Rating: 2 / 5
I used an Exodus FS for my 5-month CDT thru-hike. The pack was, by far, my least favorite piece of gear.
What I didn't like:
- The pack squeaked loudly and persistently, with almost every step I took. I think the squeaking came from the hoop frame, but I was never certain (I would've removed the hoop, but the air frame was leaking, so that would have been left with no support in the pack). I emailed Ron to ask what I could do, and he suggested taking out the pad and frame and making sure they were in the right place. I did this to no avaiil.
- The blow-up pad started leaking about halfway through the hike. If I blew it up in the morning, it would be empty by evening. I met another CDT hiker with an Exodus FS, and he had the exact same problem after 2 months. Without the support from the pad, the pack sagged badly, and I was carrying a lot of weight on my shoulders. Ron included a patch kit with the pack, but another hiker told me that the fabric of the pad was too rough for the patch to work--I didn't try it myself.
- The new, wider hipbelt is too wide for the MLD hipbelt pockets. The MLD website suggested that you can attach the pockets by strapping the shoulder strap between the two elastic pieces on the hipbelt pocket. But the Exodus hipbelt was too wide to fit the pockets that way without seriously deforming the hipbelt. I had to use the clips that MLD provided instead, and that meant extra weight. Plus, there was nothing securing the hipbelt pockets in place, so sometimes they ended up sliding off the hipbelt and dangling when I took my pack on or off.
- The Exodus FS has the worst side pockets I've ever seen on a pack. I could not access water bottles in the side pocket. For some reason, the pockets are sewn flat, so that the mesh, which is not stretchy, lies almost flat against the pack. This means that, when your pack is full, you have to jam your water bottles into the side pockets to get them in, and they are very hard to pull out with your pack on your back. Luckily, I had a partner on the CDT, and she pulled my bottles out for me when I needed them. But even then she had to pull hard to get the bottles out. A little extra fabric in those side pockets would weigh almost nothing but would dramatically increase the functionality of the side pockets.
- The drawstring closure at the top was tough to maneuver, and I had to pull hard open or close the pack.
What I did like:
- Excepting the frame and pockets, the Dyneema fabric was high-quality and very durable. The sewing was top-notch, and the pack held up well overall despite a lot of abuse on the trail.
If the Exodus FS was cheaper, then I might be able to forgive some of these problems. But for the $300ish I spent (including the hipbelt pockets), I expect better.