The Osprey Talon 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 the weighted scoring regime we developed.
The highest scoring product is our Editors' Choice. The Editors' Choice is almost always also the product 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 Talon 22 is comfortable during a wide range of activities.
The back panel is fixed with Osprey's AirScape design and consists of a mesh covered, ridge molded foam that has about the same ventilation as The North Face Litus 22. Air passes through these back panels well, keeping our backs cool. The BioStretch harness and hip belt of the Osprey Talon 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 hold heavy loads stably, with comfort greater than any of the other packs, even when comparing the support afforded to smaller loads. It is impressive. It is the comfort of the Talon that truly earns it our highest award. No other small daypack has anywhere near as comfortable suspension.
While we liked this mesh covered ventilation design, it failed in comparison to some super breathable backpacks, like the Osprey Stratos 34. The Stratos is rigid, with a three-dimensional frame that simultaneously lends support to the load and holds the pack away from your back for greater ventilation. Both of these packs oddly have similar measured volumes (23L for the Talon and 29L for the Stratos). However, the Stratos can carry a much heavier load due to its rigid frame.
The CamelBak Fourteener 24 has a foam and mesh back panel that is similar to the Talon, while packs like the Litus 22 and REI Co-op Traverse 35 have more structured ventilation systems somewhere between that of the Talon and that of the Stratos. The flexibility of the Talon's frame allowed us almost full range of motion, unheard of with most hipbelt-equipped packs. 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.
The mesh helps to ventilate your back during strenuous activities.
Pay close attention to make sure you buy the correct size. We found that this pack runs a bit short on the average male frame, but fits more petite female frames well. If it's too short, the load lifters won't work as well. Also, the awesome padded hip belt was a bit snug on some of our larger male testers. Luckily, Osprey offers two sizes in this pack (S/M and M/L), as well as an extendable waist belt that can be added.
The Osprey Talon, in size M/L, on our 5'10" lead test editor. This is a pretty good fit.
Refer to our Buying Advice Article for instructions on measuring yourself for a pack; another option is to visit your local outdoor retail for a professional fitting.
One size does not fit all. But close.
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.
If you are a fast and light hiker and want something more streamlined, you might consider the REI Co-op Flash 22 or Flash 18 which is which are the lightest packs we tested at 13 and 9oz, respectively. The Flash 22 has some of the features of the Talon 22, but will wear on your shoulders after hours of carrying a moderate load.
Of course, there are packs much heavier than this Editor's Choice. The other Editor's Choice REI Co-op Traverse 35 weighs 54 oz, but has a slightly better weight to volume ratio of 1.1 oz/L. It is a lot to carry if you plan on doing mainly short day trips or 3-season adventures, but carries a heavy load much more securely.
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. If you love lashing stuff to the outside of your pack, peruse our review of the Deuter Speed Lite 20; the Speed Lite has one of the most innovative strap systems that we've seen.
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, the elastic is not as thick as the pole-carry loops on the Osprey Stratos 34, and we noticed that the loops on the Talon slipped when running with big poles, unlike those on the Stratos. 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. For more gear-intensive activities, try the Stratos 34 or REI Co-op Traverse 35.
The 'just right' sized side mesh pockets, with a standard 1 liter Nalgene bottle.
Ease of Use
Due to all the features, the Talon 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 is pretty fantastic and rather handy. 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 close competitor Litus 22 has a long zipper, but a strap crosses it. The panel-loading design makes this an excellent travel pack that is very easy to organize from the plane to the trail.
Packing up the Talon on a dreary day hike on the East Coast.
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 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.
Dedicated bladder features make it easy to stay hydrated.
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 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.
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.
We love how easy it is to clip a helmet to this bag.
If you're looking for a pack to accompany you mountain biking and general commuting around town, you'll love the helmet carry and blinker clip feature when heading to the grocery store with your Talon. For spring summit attempts or general day hiking, you'll love the ice axe attachment and pole stowing feature while the Talon accompanies you on the trail. The best part about the Talon is the versatility you'll find with it, which is why we've made it our Editors' Choice award winner. It is not only suited to trails or the backcountry, but is also comfortable around town, on a bike, and just about anywhere you need it.
For day hikes in all seasons and all climates, the Osprey is nearly perfect.
Not only does this pack come jam-packed with features, but you'll also be getting a pack with fantastic adjustability and comfort; coming in at $110, you're getting a great deal. It is among the most expensive packs we tested, 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. Look at the REI Flash 22 or Trail 25 vs. the Talon 22, especially if you don't need some of the features on the Talon.
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.