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Osprey Exos 48 Review

Our award winner for Best Buy has tons of features, carries medium sized loads well, and is comfortable to boot.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $200 List | $149.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Great for medium loads, inexpensive, thoughtful set of features, external storage and lashing options
Cons:  Heavy, less durable than others
Manufacturer:   Osprey
By Jane Jackson & Brandon Lampley  ⋅  May 14, 2018
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 12
  • Weight-to-Volume Ratio - 35% 4
  • Comfort to Carry - 25% 9
  • Features - 20% 8
  • Adaptability - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 8

The Skinny

The Osprey Exos 48 continues to be our favorite a reasonably priced pack that still scores highly in all metrics. The Exos is by far the most affordable, versatile, and widely available option out of all of these reasonably specialized packs. The feature set is extensive and allows you to pick and choose which features are best suited for your use. The pack is comfortable whether you're carrying 30 pounds or 10; though it is a bit heavier than most in this review, it makes up for it in comfort and ease of use. Also, it is still much lighter than a traditional full frame pack.

For folks who are new to ultralight travel in the backcountry and are still transitioning from a full backpacking kit, the Exos is a great option. It is also a reasonably priced option and is easy to obtain. This pack is one of the most popular and widely used packs out there for lightweight backpacking use, and for a good reason! If you are looking for a lighter model that still has the same great suspension and ventilation of the Exos check out the new Osprey Levity 45, which is much lighter. But, if you're relatively new to ultralight and lightweight backpacking, or simply want a pack that performs incredibly well for medium weight loads, the Exos 48 is for you.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Exos 48 earned high scores in almost all categories, even though it is quite a bit heavier than most other models in this review. It carries 30 pounds better than any other we tested and has the most extensive set of useful features among our contenders. Unlike many of the packs in this review, the Exos has a large lid. Use the lid if you want or leave it at home to save a few ounces.

Performance Comparison


Osprey has given their Exos series a makeover (as well as introducing a women's version, the Eja). Osprey states that they've tweaked the suspension and hip belt designs to help with load distribution and comfort.
  • Hip belt and shoulder strap pockets nixed - This version lacks the pockets on the hip belt and shoulder straps that the old Exos boasted, which is a bit disappointing because our testers appreciated those features.
  • Bigger side pockets - The side pockets are a bit larger on the new version. Some reviews online stated that they seemed more durable and were easier to access on the go.
  • New colors - The new Exos is available in a grass green and black/red.
  • Price increase - With these updates, the price has increased $10 for this pack, up from $190 to $200 (still a Best Buy winning price!)

Read on to learn more about the updated Osprey Exos 48.

Weight-to-Volume Ratio


This pack is available in three sizes with different torso lengths and waist belt sizes. We tested a size small, and it fit our 5' 7" tester perfectly.


Weight Bottom Line:
Total Weight with all modular components = 2 lb 5.6 oz
Pack stripped of components = 2 lb 1.9 oz

Removable Lid = 3.7 oz

While you could remove the Exos' frame, we do not recommend this.

OGL Measured Volume Bottom Line:
Total Volume = 59L
Main Bag = 40L
Front Pocket = 5L
Side Pockets = 5L
Removable Lid = 6L

At 18.9 g/L, the Exos was on the lower end of the spectrum regarding its weight-to-volume ratio. Unfortunately, the new model of the Exos lacks the super stretchy mesh that made up the external pockets on the previous model, and so we lost some overall volume there when we measured the new pack. A pack with a similar design but more overall storage space is the ULA Circuit has a large, mesh pocket on the outside that adds lots of extra storage to the overall volume of the pack.

Counting ounces? Or pounds?
The Exos is also made in a 58-liter version (the Exos 58) for larger loads and a 38-liter version (Osprey Exos 38), pictured to the right. Ultralight backpackers who love the feature set of this pack can save 3 ounces with the 38-liter version. According to our independent volume tests, we think the Exos 38, minus its lid, would be weight competitive and similar in total volume to the Editors' Choice winner Gossamer Gear Gorilla.

We found there to be ample room in the Exos for extra gear to make this overnight extra plush.
We found there to be ample room in the Exos for extra gear to make this overnight extra plush.

Load Carrying Comfort


While this product is one of the best packs for carrying 30-pound loads, we found it less comfortable than several others in the fleet when carrying a light load around 15 pounds. This model earned "great" for 30-pound loads and "good" for 15-pound loads.


Some folks think the tensioned frame feels almost like a turtle shell with light loads. But this tensioned frame structure is what makes it carry medium loads so well. It is easily the best pack of this bunch for carrying more than 30 pounds. The frame distributes weight with ease, and the shoulder straps and waist belt offer more padding than most. Overall, we find simple frames are more comfortable with light loads. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa has a more substantial overall carrying capacity, but with its simple structure, actually carries lighter loads more comfortably than the Exos. The Osprey Levity 45 carries loads similarly to the Exos but has a sleeker shape, keeping the load closer to the midline of the body.

The combination of 20D nylon and mesh make these pockets stretchy  yet durable.
The combination of 20D nylon and mesh make these pockets stretchy, yet durable.

Features


We could fill pages describing all the standard features of the Exos. Rarely does a product completely distance itself from competitors in one of our metrics, but the Exos does with features. This tensioned frame pack not only has a floating lid, but also a FlapJacket top closure. We often head out without the lid, and the FlapJacket is a major benefit compared to packs with only a drawstring top closure. The stretchy exterior pockets (main and side) hold more volume than any other.

The hip pockets on the sides are large, and the small, stretchy pockets on the shoulder straps can hold small items, like sunscreen or a phone. Unlike the previous model, the new Exos has slimmed down a bit regarding extra pockets. The hip pockets are gone, as are the small shoulder strap pockets. We found that the pack is more streamlined and easier to use overall without these additional pockets. The new model is more in line with other ultralight models, like the Gossamer Gear Mariposa.


Zig-zag compression straps run up both sides of the main pack and can be routed inside or outside of the side pockets. This is a significant benefit when you want to reduce the internal pack volume but still have full use of the side pockets. The Haglofs L.I.M. Strive 50 has similar zig-zagging compression straps that work in the same way. This pack is chock-full of features, and you will probably discover the ones that suit your needs after a few times with this pack out on the trail.

The hip belts  though minimal in terms of padding  are more substantial than those on the Levity.
The hip belts, though minimal in terms of padding, are more substantial than those on the Levity.

Adaptability


This Osprey model earned a high adaptability score. If you're looking to strap bulky but light items to the outside of a pack, this one has the most options. The lid floats, bottom straps will accept a rolled foam pad, the stretchy main pocket is huge. To top it off, sewn in webbing loops along the back provide the spots to attach bungee cords if you desire, and are large enough to easily clip a carabiner to.


The Osprey Exos 48 works "just OK" with a BV500 bear canister. The tensioned frame doesn't play nice with the can, but it fits.

We were happy with Osprey's ability to make lightweight  breathable shoulder straps that still put comfort first.
We were happy with Osprey's ability to make lightweight, breathable shoulder straps that still put comfort first.

Durability


One of the most notable differences in the new version of the Exos is its newly designed, much more durable stretch mesh pockets. Previously, the Exos had fallen short in the durability metric because the stretchy pockets on the back were prone to catching on sticks and branches and often ripped. Now, the Exos has durable nylon fabric incorporated into the pockets, which are still somewhat stretchy, to greatly reduce the overall wear and tear this part of the pack sees. The new Osprey Levity 60 is similar in that it has large, roomy external pockets without the mesh.


Like the ZPacks Arc Blast 55, the tensioned airframe of this pack seems less durable; we don't recommend sitting on this contender or tossing it around willy-nilly.

The lid on the new Exos is very easy to remove - a feature we love!
The lid on the new Exos is very easy to remove - a feature we love!

Best Applications


The Exos 48 is the best pack we tested for backpackers whose loads usually range from 20 to 35 pounds, and we found that no other pack carried 30 pounds as comfortably. The Exos is a perfect crossover pack between the ultralight and lightweight backpacking worlds…which makes it an excellent pack for thru-hikers who sometimes need to carry lots of food and water.

Value


This bag won our Best Buy Award, which we give to the product that delivers the most bang for your buck. There are several significantly cheaper packs in this review, but none performed well enough to recommend them over the Exos. A $200 price tag will get you a pack that will last a long time and performs well in a variety of situations. Backpacks are one of the items where you get what you pay for most of the time, and we're surprised Osprey packs don't retail at a higher price.

Taking in the view with the Osprey Exos on a trip into the Yosemite backcountry in early spring.
Taking in the view with the Osprey Exos on a trip into the Yosemite backcountry in early spring.

Sizing


Like most packs from large manufacturers, the Exos 48's waist belt is permanently attached. Three size options are available: small, medium, and large. If you find that you can't typically get the right fit from "standard sizes," we recommend checking out the options from smaller manufacturers who typically allow you to mix and match the torso length and waist belt sizes.

Conclusion


The Osprey Exos 48 is a perfect lightweight backpacking pack, and it's light enough to break into ultralight territory. In our experience, it performs best when carrying 20 to 35 pounds. If this is your common minimum and maximum total weight, this is the pack we recommend. Pockets and lash straps cover this model, meaning you can always have the items you want easily accessible at your fingertips.


Jane Jackson & Brandon Lampley