I bought the Osprey Talon 44 Hiking Backpack from Amazon about 8 years ago in preparation for my first solo trip. Since then, I have used this backpack for months at a time traveling to almost 60 countries on 6 continents with it. I still travel with the same backpack to this day. It has held up incredibly well. Most people who buy this backpack probably use it for ultralight hiking. This review is written from a traveler’s perspective who also does a bit of hiking. Here’s why I think the Osprey Talon 44 is the best backpack for travel.
This backpack can take a beating. It has survived dozens of journeys strapped to the roof of African buses. Over the years, I have walked thousands of miles with this backpack on my back. It has been thrown around by rough baggage handlers on many flights. I have stuffed it far beyond capacity for months at a time.
So far there is no damage to speak of. Not a single strap or clip has broken. There isn’t a single tear. All of the seams are holding tight. I’m beyond impressed with the beating this thing has endured over the years.
Of course, the backpack doesn’t look like new after 8 years of use. It’s covered in stains from its adventures and it doesn’t smell too pleasant. The only visible wear is an internal lining that has begun to rub off. This is a thin layer of rubbery type material that coats the inside of part of the bag.
I’m not sure of the purpose of the material though I believe it has to do with waterproofing. Other than that, the bag looks great. I have zero complaints as far as durability goes. I plan to continue using this backpack on all future trips.
A Note About Ultralight Backpacks
While hiking backpacks are designed to be durable, ultralight backpacks like the Talon 44 utilize thinner and lighter materials to cut weight. These materials are generally weaker than the thicker materials used on heavier backpacks. Tears and other damage are more common.
When buying an ultralight backpack, there is a bit of a compromise. You have to choose between durability and lightweight. Of course, this is a consideration with all ultralight packs, not just the Talon 44. I try to handle my backpack with care. Even though it can take a beating, I don’t throw it around like I would a heavy canvas bag. As I said earlier though, I have had no problems with this backpack in terms of durability.
The main reason I choose this backpack initially was because it is, roughly, carry-on size for most airlines. The bag measures 26.4” X 11.8” X 13” when it’s completely full. Admittedly, this is slightly over most airline’s carry-on limits of 22” X 9” X 14”. However, if you leave some space, you can easily compress the bag to an acceptable size with the compression straps on the sides and bottom.
Every time I have tried to carry this bag on, I have succeeded. I have even carried this bag on smaller propeller planes and it fit in the overhead bin just fine. One time, the ticketing woman at the gate asked to put the bag in one of those metal frames to test the size. Even though it was slightly over, she waved me by because it was so close. On this occasion, I had the backpack packed completely full.
In my experience, airlines care more about the weight than the size unless your bag is obviously too large. This bag isn’t. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you pack too much weight. If you do, you may have to check it.
In the Talon 44 I can carry:
- Ultralight camping gear- Including my Big Agnes ultralight tent, Kelty Cosmic 20 sleeping bag, Klymit Static V sleeping pad, water filter, and camp stove. I do usually have to strap my tent to the outside.
- Clothes for 3 seasons- Including plenty of t-shirts, socks, underwear, jeans, etc. I don’t usually travel to cold weather destinations, but I could strap a large jacket to the outside of the bag. If you wanted to carry winter boots and full cold weather gear, you’d probably want a larger backpack.
- Electronics- Including my laptop, phone, camera, and all chargers. On some trips, I even manage to carry my DSLR camera.
- Toiletries- Including toothbrush, soaps, contact lenses, first aid kit, etc.
- Additional travel gear- including outlet converters, hair clippers, insect repellent, etc.
- Food and water- While traveling, I always have a couple of liters of water as well as a day’s worth of food. It’s nice to always have something to eat during a long bus ride.
When the bag is full, it doesn’t look all that large. It’s got a pretty narrow profile yet still manages to swallow up a surprising amount of gear. In fact, I compared the volume of this 44-liter bag against a lower end 50-liter hiking backpack that I own. Surprisingly, this backpack holds more than the 50.
After a bit of research, I found that Osprey only includes the volume of closed compartments when calculating the volume of their bags. This is the industry standard. Some companies decide to include the volume of water bottle pockets, hip belt pockets, and other compartments which makes the backpack seem larger than it actually is. If you were to add up the capacity of all pockets and compartments on the Talon 44, you would probably find that the backpack holds around 60 liters of gear.
The Talon 44 is an ultralight hiking backpack. The bag itself weighs 2 pounds 7 ounces (about 1.1 kilos). It is made of various types of nylon-Lycra synthetic fabrics. The straps and padding on the back and waist belt are also fairly thin which keeps the weight down.
One benefit to using a lightweight backpack while traveling is the fact that you can carry more gear. Airlines are getting more and more strict about weight limits. Most only allow 15-22 pounds for carry-on bags. You don’t want to carry a 5-pound backpack that takes up a quarter of the weight allowance by itself. With this bag, I can carry a couple of pounds more gear without going overweight simply because the bag weighs so little.
If you plan to check the bag anyway, the Talon 44 is designed to carry a 40 pound (about 18 kilos) load. I’ve had it loaded about that heavy on a couple of occasions and it has handled the load just fine. I wouldn’t want to pack that much gear around all the time though.
When I travel I walk a lot. Rather than take an expensive taxi ride or uncomfortable bus to my hotel or hostel, I prefer to walk whenever possible. I also like to go on overnight hikes on occasion. I needed a travel backpack that could be worn for long periods of time.
When I first saw the straps, I had my doubts. They are significantly thinner and a bit more narrow than most other hiking backpacks that I have used. After carrying this backpack for thousands of miles, I can say the design works. The straps are comfortable and don’t dig in.
Additional comfort features include:
- Hip belt- The hip belt is sewn directly to the frame. This helps greatly with load transfer. The belt also uses a mesh material and foam with cutouts to allow airflow. The belt is wide and takes much of the weight off of your shoulders. I haven’t had any problems with bruising with this belt.
- Shoulder straps- Even though the straps are thin, they offer a good amount of support. Not great, but good. The design of the straps includes mesh and cutouts which allow for a decent amount of airflow. This helps keep your shoulders cool.
- Back support- The Talon 44 uses an Airscape internal frame made of aluminum with fiberglass stays. The main compartment and hip belt are attached directly to the frame. A grooved mesh back allows for airflow to keep you cool.
Even though the Talon 44 is designed to hold up to 40 pounds, it won’t be very comfortable with that amount of weight. I usually carry 25-30 pounds of gear when I travel. At that weight, I can hike or walk pretty much all day with this backpack and stay relatively comfortable.
In the past, I’ve used backpacks that use thick, bulky straps to improve comfort. While these work, they add weight don’t offer any airflow. I actually find Osprey’s design to be better for comfort. The excellent support system allows them to use thinner straps without sacrificing any comfort. In fact, the hip belt offers so much support that I can tighten it up and pretty much remove the shoulder straps. This allows me to switch between carrying the weight with my shoulders and hips.
Organization and Access
This backpack offers several compartments, pockets, and straps to hold all of your gear including:
- Main compartment- The large main compartment uses a drawstring closure. You can access the main compartment from the bottom by unbuckling two straps and opening a zipper. This feature is designed to give you easy access to your sleeping bag or quilt.
- Floating top compartment- This compartment straps over the drawstring. Inside there is a small pocket for glasses. The top compartment zips closed. This part of the bag is surprisingly voluminous. I use mine to hold anything I need to access often lie food, chargers, and some toiletries. If you don’t need the top compartment, you can easily remove it to reduce weight.
- Hip pockets- On each side of the waist belt, you find a small zipper compartment. These are great for holding snacks or anything you need to access often. I carry a pen in mine so I’m always ready to fill out entry and exit cards while crossing a border.
- Phone/GPS pocket- On the chest strap, there is a small stretchy pocket for holding an electronic device. This pocket may be too small for large screened phones.
- Front pocket- The front of the backpack has a large, stretchy pocket. This can accommodate a surprising amount of gear. This is a great place to store wet items like a rain jacket. Sometimes I put my dirty clothes in here to keep the smell out of the main compartment. It can even accommodate my tent if I need more space in my bag to carry food.
- Water bottle pockets- On either side of the bag, you’ll find a stretchy water bottle pocket. These are large enough to accommodate 2-liter bottles if the backpack isn’t completely full.
- Water bladder pocket- Between the large compartment and back of the backpack is a pocket for a water bladder. I usually use this space to store documents and some emergency cash. I slide a folder into this space where most criminals wouldn’t think to look if my backpack was stolen.
- Sleeping pad straps- The bag comes equipped with a pair of sleeping pad straps. These come in handy for attaching bulky items. I sometimes use mine to carry my tent or sleeping pad. I have even strapped a loaf of bread onto these straps.
- Trekking pole attachment straps- Osprey packs include a unique trekking pole storage system which makes it easy for you to quickly stow your trekking poles when you don’t need them.
- Additional webbing around the top opening- The floating top and extra webbing around the opening allows you to expand the bag by a good 6 inches. This allows you to easily store bulky items like a jacket or extra blanket.
The Talon 44 comes in 2 sizes. The small/medium is 40 liters and the medium/large is 44 liters. I went with the medium/large as I am a taller guy at about 6’1”.
To adjust the backpack to fit your torso length, you can move the shoulder harness up and down in relation to the frame. The harness is held to the frame with Velcro. Simply undo it and slide the shoulder harness to your desired height.
Once adjusted, it holds strong. I don’t remember ever having to readjust mine in the past 8 years. It is a bit trickier to adjust than other packs that I’ve tried because the height markings aren’t in inches or centimeters. They seem to just be arbitrary markings.
While a backpack needs to be functional and durable, looks also matter. You wouldn’t want to carry around a goofy looking pack, even if you’re alone in the woods.
Personally, I think the Osprey Talon 44 looks pretty sharp. To me, it looks very modern and athletic. Not like a standard hiking backpack. I also like the fact that it doesn’t look too flashy. In fact, when the bag isn’t too full, it can pass as a standard daily backpack.
The front of the backpack features an interesting wave-like design along the sides of the stretch pocket. The osprey logo appears on the top cover of the bag. I have received numerous compliments on it during my travels. Even though looks are subjective, this is a good looking backpack by any standards.
What I Don’t Like About the Osprey Talon 44
After 8 hard years of use, I haven’t found any major flaws with the Talon 44. It’s held up incredibly well despite being an ultralight backpack. Design wise, the bag is well thought out and includes plenty of features for organizing gear. I do have 3 issues with the bag:
- Recently, an interior lining has begun wearing off- This is a rubbery type material that I believe was some sort of waterproof lining. This hasn’t affected the performance of the bag in any way. It is kind of a mess though. As the stuff rubs off it gets on my clothes and gear. I can easily just brush it off though. I’m guessing the lining just failed after so many years of stuff rubbing against it as I took my gear in and out of the bag.
- The compression straps sit outside of the water bottle pockets- This is a poor design. You must loosen the straps in order to fit water bottles in their pockets. Luckily, there is a solution. You can route the straps to go under the water bottle pockets. This way, you can fit a water bottle while the straps are tightened. Occasionally, the bottle gets caught on the straps while trying to put it back in its pocket. This gets a bit annoying. In fact, removing and replacing a water bottle while wearing the backpack is a hassle.
- The bag doesn’t feel durable- Even though it has proven itself time and time again, the thin material just feels flimsy. Sometimes while stuffing the pack particularly full, I feel like it could tear. Of course, it never has. I just prefer the feel of a more substantial material like canvas. Having said this, I will gladly choose the thinner material because it just weighs so much less. In reality, it’s probably just as strong as well.
Who is the Osprey Talon 44 For?
The size makes this pack incredibly versatile. It’s small enough to use for overnight trips yet large enough to accommodate enough gear for multi-month adventures. To me, 44 liters is ideal for most international travel. It’s small enough to carry onto airplanes and buses.
If you want to go ultralight, you can with this pack. If you want to carry a few luxury items, it can accommodate that too. Of course, this pack isn’t perfect for everyone. For example:
- Overpackers- Some travelers just feel more comfortable carrying a lot of gear. I see 70-liter backpacks sitting around hostels and wonder what is inside that takes up so much space. If you like to travel that way, this pack probably isn’t for you.
- Travel in cold climates- For trips where you need cold weather gear, you may want a larger pack. After you put in a bulky sleeping bag, snow boots, and jacket, there just isn’t much room left.
- Heavy loads- While the suspension system on this backpack is excellent, the straps lack padding. Even though the backpack is rated to carry loads of up to 40 pounds, it wouldn’t be too comfortable. If your gear weighs more than around 25-30 pounds, you may be better off with a backpack designed to carry more weight. This is an ultralight pack, after all.
Final Thoughts on the Osprey Talon 44
Your backpack is a piece of gear that you use daily. You need it to be comfortable, functional, and most importantly durable. The Osprey Talon 44 fills all of those requirements.
This backpack was one of the first pieces of gear that I bought before my first solo trip in 2011. It’s also one of my only pieces of original gear that I still regularly use. When this backpack eventually wears out, I’ll probably buy the same one again. It’s just that good.
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