Osprey Tempest 34 review

The new line of Osprey Talon and Tempest packs is out, and in addition to the normal volume sizes there is a new bucket zip opening Talon 36L and Tempest 34L version. I have always wanted a zip opening Tempest, so I had to have a look! The pink pack in the photos is my first edition Tempest 30L, this green one is in the third version of the line (as far as I know).

Fit: The fit is great, as expected. The new models have had a sizing overhaul, and there are now two women’s sizes, XS/S and M/L. If you have ever seen women you will wonder how on Earth they thought a women’s pack could ever be one size fits all. The old Talon S/M and Tempests fit me well enough though, but since I am tall and broad, I ordered the new M/L. After loosening the velcro holding the harness in place and adjusting it, and pulling the shoulder, sternum and loadlifter straps, it fit and felt perfect. The waist webbing belt is more generous as well, so no more ridiculous clip-on extension straps for normal sized women with hips!

Back: The new back system is an improved version of the mesh covered washboard, and seems to be supported by stays even though I can’t find any mention of it. In this larger of the two women’s sizes the hard part which can’t be squished down measures 53 cm from bottom to top, compared to the previous one-size Tempest 30, where the back panel measures 47 cms and the pack is a bit higher, but soft and squishable. The max cabin luggage on a Ryanair flight is 55 x 40 x 20 cm, so the new M/L size Tempest would just fit, while the new Talon L/XL would not. The new EasyJet hand luggage rules limit your free bag to 45 x 36 x 20 cm and states that it must fit under the seat in front of you. Which my Tempest 30 demonstrably does, but the Tempest 34 will not. The Tempest 30 will also fit in the washing machine, but the 34 will not.

It also means that if I look up at the sky, the pack hits the back of my head! Sadly that’s three drawbacks for me already – it will cost more to take on board, has to be washed by hand after a warm and dusty adventure, and stops me from looking up, which I like to do.

Opening: I do love the bucket zip! So easy to stuff the sleeping bag in there without scrunching it up, then add drybags with second outfit, bits and bobs, and put my arrival bag at the top and zip it up. For the size of my kit, this would be perfect – easy to rummage around to find the right colour drybag, and nothing would be too squished. A good alternative to a full panel opening zip.

Pockets: There is still one mesh pocket either side and one on the front, but the side ones are now much deeper, seem wider and are reinforced with sturdier material at the bottom to avoid ripping. Great if you like deep and safe side pockets, but it also means I won’t be able to reach my water bottle on the move, drink and replace it without stopping or asking anyone for help. There is also a reservoir/bladder pocket on the back if you use these, but I don’t and won’t, I want to see how much I have left and top up my bottle quickly and easily. So great pockets, though not necessarily for my use. In the photo below you can see how two identical water bottles fare in the pockets – the T34 pockets swallow it completely! There are also pockets on the hipbelt, one on the left shoulder strap, one on the bucket lid and a mesh one just inside the opening.

Compression: There is still an inside/out option for the compression strap on each side so you can tighten the mesh pocket down or leave it open for things like in my case the water bottle. BUT the strap starts from the edge of the hipbelt pocket, so it MUST go over the bottom of the pocket before threading it through a plastic ring under the vertical panel for the second crossing and from there, the choice is yours – over or under the pocket. This is not ideal for reaching and replacing water bottles without stopping, which I like to do, but as you can see above, this is a moot point as I can’t possibly reach the bottle in that deep pocket without taking the pack off. A shame – I really liked the true inside-out compression. And the upper compression strap is a brilliant addition, though I would have preferred it to have a clip I could open to quickly and easily put my umbrella, or tent poles, or whatever, in place. A minor niggle though, compared to actually having it. When the pack isn’t full, it will be handy to be able to compress the content rather than have the pack body wobbling about at the top, since there is no lid to cinch down.

Look: It also seems that Osprey missed the memo about cheerful and frivolous colours post-pandemic – think the Roaring Twenties – and the packs come in muted, darkish colours apart from the men’s bright red. The women’s purple is just what I’d want on paper, but somehow it doesn’t inspire me. I’d have liked to see a bright blue, or a red for women as well, or in line with their jewel colours, a more turquoisy teal? That said, this green is a good colour choice for those who don’t like overly bright colours, it won’t show up dirt and will blend in reasonably in the woods. The other colours in the 34L size are purple and black. Personally, I miss the white talon pattern brightening the packs up, it is now just a faint outline of the iconic talons.

Weight: The new 34L version weighs 1.1 kg, while my old 30L weighs 850 g.

Pros: The wide bucket zip opening is brilliant! I also love the Stow-on-the-go system for carrying poles, and the big mesh pockets on the front and sides, and the top compression straps, though they can’t be opened. The ice axe loops can be tucked away, which is a nice touch. The reinforced material on the side pockets is a great idea. And the volume is perfect for a long or short camino, or any form of travel or adventure where you don’t need to bring the kitchen sink. The weight is good too and the materials are all well chosen.

Cons: The side compression which for some strange reason comes from the hipbelt pocket and cinches in the bottom of the otherwise brilliant side pockets and limits their usefulness, at least for me. The height, though that might be perfect for other women (or men) with longer backs – I am tall, but with a short back for my height. The colour choices, and still no rain cover included, but that is minor.

My verdict: This is basically the pack I have been dreaming of, but not the way I had hoped. If it had been an old version Tempest back panel and inside/out compression with the addition of the bucket zip and top compression straps, I would have been over the moon. As it is, I am sadly not – and if I wore it and tried to look up at the moon, the pack would hit me in the back of my head! So it will be going back, but I am thinking of getting the men’s version, the Talon 36, for my Scouse Spouse. The stiff back panel and new taller back size would be an improvement for him because he needs a long back that can lift the harness off his shoulders due to an old injury. So even if it is not for me, it is a brilliant pack and a welcome addition to the series, and it definitely belongs on the list of great camino backpack choices.

Result: The bucket pack is going back, and I have fallen even more in love with my bright pink Tempest 30.

Update: I have since managed to try on the smaller size, XS/S, and though the pack body was the perfect size, back length wise and also capacity for a camino wise, the padded shoulder and waist belt was on the small side. If you want to try it, which you definitely should!, and you have both sizes available, don’t let the XS or L portion of the size name put you off – try them both and adjust them as needed, you might be surprised. Or why not try the men’s Talon version, which comes in three sizes.

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