I originally picked up the Osprey Talon 33 to go mountaineering. Although there were more specific mountaineering packs in the shop, I wanted something that would work for other activities too. I had already a few more technical packs but too small for the weekend I was planning. After looking at and trying different models from brands like Lowe Alpine, Black Diamond and Gregory, the Osprey Talon seemed to check all my boxes for light mountaineering.
Apart from the features of the pack, like ice-axe attachment and pockets, what you want to look at is the durability of the fabric and the maximum load it can carry. On paper, the Talon is certainly at a disadvantage. Its nylon ripstop fabric is lightweight (70×100 denier) and will not be suited for rocky climbings and more intense mountaineering trips.
If you are a newcomer to the discipline however, and want to explore different activities like summer alpine climbing, simple ice climbing and glacier approaches, durability is not what will hold you down at first.
The upside of the Osprey Talon compared to more mountaineering dedicated packs is its weight, 890g (1 lb 15.5 oz), the bells and whistles of Osprey packs – which I’ll detail after – and its maximum suggested load capacity, 12Kg, which should prove plenty enough for a wide range of activities.
Update: I now have had the Talon for more than two years and my initial comment regarding the strength of fabric proved unfounded. The Osprey Talon 33 has been with me on many outings as well as the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and barely shows any signs of wear. This pack is tougher than it looks.
Osprey Talon 33 from top to bottom
If you’ve had an Osprey pack before, you should be familiar with all the things the Talon can do, because it shares a lot of features with other packs. We reviewed the Osprey Exos 34 for example, which already had a lot of the features the Talon displays today.
The top lid is removable and has an outer pocket big enough for a pair of gloves, snacks, headlamp etc.
On the bottom side, you will find a smaller mesh pocket with a key ring where I usually put spare batteries, phone, car keys and some more snacks.
The lid closes over the top loading main compartment. It has no dividers or sections and will fit about 30L worth of gear. I found this capacity perfect for my use: 2-days trips sleeping in cabins. If you are planning on bringing a sleeping system and a shelter this is likely too small. With the Osprey Talon 33, I can fit an ultralight down jacket (Rab Alpine Microlight), a hardshell jacket (Patagonia Mixed Guide hoody) and trousers, spare socks and base layers, avalanche safety equipment, some food for the day, water, crampons, two ice-axes, a pair of trekking poles, a rope, 2 pairs of gloves, emergency pharmacy, headlamp, spare batteries and smartphone.
The Talon is a frameless pack but will stay upright thanks to its AirScape backpanel. The full length of the foam is carved-out in the middle to let air circulate and the rest features horizontal ridges covered in mesh. This is obviously useless when you are going up a gullet, with three layers on top of you. I’ve also tried the pack on a summer day hiking, with just a shirt on and found the AirScape system equally useless at keeping my back dry. Not a deal breaker at all for me, with all the marketing speech brands can come up with, the perspective of a dry back when wearing a backpack is just utopia. And that’s fine, sweating is natural, just leave with it.
Another interesting feature in the back panel is the bladder compartment. This one is not inside the pack but placed between the foam back panel and the main compartment. You don’t have to open the lid and the main compartment to refill your bladder which I find very convenient. There is also a small strap at the top to hold the bladder upright.
The shoulder straps are also made of mesh-covered foam and have cut out sections to make them lighter and more breathable. They have elasticated hoops to hold hydration tubes. I generally use a 3L Camelbak bladder with the insulated tube and the hoops work as expected. The left strap also features a small mesh pocket, perfect for a phone, GPS unit or sun glasses. I like this pocket a lot. Just underneath it is one of the hoops for the Stow-on-the-Go pole storage system which I’ll detail a bit further down. The shoulder straps can be adjusted at the top and bottom like many packs. The Osprey Talon 33 can also be adjusted for torso length. The shoulder harness can be pulled up and down once unscratched to get a perfect fit. The sternum belt can also be adjusted up and down.
The hip belt is also foam and mesh, like the shoulder straps, and has two very convenient pockets for storing small snacks or a headlamp. It can be tightly adjusted and holds well in place for hours of uninterrupted hiking.
I found the Talon to be comfortable enough for a long day in summer at up to 8kg. Above that the belt and straps start to really dig into your flesh. In winter, with the different layers on, it is much better. With all the adjustments I think anyone should be able to adjust the Osprey Talon 33 just right. It is worth spending time getting familiar with all the adjustments before the first try.
The front of the pack has a large mesh pocket with a strap-and-buckle system that provides some compression. I’ve used it a lot for storing either wet closing and when going mountaineering, the avalanche safety equipment (shovel and probe). It is super useful for storing anything you might need again later on.
You will also find the two ice-axe attachments (two loops at the bottom and elasticated cords at the top). They are rather basic but work as expected and I never felt I needed something fancier. On the bottom left side is also the other hoop of the Stow-on-the-Go system. This is a feature you will find on many Osprey packs. And I love it. You just pass the tip of the poles through the bottom hoop, them the handles through the hoop on the shoulder strap and fasten this last one. It really takes 10 seconds to do and with some
You just pass the tip of the poles through the bottom hoop, then the handles through the elastic on the shoulder strap and fasten it. It really takes 10 seconds to do and with some practice, you don’t even have to slow down or watch what you are doing. It’s a great feature for hikers. The placement of the poles did prove to be problematic when mountaineering and I generally stowed the poles using one of the ice-axe attachments.
On the side of the pack are two more powermesh pocket which will fit a 1L Sigg-type bottle. They also feature the InsideOut compression straps system. A fancy name that means the straps can be placed inside or outside of the mesh pocket depending on the situation. I haven’t found a case where I wanted the strap on the outside though, because it then makes it difficult to grab anything inside the pocket.
One thing I found missing on the Osprey Talon 33 is a built in rain cover. The pack is not waterproof and for the price I think they could add a rain cover and maybe a small dedicated pocket for it.
The Osprey Talon 33 proved to be a great backpack for short weekend trips. It is not as abrasion resistant as packs built just for mountaineering nor does it have the easiest to use ice-axe attachments. It is however incredibly versatile, well made and light enough without sacrificing too much in terms of features. If you are looking for a roomy backpack for light mountaineering but also hiking in the summer, I have no problems recommending it.
Update: We’ve also taken the Osprey Talon 33 as our main pack for 8-days Lemosho route on Kilimanjaro. With porters helping with the load, you only need your water, snacks and layers with you, and the Talon was a perfect size to carry everything comfortably.