Osprey Talon 22 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Tons of features, fully adjustable, comfortable, well ventilated, separate hydration compartment
Cons: Runs small, side mesh pockets are debatably small
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Osprey Talon 22 wins our Editors' Choice Award because of its excellent blend of comfort, versatility, and ease of use. Our testing procedure is the best in the business. We have experts in the field ponder and survey to develop a scoring rubric for every category. We then comb the market for the best of the best. Once that elite selection is in our possession, we evaluate each product against a weighted scoring regime.
The Editors' Choice is both the highest-scoring product and, almost always, the one we just like the best. That is a testament and cross-check to our scoring system. This year, we chose to split the Editor's Choice between one pack for carrying heavy loads, the REI Traverse 35, and this pack, which is ideal for the loads most people carry in Spring, Summer, and Fall day adventures. Both achieved nearly identical high scores. In this case, like most of the categories we assess, we are confident of our Editors' Choice pick. For most activities, we reach for the Talon 22.
The back panel is fixed with Osprey's AirScape design and consists of a mesh-covered, ridge molded foam. Air passes through these rear panels well, keeping our backs cool. The BioStretch harness and hip belt of the Osprey Talon 22 wrapped our hips like a big, comfortable hug. Osprey, with all of their packs, does very well with suspension system and comfort. They manage to make packs that keep heavy loads stable and well-distributed across the hips and torso. It is the comfort of the Talon that earns it our highest award. Few other small daypacks have anywhere near as comfortable suspension.
While we liked this mesh covered ventilation design, it failed in comparison to some super breathable suspended-mesh back panels we tested. We never found ourselves suffering from sweaty or cold back syndrome, and this more flexible airscape design has important benefits for range of motion and flexibility.
The flexibility of the Talon's frame allowed us almost full range of motion, unheard of with most hipbelt-equipped packs. This made the pack great for dynamic activities and enabled us to have great range of motion while mountain biking. While the hex-mesh material on the back panel and hip belts is rough for bare skin, it also helps the pack keep from slipping during dynamic activities like scrambling.
All the extra features on this pack add a little weight, and the Talon, at 27 ounces with 23 L of volume (1.2 oz/L), is among the heavier packs in our review. It uses relatively thick, tough nylon fabric, and has some features that we appreciated, but certainly add weight. While you pay in weight, you gain an easy to use pack that you can comfortably wear for very long days.
The weight of the Talon seems appropriate, given its comfort and feature-set. While a heavier pack might slow you down a bit in a race, for most day activities, a pack's suspension just needs to be appropriate for its weight and capacity. In the case of the Talon, you get a durable, extremely comfortable pack. With how great this suspension is, we really doubt that you'll notice this pack's weight at the end of the day.
This pack is tricked out with features to make it the perfect option for almost any scenario. Whether you're a weekend warrior or living a dirtbag lifestyle, the Talon will easily take you wherever you need to go. From the office, travel, and to the outdoors, this pack excels.
All of the extra carrying features add to the versatility. With the helmet attachment, you can bring this pack on a commute, and there is no need to try to stuff your helmet inside, as you can rig it to the outside.
The front side trekking pole carry feature on the Talon lets you quickly go hands-free and get your poles out of the way without ever taking off the pack. However, we noticed that the loops on the Talon slipped when running with big poles, unlike those on larger Osprey packs. For winter warriors, stash your avalanche gear in the pack, put your crampons in the stretch pocket, and attach your ice axe to the loop. However, don't try to strap snowshoes to this pack - they just don't fit.
Ease of Use
Due to all the features, the Talon 22 lost a couple of points for ease of use because of the slight learning curve. Don't overlook the amenities just because you feel overwhelmed; learning to use all the bungees and adjustments took us only a few uses.
Once we figured how to appropriately and efficiently use some of the features, like the ice axe carry and trekking pole attachment, the pack ended up being pretty fantastic. The good news is that, once you learn all the features, none of them impede the others. For instance, the externally accessed hydration sleeve allows for water fill-ups without disturbing your carefully packed main compartment. Also, the generous horseshoe-shaped main compartment zipper is unfettered by straps. The panel-loading design makes this an excellent travel pack that is very easy to organize from the plane to the trail.
The helmet attachment is an excellent addition for commuting and is super easy to use; it works best with a helmet designed for biking, but can also be used with a climbing-specific helmet, though a little less secure. To attach your helmet, just slide the plastic end through a ventilation hole, flatten it out and voila! It works best if you've already loaded the pack, and there is an option to tighten the internal bungee cord for added security.
There is also a stretchy mesh stash pocket covering the sides and back of the pack. This is handy for quickly stuffing an extra layer or even crampons (appropriately wrapped, of course!). The blinker attachment is fixed at the base of this pocket, meaning that there's an open drain hole ideal for drying out wet socks from water crossings or even sandals while you continue to hike.
The harness is not only entirely adjustable, but it's one of the easiest to adjust we've encountered. You can customize the shoulder straps by undoing the Velcro inside the hydration compartment and moving the straps to where you want them. You can also use the load lifters on top of the shoulder straps to adjust the load, as well as a fully adjustable and padded waist belt.
The stretch woven side pockets are equipped with Osprey's InsideOut compression straps. These compression straps allow you to secure the main compartment without compromising the function of the stretch mesh pockets. These pockets are great for smaller items, like sunscreen bottles, but they do prove problematic with some larger water bottles. The pockets are large enough to accommodate a traditional 1-liter wide mouth Nalgene, although the compression straps can snag easily, creating some difficulty in getting the bottle back into the pockets without taking the pack off.
This pack held up well in all of the situations we tested it under. From the desert, snow, bushwhacking, to road biking and in-town commutes, this bag excelled without any signs of wear. We've been testing versions this bag for years, and even our older models (which we frequently loan out) have yet to show much wear.
While the zipper covers help keep out water, the Talon 22 performed poorly in our hose testing. It doesn't come with a rain cover, and the fabric let in water quickly. If you live in a rainy environment, consider Osprey's Hi-Vis Raincover, or use a dry bag to line the pack.
Not only does this pack come jam-packed with features, but you'll also be getting a pack with fantastic adjustability and comfort. You're getting a great deal. It is spendy, but it will last a long time and can be serviced with Osprey's generous warranty. Regarding value, we like to think of the "cost per day" of a product. Combined with how nice it is to use, the Talon provides a great value.
It was easy to grant the Osprey Talon 22 our Editors' Choice award. It has earned this honor before, but we don't rest on that conclusion. In each update, we secure the latest version and compare it to the rest of the field. Whether we are updating or starting from scratch, our critical evaluation scheme shakes the best to the top. And the Talon 22 is at the top of this category.
— Dan Scott