles) inside the side pockets, as they don't seem to be quite so harwearing.
|Thats an ice axe and a whole baguette in the side straps this time!|
On other small notes, for those people like me who think that a 38l pack doesn't need a sleeping bag compartment, it folds away nicely and you can forget it exists. For those who like it, the zips work fine and are accessible, but not too intrusive!
The 'stow-on-the-go' walking pole holder works well, however you definitely need to remember to collapse your poles first!
Overall, I think this is a great all round versatile bag. You can climb, ski, walk and put your swimming stuff in it for a quick trip out. For someone looking for something that does a bit of everything, this is probably what you are looking for!
More serious mountaineers might want to check out the Osprey Mutant rucksack:
It is a little more streamlined for climbing with, and operates on a 'function only' basis, also thoroughly reccomended!