Osprey Packs Talon 44

Osprey Packs supplied us (Team Osprey Packs) with the Talon 44 just in time for Chapter 3 of Godzone in Kaikoura. Since a hard introduction to life my pack has been put through its paces over a year of training and racing in the build up to Godzone Chapter 4 in Wanaka.

Osprey Talon 44

Osprey Packs Talon 44

General thoughts

For 44 litres you can fit a fair amount of stuff, such as a tent, sleeping bag, warm clothes, food and cooking gear but that is about it, so good for an overnight trip but almost a little too much space for an adventure race in good conditions! perfect in horrible conditions! The outside of the pack is shower proof but I wouldn’t hesitate to put my warm gear in a dry bag inside if it was going to rain or get wet in a river crossing. The bottom of the pack has some drain holes also to allow the water to drain out which are handy if it does fill up with water!

Big mesh pocket at the back is great for carry gear that you don’t want to pack away in the main bag, and there is plenty of room for expansion. The Ice axe loops I found a little bit long really which meant that my Ice Axe didn’t really fit very well to the pack. The point also rubbed against the fragile looking mesh pockets and I suspect after a few days in that position it would wear a hole through. Another feature missing from this pack which is on other Osprey ones was the “lid Lock” system so there wasn’t really a good place to put a helmet other than the stretchy back mesh pocket. And again there was nowhere good to put crampons (I stuck them in a bag inside the mesh pocket also).

Ice Axe loop is a little big and the Axe slops around a bit

Ice Axe loop is a little big and the Axe slops around a bit

The single action draw cord to close the top of the pack was a little difficult to figure out initially (not super intuitive) but once I had it down it was very effective in getting stuff in and out of the pack. There is an over the top restraining strap too which comes in handy if you are going to stuff the pack full of gear, or stick a jacket in there without going into the main pack. The closing straps come down over the top of an Ice Axe if it is fitted and you can either pass the strap around the back or over the top to hold further restrain the Axe.

I haven’t used the walking pole attachment system so I can’t really comment on how that works.

Comfort

When I first put this pack on it just fitted nicely to my back. The pack comes in a Small/Med and Large frame, obviously due to my stature I went with the small/med. I had no problems wearing it comfort wise and it never felt like a chore to swing it over my shoulder and onto my back. There is enough setup adjustment that you can get this pack to work best for you when you want it too. A feature that is on most good packs but its definitely one that you want for those long hours carrying your gear around. The waist strap has some pockets but like most other Osprey Packs I have run around with they are a bit small for anything over 3-4hours and have a funny little opening at the end which I have found can wiggle open if you are not careful.

Access to  the side zip pockets is limited. The pack does sit well on my back and is comfortable

Access to the side zip pockets is limited. The pack does sit well on my back and is comfortable

On the bike it was a different story however. The high frame at the back seemed to interfere with the back of my helmet which was not ideal going down steep technical downhill at 3am in complete whiteout and dark conditions. The additional weight on the bike seat also made things uncomfortable but that is just a fact of life in Adventure racing sadly. Also I learned in more ways than one that bid shorts are not ideal with a heavy pack like this… 1, you cant go to the toilet very easily; and 2, the shoulder straps of the bibs interfere with the pack shoulder straps resulting in an extra bit of unnecessary shoulder pain.

Durability

Overall the pack is pretty robust. I have had it for over a year taken it on numerous trainings, and it has done two GODZone’s and the only damage is to the mesh pockets at the sides and the back. The mesh pockets is a tough one because they are so handy for stashing gear quickly but so easily damaged on sharp rocks, barbed wire fences and vegetation along with sharp gear that you might be carry such as Ice Axe and Crampons. I have been fairly careful with mine and it still has a bit of damage. In all other areas there seems to be no sign of wear other than some mud stains!

Ice Axe clipped on, Bike Helmet in the back stash pocket

Small rip in the back stash pocket and a bit of mud stains on the bottom, other than that its looking surprisingly good for the abuse it has been through!

Pros

Lifetime Guarantee – Just like most products out of the USA you can take these packs back into the shop for any damage. The only damage to my pack so far has been the mesh pockets… which probably could warrant taking it back to the shop…

Comfortable – I wore this pack for hours on end for days on end with no rubbing, chafing or comfort issues. Sure I had sore shoulders after hours with it on but that’s to be expected. The best thing about Osprey Packs in general is they are just so comfortable to wear.

Water Bladder pocket- Just like the majority of Osprey packs the bladder pocket is accessible externally and you don’t have to go hunting around in the main pocket to get your bladder out if you need to refill. Plus you don’t get you dry stuff inside wet!

Cons

Mesh pockets at the side – These are particularly vulnerable in the New Zealand back country… anything such as barbed wire from jumping over a fence to hooking it on Matagouri and once a rip starts its not going to stop in a hurry! This can result in a devastating lost of some fruit and jelly’s!

The side mesh pockets again – the openings to these pockets are at the top and the front facing side they are no match to the Macpac Amp side pockets. It is difficult to reach into them while wearing the pack and due to the angle of the openings sometimes stuff can fall out particularly while on a bike.

The metal frame – The metal frame of the pack comes up quite high at the back of pack which is not a problem until you need to bike downhill and it interferes with the back of my helmet. This is not particularly help by wearing a road helmet on a mountain bike but the close proximity of the top of the pack sitting high enough to be comfortable while trekking.

Magnetic bladder hose – DANGEROUS to compass’s the entire time I was Navigating throughout GODZone I had to take extreme care not to damage my compass with the strong magnet in the bladder hose (I removed the clip from the chest strap also).

Summary

The Talon 44 is a pretty good all round pack for overnight trips, some basic adventure racing and some general exploring. If I was going into the mountains on a climbing mission  I would probably leave this one behind. Its ok but not ideal for cycling with either. But trekking, tramping or hiking it is a nice pack, full of features that make life easier. I also found it to fit well and was comfortable to use for prolonged periods of time.

Test Summary
Make and model:  Osprey Packs – Talon 44
Size tested:  S/M
Target market:  Light backpacking Multi-use
Construction Quality:  8/10
Durability:  8/10
Weight rating (1 = light, 10 = Heavy):  5/10
Comfort Rating:  8/10
Value for money:  8/10
Did you enjoy using the product?  Yes
Would you recommend the product?  Yes
Overall rating:   8/10

Inov8 Roclite 243

Inov8 Roc-Lite 243

The Inov8 Roclite 243 is definately my favourite racing shoe in my shoe cupboard. I am now onto generation number 3 of the 285 and 243 versions, having originally ordered them by accident! I was dead set on getting the fastest shoe I could get for some sprint orienteering, the red shoes (X-Talon 190) everyone else had… turns out I didn’t quite do my research right and got a slightly firmer, slightly heavier shoe instead. None the less, I used them for the Sprint Qualification at World Champs 2011 in France and although I didn’t get through to the final I don’t think I could blame the shoes as a result! On returning to New Zealand after a hot European summer of orienteering I took to the trails back home in Christchurch.

The Inov8 website they suggest that they are designed for trails so I took that as license to try them on some single track “routes” around the mountains. They were great in the wet and in the dry, and especially across the mountain scree and river gravels. I took them through Goat Pass on a training mission for Avalanche Peak and was instantly impressed how versatile they were. I found they were the perfect combination of light and narrow enough to have confidence in foot placement across rough ground, a key attribute for running fast off road.

The midsole is a little on the light side but still sturdy enough that I got away with only some minor bruising to my feet after crossing the finish line at the Avalanche Peak Challenge! From this point onwards they have become my race shoe of choice. I have used them in several big races such as the NZ Mountain Running Champs (Clay Firetrails around Wainoumata), Loop the lake (Tree routes and lake gravels), World Mountain Running Champs (Italian Marble Quarry) and the Hanmer Half Marathon (Gravel forestry roads) .

Comfort

Comfort wise they seem pretty good for a 2-3 hour run on the hills, where its not too muddy and not too hard under foot. I have had minimal blisters from them, due to the snug fit which restricts your foot moving too much around in them, such as when running along the side of a hill for example. There is not a lot of foot support as they are essentially a racing shoe but I have pushed the boundaries in them and tried them out for upwards of 24hours and ended up with quite sore feet afterwards.

Durability

I have given these shoes a pretty good hammering, here is some of my stats:

Shoe Km’s Hours Training Sessions
Inov8 Roclite 243 2014 486.4 90:24:52 36
Inov8 Roclite 243 2013 354.4 54:22:37 23
Inov8 Roclite 285 2012 629.5 103:32:16 44
Inov8 Roclite 285 2011 759.9 92:44:18 68

As you would expect the sole were the first part of the shoe to show signs of wear. A reduction in grip resulted and the sole collapsed a bit reducing foot control on the landing. Repeated use in this state affected running technique a bit and it was soon time to get some new shoes!

The upper part in the seemed to bust out at the inner edge of the shoe under the arch of both feet.

285's busting out the side

285’s busting out the side

243's busting out the side

243’s also busting out the side, stitching has blown out from the toe box edge seem also

The angle at which the toe protection met the upper created a wear point and this is where both of these versions started to fail. The same went for the first generation of 243’s but so far so good on the latest version!

Summary:

Definitely the best shoes for racing in the Mountains for 2-4hours. They can handle a variety of terrain, are sleek and grippy, but also durable enough to run on gravel or even seal for a bit. What they make up for in speed they lack in support and I would probably opt for something with a bit more support for long duration stuff (3+hours). Durability wise the 2014 version seems to be pretty good so far, the 2013 243’s were the least durable from my extensive testing.

Pros:

  • Light weight: 243 g hardly feels like you are wearing shoes!
  • Narrow/Tight fitting: This allows for good foot control in uneven terrain
  • Good grip: Can confidently jump onto a wet Greywacke rock in the Deception Valley and know you are not going to slip. (Note: it takes a couple of runs to get rid of the “gloss” of the new rubber on the soles)
  • Light soles: Can “feel” the ground under your feet

Cons:

  • Light soles: I am always getting bruised feet from running across sharp rocks… and there is not much support for long duration running. They take some getting used to if you are unfamiliar with low profile shoes.
  • Slippery insoles: the latest incarnation of the shoe (2014 ) seems to allow the insoles to move around and after wearing them for 24 hours on the hard ground of the Nevis Valley they were quite bunched causing significant pain in the feet….although this is not totally uncommon for being on your feet for 24hours…. (Note: since I have used them for Mulitsport I have replaced the laces with bungy laces which may contribute to the slippery insoles. I have heard from others with the same problem with normal laces.
Slippery insoles, as they were at the end of last nights run on the hills!

Slippery insoles, as they were at the end of last nights run on the hills!

  • Lace attachment points: the latest version has plastic “strands” linking the lace holes back to the sole. The X-Talons and O-Roc 340 both snapped after a moderate amount of use on some orienteering courses…. they haven’t snapped on my Roclites yet though!

Note: Inov8 have built on the Roclite 285 and 243 shoe and gone back to a create a couple of slightly heavier versions, the Roclite 282, 280, 295. The new designs still have the same sole but the upper has changed, improving in some of the areas highlighted above.