Osprey Talon 33 Backpack Review (2021 model)

Osprey Talon 33 Backpack Review

The Osprey Talon 33 Backpack is a lightweight pack with an adjustable torso length that’s good for extended day hiking, peakbagging, and multi-sport use. Weighing 2 pounds 10 ounces, it can carry a remarkable amount of gear, it has useful pockets, and a body-hugging fit that provides excellent load control for scrambling and fast packing. The women’s version of this pack, called the Osprey Tempest 30 is also available in women’s sizes, with female-specific shoulder straps, and a female-shaped hip belt.

An updated and improved Talon 33 (reviewed here) was introduced by Osprey for 2021. The latest version of this pack improved side compression straps, a more comfortable hip belt with larger enclosed pockets, and tougher fabric for better durability. If you come across a discounted version of the Talon 33, chances are it’s the older model. The new model retails for $160. 

Specs at a Glance

  • Frame type: Internal
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Raincover: Not included.
  • Gender: Men’s (Women’s version is called the Tempest 30)
  • Sizing:
    • M/L (19-23″ torso); (28-50″ waist)
    • S/M (16-20″ torso); (26-45″ waist)
  • Volume:
    • M/L (33L)
    • S/M (31L)
  • Weight:
    • M/L (2 lbs 10 oz) – 2 lbs 9 oz, actual weighed
    • S/M (2lbs. 6.5 oz)
  • Exterior pockets: 9
  • Fabric:
    • Main: 100D x 210D HT Nylon
    • Bottom: 420HD Nylon Packcloth
  • Max Recommended Load: 20 lbs.
  • See Osprey for complete specifications

Internal Storage and Organization

The Talon 33 has nine pockets to keep you well organized
The Talon 33 has nine pockets to keep you well organized

The Talon 33 is a top-loading backpack with a large top lid pocket, including a hidden mesh pocket under the lid w/key fob. It’s a classic Osprey design that’s withstood the test of time, providing convenient access to maps, snacks, and daytime essentials so you don’t have to open the pack’s main compartment to access gear during the day. The top lid is sewn to the back panel and not floating, which I prefer on a pack of this volume because it doesn’t slump down the front of the pack as much when full.

The Talon 33 has a front stretch mesh pocket - shown here with blaze orange vest
The Talon 33 has a front stretch mesh pocket – shown here with blaze orange vest inside.

The pack has a front mesh stuff pocket, good for stashing extra rain or thermal layers that you want quick access to, and two side water bottle pockets faced with stretch mesh that have reinforced fabric panels at the bottom to minimize rips and abrasion.

Water bottles stored in the side pockets are only accessible through the tops of the pockets and are not reachable while the pack is worn. If you prefer using a hydration reservoir (which this pack is really designed for), there is an external hydration pocket and hook located behind the shoulder harness for hanging a water reservoir. It’s not a pocket inside the main pack bag, so it’s easier to pull out the reservoir to refill it, and you don’t have to worry about a leak drowning all of your gear. This is a premium feature for hydration system users.

The Talon 33 has two tiers of side compression straps and mesh water bottle pockets with reinforced bottoms
The Talon 33 has two tiers of side compression straps and mesh water bottle pockets with reinforced bottoms

Osprey also included two large hip belt pockets on the Talon 33, which close with zippers and have solid fabric fronts and top for better durability and protection. I’m impressed by their size, actually. They’re big enough to store a large smartphone, point-and-shoot camera, hats, gloves, and of course snacks. Additionally, there a stretch mesh pocket that closes with a snap on the left shoulder pad but is too small to hold a Smartphone like the iPhone X, a Garmin inReach Explorer+, or a Garmin GPS. It’s really just sized for sunglasses or a snack bar. A missed opportunity, given the popularity of satellite messengers and smartphone navigation apps with hikers.

The hip belt pockets are huge and easy to reach with large pull tabs
The hip belt pockets are huge and easy to reach with large pull tabs

External Attachment and Compression System

The Talon 33 comes with two tiers of adjustable side compression straps that are good for securing items in the side mesh pockets like tent poles or snowshoes for winter hiking. The bottom compression strap can be routed outside the side water bottle pocket or through it, which is handy when you want to compress your load and still carry items in the pocket, like water bottles or a thermos.

The revamped side compression straps make it easier to lash snowshoes to the sides of the Talon 33
The revamped side compression straps make it easier to lash snowshoes to the sides of the Talon 33

The previous version of the Talon 33 (which you can still find heavily discounted) only had a bottom compression strap, which was routed in a Z-pattern making it much harder to use for attaching gear, like snowshoes, to the side of the pack. The two new straps run from back to front without the Z-pattern, so you can wedge stuff underneath them more easily. This works well with shorter 22″ snowshoes, for example, although the straps are still too short if you wear a longer snowshoe like a 25-incher and up.

Osprey’s Stow and Go trekking pole holder system is quite convenient when you need your hands free
Osprey’s Stow and Go trekking pole holder system is quite convenient when you need your hands free

There’s is also a top strap that runs over the drawstring opening of the main compartment that you can pull tight to compress the load from back to front and help counter any back lean. The strap can also be used to hold rope or clothing in place between the bottom of the top lid and the pack bag.

The Talon 33 comes with dual ice ax loops, including elastic shaft holders so you don’t have to cannibalize a compression strap to hold your axes in place. This is a very useful feature for ice climbing, ski mountaineering, and winter hiking above treeline.

Osprey’s “stow and go” trekking pole holder system is also included which lets you tuck your trekking poles along the side of the pack but out of the way when they’re not needed. It consists of two elastic bands: one connected to the shoulder strap and one to the side of the pack that you thread your poles through. For example, when you need your hands free for rock scrambling. You don’t have to take off your backpack to use it or to retrieve your poles when you need them again. I’m surprised that other manufacturers haven’t copied it, because it is the best trekking pole holder system going.

The Airscape frame is covered with suspended mesh that helps keep you cool and dry. The hipbelt is seamless and pre-curved, providing a comfortable fit.
The Airscape frame is covered with suspended mesh that helps keep you cool and dry. The hipbelt is seamless and pre-curved, providing a comfortable fit.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Talon 33 uses Osprey’s Airscape frame which lets you adjust the amount of space between the hip belt and the shoulder straps so it matches your torso length, one of the most critical elements of getting a good fit. The shoulder harness is attached to the back of the pack using velcro, and to adjust it, you simply pull it loose, and move it up or down to match your torso length. Here’s a video from REI that explains how to measure your torso length.

The shoulder straps can be raised or lowered to match your torso length.
The shoulder straps can be raised or lowered to match your torso length.

Unfortunately, the markings on the shoulder harness that indicate torso length aren’t marked in inches or centimeters so you have to fit the pack using feel instead of simply resizing it to your torso length if you already know what it is. Call Osprey Packs Support for help if you don’t know whether you’ve adjusted the pack correctly or not. They are very helpful and having a well-fitted pack makes all the difference.

The Airscape Frame consists of two main components: a rigid u-shaped aluminum frame with rigid cross pieces and an HDPE back pad covered by softer padding and mesh with air channels for ventilation. The pack’s main compartment is anchored to the rigid frame, as are the hip belts and the bottoms of the shoulder straps, providing excellent weight transfer to the hips and load control.

The Talon hip belt is thinly padded as befits a 33-liter low capacity backpack designed for lighter loads. It still provides excellent load transfer since it’s sewn directly to the pack frame, but its lack of “stiffness” limits how heavily you can pack the Talon. I actually prefer a less padded hip belt like this because I feel it wraps around my hip bones better, but it is critical that you get the right hip belt length. (See: How Should a Hip Belt Fit?)

The hip belt and shoulder straps on the Talon 33 are covered with mesh and lightly padded.  The shoulder straps have ample gear loops for hanging electronics or threading a hydration hose, along with a stern strap that can be repositioned higher or lower on a “rail”. The Talon 33 also has load lifters, which are very useful to align the load closer to your torso, especially when heavier gear tends to pull you backward.

Comparable daypacks

Make / ModelSizingRaincoverPriceWomen's Model
Osprey Talon 22Adjustable$130Osprey Tempest 20
Deuter Speed Lite 24Fixed Length$105Deuter Speed Lite 22 SL
Gregory Zulu 30AdjustableIncluded$150Gregory Jade 28
REI Trail 25Fixed LengthIncluded$80REI Trail 25
Deuter Guide Lite 24Fixed Length$130Deuter Guide Lite 22 SL
Osprey Stratos 36AdjustableIncluded$170Osprey Sirrus 36
Mystery Ranch Scree 32Adjustable$189Wms Mystery Ranch Scree 32
Kelty Redwing 36Adjustable$100Wms Kelty Redwing 36
REI Traverse 32Fixed LengthIncluded$139Wms REI Traverse 32
Deuter Trail 30Fixed LengthIncluded$135Deuter Trail 28 SL

Recommendation

The new Osprey Packs Talon 33 Backpack is a fully-featured backpack suitable for everything from technical day hikes to fastpacking and multi-sport trips. An adjustable frame pack with a fully-featured internal frame, it provides a body-hugging fit that provides excellent load transfer to the hips in a lightweight package, an increasingly rare combination in the lightweight and ultralight backpacking category. If you prefer a traditionally styled backpack with a top lid pocket and lots of pockets to stay organized, I recommend you try the Talon 33 backpack. It’s a delight to carry, with all of the conveniences of bigger internal frame packs in a lighter weight package.

Disclosure: Osprey provided the author with a pack for this review. 

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25 comments

  1. I’m going to have to check this out, like I really need another pack, but I do like Osprey and I like fixed top-loaders.

    The one feature I wish it had, that my Deuter Speed Lite 26 & 32 packs have, are front daisy chain webbing. For the small additional cost, I don’t understand why companies have gotten away from putting daisy chains on packs.

    • I think it’s because people don’t know what daisy chains are for. I like them too.
      This is a nice pack. I’ve been doing a lot of hikes with it over the past several weeks.
      It’s reminded me how useful pockets are when the weather gets colder. :-)

  2. I wish I had known this version was imminent. I just bought the older version of the 33 in late October, full price. Oh well. Still a good pack.

    • Maybe they’ll let you trade it in. Can’t hurt to ask. I’d be a little miffed too. Unfortunately, the practice of unannounced upgrades is rampant among pack manufacturers.

  3. Do internal aluminum frames like this one make it tough to get through airport security?

  4. Looks like Osprey has changed the torso length terminology for the Talon from S/M and M/L to S/M and L/XL; and the Tempest from XS/S and S/M to XS/S and M/L. Doesn’t look like it’s reflected everywhere on their site, but those are the size options for the packs now.

  5. Doesn’t look like they’re doing a 44L this time.

    Philip, are the extra 10 ounces worth it? I know you liked the previous two versions.

  6. 10 ounces heavier than previous versions.

    • Of which pack? The new talon 33 is only a few ounces heavier then the previous model. It’s a day pack for crying out loud. Don’t obsess about the extra weight. It’s meaningless.

      • I share the deception with Stumphges. New large Talon 33 is 2.67 lbs, old large Talon 33 2.02 lbs.

        I was waiting for new Talon (44) as my multiday ultralight backpack with good suspension. But if it will be 30% heavier than old version I’ll pick the old one.

    • I’m more than 10 ounces heavier than previous versions…

      • It’s your choice but I really appreciate those revised compression straps. As for an extra few ounces on a day pack!!! You’ve got to be joking. You carry more when you bring in groceries from the car.

      • I use the Talon 33 as a lighter but not ultralight backpack.
        And I’m sure a lot of people do it as well.

        So if those “few ounces” were used to increase the official load carry capacity that would be a good trade off.

        If not, there are lighter packs out there (without going into ultralight)

  7. Will you be reviewing the 2021 Talon 22 as well or can we basically use this review to understand that pack. I just bought this version for a winter daypack.

    • The Talon 22 is a new pack and completely different from this one. It has a U-shaped zipper on top and not a lid. It’s really an urban multi-sport, bike pack to be honest. But yeah, I’ll be reviewing one. This Talon 33 makes a great winter day pack though. Perfect size.

  8. The Talon 33 is an absolute classic for all hikers, ultralight or not, in the UK- it’s probably the bag I see most commonly on the hills here. Oddly, I think that has almost led it to be a bit underappreciated by ultralight hikers looking for something fancy- I know it’s not a super light pack, but it’s so comfortable, widely available, and reasonably priced that I think it makes a great starting point for people wanting to lighten their pack- as they’re likely to already own one. I did a great 3 day hike with one when I left my intended backpack at home, and was pleasantly surprised with how well it did.

  9. Yeah, I have an older version of the 22. The 22 still makes most peoples list as best 3- season daypack, including yours I believe? I love mine just wish the sizing wasn’t a bit small and the tiny hip belt pockets are pretty outdated IMO.

  10. I’m interested in the comment that this has an aluminum u-frame. It’s not mentioned at all on the Osprey website, and I assume this is a significant change from the previous model which had no back rigidity and could easily be folded in half across the back? Is it similar to the Talon 44 integrated aluminum frame?

    If so, this is a great change for this series if it’s applied across the larger sizes (i.e. including the Talon 36), and should make the carry and load transfer more comfortable when carrying heavier loads.

    On another note, do you have any thoughts on the zippered top lid of the Talon 36?

    • I spoke with a Osprey rep today and they seemed pretty certain that the Talon 33 & 36 don’t have an aluminum u-frame/stay (the talon 44 does).

      I guess the info in the article above is probably incorrect then?

      • Sorry I was out. The pack I reviewed had this frame. “The Airscape Frame consists of two main components: a rigid u-shaped aluminum frame with rigid cross pieces and an HDPE back pad covered by softer padding and mesh with air channels for ventilation.” You should make sure they are talking the newest version that came out last year but is labeled 2021. I had this one in front of me….doesn’t sound like they were looking inside theirs.

      • Thanks for the info Philip. It could definitely be the case that they’re not 100% up on their latest pack designs, as working from home makes it difficult for them to have instant access to their full range of packs. Thanks, I’m going to check this out in person.

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