Gear Review: Osprey Talon 18/Tempest 16 Daypack

Osprey Talon 18
Osprey Talon 18

Osprey Talon 18/Tempest 16
$90, 1 lb. 5 oz. (S/M Talon 18)
Men’s Talon 18 sizes:
S/M 16L/976 c.i., fits torsos 41-51cm/16-20 ins.
M/L 18L/1,098 c.i., fits torsos 48-58.5cm/19-23 ins.
Women’s Tempest 16 sizes:
XS/S 14L/854 c.i., fits torsos 33-43cm/13-17 ins.
S/M 16L/976 c.i., fits torsos 40.5-51cm/16-20 ins.

I’ve used enough daypacks over the years to notice the little differences between the many models out there—and to be very picky about them. Not only do I favor lighter, simpler daypacks for everything from dayhikes with my family to ultra-dayhikes, but I expect comfort, good access, and versatility, and I know what I like in features. With those requirements in mind, I took Osprey’s Talon 18 out on several dayhikes of varying lengths—including a 27-mile, 12-hour day—during a six-day rafting trip down Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

The day before the float trip started, I carried the Talon 18 with up to about 15 pounds inside it on a dayhike of roughly 27 miles, with 3,200 feet of uphill and downhill, on the upper stretch of the Middle Fork Salmon River Trail from Boundary Creek to Indian Creek (where I met up with the rest of my party). I also carried it with 10 to 12 pounds inside on a 10-mile dayhike with a couple of hill climbs and descents on the Middle Fork Salmon River Trail; and a steep, 2.4-mile, 1,200-foot hike to Johnson Point above the Middle Fork. All of the hikes were in warm, dry July conditions, with highs in the 80s Fahrenheit, although I got rained on for about an hour during a thunderstorm on the 27-miler and for 30 minutes on the 10-miler. My wife also carried it with about 10 pounds inside on a 13-mile, 4,200-foot, partly off-trail dayhike of Thompson Peak in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.

Osprey Talon 18 harness
Osprey Talon 18 harness

It carried comfortably even throughout my longest day. The molded-foam, Airscape back panel flexes and doesn’t have the rigidity of a wire frame, but has good support for 15 or more pounds and keeps the pack’s weight down; it also allowed some air circulation across my back. A mesh hipbelt and shoulder straps with perforated foam padding help distribute weight evenly while ventilating nicely; but they have no rigid structure to them, so don’t overload this pack.

This top-loader’s capacity is adequate for three-season dayhikes of any length. The main compartment, accessed fairly quickly via one buckle and a drawcord, had space for a couple extra layers, food for a huge dayhike, and my DSLR body and two lenses, with a little room to spare. The fixed top pocket will hold maps, hat, gloves, and a few snacks, and the two roomy, zippered hipbelt pockets each could hold three or four bars. Two stretch side pockets have compression straps that can be positioned either inside the pocket (to compress only the pack) or outside the pocket (to secure whatever is inside the pocket).

Osprey Talon 18
Osprey Talon 18

The pack also sports nice features like one ice-tool attachment, a gear loop (for clipping carabiners and climbing gear), an emergency whistle on the sternum strap, and one of my favorite conveniences on any type of pack: a loop on the left shoulder strap for quickly attaching trekking poles while on the go, freeing your hands whether you’re scrambling or want to shoot a photo. The lightweight pack fabric showed no damage from scrapes against sharp rocks and some bushwhacking; it repelled light rain but is not waterproof. As with many daypacks, the mesh side pockets are more susceptible to tears.

A hydration bladder (sold separately) loads into an external compartment between the back panel and the pack’s main compartment—so you don’t have to remove the pack’s contents to refill on water. Just loosen the load-lifter straps (at the top of the shoulder straps), stuff the filled bladder into that compartment, and feed the hose through a pair of loops on either shoulder strap. Tip: Before starting a hike, load the full bladder into that compartment before loading everything else into the Talon; otherwise, you could stuff the Talon so much that it’s harder to slide a full bladder into that compartment.

If, like me, you prefer a lightweight, multi-use pack for dayhiking, adventure racing, or scrambling peaks, with simple but smart organization, the men’s Talon 18 and women’s Tempest 16 are good choices. Osprey’s Talon series includes several models from 6L to 44L. The women’s Tempest series, with a gender-specific harness, is available in models from 6L to 40L.

BUY IT NOW: You can support my work on this blog by clicking on either of these links to purchase an Osprey Talon 18 at or a Tempest 16 at

See all of my reviews of daypacks that I like, all of my reviews of hiking gear, and all of my reviews of Osprey packs. See also my stories “Buying Gear? Read This First,” “5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear,” “The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun,” and “Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?

NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

—Michael Lanza

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