Attention! Osprey Kestrel & Kyte (women's counterpart) Series are updated in 2019!
This means that there are 3 different Kestrel 38 backpacks out there as of now:
But we all know that the question here is - does it really WORTH going for the new 2019 model instead of the previous models?
My short answer is: Yes it does.
For the longer answer, we need to look at what's changed in 2019 model of Kestrel/Kyte Series. I contacted to Osprey Customer Service myself, and they provided me the following:
- More adjustable & robust front pouch - in addition to mesh, now it's being made using also nylon so it compresses your items inside further and secures them more. They're also adjustable using compression straps now
- Horizontal installment to side mesh water bottle holders! This is one of the updates that I'm happiest about. You can now access these side pockets while wearing the pack. I had considered this as one of the main downsides of the 2016 model, so it's really a good advantage.
- More comfortable. Because (1) the back panel is updated, (2) more padding is used in hip belt AND shoulder straps and (3)... see below
- More ventilation is offered with the upgraded back panel technology. Now the channels work better for more air flow
- Larger hip belt pockets - which can fit in even very large smartphones now (2016 model can't)!
- Better external gear capability - lash tabs at the top are larger and easier to use
- Better buckle construction and durability - critical for the life of pack. But because Osprey packs are already very durable and they offer lifetime warranty, I don't really care for this update a lot - buckles were already pretty solid.
- Appearance and colors. The famous Jungle Green color is gone! And instead, now they offer Kestrel's in Picholine Green - which I think looks VERY pretty.
- Weight and dimensions. There is a very slight (not noticeable) difference in weight - 2019 Kyte 36 is less than 0.1 lbs lighter than the 2016 model.
- Somewhat thicker material. This is more of a subtle update, and not many people talk about it, but it very slightly adds to the life of pack, and it also feels "smoother".
Comfort, ventilation, durability and organization. They're ALL updated in 2019. I really don't think it would worth for any of you to go for the 2016 model, so the 2019 model is highly recommended if you're looking for a smaller hiking & traveling backpack:
If you're looking for a larger one, make sure checking out my review of Kestrel 48 - 10 L larger.
Osprey Kestrel 38 | $159.95 is a very comfortable, adjustable all-purpose pack designed for both outdoors and traveling. Although its height isn't technically carry-on sized, you're likely to get away with it more times than not since it's mostly down to individual staff.
Make sure checking out Kestrel 38 vs 48 comparison before your final decision.
We recommend this pack to everyone who are looking for a simple, lightweight, do-it-all backpack.
Bold are my top picks for each group (based on trip length).
If you're planning to get either one of them, I'd also highly recommend you to check out Osprey's own PackFinder tool as well.
To see the full table and my top picks, visit my post Best Osprey Hiking Backpacks.
Rotate your phone sideways for a better table display.
Features & Organization
Weight (M Size)
Trip Length: 7+ nights [>90 L]
Trip Length: 5-7 nights [75 - 90 L]
Trip Length: 2-5 nights [55 - 75 L]
Sweet spot. Versatile picks.
Trip Length: 1-3 nights [45 - 55 L]
Trip Length: 0-1 nights [<45 L]
If you tend to pack more or less than the average person, then shift the trip lengths accordingly.
Those who are looking for a very simple, more carry-on friendly pack that will be used mostly for short outdoor activities and travelling
Osprey Kestrel 38
Main compartment and sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider
4 zippered 3 unenclosed pockets
4 at sides (that can be leveraged for front compression as well),
Osprey Kestrel 38
Dimensions: 26H X 15W X 16D IN
Weight: 3.02 lbs
Dimensions: 28H X 15W X 16D IN
Weight: 3.13 lbs
#Note: As you see, dimensions and volume don't add up. See our post Dimensional Inconsistencies of Osprey Backpacks to learn more.
See the review for women's counterpart Osprey Kyte 36 Review
See our women's Osprey Kyte 36 vs 46 comparison.
AirScape is one of the latest technologies introduced by Osprey. It's a backpanel suspension system with multiple design intentions:
- Comfort is increased by ample and thick padding throughout the whole back surface.
- Total moment applied by the pack load is decreased and a healthier weight distribution is achieved since the pack and hence the load is held closer to your body completely flat against your back. Ultimately hip muscles which are the strongest muscles in human body as it's stated by Joseph in 2013 are included more in motion and keeping you less exhausted.
- Texture is constructed with full of corridor-like gaps and stripes in various heights in order to let air flow between the users back and the back of the backpack and keep them less sweaty with decent ventilation along the way.
I have yet to see a pack that will keep you completely dry especially on warmer days even though I think Kestrel (AirScape) is one of the closest designs to the perfect balance between comfort and ventilation.
2019-2016-Previous Model AirScape Comparison:
If nothing else, I guarantee that you'll sweat much later compared to most backpacks... except packs with AG (AntiGravity) system.
As it's the same deal with almost all Osprey technical packs, shoulder straps are very well padded and thick with air mesh.
With the 2019 Model, they're made even thicker with more padding, so you can stop worrying about stuffing your pack up to the brim - thick, soft and wide straps of new Kestrel 38 won't chafe your shoulders probably in almost any case:
Along with the S/M and M/L size options, harness is even further adjustable to ensure seamless fit.
With the upgraded recent model now load lifters meet the ideal 45-60 degree angle  unlike the previous version and assist with the customized fit.
Pockets: 2 zippered pockets on each side
Hip belt is equipped with thick and ample padding similar to shoulder straps.
My gripe with the 2016 model was that although it's amazing to have very readily available pockets within your reach at any moment, they were a bit too small - especially for larger smartphones.
But, one of the biggest update made in 2019 is that they're made larger and now you can fit almost any phone inside.
Identical hip belt pockets offer plenty of room and are perfect for storing frequently used items.
Pockets: No internal pocket
We all know the problems with items stuck within the center of the pack. Accessing them is a true hassle. You dig all the way through your items only to find that it's nearly impossible to find without unpacking.
So you unpack. Sometimes completely. After you collect the item you repack your entire items.
Sometimes it's even worse - you're outdoors and it's rainy, you're in the line for airport security check or you simply don't have the time or conditions.
With Kestrel 38, this huge problem is solved once and for all.
- Top entrance
- Bottom entrance (sleeping bag compartment)
- Zippered side access
It provides a zippered side access to the main compartment.
Extra accesses from side or front like Kestrel 38 or those of Aether AG products are literally clear level ups.
Forget about wasting your energy, time or most importantly, your mood on it. You're literally one zipper away from your internal equipment.
Now all your items are readily accessible. It's one of the most practical features a pack can provide.
At total, Osprey Kestrel 38 provides 3 accesses to the main compartment:
Top and bottom entrances are typical with Osprey products.
Now I'll mention the sleeping bag compartment.
Sleeping bag compartment
Pockets: No internal pocket
Sleeping bag compartment is located at the front bottom of the pack.
Regular size sleeping bags can easily be stored within this compartment when the removable sleeping bag compartment divider isn't removed.
Sleeping pad straps aid attaching your pad outside the pack and allow extra room inside.
You can remove the straps as well.
Pockets: 1 external, 1 internal pocket
Removable top lid is only available in Kestrel 58 and 68 packs which are not available in US markets (only in Europe).
So top lid of Kestrel 38 isn't removable and its vertical position can't be customized.
External top lid pocket is convenient for storing the items that are preferred to be readily available.
A mesh pocket is available at the opposide side of the lid.
Pockets: 1 mesh pouch
There is a mesh pouch on the front surface.
A zippered front pocket is missing - which would be nice to have.
Pockets: No side pockets
Unlike Kestrel 48, 58 and 68, Kestrel 38 doesn't feature any side pockets.
Mesh water bottle holders at each side are very wide and deep.
Using upper and lower side Osprey StraightJacket compression straps you can shrink and get all internal items together for ultimate stability and balance.
I've seen people complaining about lacking front compression straps.
In my opinion they would be extravagance since the pack is already a medium size and almost carry on friendly. Pack does equally good with dual side compression straps - and you can always buckle them at the front:
Size, Volume, Weight and Dimensions
2 size options are offered.
Since size is a choice of fit but not a choice of volume, the height of pack decreases with S/M size to correspond shorter torso and hence better fit.
Kestrel 36 S/M
26h x 15w x 16d
Kestrel 38 M/L
28h x 15w x 16d
I wouldn't suggest most people to hike/camp with a 38 or 36 Liters pack for longer than 3 days.
Now you're probably thinking that the dimensions must be incorrect because they result in nearly 100 liters of volume.
And I wondered the same so I mailed Osprey Customer Service (click on image to enlarge):
And here is the attached image:
In US, the lowest carry-on luggage size I've seen so far is up to 22x14x9 inches (45 liters) which is the case for most airlines. So technically it isn't carry-on size for most airlines..
But, you can always shrink Kestrel 38 to smaller sizes with compression straps as well and usually carry-on allowance is down to individual staff at the airport. I had passed with my huge 65 liters of Deuter pack when the limit was supposed to be 45 liters for that specific airlines. But, of course, no-one can guarantee you that Kestrel 38 will always be allowed as a carry-on. Always check the regulations of your airlines before to be sure.
You can evaluate your torso length at home with the help of Osprey’s very own Size & Fit article , and figure the corresponding size.
I'm embedding the chart here as well.
Kestrel is at 6th row.
When someone asks me why they should purchase an Osprey pack, this is the number one thing I mention along with the harness and fit of Osprey packs.
I've never been very kind to their packs and experienced literally zero problems so far.
Besides, knowing that Osprey All Mighty Guarantee is always there in case of any problems is quite assuring. You can enjoy the moment and stop worrying about the pack completely.
Pack comes with an attached raincover.
It's a lifesaver when the weather is unpredictable. A wet is demanding to dry. Wet items can ruin your overall traveling/hiking expereince in minutes especially if you have electronics inside.
The hydration pouch of Kestrel 38 comes right behind the location that attaches shoulder straps and the back panel.
Some packs are equipped with internal hydration pouch - at the opposite side of the backpanel.
Internal pouch is far worse because most of the time the pack is overstuffed it's impossible to replenish the hydration bladder without unpacking the entire main compartment.
Another reason is that you're always going to have to be cautious with the impacts you expose the pack. Spilled water and hence wet items can ruin your backpacking experience. Worse, if you have electronics inside, nothing can recover them.
Total 10 Gear Loops:
Ice tool loops
Using bungee tie off on the front side and tool loop aligned vertical below the tie off you can easily stow your ice tool and allow extra space inside the pack.
There is one bungie tie off and one tool loop - on the right side of Kestrel 38.
Trekking pole attachments
As the name implies, using the loops on strap and bottom side of the pack you can simply store your poles while wearing the pack.
Sleeping pad straps
See the Storage section way above.
Combining mesh water bottle holders with compression straps make carrying gear (especially long gear) practical.
Combining daisy chains, paracord, scissors, pen and your survival skills, you can attach extra gear such as your shoes when the volume of Kestrel 38 falls short.
Available colors are Ash Grey, Dragon Red and Jungle Green.
Osprey Kestrel 38 is designed to be used for outdoor events and traveling. It's supported by multiple tool attachments utilized for various outdoor activities with a carry-on friendly size for all airlines I've used so far.
In my opinion, the best uses are travel and day hikes/daily outdoor activities.
However, you might want to consider a stronger pack with larger volume if you're planning extended camping trips (3+ days) where you'll be walking for long.
- KlimbingKorns.de. (2015, January). Osprey Kestrel Test Review. Retrieved from http://klimbingkorns.de/osprey-kestrel-38-test-review/
- Suspension Technology, Osprey. Retrieved from https://www.osprey.com/sa/en/pack-design-technology/suspension
- Triano, J. J. (2012, August). Tips to Prevent Back Pain from Kids' Backpacks, Spine-Health.com
- Joseph, E. M. (2013, December). Know the body: muscle, bone, and palpation essentials. Elsevier Health Sciences, p. 346
- Osprey. Size & Fit. Retrieved from https://www.osprey.com/ca/en/fitting-learning/size-fit
- Osprey: All Might Guarantee. Retrieved from https://www.osprey.com/cl/en/customer-support/all-mighty-guarantee
- Hawbaker, A. (2015, July). TrailTime Tips: Daisy Chain Quick Ties. Retrieved from https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/backpacks-adjusting-fit.html
- Osprey US Men's Hiking Backpacks: Kestrel 38. Retrieved from https://www.osprey.com/us/en/product/kestrel-38-KESTREL38.html
- Osprey Europe Men's Hiking Backpacks: Kestrel 38. Retrieved from https://www.ospreyeurope.com/shop/eu_en/kestrel-38-a
- Osprey Kestrel/Kyte Series Manual. Retrieved from https://www.ospreyeurope.com/shop/media/wysiwyg/UK_OM/OM_KestrelKyte_S16_ENG.pdf