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Osprey Exposure 36 Backpack REVIEW

A feature-laden pack designed for alpine climbing and ski mountaineering that doesn't translate well for general purpose use.


by Don Wilson | 2006-03-21 03:00:00-07

Osprey Exposure 36 Backpack REVIEW


The Exposure 36 is the smallest of Osprey’s Exposure series, a line of packs designed to meet the needs of climbers and ski mountaineers. If you are heading out for an all day summit attempt, an afternoon of ice climbing, or a long slog through the backcountry looking for that perfect virgin slope, then the Osprey Exposure 36 might be just the pack for you. The Exposure 36 is jam-packed with features to help you carry the specialized gear of these activities, and packs them all into a well-built three pound package. But how about general use - is this a good all around 36 liter pack?

What’s Good

  • Comfortable harness system
  • Low profile keeps the load close to your back
  • Many nice features for carrying skis and ice gear
  • Haul loops and daisy chain are useful for alpine climbs

What’s Not So Good

  • Small diameter main compartment makes this pack less friendly for general purpose use
  • Low volume side pockets have limited utility
  • Fabric won’t hold up to hauling





2005 Exposure 36


Internal frame, top loading, floating top pocket


Size Large tested, 2400 ci (39 L)


3 lb 1 oz (1.39 kg) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification 3 lb (1.36 kg)


210d twill and 210 x 420d ripstop nylon on main body, 500d plain weave nylon on top and bottom


Removable floating top pocket with lash points and under lid rope tie-ins, sewn-in rope compression strap on spindrift collar, Pixie-P easy release buckle and strap can be adjusted up or down daisy chain, side ski/compression straps, picket wand side pocket, leashless tool holster/shovel wing, gear loops on built-in hipbelt, three-point haul system, hydration compatible, ErgoPull hipbelt, load lifters, sternum strap, full length single stay and HDPE framesheet

  Volume To Weight Ratio

49.0 ci/oz size L (based on 2400 ci and a measured weight of 49 oz)

  Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity

25 lb (9.1 kg) estimated comfortable load carrying capacity for an average person carrying the pack all day

  Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio

8.17 (based on 25 lb and a measured weight of 3.06 lb)




I used the Osprey Exposure 36 in the Arizona mountains all winter. Winter here means cool weather for rock and alpine climbing - no ski mountaineering or ice climbing. Most of my trips have been general rock climbing, exploratory climbs and bushwhacks, and alpine style rock climbs on some of Arizona’s best peaks. The Exposure 36 is designed purely for these types of vertical pursuits.

Its most notable feature is the long, narrow design of the main compartment. This design keeps the weight of the pack load close to your body, and makes it easier to maneuver with the pack while climbing or skiing on steep terrain. The small diameter of the main compartment does limit the use of the pack. Certain gear just won’t fit very well into the pack - sleeping bags and ropes most notably. Osprey has included rope tie-ins under the lid to facilitate carrying a rope on the outside of the pack.

Osprey Exposure 36 Backpack REVIEW - 1
The narrow profile of the Exposure 36 is useful while climbing or skiing, but limits the pack’s utility.

The low profile is a significant benefit if you must wear the pack while climbing, as I did while climbing the 3 pitches on the remote north face of Rincon Peak. Following moderate climbs such as Rincon Peak was easier with this pack than other packs with similar volume. The built in daisy chain is a great feature on long climbs. I hung the pack at every belay, giving my shoulders a rest and making it easy to sort through gear.

Osprey Exposure 36 Backpack REVIEW - 2
The built-in red internal daisy chain helps keep gear easy to find while climbing and can also be used to hang the pack at belay stations.

The gear loops that are built into the hipbelt came in handy a couple of times. But if I am using gear that might be stored on the gear loop, I am also probably wearing a climbing harness, which makes the gear loops redundant in those cases.

Osprey Exposure 36 Backpack REVIEW - 3
The gear loops built into the hipbelt can be used to store gear, but I usually had a climbing harness with gear loops and didn’t need another set of gear loops while climbing.

Another climbing feature included with the pack is the three point haul system. Three attachment points are sewn into the upper pack to ease the setup of a haul system. The haul loops make it easy to set up a haul, and they keep the shoulder straps from being used to carry weight during a haul. But don’t think that this makes the pack into a good small haul bag. I recommend you haul the pack only for very short distances when absolutely necessary, as the fabric on the Exposure 36 is not nearly as tough as the fabric on well-designed haul bags. The pack would be shredded very quickly on any significant haul that was less than vertical.

Carrying a big load is a delight with the Exposure 36. For a small volume pack, it can carry a lot of weight very comfortably. I found the harness system and hipbelt very comfortable, and could easily carry 25 pounds on the 3000 vertical foot approach to Rincon Peak. I also carried heavy loads out to local crags on several occasions - intentionally stuffing the pack with as much weight as possible, about 30 pounds. Even with this weight the pack was quite comfortable on moderate approach hikes.

The Exposure 36 has an HDPE framesheet that is accessible from a zipper in the main compartment. A single, full-length aluminum stay runs down the center of the framesheet. I found the frame itself to be comfortable, even after a long day of climbing. The Osprey ErgoPull hipbelt adjustment system is easy to use and applies pressure quickly and evenly across your waist. The ErgoPull system is noticeably lighter and less bulky than the large webbing and buckle systems on most climbing packs.

Osprey Exposure 36 Backpack REVIEW - 4
The shoulder harness and hipbelt on the Exposure 36 are comfortable with a 25 pound load and are easy to use.

The Osprey Exposure 36 has a number of features to assist the ice climber and backcounty skier. Carry points are included for skis, snow shovel, and ice tools. Dual side compression straps help keep the load stable and close to your back; and a small pocket on the left side is designed to carry wands or snow pickets. Their small volume won’t carry much else besides energy bars or other small non-essential items.

Osprey Exposure 36 Backpack REVIEW - 5
The small left side pocket is useful for narrow items such as pickets or wands, but won’t fit a water bottle or other larger items.

A hydration sleeve is built into the main compartment, along with a hydration tube port at the top of the pack. The hydration sleeve will easily fit a 100 ounce reservoir. A clip in point to stabilize the reservoir is not included.

Overall, I found the Exposure 36 to be very good at what it was designed to do. It is my pack of choice for any day-long alpine outing. But it is too small for overnight trips and too heavy to carry along with another pack - so it is best suited for day outings. The specialized feature set, light weight and good load carrying capacity combine to make it a great choice for serious, day-long climbing ventures.

Osprey Exposure 36 Backpack REVIEW - 6
The main compartment has a sleeve for a hydration reservoir.

What’s Unique

The Osprey Exposure 36 has a strong combination of features for alpine climbing, ice climbing and backcountry skiing. At 3 pounds, it is lighter than most packs with these features and has a fair price ($129) for a pack with such an extensive feature set.

Recommendations for Improvement

Osprey has clearly designed the Exposure 36 for climbers. The Exposure 36 is well designed for a narrow range of activities, but a small increase in the diameter of the main compartment would increase the pack’s utility. By also including well-designed compression straps climbers would still get the load control they need.


"Osprey Exposure 36 Backpack REVIEW," by Don Wilson. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2006-03-21 03:00:00-07.