Osprey Kestrel 38 Review: Reason to/NOT Buy, Tested And Reviewed in 2018

After using the Kestrel 38 for a pretty long time now, I think it is time to present you with some thoughts. That backpack followed me to some pretty tough hikes in Israeli trails and did a fantastic job. As everything good in life, it does to feature its own disadvantaged, which I will present later on. Welcome to my Osprey Kestrel 38 Review!

In this article, I will be talking about the Kestrel 38 advantages which are its structure, functions, weight and some extra little touches. After that, I will mention a few things I think could have done better, but not necessarily disqualify that backpack from purchasing.  

What I Liked


Padded Meshed Back Panel

Personally, on long hikes, my back usually gets soaked with sweat. At the beginning I thought that was the Israeli hot weather, yet, the same thing happened to me in Europe.

One of the things I liked about the Kestrel 38 was its breathable back panel. My shirts still got wet, but they were drying much faster with the backpack meshed panel.

That turned my hikes so more refreshing comparing the previous packs that I had — the mesh sort of keeps a thin space between your back and the backpack itself, providing consistent air flow.

Besides, the panel is greatly padded, which kept my back in good condition even at the end of a long hiking day.

Great Shoulder Harness

Another worth mentioning feature is the Osprey Kestrel 38 shoulder harness. I liked that one in particular due to its adjusting mechanism.

The pack allows you to slide the harness up and down according to your body height.

That function gave me a sort of solid feeling like the backpack was apart of my body. Moreover, these straps were carefully designed with a breathable mesh with foam padding.

That kept my backpack tightened to my shoulders, nevertheless, kept the exact airflow and breathability as the back panel did.

During my hikes with bad backpacks, I came to realize how vital the shoulder straps were, and that particular pack has done a fantastic job.

Hip Belt

A hip belt surely does make a difference – it sort of changes weight distribution in a way your back does less effort than without it.

While I was hiking with the Kestrel 38, I felt a difference in weight distribution comparing to previous packs. It was like my hips supported the backpack from beneath, like it had a platform to sit on, turning it way less bulky.

Another thing I liked about this belt were its pockets. I no longer needed to keep my wallet and energy bars in my pants as I did before.

That would surely make a difference since you don’t have to take down the entire pack to pull out small things.

Stow-on-the-Go Trekking Pole Attachment

I remember struggling with my trekking and tent poles on previous packs. Sometimes I had to improvise with the compression straps, while in other cases I just put the poles inside the bag itself.

But the Kestrel brought something different. It features a unique pole attachment system so you can take them off and on easily while hiking.

I haven’t used that feature for my hiking poles. Although, it was able to hold my tent poles impressively. I wouldn’t say its a must have featured in a pack, but it surely is a nice touch.

Hydration Compatible

No more bottles, no more hydration system struggling. That pack structure answered a question I had for so long.

The bladder has to be bought separately, although it is placed in a special compartment between the back panel and the pack itself.

That means you don’t have to take your gear out while refilling. That may sound insignificant, but trust me it is.

When you are exhausted of a long hiking day, each small detail counts. Buy a hydration bladder, even in cold weather walks – that I would highly recommend.

Side Zipper

Remember these times you had to dig everything out to get to the pack’s bottom? I can’t even remember a single hike I didn’t have to do so.

Well, no more!

Osprey came with an answer and brought us the magic side zipper.

That is so simple, yet so highly beneficial. That zipper is accessed from the pack sides, allowing you to take out buried stuff while maintaining organization.

Separated Sleeping Bag Compartment

When it comes to sleeping bags, I will admit to you – I am lazy.

There is always this annoying cover you just can’t roll your sleeping bag into. That issue gets more severe in the mornings when you are too tired for these sort of stuff.

Honestly, not once I have just pushed the bag as it in my backpack. That, apparently, caused a huge mess and wasn’t optimal.

However, the Kestrel 38 made my lazy life more comfortable, since it features a special compartment for sleeping bags!

For those among you who roll their bags tightly each morning, that feature would be great as well.

It is just a great way to keep everything at its place. It is also important to mention that the separation between this compartment and the main is removable, so it is entirely up to your preference.


The first high hill you climb teaches you significantly on backpack weight significance. For those of you who are just starting, that would sound exaggerated – but trust me on this.

Every single pound is felt on hill climbing or long distance hiking. You are going to be able to tell the difference between 10 and 9 pounds easily.

That is why it was imperative for me to pick a lightweight backpack.

Well, the Kestrel 38 did answer that, with its weight being only 3 pounds. That is an impressive feature, considering its capacity and amount of compartments.

Some Extra Touches

Rain Cover

Well, its fabric itself is not entirely waterproof, which is a downside in my opinion. Nevertheless, Osprey did bring a solution for that.

At the very bottom of the pack, you will find a built-in rain cover nylon. This one is adjusted to the pack’s size and would stretch all the way to seal it entirely.

Large Stretchy Front & Side Pockets

As a result of my growing up in a warm climate, I am used to carrying large water bottles on my hikes.

That is not necessary with the hydration system that pack allows you, although it never hurts to have extra room.

The Kestrel’s stretchy large side and front pockets provide excellent storage for sunglasses, bottles, sunscreen, energy food, dried fruits and so on.

Emergency Whistle

Remember that annoying whistle everyone keeps on telling you about, but when you finally get it you lose it somewhere?

Well, I surely do. Once I lost it, I knew I would never get a new one.

But surprise-surprise, the Kestrel 38 does come with one attached to its shoulder straps. So what the hell, it is never wrong to get a little extra cautious.

Efficient Hood Cover

I loved how Osprey put some thought in a small detail like this. The backpack hood usually covers the top of your pack, with little function in it.

In that particular pack, the hood itself features storage pockets. That was a perfect spot for my sunscreen and my GoPro camera.

For you, it might be an excellent place for documents or snacks. Honestly, everything that is small and gotta be reached often would fit there perfectly.

If that is not enough, you may also find a meshed pocket within the internal side of the hood for extra storage.

What I Didn’t Like

Lack of Water Resistance

Unfortunately, the Kestrel 38 is not waterproof. With today’s technology, and with Osprey being one of the most known brands, that was a bit disappointing.

There is, as I mentioned, a built-in rain cover. However, that itself cannot be compared to water-resistant fabric.

Hard-To-Reach Side Pockets

The water bottles on its side are hard to grab while hiking. There is indeed a hydration system featured in this backpack, but that wouldn’t fit everyone.

Some of you might prefer to stick with water bottles, or maybe you don’t own a hydration bladder.

Putting down your backpack each time for drinking may be frustrating, as well as holding your bottle all way long.

A Bit Too Tight

While the shoulder straps being adjustable, I still had the feeling that pack would fit better smaller people.

It is hard to explain, but other packs I have used felt looser on the upper part.

If you have broad shoulders or extremely tall, you might want to try this pack upfront at the store before ordering online.

Frequently Asked

  • Q: How to clean the Osprey Kestrel 38 backpack?
  • A: Empty the backpack, then prepare a hot bathtub or a large sink with warm water. Take a sponge or a soft brush and clean off the dirt with a mild soap. After that, you may rinse the Kestrel 38 with water, so no soap is left, and hang it up to dry. Make sure you drain the pack in an open ventilated area with no direct sunlight, that would damage the pack color.

  • Q: How to secure the backpack?
  • A: There are two main ways to accomplish this – for both you may have to buy a lock. If you want to secure one single compartment, which may contain your expensive stuff, you may lock its zippers buy bringing them close together. If you would like to secure the whole pack, you may need to buy a cover bag separately and put the entire package into it. Then you can lock the outer container so your inner backpack is secured.

  • Q: How to adjust the Kestrel 38?
  • A: Luckily, the pack features adjustable shoulder harness. To use it, take if the velcro on the upper part and slide the system up or down, according to your preference. Remember, the pack shouldn’t be too low, that may cause back pains in the future. When you are down, you may tighten the harness with the upper and lower compression straps.

  • Q: How to use the Osprey Kestrel 38 hydration system?
  • A: To do so, you first have to buy a hydration bladder separately. Once you’ve got it, fill it up with cold water at home or from a tap along the road. Open the pack hydration compartment and put the bladder in it. Its tube should come out from the upper of the compartment, sliding down the shoulder straps through the elastic loops.

  • Q: What if I don’t want a separated sleeping bag compartment?
  • A: Some of you might prefer a long single compartment over two separate ones – that may allow you to store items which are more prominent and occupy more space. Well, that makes perfect sense, and the Kestrel 38 is prepared for it. The septum between the two compartments is removable so that you may take it out anytime you are not using it. Nevertheless, make sure it does not get lost because a new one would be tough to get.

  •  Q: Can I use the Kestrel 38 as a carry-on?
  • A: The Kestrel 38 features the perfect size for a carry-on and would fit inside over-head cabins easily. That would let you skip the check-in and reclaim, saving you a lot of time and money. However, it is still recommended to check the airline’s allowance on that matter. When it comes to undersea carry-on, that would be tricker with the 38’s, for its frame being a bit high.


In summary, I was delighted with the Osprey Kestrel 38. There is no doubt you are getting the highest quality when you choose Osprey, and the Kestrel did a fantastic job regarding structure and functionality.

I highly recommend you get one, especially if you are planning on a backpack for the long haul. This one would serve you perfectly for camping and day hikes around the city.

I hope the review helped you in the decision making process! Let me know your questions or hesitations by leaving a comment below!

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