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Osprey Exos Backpack Review

Osprey's new Exos 46 and Exos 58 backpacks are designed specifically for lightweight backpacking, and, at just over 2 pounds, set a new weight standard for an internal frame backpack with a built-in frame. Plus, they're durable and full-featured.

Hightly Recommended

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended

The new Exos 46 and 58 packs are a lightweight backpacker's dream come true. They set a new weight standard and are full featured. Every feature has been scrutinized for weight and functionality. I found a lot to like while testing the Exos; my nitpicks are few, and most will likely be corrected in the production model.

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by Will Rietveld |

Introduction

Osprey Exos Backpack Review - 1
Before the storm. The new for spring 2009 Osprey Exos 46 (shown) and 58 packs will weigh just over 2 pounds and are full-featured.

We have previously reviewed the Osprey Aether and Atmos backpacks and found their feature set much to our liking, but their weights pushed our upper limits, and we could barely call them "lightweight." Osprey is solidly re-entering the lightweight backpack competition with its new Exos pack, which is a brand new pack series specifically designed to be lightweight. The Exos packs will be available in spring 2009 in 34, 46, and 58 liter volumes.

Specifications

  Year/Model

2009 Osprey Exos 46 and Exos 58

  Style

Built in internal frame, top loading with floating top pocket

  Volume

Exos 46 is 2800 cu in (46 L)
Exos 58 is 3500 cu in (58 L)

  Weight

Size M tested. Measured weight: Exos 46 2 lb, 3.3 oz (1 kg), Exos 58 2 lb, 6.5 oz (1.1 kg)
Manufacturer specification: Exos 46 1 lb, 14 oz (845g), Exos 58 2 lb, 3 oz (997g)

  Sizes Available

Unisex S, M, L

  Torso Fit Range

Small fits torso less than 18.5 in (47 cm), hip less than 31 in (79 cm)
Medium fits torso between 18.5 - 20.5 in (47-52 cm), hip between 30 - 34 in (76-86 cm)
Large fits torso longer than 20 in (51 cm), hip larger than 33 in (84 cm)

  Fabrics

70d x 100d shadow-check and 160d x 210d window rip-stop

  Frame Material

6061-T6 aluminum, polycarbonate cross piece

  Features

Floating top pocket with zippered access and zippered mesh map pocket on the underside, stretch pocket for MP3 player or small GPS on shoulder strap, two mesh side pockets with top and side access, large front stretch-woven kango pocket, two mesh hipbelt pockets, full width front compartment under kango pocket with zippered access on both sides (one side on the Exos 46), two front tool holders (one on the Exos 46), four side compression straps, one top compression strap, two ice axe loops, two sleeping pad loops, Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment, AirSpeed mesh backpanel, load lifters, adjustable sternum strap with whistle, ErgoPull hipbelt, 3L internal hydration sleeve with two hose ports

  Volume To Weight Ratio

79.3 ci/oz for the Exos 46, 90.9 ci/oz for the Exos 58 (based on 2800 and 3500 ci, respectively, and measured weights of 35.3 and 38.5 oz, respectively)

  Maximum Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity

30 lb estimated comfortable load for an average person carrying the pack all day

  Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio

13.6 for the Exos 46 and 12.5 for the Exos 58 (based on 30 lb and a measured weight of 2.21 and 2.41 lb, respectively)

  MSRP

Exos 46 US$179
Exos 58 US$219

Suspension System and Features

Although the Exos was designed to be lightweight, it borrows a lot of design elements from Osprey's current Talon and Atmos backpack lines. Every component was optimized for light weight and functionality. It's rather amazing that a backpack with a built-in frame can be so light and at the same time have so many features (see the list in the Specifications section).

This review covers both the Exos 46 and Exos 58 backpacks, which differ mainly in volume. The feature set is nearly identical on the two packs, with only a few small differences.

Osprey Exos Backpack Review - 2
Views of the Osprey Exos 58 (and 46). The frontpanel view (top left) shows the pack's large front stretch-woven kango pocket and dual tool loops. The pack's AirSpeed backpanel (top right) is a trampoline type for increased ventilation. There is even a small pocket on one shoulder strap for an MP3 player. A side view (bottom left) shows the pack's large mesh pockets with top and side entry and narrow compression straps that will also attach items to the side of the pack. The top view (bottom right) reveals a zippered mesh map pocket under the top cap, top compression strap (orange), and drawcord closure.

Osprey Exos Backpack Review - 3
The new AirSpeed mesh backpanel on the Exos packs is not as deep as previous versions. The gap is about 1 inch, enough to provide good ventilation without interfering with pack volume or the pack's center of gravity. The peripheral contoured tubular frame is 6061-T6 aluminum.

Osprey Exos Backpack Review - 4
At first look, Osprey's BioStretch (mesh covered slotted foam) shoulder harness (left) and hipbelt wings (right) seem thin and inadequate, but the suspension system performed well with moderate loads (see my field testing section below).

Osprey Exos Backpack Review - 5
The peripheral tubular aluminum frame of the Exos is curved to wrap around the hips. Hipbelt wings and shoulder harness (see photo in previous panel) are attached to the backpanel mesh rather than the frame. This is not a design intended to carry heavy loads.

The Exos packs do NOT have an adjustable torso length like many larger Osprey packs. Rather, the shoulder straps and hipbelt wings are sewn to the backpanel and the only adjustment available is to lengthen or shorten shoulder straps and load lifters. Getting a proper fit is a matter of choosing the proper pack size. The Exos will be available in unisex sizes small, medium, and large (torso fit ranges are listed in the Specifications section).

Field Testing

During summer 2008, I tested both the Exos 46 and 58 on numerous backpacking trips carrying a wide range of loads. I tested the Exos 58 (58 liters) first, assuming it would be the optimum size for lightweight backpacking. However, using typical lightweight backpacking gear and loads in the 25- to 30-pound range, I was never able to completely fill it up. The Exos 58 has a lot of room! It has eight separate pockets, so a large portion of my gear fit in the pockets alone.

Osprey Exos Backpack Review - 6
The side mesh pockets on the Exos (left) have a side entry that enables a hiker to reach and replace a water bottle without taking the pack off. My favorite feature on the Exos pack is the large zippered compartment under the kango pocket on the frontpanel (right). The Exos 58 has zippered access on both sides, while the Exos has access on only one side. The pocket will hold numerous frequently needed items and make them easily accessible on the trail.

On one occasion, while volunteering for the Hardrock 100 Endurance Race, I used the Exos 58 to carry in 40-pound loads of supplies and food to a remote aid station, climbing 1000 feet over a three mile distance. The pack carried the weight just fine without popping a seam and transferred the majority of the weight to my hips, but I had to tighten the hipbelt really tight to keep it from slipping off my hips.

Although the Exos 58 carried moderate (25 to 30 pounds) loads comfortably, the heavier loads described above are beyond its comfort range, except for hikers with strong shoulders. Thus, for summer backpacking, the Exos 58 seems to have too much volume for its weight carrying capacity. On the other hand, the Exos 58 would be an excellent choice for winter backpacking, where more volume is needed for bulkier insulated clothing and gear.

Realizing that the Exos 58 was a bit too roomy for me, I tested the Exos 46 during the second half of the summer. Although 46 liters seems small, I found the volume to be closer to my needs for summer backpacking. On a six-day, 100-mile backpacking trip on the Continental Divide Trail, I was able to get all of my gear and eight days of food (31 pounds initial weight) into the Exos 46. It carried the weight comfortably enough, but I was happier when pack weight dropped under 25 pounds. It would help if the shoulder straps were a little wider to distribute the weight more.

My carry load tests closely agree with Osprey's recommended maximum carry weights of 20 to 30 pounds for both the Exos 46 and 58. Bottom line, the Exos backpacks are not designed or intended to carry heavy loads. My field testing confirmed that.

Osprey Exos Backpack Review - 7
Exos 46 on the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado. Because of its numerous pockets, the pack has more room than its 46-liter size would indicate. The Exos also carried well on day-length trips from a base camp (right).

Assessment

The Exos is a brand new pack model, and it's remarkable that Osprey got most of the details right on the first try. In spite of its light weight, the Exos is loaded with features. I found it rather amazing that an internal frame backpack weighing slightly over 2 pounds can have so many features (including eight pockets!) and durable fabrics.

Osprey states "The Exos Series was designed with the knowledge that, in the long run, going light with a pack that has no suspension burns more energy than is gained by ounces saved." If they are referring to a frameless backpack, I personally would never carry 20- to 30-pound loads in a frameless pack. Granted, some frameless packs, like the GoLite Pinnacle and Jam2 are capable of carrying heavier loads more comfortably, but the updated Pinnacle and Jam2 for spring 2009 will weigh 2 pounds and 1 pound, 10 ounces, respectively - nearly as much as the Exos. My current pack of choice to carry 20 to 30 pounds is the Six Moon Designs Comet (27 ounces, $170 with stays) that has removable stays, but again the Comet weighs nearly as much as the Exos and does not have the feature set of the Exos. Needless to say, the Exos is now my pack of choice for carrying 20- to 30-pound loads.

However, the Exos is not quite perfect, and I have a few small issues to mention here, which hopefully will be addressed in the production pack.

  • The side mesh pockets are way too tight (see photo above), so they will not hold much when the main compartment is fully expanded
  • The sternum strap is adjustable, but I found its lowest setting to still be too high
  • The load lifter straps slip some; I needed to tighten them about twice a day
  • I didn't have much use for the sleeping pad straps on the bottom of the pack, and they catch on branches while bushwhacking (Osprey says they can easily be cut off.).

Overall, I'm very impressed with the new Osprey Exos backpacks. This is a pack designed from the ground up for lightweight backpacking, assuming you want a pack that has room for everything and plenty of organizing and convenience features. The Exos will carry a 20- to 30-pound load with comfort and is capable of carrying up to 35 pounds when necessary. Both packs have more room than their size (46 or 58 liters) would indicate, so be sure to take that into account when choosing which one to get.

What's Good

  • Sets a new weight standard for a built-in internal frame backpack.
  • Mesh backpanel provides ventilation and does not interfere with pack volume or center of gravity.
  • Lightweight, durable fabrics and frame material.
  • Large stretch kango front pocket is very handy for carrying a wet shelter or stuffing a jacket.
  • Contoured tubular frame is very lightweight, yet is capable of complete weight transfer to the hips.
  • Numerous pockets for organizing and convenient access.
  • Fits well (if you choose the correct size).
  • Comfortably carries moderate loads.

What's Not So Good

  • Torso length is not adjustable.
  • Side mesh pockets are tight when pack is full.
  • Load lifters slip and require retightening.
  • Sternum strap is too high.

Recommendations For Improvement

  • Lower the sternum strap.
  • Bellow the side mesh pockets and increase the size of the top opening.
  • Revise the load lifters so they don't slip.
  • Widen the shoulder straps to distribute weight.

Citation

"Osprey Exos Backpack Review," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/osprey_exos_review.html, 2008-11-25 00:10:00-07.

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Osprey Exos Backpack Review
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Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
CWT on 05/11/2009 07:17:34 MDT Print View

Posting some photos soon,
Worse rain i have ever seen but no fog, so we enjoyed our trip, nothing as bad as hiking all day in the fog and seeing nothing.
We ended leaving at Shielbridge after 6 days, we were so far behind schedule due to delay having to go to Carnach bridge instead of crossing the river, going uphill to cross stream then down etc...
we had sometime water up to our knees not in river but in the grass from day 1 and after 6 days my feet appreciated being dry again..

again in bad weather we loved having a floorless shelter, nothing as good as setting it up fast and going under asap with shoes on and all your dirt without caring of soiling your inner tent :)

my wife was worried for our summer hike in Greenland as its said to be wet but after this hike in the Higlands she doesnt anymore :)

edit we will be back anyway, probably starting from Shielbridge this time
we really love Scotland highlands, and if the climate isnt always warm the welcome always was

Edited by Fre49 on 05/11/2009 07:37:32 MDT.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: CWT on 05/11/2009 14:44:43 MDT Print View

Fred, we found it takes at least two poeple (three is better) to put the "O" back in place. The only reason the "O" got out of place is because of that totally incomprehensible zipper to nowhere that makes you wonder if the frame is removeable. Does ANYONE know what that zipper is there for????

Kevin Yang
(kjyang) - F
zipper on 05/11/2009 18:44:47 MDT Print View

Lynn, if you are referring to the zipper inside the pack, I think it's there so that you can put a water bladder behind the mesh.

Leslie Auerbach
(romanca) - F
Exos 34 for small woman on 07/14/2009 23:25:18 MDT Print View

As the owner of many Osprey packs, I had great hopes of the Exos. Alas, it is one of the few Osprey packs that I have tried that appeared unsuited to a small woman (5'2" & narrow-shouldered). The straps are placed too far apart to be comfortable; they dig into my arms & seem unstable. Even a unisex Atmos 35 (has anyone actually seen an Aura 35?) is more comfortable, albeit heavier. My 6'+ partner (tall, short-waisted, no hips -- hate those guys!) & I have been equally comfortable with the Kestrels, Atmos/Aura series, & other Ospreys. This is a disappointment.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: zipper on 07/15/2009 14:16:05 MDT Print View

"I think it's there so that you can put a water bladder behind the mesh."

Well, that would have never occured to me. That ventilated mesh back was the best feature for me. I couldn't imagine blocking it off with a water bladder, but maybe in winter it would help keep the water from freezing???

Lex Rogerson
(lexlaw) - F
Strap problems on 07/15/2009 22:50:01 MDT Print View

About four months ago, I posted an inquiry about the critique in Backpacker magazine, which said the shoulder straps on the Exos 58 need periodic re-tightening. Someone replied that the manufacturer claimed to have resolved this problem.

I bought a 58 a month or so ago and recently took it out for its first spin -- a weekend in Pisgah National Forest. I had no problems with any of the straps slipping.

I also had reservations about the weight transfer because the waist belt does not wrap fully around the rear, relying instead on tension against the trampoline-like back panel. With a load just under 30 pounds, that did not pose a problem. It carried much like the conventional, super-padded waist belt design.

So far I'm extremely pleased with this pack. The features seem thoughtful, and the thin strap material worked fine. I'm an organization nut, so things like the front side pouches and the stuff front pouch are very useful.

I'm still a little leery of the mesh water bottle pockets, because they have top and side openings. I use a hydration bladder instead of a water bottle and therefore don't need the easy access that the front openings afford. I also nearly lost a book from one of them. I have since closed off the side opening of one of the two with a cable tie.

John Carter
(jcarter1)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Osprey Exos packing on 07/16/2009 08:29:29 MDT Print View

I'm curious how people are packing their gear in the Exos. I'm thinking about giving the Exos another try, this time with the larger 58, but when I tried the 46 I was never quite satisfied with how I packed things. The biggest question is the tent and bear canister. I'm used to storing my tarptent in a side mesh pocket, where it is freely accesible and doen't get the main pack dirty/wet. I tried putting the tent in the vertical zipper pouch, but it pushed into the main compartment so much that I'm not sure I could fit a bear canister in the upper part of the main pouch.

So right now I'm thinking main pouch gets slepping bag first, then insulating clothing, followed by tent and then food. But this leaves my jacket pretty buried and puts a potentially wet shelter right on top of my down gear. Any ideas?

ps I normally use a SMD Essence with no bear canister or a SMD Starlite with a bear canister. I am switching to a bulkier tent (Shangri-La 1 tarp AND inner mesh), which, combined with a bear caniseter is why I'm reconsidering a larger pack.

Edited by jcarter1 on 07/16/2009 08:34:04 MDT.

George Phoenix
(perrito)

Locale: Joisey
Re: Osprey Exos packing on 07/16/2009 09:55:48 MDT Print View

How about the big stretchy outer pouch for a wet shelter? I'll be using my Exos 58 on my JMT hike in 4 weeks. I'll be renting a Bearikade Expedition for this trip. I hope it fits well. 8-P

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Osprey Exos packing on 07/16/2009 16:49:19 MDT Print View

"How about the big stretchy outer pouch for a wet shelter? "

Yup, absolutely. Can't comment on bear canisters...

John Carter
(jcarter1)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Osprey Exos packing on 07/17/2009 16:16:53 MDT Print View

Got the Exos 58, and I didn't realize how much bigger the size zip pouches are; my tent fits in there just fine, with my rain gear in the other pouch. Also, I've got a Bearvault 500 that fits horizontally at the top; the pack is large enough that I can completely enclose the canister horizontally in the main bag.

Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
Love this pack on 12/04/2009 04:59:54 MST Print View

disclaimer: I am new to backpacking and this is my first pack. (I have the exos 46)

I love this pack! I've used every feature except the sleeping pad straps, which are easy to wrap up and stow under the pack. Haven't had any issues with them catching on anything, as mentioned in the review... even while bushwhacking.

I have no issues with the sternum strap height settings and the shoulder strap width seems to fit me well. No issues with the load lifter straps loosening; that seems to be fixed.

This pack has a lot of compartments, which allows a lot of flexibility when packing. The side mesh pockets seemed tight at first, but after some breaking in time seem to be just about perfect. I can comfortably fit a full 1 Liter platypus water bottle in a mesh pocket.

I was concerned about durability at first, but the pack seems to be holding up well. The high stress / high wear areas appear to be appropriately reinforced.

I love this pack!

Edit: I just had the same malfunction mentioned earlier in the thread about the O support popping out of place. I can't get it back in there for the life of me. I was getting ready to call Osprey customer service... anyone have any suggestions for me? Anyone have issues with repeat failures? That would be really annoying.

Edited by kencharpie on 05/16/2011 05:14:00 MDT.

Jiri Sedlacek
(kvesal) - F
It squeaks on 08/15/2011 21:51:28 MDT Print View

I bought this backpack and also the bigger version, Exos 58 to compare. They are both good although I feel the bigger load possible in the 58 puts too much strain on the thin harness and hipbelt, also pulls it more back (more pressure on your shoulders).
My only complaint with both - and a big one: the frame squeaks! The stretch material attached to the frame squeaks when it moves - which it does with every step, at least for me. Is it really just me? Some specific posture and way of walking? I am quite surprised that after searching the web I haven't found any single reference to this. And it's really annoying after a while, I can tell you (unles you hike constantly past rushing waters and waterfalls, that is:-))
Anybody having this problem? Possible remedy (waxing the frame, etc.)? I don't want to have to return those otherwise great packs. Jiri, male 6'3'', 34'', both L size packs.

Mike Van
(Mike777) - MLife
Re: It squeaks on 05/10/2012 09:43:10 MDT Print View

Got my 46 today, already love it. I noticed the squeaking is generated by the white elastic paint on the stretch material rubbing against the oval shaped reinforcement (with the writing "airspeed" in the centre). Osprey should invert the colours, "airspeed" should be written in white leaving the stretch material black. It's so simple I can't understand why they didn't do it yet. Anyhow putting something soft between the stretch and the oval shaped reinforcement should solve the "problem": I just don't want to hear my backpack making unnecessary noises will I walk in nature...

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Squeaks on 05/10/2012 12:31:23 MDT Print View

Last summer I was hiking with my daughter when a guy with an old frame pack came charging past us. The squeaks and rattles were amazing! I told my daughter, "That's how we all used to sound in the old days!" I'd forgotten how loud the old frame packs could be!

You could also try just a bit of silicon between the two offending surfaces.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F - M

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Squeaks on 05/10/2012 12:53:49 MDT Print View

I had the same problem a few years ago with a Stratos 24. When I got in touch with Osprey, they said to use some silicon lubricant to solve the problem.

I can't report how it worked because the suspension failed soon after, and I ended up returning the pack.

Mike Van
(Mike777) - MLife
Re: Re: It squeaks on 06/05/2012 15:09:27 MDT Print View

Putting something between the stretch material and the oval shaped reinforcement didn't solve the squeaking problem. I've been squeaking around the Ligurian Alps for 4 days. I don't have time now but if I don't find a solution I have to get rid of this otherwise great pack.

Mike Van
(Mike777) - MLife
Osprey Exos squeaking seems fixed on 07/21/2012 02:24:40 MDT Print View

Still have to try it in the field but the squeaking seems gone now. It took me 2 hours to get rid of the annoying sounds making use of silicone based lubricant, Vaseline and 4 pieces of drinking tube. Hope Osprey will do something about it in the next version...

Edited by Mike777 on 07/21/2012 02:26:43 MDT.