Osprey Kyte 46 ($249.95)
Leading into my first outback experience in the Northern Territory, I had three key criteria I wanted in a pack: something lightweight, suited to a small-framed person, and the ideal volume for a week-long adventure.
On paper, the Osprey Kyte 46-litre seemed the ideal backpack to address these prerequisites – promoted as a “Women’s Backpacking and Day Hiking pack” – but like any suitcase or new pair of shoes, the real test begins when you put the equipment to work.
Over the course of a week I started my Red Centre adventure around 161 kilometres west of Alice Springs, exploring some of the West MacDonnell Ranges’ prominent landmarks. The area is a day hiker’s dream, encapsulating large, picturesque gorges, waterholes, sandstone walls, ochre pits, the spectacular Ormiston Gorge, cliffs of quartzite at Simpsons Gap and the Larapinta Trail. From there I made my way to Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park and Watarrka National Park for some early morning hikes.
Transit and Storage
After toying with the best volume backpack to cater for the week, I found the 46-litre pack to be a versatile option that could fit essential items for a a day of walking, or hold your life’s travelling necessities: lightweight clothes, electronic cords and toiletries.
What I liked about the Kyte’s storage is that once you thought you’d reached capacity, there was always a hidden compartment of generous new space – so much so that I never utilised every inch. No space is wasted. Every nook and cranny is carefully considered for a purpose.
The main body is deep and flexible to hold the bulk of items. A common pet peeve for any traveller is knowing the item you need most has been conveniently packed at the very bottom of the main compartment. Osprey’s solution to this issue comes in the form of a zipper on one side of the pack to give alternate access to the main body compartment. Brilliant feature. I did find, however, the drawstring closure of the backpack a little fiddly to begin with, but soon got the hang of it.
The bottom zipper compartment has the ability to form a separate storage area to the main body. I used this function for easy access to regularly-used items. For those who wish to save space, this compartment can also be folded down thanks to the associated compression straps.
The top head compartment of the bag features a generous zipper pocket on the outside that’s easily accessible and leads to a generous space inside. When it’s not strapped down, the top part of the bag has a mesh pocket for further storage.
A deep mesh pocket covers the outside front of the bag and can securely hold regularly-accessed items. Personally, I would have liked a zipper compartment in this space for extra security, however in saying that I never lost anything I placed in its grasp.
Likewise, I made good use of the elastic webbing on either side of the bag for water bottle storage – an essential for those hot outback days.
For those looking for device storage, the Osprey Kyte has you covered. There’s an external hydration sleeve, tool loops, and trekking pole attachments. While I didn’t utilise the ice-pick loops being in 35-plus heat, it’s there should you need. I also found the zippered hipbelt pockets a nice added touch for easy access to sunscreen and coins.
As a small-framed person with limited height, I was mostly concerned at how well the Kyte would contour to my frame and provide travel comfort rather than appear a turtle-like structured shell. While many packs cater to S/M/L sizes, I was pleased to see the Kyte available in an XS, and its fit didn’t disappoint.
The Kyte contoured to my size really well and at no point did I feel the weight of the pack impact my back, shoulders or hips.
The upper, lower and side compression straps really helped stabilise the load, as did the contoured and padded shoulder and hip straps, making all-day endurance more comfortable than I thought possible. The sternum strap also added that extra bit of stability. Because I adjusted the straps quite firmly to suit my frame, it did leave a lot of residual strap flapping around, but that was easily fixed with a few ties.
While hiking in the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta and the Kings Canyon Rim Walk in Watarrka National Park, I was faced with many steep inclines and descents that tested my balance as much as endurance, but even on these occasions I felt my load was always stable, well balanced, and never bounced.
The Osprey LightWire frame provides a comfortable back support with mesh hardness. Although, with scorching temperatures I did feel the Airscape mesh back panel failed to ventilate as well as I’d hoped. But then again, what would in such heat?
Wear and Tear
For a backpack that started off as a pristine Ocean Blue, it was inevitable the Kyte’s strong colour would take a hit from the outback’s elements and rich red soil. But an easy wipe-down post-trip saw the pack scrub up really well, ready for its next adventure.
I put the Osprey Kyte to work in a variety of situations – extreme heat, cool conditions and rain. On one day I offloaded my contents and used the bag as a daypack, and on other days my entire load came with me.
For those longer walking days through hot climates, I was happy to end the day with no more than tired legs. To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the comfort of the Kyte, which proved to have all-day carrying comfort. I felt no bruising or rubbing from the harness.
The Osprey Kyte became an extension of me – we trekked through the West MacDonnell Ranges in awe of the quartzite sights, and by night we rested in hostels and on rich red desert floors. It only took a day to adjust to the bag’s intricacies and storage system. Before I knew it we were working harmoniously as one, leaving me to enjoy the stunning beauty on offer in the Northern Territory.