The Osprey Kestrel 28 daypack is ideally sized for multi-sport activities including day hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. It has ample internal and external storage providing great flexibility and an adjustable frame, making it ideal for newer hikers who don’t have the experience required to properly size a backpack with a fixed-length torso.
Specs at a Glance
- Size M/L Tested
- Capacity: 28L/1709 cubic inches
- Weight 2 pounds 11 ounces
- Dimensions (inches): 28 x 13 x 12
- Recommended load: 25-35 pounds
- Torso Length: 19″ / 48.5cm
- Hip Belt Size: > 32″ / 81cm
- Fabrics: 420D nylon packcloth and 210 double diamond nylon
Frame and Suspension
The Kestrel uses Osprey’s adjustable Airscape frame and suspension system. This includes a ridge molded foam backpanel covered in mesh, providing good ventilation and a-close-to-your-back fit and superior lateral control.
An adjustable torso yoke system is connected to the shoulder straps and slides up and down in the space behind the back pad. The yoke is a tongue-shaped piece of nylon with strips of velcro along its sides that attach to velcro located on the rear of the back pad. This allows the height of the shoulder straps to be raised or lowered depending on your torso length. See the winged symbols (above) which are used to measure additional torso length.
Once set, the adjustable torso does not budge – amazing the holding power of velcro! However, when adjusting the torso length, care should be taken to make sure that the shoulders are set at a level height for maximum comfort.
In terms of capacity, the Kestrel 28 is a good size for carrying the 10 Essentials with plenty of room for food, water, and the comfort extras you like to bring along on a hike. Most daypacks are sized in the 20-liter to 30-liter range for this purpose.
The Kestrel 28 has 3 external mesh pockets for stowing all the gear you need fast access to during a hike or drying out wet gear separately from dry stuff. Personally, I always pack snacks, water bottles, my rain gear, and map in such external pockets so I don’t have to dig around for them in the main body of the pack when I stop for a quick break. All the other stuff I bring along that I’m likely to not need, goes into the main compartment, out of the way.
In addition to the mesh pockets, the Kestrel 28 also has a top lid with a zippered pocket, that covers the drawstring closure of the main compartment. It’s not huge, but large enough to carry your keys, wallet, and items that you want to know are secure. There’s also a mesh pocket under the lid for additional storage.
If you prefer to carry a hydration bladder instead of water bottles, it can be inserted in a space between the main body of the pack and the back of the shoulder harness (as shown above). This makes it easy to pull out when it’s empty, but is still a challenge to reinsert if your pack is full. Storing a full hydration bladder in this location also has a tendency to create a bulge behind your shoulders, which I find uncomfortable -another reason why I prefer to carry water bottles on the sides of a pack in mesh pockets.
The Kestrel 28 comes with a number of additional features that provide excellent value for a pack in its price range. These include:
- Dual ice axe loops with elastic keeper straps for ice climbing
- Two tiers of side compression straps for securing additional gear to the sides of the pack.
- Integrated rain cover, hidden away in a rain cover pocket.
- Extra tie out points on the rear of the mesh pocket to strap more gear to the back of your pack
- Ergo Pull hip belt system providing excellent hip support when properly fitted over your hip bones.
The Osprey Kestrel 28 is an excellent daypack that has the capacity and flexibility to support many different kinds of all-season backcountry adventures. Though small in size, this pack is loaded with the same features that you find on larger overnight and expedition backpacks, like the venerable Kestrel 48 and Kestrel 38 from the same Osprey pack family. The only issue I have with the Kestrel 28 is the size of the hip belt which is too short (even in a size M/L) for anyone with a waist-size over 38″. Otherwise, the adjustability of the torso length on this pack is a huge value-add at such a low price point, making this a great pack for the money.
Disclosure: Osprey provided the author with a backpack for this review.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
Nice review. I picked up the Osprey Kestrel 38 this past fall myself, which ended up being the perfect size for winter dayhikes for me (stuffed to the gills though!). I’ve used it this summer for an overnight backpack, which it did great with too. I had it loaded up in the 30 pound range I’d say for that weekend and it carried fine the whole time, no problems there. It’s overkill for summer dayhikes, but actually compresses down very nicely, and thus carries fine. I imagine the 28L version is perfect for summer hikes (especially if, like me, you carry a bit more than is probably needed all the time).
The hip pockets are a little small, but large enough for my P&S camera. The series of tie-out points work great for strapping just about anything to the pack (snowshoes had a lot of free rides there this winter). Looks like the 28 doesn’t have the sleeping pad clips on the bottom, which for a daypack is not a big deal, but are on the 38L for those that want them.
My only major complaint is the top pocket. It sits a little weird depending on how much is in the main compartment, and can be a little hard to get into. That said, I appreciate it having a clip for the car keys, I know they can’t fall out on me!
I could see how overstuffing could make the top pocket on the 38L size sit awkwardly, but it wasn’t something I experienced on the 28 and I filled it pretty good.
I’m planning on getting a Kestrel-38 S/M – just wondering if I could fit my 15″ laptop into it?
Why don’t you call the manufacturer and ask?
My husband and I both have (and love) this pack. I agree with Matt the the top pocket can be a little bit weird but I can’t get over how comfortable this pack is even when it’s full and heavy. By far the most comfortable pack I’ve ever owned. And besides our outdoor adventures, it
was also a great pick for touring around Ireland and fit well into the overhead compartment on the plane.
Great review, thanks for sharing.
“Hip belt pockets are too small and set too far back”
this is the same problem I had with Osprey Hornet 24
130 bucks is a good deal for a daypack? I can’t think of too many reasonable options which are more expensive, and plenty of good/better ones which are simpler and less than half the cost.
That’s MSRP- you can get them for $80-$100 without sweating much.
So which packs with adjustable torso lengths are you referring to?
I’m looking at getting the kestrel 28, but my torso size seems to be right in the middle at 19″ and my waist is 32″. Based on your experience with this pack would you recommend the S/M or go the M/L? Thanks in advance
I’ve not used the 28. Call osprey support and ask. They are very helpful and truthful.
I love my Osprey Kestral 68, don’t know it they make it anymore I guess it would this packs bigger brother..I’m looking for a new daypack to replace my old LLBean pack so I’ll take a look at this one.
Hi, I’m looking for a day pack to use while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – would this be suitable? Can you recommend a better option? Thanks in advance!
– I forgot to mention, I’ll be attempting to carry a dslr in the day pack (if this is feasible) as well as the few daily essentials required of trekkers. Porters carry the bulk of equipment required. Ta!
I’m sure the experts at REI would be happy to help you
Hi, I am looking at a day pack for bad weather and winter hikes. So it needs to be bigger than my current city/pretty weather day hike pack (talon 22). You have reviewed both the ones I’m looking at. I’m in doubt between the Osprey Variant 37 and Kestrel 38.
What would you prefer? (the difference in money is no point)
I’d get the Variant for winter hikes.
I purchased the Kestrel 32 for winter day hikes and have been very happy with its size and fit. I wanted a panel loading pack for day hikes and this pack has worked out to my satisfaction.