Osprey Talon Earth 22 backpack review

Osprey's Talon rucksacks are among the most popular packs in the UK. Trail's Ben Weeks takes a look at the latest arrival in the range.

Osprey Talon Earth 22 on dry cracked sand river bed

by Ben Weeks |

Unless you're particularly new to hiking, you'll have no doubt come across a Talon pack before. Osprey Talon rucksacks (and its female equivalent Tempest packs) are among the most popular hiking rucksacks in the UK. Ranging from the super compact 9-litre models up to multi-day backpacking capable 55-litre sizes, it's hardly surprising that you see so many Talons and Tempests out and about in the hills.

As such, you might question why Osprey need another Talon pack. To answer that we need to address a somewhat surprising fact. Despite the enormous number of packs that Osprey produce – they have never previously had one of their products 'bluesign approved'. Bluesign approval certifies that textile products (such as rucksacks) are safe for the environment, workers, and customers. It applies to chemicals, processes, materials, and products, helping manufacturers properly manage chemicals and replace harmful substances with safer alternatives.

The Talon Earth 22 is Osprey's first pack to be bluesign approved. Osprey sourced recycled fabrics inside and out, top to bottom to meet the bluesign-approved criteria. Everything from recycled binding tape, zippers, woven labels to sewing thread. Roughly half of the plastic hardware is made from renewable natural gas, making it "a true marvel of sustainable design with minimal impact on people and the environment".

Features and design

The Talon Earth 22 is a multi-use, multi-purpose pack. The 22-litre capacity is perfect for a summer hiking daypack, but equally suited to transporting lunch and a laptop to the office. This do-it-all approach explains the somewhat eclectic mix of features on offer. The Talon Earth 22 offers an internal padded laptop sleeve (commuting), a LidLock bike helmet holder and a 'blinky light' attachment point (cycling), and an external reservoir sleeve and a tuck-away ice axe attachment with bungee tie-off (hiking).

Naturally there are lots of features on this bag which are good for any use. The zippered hipbelt pockets are handy for on-the-hill snacks or holding loose change for the tube station buskers. The padded Airscape back-panel ensures carrying comfort, will help keep your back cool on the trail or on the train, and is adjustable to different back lengths.

When it comes to storage, there are loads of options. In addition to the main zipped compartment (which also houses a zipped security pocket with key-clip) there's a smaller external pocket for items you want to keep easily accessible, two side stretch pouches, a stretch harness pocket for sunglasses, phone or energy bar, plus the padded laptop sleeve, hydration pouch and hip-belt pockets already mentioned.

The Talon Earth 22 feature list is almost identical to that of the slightly less environmentally-friendly standard Talon 22. There are a few small differences, though. The Earth model does not offer Osprey's usually ubiquitous Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment. You could put this down to the Earth being a more streamlined, urban model were it not for the inclusion of an ice-axe loop. However, it's simple enough to store poles in the side pockets. It's also worth noting that the standard Talon 22 does not have a laptop sleeve. The addition of this to the Earth model does make it marginally heavier (1.1kg compared to 0.9kg). Finally, the Earth model loses the stretch front dump pocket that the standard Talon 22 has. This is a pity as these are always useful for damp waterproofs or quickly stashing a removed layer.

In use and comfort

As you'd expect, the harness and hip-belt work superbly to make the Talon Earth 22 an exceptionally comfortable carry. The adjustable back length makes it possible for you to get the perfect fit. However, because this is a unisex pack, there will no doubt be some body-shapes that don't get on so well with the Talon. As always, it's worth trying before you buy.

Interestingly the Earth 22 is the only Talon Osprey refer to as 'unisex'. They describe the standard Talon 22 as a men's pack, with the Tempest 20 being the women's equivalent. As it's unlikely that the Earth 22 has undergone any major fitting redesign over the standard Talon, this seems to be more a case of Osprey trying to get their first bluesign pack on the backs of as many people as possible.

In use the sheer number of pockets and their lay out made life a little confusing. They also felt a little cramped. The pack's design means there are three separate full-length compartments one on top of the other: the main pouch, the laptop sleeve, and the hydration pocket. The result is that each one feels narrower than I'd like and makes packing the rucksack awkward. I've never tended to use Osprey's Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment so didn't miss it, but some might.

On the whole, it's the laptop sleeve I took most umbrage with. If I wanted one rucksack for use as a hiking, cycling, and everyday commuter pack, then it might be tolerable. But I don't. My focus is on hiking and the added bulk of the padded sleeve is not desirable. Similarly, I found the plastic helmet LidLock annoying and removing it was one of the first things I did. You can untie it rather than cut it, but refitting might be tricky.

Finally, there were elements of the design that just seemed lazy or unfinished. Both the small strap designed to hold your hydration bladder upright and the opening allowing the hose to exit the pack are in the laptop sleeve. I don't understand the reasoning for this, unless the suggestion is that you may want to stow your hydration bladder in the laptop sleeve. But I don't understand why you'd want to do that either.

Price and competition

At £160 the Osprey Talon Earth 22 is an expensive pack, even compared to its twin brother. You see, the standard Talon pack is £130 which, while still not cheap, represents quite a saving. Perhaps you could argue that the versatility of the Earth 22 makes the extra £30 worth it, but I'm not so sure.

If you really want a Talon 22 hiking pack but also need to transport your laptop occasionally, it makes more sense to buy the standard Osprey Talon 22 and put some of the £30 you've saved towards a padded laptop sleeve. Voila - you can then protect your laptop while it's inside your hiking pack, plus you get the extra hiking benefits that the standard Talon offers such as the Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment, the expanding front dup pocket, and its lighter weight.

However, the Osprey Talon Earth 22 has a bigger problem. Similar packs from Deuter (Futura 23), Rab (Aeon 20) and even reassuringly expensive Swiss brand Exped (Impulse 20) cost even less than the Talon 22, saving you even more money whether you choose to buy a separate laptop sleeve or not.

Verdict

If you want a pack for hiking, biking and travel, and it absolutely has to be an Osprey, then the Talon Earth 22 is an excellent choice. But if you're primarily after a hiking pack, there are better and less expensive options available. That is perhaps the biggest problem here. In trying to make a backpack that can be used for several things, they've made the Earth 22 superb for none of them – a jack of all trades, if you will.

That's a real shame, because there's lots to like about the Talon Earth 22. Firstly, we should congratulate Osprey for continuing to pursue maximum sustainability and minimum environmental impact. That being said, plenty of other brands have long had bluesign approved rucksacks in their range, and perhaps it should be asked why it's taken a backpack giant like Osprey this long to catch up...

To summarise, it's worth considering something that can be applied to all outdoor gear. Environmental responsibility and ethically produced equipment is no longer simply a 'nice-to-have' extra – it's an essential. But the fact remains that the products still have to do the job for which they are intended. If they don't match up to the task in hand, no amount of green swing-tag labelling will compensate for that.

The Osprey Talon Earth 22 is certainly not a bad pack. If you choose to spend your hard-earned cash on it you're unlikely to be disappointed. However, I can't help but feel that it could have been so much better.

Features 3/5 | Fit 4/5 | Comfort 5/5 | In use 3/5 | Value 3/5

Overall score: 72%

Pros: A multi use pack that's capable of tackling a range of uses from hiking trail to daily commutes

Cons: Awkward layout of pockets, expensive, unnecessary extras for a hiking pack

Specs

Limited Edition Osprey Talon Earth 22 Litre

Osprey Talon 22 Earth Side Tundra Green

View offer

Weight 1090g | Volume 22 litres | Sizes One size (adjustable) | Main fabric Fabric bluesign® approved recycled 100D x 210D wave check high-tenacity nylon, PFC/PFAS-free DWR

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