The Osprey Exos is one of the best and most popular long distance backpacking packs on the market. It is known for being lightweight, yet able to carry a reasonably large pack load due to its durable frame and quality make. If you are wanting a more minimalist design though, you might want to look elsewhere.
Weight: 2 pounds and 13.5 ounces; 2 pounds and 9 ounces (stripped)
Volume: 58 liters
Weight Capacity: 35 pounds
Suspension System: AirSpeed 3-D tensioned mesh back panel with adjustable torso length, padded shoulder straps with load lifters, padded hip belt with stabilizers straps.
PROS: Comfortable suspension; breathable back panel; removable brain; lightweight; durable; adjustable torso length; fits a full-size bear can
CONS: Less comfortable near its weight capacity; Weight capacity is low compared to some full-suspension packs; Small hip belt pockets
The Osprey Exos 58 is an excellent choice for long-distance thru-hikes and backpacking trips with bulky equipment or lots of food. It is best for lightweight backpackers who want a comfortable and durable backpack with plenty of space.
The Airscape mesh back panel is perhaps the most comfortable and breathable back panel on any backpacking pack we've ever tried. The mesh trampoline that stretches from the top to the bottom of the hip belt conforms to your back and allows air to flow between you and the pack. With Osprey's most recent update of the Exos, they put pockets back onto the hipbelt. These pockets are a welcome re-addition to the pack that was our only gripe with the previous version of the Exos.See on REI
Performance Test Results
What we tested:
Very few backpacking packs have a list of features like the Exos has at less than 3 pounds. The Exos weighs 2 pounds 13.5 ounces, which is very light for a full-featured backpack with a robust frame and padded hipbelt. And, the top lid of this pack is removable, as is the sleeping pad attachment strap. With these removed, the pack weighs a very respectable 2 pounds, 9 ounces. The Exos isn't the lightest pack with a frame and hipbelt available, but it is lighter than most other backpacking packs with similar features.
Most importantly, the Exos does well at carrying a modest 20-35 pound load.
Light and stable enough to lean over into a squat without taking the pack off.
The Exos is one of the best value packs widely available from major outdoor retailers. If you're looking for a pack with a full-frame and hip belt, you won't find anything less expensive that is as light and performs as well as this pack.
Weight distribution and suspension system: 8/10
The Exos' lightweight peripheral frame and suspended mesh back panel work to distribute the weight evenly onto your hips and shoulders. During testing, we found the suspension system allowed us to easily control how much weight was on our hips and how much was on our shoulders.
The Exos makes it easy to give your shoulders a break by loosening the load lifters. Tightening the load lifters does the opposite and immediately transfers most of the weight onto your shoulders. But, the weight distribution is enough that your shoulders and hips don't tire faster or slower while wearing the pack. So, you probably won’t need to give your shoulders or hips a break before your legs need a break anyway.
Unloading everything we need at camp from our Exos.
The Exos is a very comfortable pack immediately upon putting it on. This pack is designed to carry loads up to 35 pounds and does an excellent job carrying loads within that range. All the touchpoints have the right cushion for the weight capacity. There isn't too much cushion to keep pack weight down, but there isn't too little cushion either.
The best part of this pack is the mesh back panel. It allows air to flow between your back and the pack. And this back panel also works as a massive trampoline-style cushion that comfortably conforms to your back.
The Exos 58 is a comfortable and roomy choice for thru-hikers.
We still had a sweaty back after wearing this pack on a hot day, but it wasn't as sweaty as it would have been with a back panel that allows the pack to rest on your back. When hiking with a backpack, your back will sweat no matter what. But, the Exos' back panel helps keep your back cooler.
The Airspeed mesh back panel leaves a gap between your back and the pack to reduce back sweat.
The shoulder straps on this pack are very cushioned, especially near the top, where most of the weight rests on the shoulders. The padding is very soft, and the polyester face material that rests on your shoulders feels almost like a cotton t-shirt. The soft padding gets increasingly less comfortable as the load gets heavier. It's not uncomfortable with heavier loads, but that 35-pound weight limit is accurate.
We disconnected the hip belt to see what the pack felt like with all the weight on these shoulder straps, and it felt surprisingly comfortable. We wouldn't want to wear this pack without the hip belt all day, but the shoulder straps are comfortable enough on their own for short periods while you give your hips a break.
We found the hip belt very comfortable, too, especially regarding breathability. It has a thinner, denser foam than the shoulder straps. And the hip belt foam has ventilation holes, which we loved. The mesh back panel material wraps onto the hip belt, further adding to its breathability. It's comfortable, but not the plushest hip belt we've ever worn. We'd say the plushness is on par with the weight capacity of this pack.
However, the comfort decreases as the amount you carry with this pack increases. If you're carrying a 35-pound load, the mesh back panel and peripheral frame struts flex, causing the pack to bounce around. This bouncing is more annoying than uncomfortable, and the newest version of the Exos is better than previous Exos models.
We love this pack, so we want to stress this: the bouncing isn't that bad. But if you're wearing any backpack with a back panel that looks like a trampoline, it will bounce with a lot of weight. This is true of the Exos.
A pack bouncing around on your back isn't good for traveling over technical terrain. And it's annoying. The more it bounces, the more it will pull at your shoulders and back, which is uncomfortable. But as long as you stay within the recommended weight capacity for the Exos models, the bouncing isn't an issue.
The mesh rear pocket stretches to fit all the little items you need to quickly access.
Weight capacity: 8/10
The Exos 58 carries an average thru-hiker's load very well. With an average 10-15 pound base weight, you can comfortably haul an extra 20-25 pounds of food and water with this pack. We think the sweet spot for this pack is closer to 30 pounds. But it can do 35+ pounds for short stretches, like leaving a water source for a dry camp or a long food carry. Remember, if you push the upper limits of this pack's weight capacity, the mesh trampoline back panel will bounce.
If you don't expect lots of long food and water carries, the 58-liter version of this pack is probably overkill, though. For most pack-weight-conscious thru-hikers, the 48-liter version Exos is probably sufficient with its 30-pound comfort capacity.
Also, if you have an especially low base weight, we're talking 9 pounds or less, then you could use the 38-liter Exos for a comfortable ultralight pack with the same features as the 58-liter pack.
Spaciousness (volume/capacity): 8/10
The Exos is a genuine 58-liter pack. It’s a big bag; experienced backpackers might have difficulty finding enough stuff to fill the volume of this pack for a weekend backpacking trip. Some backpacking pack makers count the main compartment and all exterior pockets when calculating pack volume. Osprey does not do this when calculating the volume of its Exos line. The main compartment of this pack is 58 liters.
The 58-liter Exos is big enough to fit a full-size bear can horizontally.
If you need the space that a 58-liter pack provides, the Exos 58 is a stellar choice to carry those bulkier loads comfortably. This pack is big enough to fit a bear canister horizontally. This is reason enough to buy this pack. Then you can pack the canister so that it takes up "one layer," and you don't have to awkwardly pack stuff around that bulky, cylindrical bear canister.
Much like the weight capacity category above, we think the 48-liter Exos may be more appropriate for thru-hikers unless you have a bulky setup or plan to carry a bear canister. If you have a lightweight down sleeping bag or quilt and a compact backpacking tent, the Exos 48-liter probably has all the space you need.
Testing the Osprey Exos 58 in Arapahoe National Forest, Colorado.
The Exos has all the features you could want in a full-featured backpacking pack without many unnecessary add-ons. This pack has spacious side pockets accessible while wearing the pack, an exterior mesh "shove-it" pocket, an interior water bladder sleeve, a removable lid with two zipper pockets, a trekking pole holder on the shoulder strap, ice axe loop (that also works to hold your trekking pole), sleeping pad attachment straps, and hip belt pockets. These are all the pockets one might want on a pack. Most importantly, there aren’t too many pockets on this pack that only add weight and make it easier to misplace small items.
The side pockets have a side entry point to grab your water bottle with the pack on.
We were delighted to see that Osprey added hip belt pockets with this newest version of the Exos. But, those pockets are barely big enough for an average-sized smartphone. It was difficult to get the pocket to fully zip shut with a 6 by 3-inch smartphone inside.
The sternum strap easily slides to adjust and the trekking pole holder lets you easily stash a trekking pole for scrambling.
The Exos is a highly adjustable backpack. It features an injection-molded strap harness adjustment system that allows for torso-length adjustability. It also has a hip belt with a 20-inch size range and a movable sternum strap to adjust the fit of the pack. The removable brain and straps can be removed to adjust the weight. And, the side compression straps can be used to adjust the volume.
It comes in two sizes, each with 4 inches of torso adjustability. The S/M pack fits torsos from 17 to 20 inches, and the L/XL fits torsos from 19 to 23 inches.
The Eja, the women's version of the Exos, also comes in two sizes. The XS/S size is for torsos between 13.5 and 17 inches and M/L for torsos 16 to 19.5 inches.
The hip belt will accommodate waists between 30 and 50 inches in the S/M-sized Exos. Osprey doesn't publish those adjustment numbers anywhere, though. So, we can only give you those numbers for the S/M Exos 58 pack we tested.
The Exos features a removable top lid and sleeping pad attachment strap, as mentioned above. The brain weighs 4.4 ounces, and the strap weighs 0.4 ounces. With both of these removed, the pack is 4.8 ounces lighter.
It also has compression straps zig-zagging along the sides of the pack to compress the overall volume. However, the side pockets become unusable when you tighten these straps to lower the volume. These side compression straps are also removable. But, we don't recommend taking these off to save an ounce (each strap weighs about half an ounce).
We’re glad Osprey brought hip belt pockets back on the newest Exos, but wished they were big enough to easily fit a modern smartphone.
The Exos is not waterproof. The ripstop pack material has a DWR (durable water repellant) coating. So, it is relatively water-resistant but will not keep your gear dry in heavy rains. DWR coatings don't last a long time, either. So as the bag wears, it will become even less water-resistant.
The Exos doesn't come with a rain cover, either. Osprey does sell a pack cover you can add to this pack. But if you're backpacking in wet conditions, we recommend using a waterproof pack liner with this pack. We recommend this even with a waterproof bag, so maybe Osprey is onto something by not including a rain cover with their pack.
The Exos is a very durable pack. It's one of the most popular packs for thru-hikers. And, we've seen many of these packs last for multiple thru-hikes. Plus, Osprey's lifetime warranty is no joke. They will repair or replace your bag if something breaks.
Osprey puts the most durable material in high-stress areas. The main pack body is a durable (and now recycled) 100-denier ripstop nylon. The bottom of the pack is a 210D ripstop. And the spot where the ice axe attaches is a 400D material.
Many triple crown hikers have used the same Exos pack on all three of their triple crown hikes--that's nearly 10,000 miles on one backpack. There aren't many packs that would survive the AT, PCT, and CDT like the Exos can.