Saturday, 19 March 2011

Osprey Talon series

Osprey Talon rucksacs.
They look pretty- and have just had a bit of an update as well- with bike helmet carrying tabs attached on the 5.5, 11 and 22 litre models. They are lightweight, and they seem to be semi-water resistant.
Are they any good though? I mean... its a lot of money for what looks like a pretty flimsy rucksac.

Simple answer- yes- if it fits your back.
These rucksacs have a flexible back system, and a big thing at the moment, is to ask for a rucksac with a "frame thing that keeps it away from my back- I hate having a sweaty back".
Unfortunately I have news for you.
If you dont want a sweaty back, dont wear a rucksac. I dont care how "ventilated" a back system is, or how much air it claims to circulate around your spine, if you wear a rucksac, you will have a sweaty back. End of.
So, the key is to find a rucksac which is comfortable, doesnt dig into you, and supports the weight of all the stuff you are lumbering around with.

The Talons do a remarkable job of this, especially when you consider the generous sizing. The 22litre certainly seems to be a very big 22 litre, especially when you look at other 25 litre sacs on the market which seem a goodly amount smaller, and I swear that the 5.5 that we took delivery of recently holds the same amount, if not more than my old beaten up Berghaus Bladdered 8+2.
The carrying capacity is excellent. Thats all you really need to know about the sizing. Think of a rucksac of that size, and what you could probably fit into it, and then add another jacket- thats the size.
The weight- ridiculously light. In fact, when trying these on, make sure that it has some kind of weight in it, or else you'll just stand there going... well... I cant feel it.
Even when you do have weight in there, it doesnt feel like there is. The amount of people I have persuaded to put this on, with weight, got them to do up the straps correctly- and then wander around and then exclaimed about the weight carrying properties of this sac is quite unreal.

It must be pointed out here that the fabric does feel a little flimsy- and in fact this was one of the reasons why an independent store didnt stock Osprey for a good long time- they thought the build quality wasnt good enough and that theyd break within a small amount of use and abuse. The store was given a couple to try and break- this was about 5 years ago- and despite large amounts of effort on rock, scree, gorse etc, and several times through the wash, they are still going strong.
They now stock Osprey.
The series follows a general trend, they use the same back system- which can be adjusted- each litre size comes in a Small/med and a Med/large back length- and the only one which has a "frame" is the 44- but it is so light as to be barely noticable. They all have one main pocket, a spare stow pocket, a pocket on each side of the waistbelt- (SO handy), a stretchy stow pocket on the back and space for a hydration system. The 5.5, 11 and 22 have zip closure on the main pocket (which I have never seen break), and the 33 and 44 have flip open lids like "normal old school" rucksacs- and the 44 has an extendible lid as well.

Its almost like I have nothing bad to say about these rucksacs.
But hang on.There is a small niggling thing that gets to me. The waterproofness and a minor design feature which can spell disaster in particularly bad weather.
In between the back system and the rest of the rucksac is a pouch where a hydration system is meant to go- (and you can see the hydration system in the picture of the red rucksac). In really bad, properly apocalyptic rain, the water goes straight down this hole, and although there is a drainage hole at the bottom of the bag, anything inside the bag gets soaked. Its like having a direct rainspout into the section next to the main compartment.
(this can obviously be remedied by drybags and the like- but it is a weakness in design in my book- as there is only a piece of fabric dividing the H2O section from the rest of the bag).
Apart from that though, seriously, these are great bags. In the past few months I have seen many more of them around in London on the backs of commuters, Ive seen them in the hills, on bikers, hikers and climbers.
There appear to be a lot of fiddly straps and clips and stuff when you first get your hands on it- but the great thing is, you dont HAVE to have them. I know one guy who on buying a talon 44, ripped all the extraneous straps and bits and pieces off it, and then proclaimed it was a "perfect" sac.

So- all in all, good, light, robust, useful features, a minor defect (if you are in the rain), but a brilliant buy, that just doesnt die. (well, the 22 in our house hasnt yet, but we are continuing to use and abuse it and we've only just got the 5.5...)