My first week in Virginia featured little-to-nothing hiking related until my daughter suggested a trip to the Richmond area to shop her favorite HomeGoods store. Well, that would be a five-star yawner for me, except for the fact that HomeGoods shares a parking lot with the Glen Allen location of REI. Where I lived in Maine, the nearest REI was a less-than-leisurely 3.5 hour (traffic permitting, of course) sojourn to (nearby?) Reading, Massachusetts. Given that I had never been in a physical location, and that I had a $9.58 dividend burning a hole in my account pocket, I was thrilled with the invite.
I was hoping against hope that they might have a Granite Gear Crown 2 in stock so I could set some eyes on one. It was a longshot, for sure; even Granite Gear has been out of them for weeks. And my now-local REI didn’t disappoint. Nary a Crown 2 to be seen anywhere.
Still, they had a pretty solid array of packs, about half of which are represented in this photo:
I was able to strap on the 48L version of my trusty Kestrel 28, and give consideration to a few others. But by the end of my hour-long trip through the backpacker’s candy store, all I walked away with was some GU hydration tablets which, after my staggeringly huge $9.58 dividend, set me back a grand total of $3.75.
Still, it was great to spend some time in an actual REI store rather than burning through page after page on their website. And I enjoyed the experience of proudly whipping out my membership card when asked if I had one…
This. The Osprey Kestrel 48. And it was no easy task to narrow my choices to one, let me tell you.
In an earlier post, I referred to choosing a backpack as choosing a mate. It felt that ridiculously difficult and important. So I agonized over it. But I did choose. Finally. This little wonder checked off all the boxes for what I felt I wanted/needed in a pack at the right price point. And having zero experience with backpacking packs, I’m just going to have to take it out for a test run when I get it to see if I’ve chosen my new mate wisely.
Of all the decisions that needed to be made, the worst one for me was being sure to get the right volume. To some, the thought of packing five days worth of stuff into a 46L pack (in the S/M size it’s a bit smaller than the titular 48L) might seem a bit tight, but rest assured: I can pack a week’s worth of clothes, running gear and personal items in an airline-legal carryon, so I’m a thoughtful and frugal packer. 46L should be fine, especially where I won’t be carrying a stove/fuel cylinders on my mostly 3-5 day jaunts. I also wanted a pack small enough that it wouldn’t look ridiculous to take out on a simple overnighter or long day hike. A little cinching of the compression straps, and I should be good to go. Or just leave it be, and load it up with some trail magic for the random thru-hikers I see out on the AT. Both good options.
Then came color. That was surprisingly easy. It comes in a nice muted Ash Gray (leaning towards the black side of the gray spectrum), Jungle Green (you can hide anywhere in the woods!) or the above Dragon Red. I chose the Dragon Red for one very specific reason: visibility. As in, if I faceplant in a muddy swamp and can’t blow into the slime-filled emergency whistle on the sternum strap, at least SAR will be able to find me in a sea of green and brown.
So there it is. The Kestrel 48. I’ll be ordering it this weekend. And looking forward to landing in a swamp in the woods of Maine in April.
(Disclosure Statement: No, I don’t work for Osprey. Though I would if they asked me nicely and bought me lots of red velvet cupcakes, pre-compressed to fit in my bear canister)