Youth Pack Review: Osprey Ace 38, Deuter Fox 40, and the REI Tarn 40

Youth Backpack review, Osprey Ace 38, Deuter Fox 40, and the REI Tarn 40<script type=”text/javascript” src=”″></script>

In this review, we take a look at three well-priced backpacks in the 30L-40L range. These packs are a perfect size for kids to get their feet wet backpacking.

1- Osprey Ace 38

2- Deuter Fox 40

3- REI  Tarn 40

These three packs were tested by my 3 sons, Toby (10), Conner (8), and Hal (6), on an 8-mile round trip hike in Alaska’s backcountry. The packs were switched halfway through the trip allowing each boy to take a turn with each pack. They then rated their favorite pack at the end of the trip.

Youth Pack review
REI Tarn 40
Osprey Ace 38
Deuter Fox 40


Unfortunately my young sons were initially biased by color preference. Conner and Hal liked the blue Fox 40 and Toby preferred the red Ace 38. In my opinion, the Ace 38 looked and felt better than both the Fox 40 and the Tarn 40. I also thought the construction and design used was more appealing.

Point: Draw between all three. What can I say they all look good!


We all love compartments and young backpackers are no different. The Ace 38 outperformed the rest in this category. there were several pockets in the pack that were useable. The integrated rainfly on the Ace 38 pack was also a huge hit during our hike when it started to rain. The Ace 38 and Tarn 40 both have two straps to secure additional gear on the bottom of the pack, which I think was huge for easily adding a sleeping bag or pad to the pack. All three packs have various loops for securing gear to the back itself. The Fox 40 and Tarn 40 both have a hip belt with compartments. While this was an initial draw for my kids the pockets were never utilized during the hike. The Passage 38 was the only pack with a quick access mesh storage on the outside. All three pack have external side compartments for quick access and a water bladder storage with external access. Insert comparison picks of compartments.

Point: Osprey Ace 38


Gear loading was pretty equal between the Fox 40 and Ace 38. Both were top loading with an additional access point at the bottom of the pack, making it easy to get access to a sleeping bag, tarp, or pad without unloading the rest of the gear from the top. The Tarn 40 lacked the bottom access point and I think this is an unfortunate oversight. All three packs have access points to the lid for storing smaller items for access during the hike. The Tarn 40 and Fox 40 access points are from the outside while Ace 38 can only be accessed from inside the lid, which means the lid straps need to be unclipped. All three packs had multiple straps for cinching down and compressing the loaded pack.

Points: Deuter Fox 40


All three packs are adjustable and meant to fit a variety of frames. Ideally, this should give your young backpacker years of use as they grow into and out of their packs. The torso/frame of the Osprey Ace 38 and REI Tarn 40 are easily adjusted with the use of a sliding harness attached to the frame with a large amount of velcro. The Fox 40 requires slipping velcro straps through loops of material to adjust the harness. This takes a bit more time but is not difficult. The Ace 38 has the smallest torso rating of the three packs and the only pack that fit my 6-year-old well. The Fox 40 was a tad big on my 8-year-old. My 10 year old found all three packs to fit well but I could tell he would outgrow the Ace 38 in 1-2 years. All three packs have an adjustable hip belt, adjustable shoulder straps, adjustable sternum straps, and adjustable load lifter straps.

Points: Osprey Ace 38 (based solely on versatility in size)


Comfort was difficult to determine. All three enjoyed the packs hiking out less than coming in because they had to carry more weight (thank you fish). The torso fit was definitely the biggest contributor to comfort. Each pack had its pros. The Fox 40 had the thickest hip belts and shoulder straps, but its chest strap was too large and even when cinched to the max it wasn’t tight enough. The Ace 38 was suited for the smallest torso. It was the only one that fit my 6 year old appropriately and was his favorite. My 8 year old liked the Tarn 40 best, it was easy to adjust and the shoulder straps fit well. My 10 year old also liked the Ace 38 best.

Points: Osprey Ace 38


Deuter Fox 40

Osprey Ace 38

REI Passage 38


2 lbs 15oz

2lbs 6 oz

2lbs 4 oz


2440 cu in

2319 cu in

2319 cu in


210D Denier ripstop 600D

210D double diamond ripstop 420D nylon packcloth


Deuter Fox 40

Osprey Ace 38

REI Passage 38




Limited, 1 year guarantee.


Amazon $120


Amazon $140


REI ***

Water bladder compartment




Adjustable frame

11-18 in

11-15 in

12-16 in

Rain fly

Purchase separately $30

These all were great packs with some pros and cons to each one. As a purchasing parent, I recommend the Osprey Ace 38 for a young (age 5-6) or small backpacker getting their first pack. Osprey Ace 38 reviewBetween 6-10 you could go with any of the above but I would personally go with the Ace 38 or the Fox 40. If you are looking for an 11-13 year you could get away with the Fox 40 for a few years or go with the Osprey Ace 40 (which I purchased for my 10-year-old after trying out these packs) or the Ace 50. I don’t think any of these packs will carry most youth beyond their mid-teens unless you want to go ultralite. Most will be ready for adult packs when they are 14+.

Author: Cliff Ellingson