If you embark on adventures that consist of 5-25 days in the backcountry or trips that require you to carry a ton of gear, then the Osprey Xenith 105 is likely the pack for you. Not only is the Xenith a fantastic load-hauler with its pleasantly ergonomic shoulder straps and top-tier foam but it also features one of our review teams' favorite all-around pack designs. It sports several user-friendly pockets, great access, and a lid that transforms into a daypack, which is nice enough you'd consider taking it out on short hikes. The pack also offers a respectable weight and is only marginally heavier than others in our review, many that are much smaller in volume. The Xenith series comes in three volumes: 75L, 85L, and 105L options, and the Xenith is tester Ian Nicholson's favorite Denali Pack (which is a 22-day mountaineering trip with arctic cold weather). The Xenith series also ranks as a favorite among many NOLS instructors for extended (read month+) adventures deep in the backcountry in remote parts of the globe; it's easy to understand why once you load this pack up.
Osprey Xenith 105 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Shoulder straps and waist belt have top-notch foam and excellent fabric, stout suspension can handle heavy loads, reviewers favorite pocket design
Cons: Foam geared towards heavier loads and is a little stiffer and slightly less "cushy feeling"
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Xenith 105 features cozy, high-quality foam that strikes a very nice balance of support without being too stiff and was some of our testers favorite overall padding of any model in our review.
Even when loaded up with 60+ pounds, the foam in the shoulder straps never bottomed out. While the foam is stiff, it was still able to conform, without losing its padding, and spread the weight out along the shoulder strap and hip belt. The foam is a little stiffer than most, which is better for heavier loads but may be slightly overkill for shorter trips.
Once you put this pack on, one of the first things you'll notice is how dramatically articulated the shoulder straps are. After a few dozen days, every one of our testers found this design was exceptionally comfortable. When we compared this model to others in our fleet amongst testers, we only found positive results after a long day on the trail.
The face fabric (the outside fabric) used on the inside of the shoulder straps and hip belt was also a favorite among testers. It was the most pleasant feeling against our bodies - a design component that was even more of a dramatic difference with a thin base layer, tank-top or bearskin.
Like many of Osprey's packs, the Xenith's hip belt is heat moldable, meaning it can be heated in a convection oven and then placed on the wearer to cool, and mold to their body. We think this is a cool idea; however, after a LOT of direct side-by-side testing, we didn't find that heating it in the oven does anything different than wearing the pack would do. We tested this model (as well as several Osprey packs that have the same heat moldable waist belt) both with and without molding it for over 50 days and found that molding the waist belt doesn't do anything that one backpacking trip won't do. The final consensus? The shoulder straps and waist belt are incredibly luxurious. It's also one of the few packs on the market that is more comfortable when carrying moderate to heavy loads (>40lbs).
The Xenith 105 easily has one of the most robust, burly suspensions in the review. It carries moderate to heavy loads (45+ pounds) significantly better than nearly any options out there, including our Editors' Choice Osprey Atmos 65 AG. While the Gregory Baltoro 65, Osprey Xenith 75, and Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 are all well-suited to heavy loads and compare closely to this model (particularly the Baltoro), the Xenith is just a cut above the rest. Not only is the suspension system impressive, but it offers features and volume options which made it easy to choose for huge loads or extended outings.
The Xenith 105 features a 4mm LightWire peripheral frame which is quite thick. The result is a stiffer frame that is more resistant to bending under load. For example, Osprey beefs up the 105's LightWire frame to 4mm, which is more than their other packs. For example, the Xenith 75 and 88 feature 3.5mm frames. The result is the 105's ability to handle heavier loads as well as you could ever hope. One of our testers commented that this pack is more capable of heavier loads than he was. Jokes aside, the 105's ability to handle weight superbly is one of the reasons it took our Top Pick Award for Extended Adventures.
The Xenith 105 weighs 5.4 lbs; while hefty, it's a decent weight for a 105-liter pack, especially when we consider how robust the suspension system is.
Despite being the largest volume pack in our fleet, it wasn't even the heaviest. When we compare weights to other models, we can see that the weight differences are not as significant as you might think. For example, the Gregory Baltoro 65 is 4.84 pounds, the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 is 5 pounds, and the smaller volume version of this same model, the Osprey Xenith 75 is 4.83 lbs. When we compare the 105 to heavier packs on the market, like the Baltoro Pro 95, we see that the Pro 95 weighs 6.47 pounds.
Ease of Packing and Features
Like most monster packs, this model is packed full of features with several welcome designs to help you stay organized in 105 massive liters.
The 105 has one of our favorite feature sets and offers an impressive number of functional pockets, coupled with good access.
We love the twin zippered pockets in the front. The pockets were easy to access, even when the pack is super full, and were big enough to fit objects more substantial than a 1-liter Nalgene. Built out from these two pockets is a stretchy mesh beavertail-style pocket which is perfect for flip flops, a jacket you want to keep close at hand, or any other oddly shaped items. For 2018, Osprey changed the mesh, making it even more durable. The stretchy, mesh water bottle pockets are user-friendly and well-designed, and one that we love Osprey for.
What makes Osprey packs unique is that many have a secondary access point so they can hold a water bottle in one of two orientations: a traditional and extremely secure vertical orientation, and a diagonal forward position to make it (relatively) easy to remove and re-stow on your own. These stretchy water bottle pockets are also large enough to fit tent poles or similar items securely into the pocket on the side of your pack even if you have a water bottle in there.
This models ice axe loops have better-than-average functionality compared to the more backpacking-oriented options included in our review. The lower straps that extend over the sleeping bag compartment are long enough to fit some closed cell foam pads, tripods, or other oblong items; however, we wished they were just a little longer. The reason is they don't fit roughly half of the full-length closed cell foam pads we attempted to stow in them.
We liked the two zippered top-lid pockets; one larger and one smaller, which kept us organized on extended trips. While we utilized these pockets on every trip, we didn't think they were quite as easy to search for items as models with the zippers on the top of the lid rather than the side (like the Arcteryx Bora AR 63 or the Gregory Baltoro 65), or even a similar designed model like the The North Face Banchee 65, whose zipper just wrapped slightly further around. We liked the large hip belt pockets on this model, though they were nowhere near as large as the ones found on the Osprey Aether Pro 70. However, we still found they were plenty big enough for a camera, smartphone, or snacks that we wanted to have easy access to while out on the trail.
One of the most novel features that is shared with the Osprey Aether 60 is a lid which doubles as an actual daypack, not a fanny pack. This is because the lid of the pack is roughly 2/3 of the volume of this daypack already, with the rest of it pack and the shoulder straps folding out of a smaller third zipper. The idea is if you want to go for a day hike or a summit push, you can leave the primary body of the Xenith behind and strap the lid (turned into a daypack) for your day adventure.
This included daypack is a surprisingly decent pack. An unexpected perk, we found it useful on short day hikes or trips where we weren't even entertaining the idea of bringing the main pack. If you want to save a little weight and leave the lid behind entirely, there is a separate flap (which Osprey calls the FlapJacket) that covers the central opening of the pack, helping to keep your items dry.
Adjustability and Fit
The Xenith's shoulder straps are attached to a large Velcro flap that is sandwiched between two pieces of Velcro, located inside the primary back panel.
Many other pack manufacturers have imitated this relatively simple system over the years, and for a good reason. This design allows the pack to truly be fine-tuned to the torso length of any given user. After having used over a half dozen Osprey Packs that feature this system, we have never experienced it slip or slide out of position unexpectedly.
As far as adjustment this pack offers around 4" of torso length adjustment and Osprey, as well as several retailers, provide the ability to swap different sized shoulder straps and waist belts with varying sizes of a frame. For example, you could get a small or large sized hip-belt with a medium sized frame.
The Xenith (and its various sizes) are tester Ian Nicholson's favorite Denali pack (a mountain he guides each year and has 10+ trips under his belt). We recommend this model for those who enjoy longer backpcaking trips or pack a little on the heavier side. Its volume is not ideal for 1-3 night trips, as it's easy to pack too much. If you are looking for something for these types of shorter trips, you can easily find a pack that is a little lighter. The most recent application, tester Ian Nicholson found this pack perfect for was shorter duration family trips where parents end up carrying nearly all of the equipment. It's also a great family pack when one parent carries everything, and the other carries the baby.
At $400, this pack isn't cheap, but the Xenith certainly brings plenty of value. Its still $100 less than the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 and while often $50-100 more than many packs in this review, you get an incredibly robust frame, top-tier foam, and a ton of well-designed features to help make your trip more enjoyable.
If you need a behemoth of a pack, this is one of the best options out there. Winner of our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick Award for Monster Loads and Extended Trips, this model is built for those massive loads in which few packs handle better. The Xenith also features one of our review teams' favorite overall designs for features and pockets. This pack should be on your short list if you're in the market for something of this volume, along with a robust and comfortable suspension system.
Other Versions and Accessories
This pack is made in three volumes a 75L, 88L, and the 105L that is reviewed here. They have a similar overall design but the padding and frame generally become more robust as you go up in volume.
— Ian Nicholson