A lot of my summer mountain guiding work is rock climbing and scrambling. To get to the base of your chosen climb you need a good sized rucksack – often around 40-45 litres – to fit in all you need for a full day in the mountains. This includes full waterproofs, warmth layers, food and drink, first aid kit, and a map and compass, on top of all your technical climbing gear – ropes, harness, helmet, rock shoes, and a full rack of metalwork and slings.
However, once you arrive at your mountain crag, it’s normal to gear up for the climb, and dump the rest of your stuff at the base of the crag. This means that, if your chosen climb is a long one, you’ll be away from your comfort essentials (food and clothing) for hours at a time. Many of us cram a hat and gloves, and a snack into a little stuff sack with a windproof layer, clip this to the back of our harnesses, and just hope for the best. However, for really long days on the crag you soon feel the need for something a bit more substantial, but not to the extent that you’d want to set off on the climb with the 45l sack on your back!
I decided to test the Osprey Talon 18. It was recommended to me by a number of other mountain instructors, who use it for the same purpose. They carry it in their main pack along with the climbing gear, then decant the essentials into the smaller Talon for use on the climb.
When my Osprey Talon 18 arrived I was surprised by just how substantial it felt. Despite its size, it’s certainly not a minimalist sack. There’s decent padding on the back and shoulder straps, a good airspace between the sack and your back, top, side and hip-belt pockets, gear loops and even an ice axe loop. But, even at 18 litres, it is quite a bulky pack. There is a zip under the lip for removing the padded back, but so far I haven’t worked out quite how to do that, as the opening seems too tight. The space between the back panel and the rucksack is actually designed for a water bladder, so perhaps the padded back isn’t intended to be removable.
For the walk in to the crag, I found the Talon to be simply too big. Bear in mind that I wasn’t using it as a backpack at this stage of my climbing day – it was simply stuffed inside my more substantial rucksack to get it to the crag. I’d hoped for something that would maybe roll up into a tight space, but you can’t do that with the Talon 18.
That is the only fault I found with the Talon 18 however. Osprey have actually come up with a truly great pack here. Because it is loaded with features it makes a super pack for walking (and running and biking!) too. The first time I used it was on a hill walk in the Howgill Fells, and everything about the pack was just right. The size was perfect, the comfort was exactly as you’d expect from Osprey, and I particularly liked the twin hip-belt pockets for carrying my compact camera and phone.
On the rock it is also a superb cragging sack. At 18 litres it is easily big enough to get the essentials in for a day’s climbing. On Corvus in Borrowdale recently we bundled waterproof jackets, insulation layers, food, water, first aid kit, abseil tat, a pen knife, and a guidebook into it – enough stuff for two people to spend three hours on an 8 pitch climb in comfort. The lead climber could push the route out unencumbered, while the second carried the sack throughout, and this worked really well. Having our kit with us meant we could savour the climbing, taking our time and stopping on ledges along the way for a snack. For each of us wearing the Talon 18 we both agreed that it didn’t hinder access to gear loops on the harness, and could be pulled in tight to the back using the side compression straps to keep it from being too bulky and top heavy.
All in all this is a lovely rucksack, whether you wear it for walking, climbing, running, or biking. At £75 including delivery straight from the Osprey website it’s also not a bad price, and is sure to last a good few trips into the mountains with me.
For full details, and yo order yours today go to the Osprey website here: The Osprey Talon 18