I recently purchased the women’s REI trail 40 backpack to do 3-4 day hiking trips and thought it only appropriate to compare it to the Osprey Kestrel 48 backpack that I took hiking for 7 days in Patagonia last winter. The most obvious difference: the Osprey was a men’s bag and the REI Trail 40 is a women’s bag. They do have quite a few similarities. I have enjoyed both bags but figured since the Osprey was one that I had borrowed; it was time to invest in one for myself.
Going into the backpack-shopping mode, I kept in mind some takeaways of things I liked about the Osprey and things that could’ve been improved upon. The men’s Osprey was a size M/L so for me it was a little too big but there are quite a few areas in which I was able to make adjustments so that it fit as snug as possible on the shoulders, waistband, and straps. I’m about 5’9’’ so the fit was only a little off. The Osprey did have quite a bit of cushioning and ventilation for the upper and lower back that I found really nice when hiking 8-10 hour days. It was convenient having a compartment for my sleeping bag in the base that left room on the bottom front of the bag to attach a two-person tent. The sides of the bag had pulls that you could tighten for trekking poles, which was also well planned. One of the biggest drawbacks to this bag and 95% of all other backpacking bags is the drawstring top loading design. Carly and I found it frustrating when getting settled in for the night having to basically dump everything out in order to find anything since there wasn’t any side entry access. The space available for the water bladder was a nice size. It didn’t impede too much on the overall space of the bag when there was a full 3 L water bladder also in the bag. The last standout item of the bag was the rain cover and storage compartment in the front of the bag. This definitely came in handy when we had days of constant rain or mist. The only problem with the rain fly design was I wish it had a clip on it to clip onto the bag because some of the extreme winds blew the rain cover straight off. Luckily Car has cat like reflexes and grabbed it before it went off the mountain!
Now for the REI Trail 40. Because this bag is designed for women, it definitely fits me more like a glove and has comfortable padding. The feature of this bag that drew me to it the most was that it gives side access to the inside of the bag. It has enough zippers that you can unzip it all the way around or if you only want to grab something off the top you can just unzip that part. Because the top loader feature of the Osprey is what I found the most frustrating when accessing my items inside, I really really love the layout of the Trail 40. It’s much easier to get to items in the main compartment and also has a lot of other areas for organization. It is a little bit smaller so if I were going to hike more than 5 days I’d probably opt for a larger bag but this does this trick if you are good at packing light and more of a minimalist. It has a lot of the same features as the Osprey. It has a rainfly, space for a water bladder, place for trekking poles. I must say though, the water bladder space when full does impede a bit into the space inside the main compartment of the bag. Other than that, I don’t have any complaints really. It’s small enough not to have any issues carrying it on a plain and has nice compartments around the hip belt for a phone or anything you’d like to get to quickly.
All in all both bags are great for different reasons. If you’re looking for a women’s fit with side access to the main compartment and are used to packing lighter then I’d recommend the REI Trail 40. If you’re looking for more space, a bit more support in the back structure and a larger water bladder space but don’t mind the top loading design then the Osprey is great. It most comes down to personal preference so if backpack shopping make sure to try on a few different styles and brands to see what suites you and what type of adventure you’ll be using the bag for.