PCT Training: New Pack Test

When I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2009, I carried an Osprey Talon 44 the whole way. I love that pack! I still use it, regularly. I have taken it around the world as my preferred bag on flights. It is durable, generally comfortable — as long as I don’t over-pack it — and has worked well for me in many capacities. (I bought a Talon 22 in 2013 to use in adventure races.)

My Osprey Talon 44 and I at the Maine/New Hampshire border, the last state line crossing on the Appalachian Trail. Photo by T-Toe.

My only criticism of the Talon was the frame size. When Osprey first developed the Talon, it came in two sizes: S/M and M/L. Being a 5’2″ female, I went with the smaller of the two options and ended up with a pack frame that was slightly long, but adjustable to the degree that I could live with the fit.

In preparing for the PCT, I thought back on my experience with the Talon and knew I wanted something similar, but with a better fit, if possible. I considered an ultralight pack from ZPacks or ZimmerBuilt.

When I hike, I am overly sensitive to weight on my shoulders. It causes discomfort, pain and forces me to move much slower. I need a pack with a sturdy hip belt that I can cinch down and let the pack — and its weight — be held up by my pelvis.

So, I knew a frame-less pack wasn’t for me. (Although, I hear very good things about them from other folks.)

While shopping at the EMS in West Lebanon, New Hampshire in the fall, I noticed that Osprey now makes a female-specific version of the Talon called the Tempest. And it comes in XS/S!

Osprey Tempest pack and my mom’s old polka dot hat from 1974. Photo by Stephanie Reighart.

I had to try it. I loaded up the Tempest with weights from the store and wore it around for about an hour. I knew I had found my PCT pack.

A few months later, new Tempest 40 — in Tourmaline Green — packed with about 16 pounds of gear, I headed out on my first test hike.

I figured out a 10-mile loop near Nederland, Colorado. In an effort to make things as accurate to my PCT experience as possible, I wore the clothes and packed the gear I intend to take.

The pack felt wonderful. I am happy with my choice because I have a pack that will be durable enough to last the whole trail, will be comfortable enough when I need to stuff it full of seven days of food and FITS ME!

The view on my training hike for the Pacific Crest Trail. Photo by Stephanie Reighart.


2 thoughts on “PCT Training: New Pack Test

  1. Hi Stephanie, I’m thinking about getting the Osprey Talon or Tempest (not for a thru hike yet, but someday!) and I’m curious what you thought of the Tempest. I was disappointed to see it had less capacity (38 vs 42) and nylon instead of ripstop nylon…on the other hand, a size XS/S sounds awesome! Did the Tempest fit a bear canister? Did it hold up well? Super curious about your perspective now that you’ve tried both packs. Thanks, Emily

    1. Hi Emily,
      I found both the Tempest and Talon to be very similar in daily use. The main difference I noticed was fit. The Tempest actually fit my torso. I spent the whole A.T. with extra space above my shoulders and while I got used to it, I think it contributed to more weight on my hips overall, and therefore more wear on my hips. With the Tempest, I could put 15-20% of the weight of my pack on my shoulders and it felt comfortable. I couldn’t do that with the Talon — I basically used the shoulder straps just to keep the pack next to my body.

      The volume is noticeable when the packs are sitting next to each other, but in day-to-day use, I could always fit everything I needed in my Tempest. The “brain” as I call it is still holds way more than you think it will. I also really like the trekking pole holder the Tempest has and the new position of the hip pocket zippers. (Newer Talons might have those features now, too. I haven’t looked). I was able to fit a Bear Vault 500 in my Tempest. It took a little creativity to get everything in there and a couple of days to figure out the best way to pack everything, but it worked.

      I also didn’t notice a whole lot of difference in the overall wear of the Tempest vs the Talon. The exterior pockets are a lighter weight fabric and mine did sustain a couple of holes from sticks and ice axes and the like, but they haven’t torn or compromised the pockets’ usability. My pack has held up well and I will definitely be able to get many more hundreds of miles out of it.

      Hope that’s helpful. Let me know if you have anymore questions! Happy hiking!!

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