This review of the Osprey Stratos 36 vs Kestrel 38 explains the main differences between the two. These Osprey backpacks are designed very similarly, so choosing between them can be confusing.
Both are made for the same purpose. You can go on day hikes with them as well as overnight backpacking. There is enough space in both to carry plenty of gear for these purposes. However, they are not the same size, nor do they have exactly the same features. At their most basic level, their designs are the same. But the Kestrel 38 includes a few more features that the Stratos 36 does not have.
First, lets go over the basics of what makes them similar.
Osprey Stratos 36 vs Kestrel 38: The Similarities
As mentioned above, both are made for day hiking or overnight backpacking.
Both backpacks have side mesh pockets that stretch to hold your water bottle and other miscellaneous items. The only difference between the two is that the Stratos 36 has its bottom compression straps flush against each side pocket. This gives you the opportunity to tighten it a bit so that you don’t lose the items that are stored inside.
Both backpacks have main compartments that can be accessed easily by completely opening up its large panel through their zipper. This way, you get to see all of your gear at a glance.
The hip belt has pockets with zippers to help contain your smaller items. With both backpacks, you can store frequently used items on the hip belt in much the same way.
Removable rain cover
We feel that is important for any backpack to include a rain cover as part of its features. Anytime you buy a backpack for travel, it is always important to have a waterproof bag to go over it. Many travellers are used to simply buying garbage bags, but this can become cumbersome. The rain cover comes in a pocket at the bottom of the backpack. This rain cover can be completely removed in order to save space and lighten the weight.
Overnight gear storage
The Stratos 36 and Kestrel 38 have a zippered sleeping bag compartment. This keeps your sleeping bag nice and dry and free of moisture. But an overnight stay out in the wild would not be complete without a sleeping pad to protect you against the cold hard ground. These backpacks have straps especially made to carry your sleeping pad.
What makes the Stratos 36 and Kestrel 38 different
The Kestrel 38 has a few extra features that the Stratos 36 does not come with. It is important to be aware of these, as they are not completely obvious.
External hydration sleeve
The Kestrel 38 has a hydration sleeve at the top of its back panel. It accommodates any Osprey hydration pack. We love this feature because it can be far more convenient to use a hydration pack while you are walking than using a water bottle. Using a water bottle, you need to reach into the side pocket and pull it out. Then remove the lid and risk some of the water dropping on to you. A hydration pack simply makes for a more enjoyable hike.
Front mesh pocket
We are actually surprised that the Stratos 36 does not include this feature. The Kestrel 38 has a large stretch mesh pocket to store larger items. It does not have any zippers so you will not be able to protect it from the elements unless you’re using your rain cover. But this is a great way to put away your overcoat or towels.
Front panel daisy chains
Around the front mesh pocket of the Kestrel 38 are some daisy chains with loop attachments. Using these loops, you can attach external gear such as poles and helmets. The Stratos 36 does not have this feature of daisy chains, nor does it have a front mesh pocket.
The Kestrel 38 has a lightwire frame that allows for the transfer of the weight of the gear on to the hip belt. This is in conjunction to the Airscape mesh back panel, thus helping with ventilation. Using the Kestrel 38 back panel, the weight of the gear in the backpack does not feel as heavy as with other backpacks.
Side access to main compartment
The Stratos 36 gives side zip access to the gear and your main compartment. This gives you multiple portals to your gear, which is a great feature if you’re trying to access it and your backpack is stuffed full of things.
Dimensions and volume capacity
The Kestrel 38 is wider, taller, and can carry more volume than the Stratos 36.
- Dimensions: 26 x 15 x 16 inches (s/m) and 28 x 15 x 16 inches (m/l)
- Volume: 36 liters (s/m) and 38 liters (m/l)
- Dimensions: 26 x 13 x 12 inches (s/m) and 28 x 13 x 12 inches (m/l)
- Volume: 34 liters (s/m) and 36 liters (m/l)
The Kestrel 38 carries 6% more volume than the Stratos 36.
At the time of this writing, the Stratos 36 costs $30 more than the Kestrel 38 on Amazon. See below for prices:
Osprey Stratos 36 vs Kestrel 38: The Verdict
In our opinion, the Kestrel 38 seems to have it all compared to the Stratos 36. It has all of the basic features of the Stratos 36, plus a few more. The Kestrel 38 also carries 6% more volume, but actually costs $30 less then the Stratos 36.
The only caveat to the Kestrel 38 is that it is wider then the Stratos 36. This can sometimes limit forearm movement if you are a smaller person. Apart from this, we feel that the Kestrel 38 is a better investment.
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