Rating: 5 / 5
Osprey Exos 58 Backpack
Year manufactured: 2009
Weight listed: 2 lb 10 oz (1185 g)
Actual weight 2 lb 9.8 oz (1180 g)
Volume listed: 3700 cu in (61 L)
Load weight capacity suggested: to about 40 lb (18 kg)
I won’t bother doing a product description as Will has done a fine test/review of it here. But here is my use over the past three months.
While this is pretty new and I use a lot of packs I have been able to use the Exos 58 on the following trips so far this year.
I used the Exos on a backpacking trip with my wife Jenn to San Mateo Wilderness in the Cleveland National Forest. We did a 9 mile (14.5 km) first day with an all up-hill 3.5 mile (5.6 km) hike back the next day. It hit 75 F (24 C) for a high but felt hotter in the sun, and got down to a chilly 28 F (-2 C) at night. High elevation was 2000 ft (610 m) with a total of 1300 ft (400 m) of elevation gain and loss. My pack weight starting out was 30 lb (13.6 kg)
Next I did a winter trip to San Jacinto State Park. I went to Tamarack by way of Round Valley. It snowed on me as I set up my tent. It was 19 F (-7 C) when I finished dinner at 6:00. The temp had dropped to 17 F (-8 C) by 9:30 PM, the last time I checked as it started snowing again at 11:00 and I did not want to go out to where I had the thermometer hanging on my trekking pole. (I know, wimp!) I started out with a 40 lb (18.1 kg) load as I brought a gallon (4 L) of water to avoid melting snow. (Yeah, lazy wimp.)
Then Jenn and I went to Agua Bonita Spring in the Santa Rosa Mountains. This was a very hot hike that dropped from high desert to low desert. Highs of 75 F and got down to 33 F at night (24 to 1 C). I carried 32 lb (14.5 kg) in the Exos. We went 21 miles (34 km) with 2950 ft (899 m) of gain and loss.
Next up I carried it on a 30 mi (48 km) three-day backpacking trip to San Jacinto State Park and San Jacinto National Wilderness that saw 8800 ft (2682 m) of elevation gain over trails that ranged from dirt and sand (decomposed granite), exposed granite and packed snow up to three ft (1 m) deep. It was extremely cold for a late April trip with temps from 44 down to 24 F (7 to -4 C) and winds to 20 mph (32 km/h). My starting pack weight was 32 lb (14.52 kg) with food and 3 L of water.
Next I carried it on an over-nighter in the San Gorgonio Wilderness by way of the Momyer Creek Trail. Forecast was rain turning to snow. I set up camp at Saxton. Starting pack weight including our bear canister and winter gear was 33 lb (15 kg). With the Exos on I did 15.5 mi (25 km) with 5264 ft (1604 m) of gain. Temps ranged from 39 F to 55 F (4 to 13 C).
Then I used it on a two day trip to Maplewood State Park to pre-scout sites for this summers’ hiking with the kids. The trails were free of snow but quite wet and muddy in spots. I walked 12 mi (19 km) with a starting pack weight of 21 lb (9.5 kg). The temps ranged from 34 to 45 F (1 to 7 C). Here is a shot from the start of this trip.
Next was the big trip. I used it on a four-day trip (three hiking) to the Hetch Hetchy region of Yosemite National Park. The coldest it got was 35 F (2 C) with highs to 80 F (27 C). The elevations ranged from 3800 to 8400 ft (1160 to 2560 m) with trails that were mostly rock with a bit of packed dirt, and some marshy, muddy spots. There was a lot of water on the trails. I did 46 mi (74 km) with over 10,800 ft (3300 m) of gain carrying a bear canister inside the pack. My starting pack weight was 37 lb (16.8 kg).
I have been using Osprey’s packs since 2004 when I started my evolution to a lighter, tighter backpacking style. While that first Aether did not work as well as I hoped the next five packs have been great. As can be seen in my reviews for BGT of the Talon Series I love the light-weight offerings from them. While my test for BGT of the Argon 110 went well I did not really need the volume of it nor the weight of the admittedly cush suspension system. I do love the weight and suspension balance achieved with my Aether 85, although I rarely needs its volume either. So it was with great interest that I saw the first reports come out of the new Exos series with its Modified Airspeed suspension that is quite similar to the tensioned suspension on my Aether, but using the die-cut foam of the Talons. It looked like the best of both worlds. I had to check it out.
I am very satisfied with the results. I picked the 58 to try first. (Not 3 weeks later I had the opportunity to get 40% off a 34 and went for it too. Watch for a review of it later in 2009.)
From my first trip with it I was blown away by the room in the Exos 58. Normally in the winter or on a trip with my wife (where I carry all our “shared” gear I need a pretty large pack. The Exos worked well, although it was stuffed for the winter trip. In fact except for that trip I have had room for more in it.
I am active on a couple of backpacking forums and this topic came up a few times. Many people felt that the Exos 58 (or 61 in the case of my size Large) has more room than the size designation indicates. So I contacted Osprey and told them of the wondering about it. They replied to within a week telling me that the volume is measured using the main pack body and top lid only. So the back vertical pockets and side mesh pockets and hip belt pockets are all extra space.
Once I reported this another question was brought up about the vertical pockets. As they are outside they must take room from the interior of the pack. So they can’t add to it, right? Kind of…
I have packed the body full and then added gear to the vertical pockets. They do add volume to the pack. While they can hold a lot more when the pack body is empty they still have room, moving outwards when the main pack is stuffed to capacity.
I actually did not think I would even like these pockets as I have always bought into the early Osprey Aether philosophy that keeping everything inside the pack would help by keeping the center of gravity closer to the back and have less to snag on brush trees or rocks. In fact this idea that I got from them when I got that first Aether pack has stayed with me to this day. Seeing the “outside” pockets made me wonder if I would even use them. Boy, do I use them!
I have always kept my rain shell top and pants plus pack cover in a separate silnylon sack that sits in the top of my pack, right under the lid. With the Exos I put the coat and pack cover in one of the vertical pockets. In the other go my tent poles, to the inside of the pocket, and my rain pants. Now I can grab them out faster than before and do not have to expose the inside of my pack to a sudden downpour. Plus the normal stuff sack gets to stay at home.
While I am talking about pockets let’s talk about the rest of them. The stretch woven stuff-it pocket on the front is great. I have had this on all my Ospreys and really like it. With my rain gear in the vertical pockets it frees up the stuff-it to hold my sandals or Solomon Tech Amphibian river shoes as seen below.
I love the size of the hip belt pockets. I can fit my camera in one now. The other holds my compass, sun block, lip balm, emergency whistle (sorry, I don’t like or trust the sternum-strap buckle/whistles) thumb-light and fire-striker. This keeps it accessible and makes it easy to pull out and put into my pants pockets for river crossings.
The only thing I am not crazy about is the fact that they are mesh. After using the Exos in snow and wet conditions and can say that every time I set it down it gets wet. Powdery snow goes right through the mesh. (More about this later.)
I really like the size and make-up of the side pockets. I do not mind the mesh on them a bit. I like the way that I can even fit a Nalgene when it is in an insulated cover like the GG Aquatherm seen below.
The only thing I do not care for is the side opening on the pockets. I have never used an angled water-bottle placement on any pack that offered the option. I am flexible enough to grab bottles from all but the worst positioned pockets, and those were so tight that I doubt an angled option would have worked anyway. But I have lost a lot of gear from these side openings. The winter trip seen above saw the loss of my favorite Polar Fleece gloves because they squirted out and I only noticed much too far down the trail to go back. (I don’t look at it as trail littering, but gear sharing for late risers…)
The top lid pocket is huge too. This is where I keep my head lamp, bug repellant, first-aid kit, sun glasses, wallet and keys, and the day’s lunch. I find that I still have plenty of room for hats and gloves, or most times my GoLite wind shell and a long sleeved base layer. Why put it in the pack when I have room up top? I have yet to take the lid off and doubt that I will as the minimal weight savings is not worth the trouble at this point in my hiking life. (Talk to me and my aging knees in a few years…)
As I mentioned earlier, after spending so much time under the suspension of a Talon I was wondering how I would adapt to the Modified Airspeed. For one thing it puts the contents of my pack a bit farther away from my body which, as I have talked about many times in other places, will move my center of gravity further out. This can add up to balance issues in tricky climbing spots and general fatigue if the pack is too heavy or improperly loaded. Another thing that I really liked about the Talons was the ability to keep my water, easily the heaviest item I carry next to my back. The Exos places the hydration pocket inside the pack on the other side of the tensioned back panel.
The center of gravity concern has not been an issue for me. I have been able to fine tune the suspension quite well. I do find that I need to be careful not to yank the load lifter straps too much. This can pull the load into my shoulders too much making a fulcrum effect as the back panel wants to swing/pull the bottom away from my hips. I use the lifters last as I put the pack on and adjust for the perfect fit.
The mesh back panel works great. I am a very hot hiker and sweat a lot. I have stayed drier with this pack than any other I have used, including the other mesh-backed offerings from Osprey. Most times I stop and remove the Exos, the only sweat collecting on my shirt is from the hip belt area.
Where the mesh does not fare so well is in falling snow. I found that snow will go through the mesh and get trapped there. I had a pack cover over the body of the Exos when I was getting to Tamarack and setting up the tent as fast I could once there. The mesh still collected a large amount of snow, some of which I could not get off before bringing it in the tent to unpack.
So far I have not needed to use the Stow-on-the-Go Trekking Pole Attachment system. I did try it once on a hike just to show Dave how they work. (He likes my packs and says he is going to buy a 34 before our big summer hike.) But the only time I normally need to put away my poles is to use my ice axe and the poles go on the back tool loops for safety in those situations. As I have needed to have my hands free for short scrambles attaining summits in the past I am sure that I will find a time I will like to have this feature.
I have found the comfort of the suspension to be better than the Talons and nearly as nice as my Aether since the weight will be much lower. But I have had quite a bit in the Exos. The heaviest trip was with a winter load and I have to admit that it was a lot nicer the next day when a lot of the water weight was gone and the snowshoes were on my feet instead of my back. (What, that is where they belong?) Many of the trips I have taken with the Exos saw me carrying a three-person tent along with food, cook gear, and pads for two. When I hike with my wife I take everything but her bag, snacks, clothes, and personal gear. (She calls me her Sherpa.) For me, the Exos handles weights to the mid 30s (15.8 kg) just fine.
I had plenty of room in the Exos for a bear canister on my solo trip in Yosemite. And that trip saw me use the compression system fully for the first time. On my second day I was passing the location of that night’s camping spot. So I stopped and found a good site, setting up my tent and putting most of my gear inside it. I was left with just water, lunch first-aid kit, PLB, rain gear and water shoes in the pack. I placed everything inside the pack and pulled the InsideOut Compression system tight. This kept everything from slopping around as I climbed up to Tiltill Meadows for the day.
While I normally do not use the sleeping bag straps on my packs unless carrying a pad for others lately I have been using them on the Exos. Because of a very thin pad I was testing I found that I needed to carry a Z-Lite to use under it to accommodate my side-sleeping style. Then when I switched to a Neo Air I brought a Gossamer Gear ThinLight pad to place on top of it when in snow. Both have fit just fine in the skinny sleeping pad straps of the Exos as seen here in the Santa Rosa Mountains.
I have seen no durability issues with the pack so far. I was concerned about the way the suspension attaches to the mesh but my fears have been unfounded. Even on the winter trip when I had the pack loaded to the gills and snowshoes and ice axe strapped on the outside the material has held up great. It is pretty water repellent too. I have always thought that the sticky feel inside of the pack meant that it had a PU coating. On my way back out of Hetch Hetchy I left the pack cover off as I went past Wapama Falls. (I did not gear up either.) I knew that I had a GoLite quilt in my truck should the Exos leak. Well, while I got soaked to the skin in the first 5 seconds, the Exos went over all four bridges getting blasted with water. When I got to camp I pulled out my bag to find that it was just the same as it was when I packed it. (It had taken some condensation during the night.) No water seemed to have gone inside the pack or the top pocket. The contents of the mesh pockets sure were wet though, including my camera case which is neoprene, so the camera itself was OK.
One thing that is almost a problem (and I hope becomes one as I lose some more weight) is the size of the hip belt. Because the suspension is fixed the belt is sized to fit the common body shape of the corresponding torso length. While I need a Large for my torso, I usually get a Medium belt to use with it. The belt on the Exos is pulled almost all the way to the stops. The straps hang way down in front of me as I hike.
While I have had high weights in it I have found that its sweet spot is at 30 lb (13.6 kg) or under. At that point it is a joy to carry for me. The Minnesota trip was an awesome weight for it. I really like the Exos 58 and plan to use it a lot more this summer.
Right now I have put the 58 aside. I bought an Exos 34 durring the Backcountry.com 40% bru-ha and am using it for lighter weight excursions. Based on the emails I have received in the couple weeks following my more in-depth review for BGT I think I may see about getting a 46 too. (Of course everybody asks about the one size I don’t have…) It is harder to justify as the weight of it and the Talon 44 are very, very close. The cooler back and vertical pockets may swing it though. Stay tuned.