If you're looking for a super lightweight pack, but aren't sure you want a fully frameless model, the Osprey Exos is one of the best possible options. It is the same weight as several ultralight packs currently available - all while still featuring a frame, cozy shoulder straps, and a relatively robust waist belt. These attributes mean it is slightly heavier than a frameless ultralight pack but is WAY lighter than most traditional backpacking packs and significantly more comfortable than more minimally designed frame-less packs. Low weight aside, the Exos is simple, yet still keeps many nice features that go a long way toward making your backcountry trip more enjoyable.
The Exos 58 is our Top Pick for Going Light and Fast. At around 2.6 pounds, it still features a frame. This model truly blurs the line between ultralight packs and more traditional backpacking packs.
The Exos is surprisingly comfortable, especially considering its exceptionally low weight. While it wasn't quite as supportive or comfortable as the The North Face Banchee 65, it was also a pound lighter than either of those models.
Despite its low weight, all of our testers loved its super cushy shoulder straps. As long as our loads weren't too heavy (less than 40 lbs), they were super comfy.
The fabric on the inside of the Exos waist belt is cozy. Despite some initial skepticism, we discovered that the shoulder straps were quite comfortable as well, even with minimal clothing on. The newest Exos 58, which was released in Spring 2018 (and reviewed here), features an increase in padding. The padding has been updated in the area of the shoulder strap that runs over the top and front of your shoulders, as this is the area that feels the majority of the weight.
This contender lives between the world of ultralight frameless packs and traditional backpacking packs. It's 1-3 pounds lighter than most conventional backpacking packs that it shares many features with (including a frame), and is inline or only marginally heavier (0.5-1 pounds heavier) than most "ultralight" packs.
The Exos 58 is a surprisingly comfortable pack, especially considering its 2.6 lb weight. It's fantastic carrying up to 30 lbs, and decent to 40 lbs, but we wouldn't want to carry much more than that.
While this is certainly something worth mentioning, we must admit that it's not a lot of added weight for what you get and it is easily more comfortable to carry the 30-40 pound loads that a majority of backpackers will end up with (than a frameless model).
Osprey dramatically tapers the thickness of their shoulder straps in this model. In this photo, you can see how much thicker the shoulder strap is where it is likely to make contact with your body but how much less padded it is further down. This design reduces weight and bulk, while also increasing breathability (by not having a bunch of excess padding where you don't need it).
This pack is all-around one of the cooler (ventilation-wise) models and is well ventilated 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. It's also an excellent option 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.
In this photo, you can see the thicker foam in the large mesh tapering down as the shoulder strap wraps downward.
At 2 lbs 10 oz, this pack is over a pound lighter than the next lightest competitors in our review The North Face Banchee 65
at 3 lbs 10 oz.
For folks whose primary concern is weight but still want a frame, look no further. This pack is lighter than many models on the market that have no frames. You sacrifice a little bit of durability to get such a light package, but not much, and we found this wasn't a big deal at all on trips where the user is traveling primarily on trails. This newest version (2018 and later) features mesh that is significantly more durable and now uses straight-up nylon on the sides of the pack.
Part of how Osprey made the Exos 58 so light is by utilizing several much smaller than average buckles and straps throughout the pack. Despite their size, we never found them difficult to use.
The Exos has a super light frame and a relatively minimalist design. It also has several smaller than normal buckles and smaller 7mm compression straps, along with corresponding tiny buckles. In our real-world testing, we didn't find that these buckles were much harder to use than traditional-sized clips.
A design to help further save weight for an entire trip or for a summit push is this model's lid is removable. Osprey takes this design one step further by incorporating a nylon flap (which Osprey calls the FlapJacket) to cover the primary opening on your pack, which keeps it more secure and protected from the elements.
The Exos 58 also offers several features that make stripping the pack down (to an even lighter weight) reasonably easy. One of the biggest of said features is the Exos removable lid, which when left behind, still features a nylon flap (which Osprey calls their FlapJacket system). It attaches to the same buckles as the lid to help keep the contents of your pack dry.
The Exos features a trampoline-style suspension. This design helps keep its wearer a little cooler and more evenly distributed the weight across your back as long as you aren't carrying too much weight. For being so light, this model has a surprisingly good suspension system, and is quite comfortable for most people carrying 35-40 pounds.
Despite its low light weight of 2 lbs 10 oz, it features a relatively solid suspension that has only been improved for 2018. 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 and comfortable. 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. While pretty equal to around 30-35 pounds with the other light-ish models in our review, like The North Face Banchee 65 and Gregory Paragon 68, these models consistently felt better with pack weights above 35 pounds.
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 beavertail pocket on the back. The pocket was secure, and we found all sorts of uses for it, from all kinds of small items that we wanted to keep easily accessible or to keep smelly clothing or garbage away from the rest of our stuff. It was also great for unusually shaped items, like flip flops or a frying pan.
We loved the stretchy mesh pocket featured on the back of the Exos 58. It was a great place for wet items (which the mesh allowed them to continue to dry), stinky garbage that we didn't want inside our pack, or our favorite item - flip flops.
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 of Clif bars or a small point-and-shoot camera. These were nice to keep bars or nuts in, making mid-hiking snacking easy.
The top zippered pocket featured on the Exos 58. This pocket sported a fairly narrow entrance that made looking for things slightly harder than average, but we found that the bright yellow colored interior helped.
The lid of the pack wasn't as easy as other models, primarily because it wasn't as easy to search through. It features one small pocket on the top of the lid and a full-sized mesh pocket underneath. All of 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.
This photo shows the secondary mesh zippered pocket located underneath the lid of the pack. Our testers liked the mesh, as it was easy to see and find the contents of the pocket.
There a narrow strap toward the bottom of the pack that worked great for a 3/4 length closed cell foam pads but wasn't quite long enough for most full-length (6ft) ones. 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.
The uniquely designed lower strap on the bottom of this pack features compression straps on each end. At first, our users were pretty unimpressed with this feature. However, after using these pack for several nights, we learned to appreciate its versatility (and it was long enough for most 3/4 length closed cell foam pads).
Adjustability and Sizing
While this pack is not technically 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). Conversely, most folks above 6'3-6'4 would need to order something larger than a large (also something Osprey does not offer). The lack of these sizes means 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 ultralight frameless backs, it isn't exceptionally 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 those 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.
This award winner is perfect for backpackers who are either already in the world of ultralight hiking or just getting into it. The Exos is a perfect option for those who want to go super light, but simply desire a more comfortable pack with a frame and more robust padding than a true frameless utralight model.
At $220, the Exos is on the less expensive end of the spectrum among packs in our review. 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; it really comes down to what a user needs and wants from their pack.
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 weight 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 or Osprey Volt 60.