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Osprey Talon 22 Backpack Review: A 3-Year Test

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Hiking, biking, and ice climbing: Osprey’s Talon 22 is a jack-of-all-trades pack. We tested it through 3 years of dusty, thorny, sometimes muddy archaeological expeditions.

Osprey Packs positions itself as a maker of high-quality packs designed for functionality and durability. And to reinforce that message, it backs its bags with a lifetime guarantee.

So I put the quality and durability of the Talon 22 through a rigorous test — for 3 years. For the last three summers, it was my field pack on archaeological digs and surveys. It carried my muddy tools, rain gear, water, food, and equipment while weathering sun, rain, wind, thorny bushes, and brambles.

Tested: Osprey Talon 22

Tough materials, abundant pockets, and attractive style make this bag a popular choice among outdoor enthusiasts.

I put this bag through the wringer, hiking it in the Aleutian Islands and Alaska for 6 weeks, to the Door County peninsula in Wisconsin, and many points in between. It handled a large variety of gear and held up great through long days of surveying and digging.

But this is a fairly simple day pack. And hour after hour, it performed exactly as I’d hoped. It carried my gear comfortably on the job and didn’t wear out.

Right away, I’d like to point out a couple drawbacks: First is its performance in wet weather. If Osprey made this bag waterproof, I’d say you might never need another bag. Second is the side pockets. They are deep but small, and tight, which don’t allow for a large variety of water bottle sizes to fit.

But beyond those minor gripes, I love this pack. Read on to learn why.

Backpack Testing In Archaeology

The majority of my archaeology work is surveys. Here, the pack allowed for easy storage and access to items like a map, GPS, snack, water, sunscreen, bug spray, notebook, and a shovel. At sedentary dig sites the pack keeps my trowel, brushes, dust pan, and notebook handy.

Typical Days: I used the pack carrying gear used for archeology through often untracked wilderness. In Minnesota I used it to survey a single track mountain bike trail, following a GPS line through briars and brambles.

In Alaska, I carried it through the wild Aleutian Islands loaded with gear to keep me safe and working in a dangerous region. This included food rations, a small tent for spike camping if the weather turned (which it can do in a matter of an hour), extra layers, and sleeping bag strapped to the outside. We hiked up and down the sides of mountains and across beaches looking for sites. There was technical hiking involved with varying terrain, loose rock, thick grass that felt like walking through snow, and some rock faces.

During all this, the pack excelled. It was comfortable with up to 25-pound loads, the wind blowing, and lots of rain. The pack would hold tight to me and not jostle around much.


I tested the medium-large Talon, which weighs 1.75 lbs. and measures 20” x 11” x 11”. But the more compact small-medium bag still carries its weight; both sizes have a load capacity of 10-20 lbs. To me, it seems to have the strength to take on more. My pack effortlessly handled the full 20 lbs. (and more) through multiple trips.

The 2013 Talon 22, tested

I used the 2013 Osprey Talon 22 with a nylon fabric around the body. It’s tough but stretchy. Heavier 210D nylon strengthens the base of the bag (recent versions have 420D nylon there). The fabric withstood surveying through thorny bushes and didn’t tear once from a single tree or bush catch.

Two side pockets with strap adjusters accommodate most water bottles and tighten to fit snug around thin trekking poles. The external bladder sleeve comes in handy as it leaves the side pockets open for any other quick-access gear.

2017 osprey talon 22
2017 Osprey Talon 22

Two more pockets sit at the hip and give access to quick-grab items like snack bars or chapstick.

The front of the pack has a non-zippered, nylon stretch pocket, which hugs softer items like maps and books. More recent iterations of the Talon include a helmet strap just above this pocket.

2017 osprey talon 22 back panel
2017 Osprey Talon 22 back panel

Osprey’s shoulder straps and hip belts are flexible, stretchy foam and mesh that hold tight during activity. The compression/stability shoulder and hip straps allow for a fully adjustable torso bag.

Cutouts in the foam allow for acceptable ventilation and help prevent clamminess. The back of the bag also uses moldable foam that is stiff yet airy; a comfort necessity during an 8-hour survey. A small, zippered, mesh stash-pocket crowns the top of the bag.

Final Thoughts

The Osprey Talon 22 is a perfect example of a versatile bag that works for anything, from bike commuting to hiking to, yes, even archaeological fieldwork. With its versatile design and durability, this bag will support any endeavor where a small day pack is a fit.

The high quality of this product makes it an exceptional buy at $110, available now at multiple retailers.

Get The Osprey Talon 22 Pack today for 25% off

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