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Hands-on Gear Review
Osprey Exos 58 Review
Cons: Average durability, not a ton of extra features, not very adjustable
The Osprey Exos 58 is the winner of our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick Award for the Best Lightweight Backpacking Pack. Besides its 2.5 pound weight being over a pound lighter than the next closest pack in our review (and half the weight of several others), it also offers several features that make "stripping it down" even easier. This allows the user to go even lighter without having to sacrifice much in the way of comfort or features.
This is what makes this pack really unique; it truly blurs the line between traditional backpacking packs and ultralight packs. Though slightly heavier, it's comparable in weight to most ultralight packs, most of which are even more stripped down and often frameless. Regardless, it offered most of the same features that a traditional backpacking pack does, including a relatively supportive frame. It isn't as supportive nor as feature-rich as several models in our review, but our testers found it to be surprisingly comfortable when carrying weights up to 35-40 pounds. When used at 30 pounds or below, we could hardly feel a difference between it and some of the much heavier models we tested. However, for loads upwards of more than about 40 pounds, we certainly wished we had something more robust.
RELATED: Our complete review of backpacking backpacks
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
Check out the Overall Performance chart below to see where the Exos 58 stands amongst the other packs in our review.
The Osprey Exos was surprisingly comfortable, especially considering its exceptional light weight. While it wasn't quite as supportive or comfortable as the new REI Flash 65 or The North Face Banchee 65, it was also a pound less. The fabric on the inside of the Exos waist belt is cozy, and despite some initial skepticism, we found the shoulder straps quite comfortable even with minimal clothing on.
This contender sort of lives in between the worlds of ultralight frameless packs and traditional backpacking packs. It's 1-3 pounds lighter than most traditional backpacking packs that it shares many features with (including a frame), but is 0.5-1 pounds heavier than most "ultralight" packs. While this is certainly something, we must admit that it's not a lot of added weight and it is easily more comfortable to carry the 30-40 pound loads that a majority of backpackers will end up with.
This pack is all-around one of the cooler packs and is well vented throughout; from its perforated shoulder straps to the space behind the back panel, this pack kept us cool on our midsummer testing trips, making the Exos ideal for use in warmer climates or for people who just run on the warmer side. We tested this pack mountaineering on glaciers but didn't get to use it in a truly snowy environment, which leads us to wonder whether or not snow might get stuck in the back panel (we think it would).
At 2 lbs 8 oz, this pack is over a pound lighter than the next lightest pack in our review, the REI Flash 65 and North Face Banchee 65, both 3 lbs 10 oz (also seven additional liters), and half the weight of many others we tested.
For folks whose primary concern is weight but still want a frame, then look no further. This pack is even lighter than many packs on the market that have no frames. You sacrifice a little bit of durability to get such a light package, but not much. Part of how the Exos attains this weight is via its super light frame and fairly minimalist design. It also has several smaller than normal buckles and smaller 7mm compression straps, along with corresponding tiny buckles. In our real world testings we didn't find that these buckles were much harder to use than traditional-sized clips.
The Exos 58 also offers several features that make stripping the pack down (to an even lighter weight) fairly easy. One of the biggest of said features is the Exos removable lid, that when left behind, still features a nylon flap (which Osprey calls their FlapJacket™ system) that attaches to the same buckles as the lid to help keep the contents of your pack dry.
Despite its low light weight of 2 lbs 8 oz, it features a relatively solid suspension. It is great for loads up to 35 lbs, but once we crested 40 lbs, most of our testers felt that this pack was less capable. It has a pretty stout aluminum frame, but doesn't quite have the stiffness necessary in its hip belt or shoulder straps for heavier loads. That said, when carrying 25-30 lbs (or for some testers, 35 pounds), we couldn't even notice a difference in suspension compared to more robust options. Our testing team started to notice a difference in support when carrying 35-40+ lbs while hiking all day.
Features and Ease of use
Despite its low weight, the Exos has many features that make it easier and more convenient to use. Check out the chart below to see where the Exos 58 ranked in the Ease of Use metric.
One of our tester's favorite feature is the stretchy mesh pocket on the back; it was secure and our test team found all sorts of uses for it, from all kinds of small items that we wanted to be easily accessible, to keep smelly clothing or garbage away from the rest of our stuff, or for funky shaped items like flip flops or a fry pan.
The "Stow on the Go" system was a little gimmicky. It's a way of attaching the trekking poles to the pack via a stretchy band near the bottom of the pack and an attachment on the shoulder strap; this feature was not as cool as we thought it would be. While practical for short distances, most testers who needed to stow their poles on their pack for more than 10 minutes just stored them on the side of the pack where they are more secure. The waist belt pockets are decently sized, easily fitting a couple Clif bars or a small point-and-shoot camera. These were nice to keep bars or nuts in, making mid-hiking snacking easy.
The lid of the pack is just okay. It features one small pocket on the top of the lid and a mesh pocket underneath. Our testers loved the mesh pocket which was easy to see into, but the top lid pocket was harder-than-average to find items because of its narrowish entrance and longish size. The one thing the top lid had going for it was its nice bright yellow colored interior which helped with searching for lost items.
The lowest strap, which actually runs around most of the base of the pack, seemed a little odd at first but we ended up finding it pretty functional; it worked great for a 3/4 length closed cell foam pad. For early season hikers or just folks enjoying the occasional mountaineering trip, we appreciated the pack's single ice axe loop that we felt only helped add to the pack's versatility.
Adjustability and Sizing
While this pack is not really adjustable, it does come in three sizes, which means you can likely find a pack that fits you well. We find most people shorter than the 5'4-5'5 range would want to order something smaller than a size small (which Osprey does not offer) and conversely, most folks above 6'3-6'4 would need to order something larger than a large (also something Osprey does not offer); it may be difficult to size this pack for people at the end of each spectrum.
This award winner is perfect for backpackers who are either already in the world of ultralight hiking, or just getting into it. While certainly heavier than most ultra light frameless backs, it isn't WAY heavier and is far more comfortable for folks who don't have their pack weight down to below 20-25 pounds yet. It's also a great option for folks who want to go super light, but simply desire a more comfortable pack with a frame and more robust padding. Despite being a little on the heavy side of ultralight packs, we know several people who have used the Exos (mostly in its smaller sizes) on the PCT and the AT. For application and length, the Exos 58 is good for most people hiking 2-6 days, with 5-8 days requiring most non-ultralight users to go much more minimally.
Value and the Bottom Line
At $220, the Exos is on the less expensive end of the spectrum among packs in our review. It is slightly more expensive than its closest competitor, the $200 REI Flash 65, but is 1 pound 2 oz lighter and doesn't give up a lot in the way of comfort, support, or features. It is less expensive than the much more comfortable and feature-rich $240, 3 lbs 10 oz, The North Face Banchee 65. Most folks looking at the Exos 58 might consider other packs we've reviewed; with the Exos, it really comes down to what a user needs and wants from their pack. Because again, this pack really does sort of live in a world in between traditional backpacking packs and ultralight packs. We included it in our review because it features a frame and is quite comfortable for most folks that are going on a common backpacking trip in which most cases very little sacrifice needs to be made. However, if you need the ability to carry weights greater than 40 pounds on a regular basis but still want a lightish pack, we'd recommend looking at the The North Face Banchee 65, REI Flash 65, or Osprey Volt 60.
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— Ian Nicholson
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 29, 2016
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