User Review: Osprey Talon 11
Price Paid: $65
I purchased this pack for very long distance unsupported trail runs. I am new at this distance and and will likely never be a professional. I do not race.
- Minimal weight
- Minimal bounce
- Straps don't rub
- Pack doesn't "crawl" up your back as you run (I hate that!)
- Pockets on hips large enough for GPS, Smart phone, or a couple of Clif Bars, yet small enough that they don't abrade the inside of my forearms
- Pockets on shoulder straps fits energy gels, my watch, my old-fashioned flip phone.
- Fits my older Platypus Hoser 3-liter hydration bladder.
- Easy to extract said bladder for refill without emptying contents of the pack.
- Fits enough gear for changing temperatures/altitude/conditions and "essentials" on daylong backcountry trail runs.
- Stretch pockets on side of pack for narrow water bottles (i.e., not Nalgene 1-Liters) perfectly sized and perfectly placed (I can reach them without removing the pack)
- Light load compression should be better. The external storage bungee acts as a very limited compression.
- My waist has not yet shrunk to be sufficiently narrower than my ribs to prevent the hip belt from riding up over the bottom of my ribcage. I think, however, that this is more the fault of my slight paunch than that of the pack. If my waist narrows, I shall update this review.
WHY I GOT IT
For shorter distances (6 to 10 miles), I just need water which can be accomplished in a myriad of ways readily available. For longer distances (over 10 miles) I need some source of energy (gels or whatnot), and even for this there are plenty of waistpacks or running vests or hydration whatevers which will hold enough water, and a couple of energy bars and energy gels. However, I plan on running 50+ miles solo and largely without support through unfamiliar backcountry. There are plenty of packs which can be used to walk this distance, but the experience of running in most day packs goes from unpleasant to painful to injurious. These hiking specific packs tend to bind, rub, and bounce horribly when running.
One solution was to limit what I carry and use a smaller running pack like the Nathan HPL #020. There are others in that genre, but the Nathan seems to be the gold standard for ultra endurance runners. Nathan calls it a "Race Vest," and videos of long distance trail runners wearing this abound. I felt, however, that its 275 c.i. cargo capacity was insufficient.
I want to carry some "just-in-case" essentials, as weather can change on a day-long run, I might be traversing sufficient altitude as to expect different conditions on top, and if I'm having a slow day or I get a little off course I might find myself on an accidental camp-out.
My choices, then, looked to be limited to a few packs meant primarily for long-distance mountain biking as well as what the industry seems to be terming, "mult-use," "mult-sport," or "adventure racing" hydration packs.
Manufacturers of these include Inov-8, Salomon, Camelbak, Gregory, and Osprey, but I didn't find examples of all of these packs in nearby stores to try on. I was, however, able to try on the Osprey Raptor 10, the Osprey Manta 20, and the Gregory Miwok 18, as well as the Osprey Talon 11.
**As a caveat, I did not wear my running gear into the store, nor did I bring a full water bladder to insert into the pack. It's not a bad idea to wear what you will wear and load what you will carry to test the pack out in the store, but even more important is a good store return policy. You can get a feel for the pack in the store, but distance is the real test. I suppose it's not illegal to run laps in your local outfitter, but it'll likely be long before mile 15 that the folks in green vests ask you to stop sweating on their samples.
The Raptor and Talon are nearly identical in fit and feel, I found, so the main distinction was how I prefer to organize my gear. The Raptor had stretch hip pockets with no other seal (zipper, velcro, etc...) than the compression of the elastic (the Talon's hip pockets were stretch mesh with zipper closures) and the Raptor did not have the nifty shoulder strap pockets of the Talon. The other differences can easily be identified by an in-store comparison, but those I listed were important to me.
The Manta seemed to fit fine (no bounce, no binding, no rubbing), but is designed (goofily, if you ask me) as a miniature version of a full-featured technical backpacking pack -- it even has an "integrated rain cover" -- which gave me less apparent room (the specs say the Manta 18 has more room than the Talon 11, but I couldn't find it) and it weighs almost twice the Talon.
The Miwok 18 I found had insufficient support (stiffness) on the back panel. The Ospreys have a structured foam back panel which seemed to reduce pack bounce, and provides a protective barrier between the screwcap of my Platypus Hoser and my ribs.
The Miwok has a truly nifty compression system which allows you to easily compress on the go. However, even when I really cinched this down there was a surprising amount of bounce. This is possibly at least partially related to the size. The Miwok 18 is identical to the Gregory Wasatch 12 except in capacity (18 and 12 liters respectively), the latter being the pack which would be more appropriate for my purposes.
The Wasatch, however, wasn't in the store and since the Miwok and Wasatch were identical in every other way, I thought I'd still get a good feel. Also, the hip-belt pockets (I find these useful for accessing stuff on the go) on the Gregory, were so wide as to cause my forearms to brush against them while running. I can just imagine how nice my raw, bleeding arms would feel at the end of a 20 miles of that.
The tethers of the shoulder straps and hip belt are stretchy and multi-part ("a set of flexible tendons," says Gregory). Though seemingly a major selling-point for Gregory, it did not make a difference in my brief, under-loaded, in-store test.
The winner for me was the Osprey Talon 11. It had the capacity I needed, the weight was not obtrusive, the flop nearly absent, and had both hip-belt pockets and neat little elastic pockets on the shoulder straps.
The MSRP is not awful ($89 when I looked), and various colors and sizes can be found on sale for 10 to 15 bucks less. I got mine for $65 bucks, shipping included. I just did a test run of around 7 miles/1300' cumulative elevation gain with a minimal load. The pack performed as I had hoped, up hill and down, over rock and river, ducking branches, and on straight stretches of monotonous tarmac. It stayed put, didn't beat me up, and carried my necessities with plenty of room.
I was the victim of some confusion in various online comments (not here, but elsewhere) about the sizing of this pack. The pack comes in two sizes, "S/M" and "M/L". Some comments suggested that the size difference is merely capacity, and if you go to the Osprey website's page for this pack the listing does not suggest otherwise. There is definitely a capacity difference (549 c.i. vs 671 c.i.), but there is also definitely a fit difference.
If you go to the Osprey website's page detailing pack sizing (for all their packs), you will see the fit guide. I thought I would get the M/L for extra cargo capacity. The M/L that I ordered was a pack that flopped and rubbed and poked me in the lower back, contrary to the pack I had tried on which had fit so beautifully. I returned it and got the S/M which fit like a dream.
Check the Osprey website pack sizing page to make sure you get the right one! This size difference, by the way, is available on the Osprey, whereas it was not available on the Gregory.