Osprey Exos 48 Backpack Review

Osprey Exos 48 backpack in Glacier Peak Wilderness
Intro:
The Exos series of backpacks from Osprey have a cult following from people who hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Continental Divide Trail (CDT), Appalachian Trail (AT) to fast packers. Over the past 2 summers I've put my Exos 48 backpack through a lot of miles and dare I say, bonded with it. Are the Exos series backpacks for everyone, what are the Pro's and Con's? Should everyone ditch their heavier backpacking packs for an Exos? I hope to answer these questions and many more.

Construction/Material:
All Exos backpacks utilize Osprey's airspeed suspension which is a tensions mesh back panel that provides lots of ventilation and and conforms to the shape of your back. The shoulder straps and hipbelt use layers of mesh to provide cushioning while also maintaining high breathability.


Airspeed Suspension provides ventilation and conforms to your back  
The shoulder straps offer 2 small elastic mesh pockets that store the likes of energy bars/gels, sunscreen, bug spray, ...etc. In the front of the backpack there is one large elastic mesh pocket for easy storage and retrieval. The bottom, accent, and main fabric use a 100D high tenacity ripstop nylon. The side compression straps are very minimalist, but effective.
Side Profile of the Exos 48 with the foam-wrapped hip belt.
Each side of the Exos backpacks features a large elastic mesh water bottle pockets that can be accessed vertically or horizontally. The water bottle pockets are large enough that I was able to store a mirrorless camera with a 50mm lens in them and retrieve it with the backpack on using the horizontal access.

How it Fits:
Probably the most subjective part of this review. Backpacks are similar in regards to shoes in that you really have to try it on to see if it fits. I have a torso length between 18-19 inches and I went with a medium frame, but I also could have gone with a small frame. If I were to buy another exos pack I would spend more time with the small frame in comparing it to the medium frame. Over the course of a week hiking, I noticed that a I had a lot of excess shoulder strap webbing in order to keep the frame positioned on my hips. The curse of being in-between sizes is that often times its a compromise on which frame to get. You go down a size, hip belt sizes change, etc...

Besides that, the hip belt rides very comfortably even after many days of hiking. What I love most about the Exos backpacks is the airframe suspension. My lower back never gets sore hiking in it due to how the mesh supports it. I have a difficult time with standard backpacks with getting the lumber and upper back to fit my back properly. With out a doubt, go try the backpack on and get someone to properly size your torso length so you can get the proper size you deserve. This review is useless if the backpack doesn't fit your body.

Exos 48 backpack on the trail


Performance:
Over the course of 2 years I have put over 250 miles on the backpack and it still looks fantastic. The Exos 48 was my backpack of choice in doing the Wonderland trail around MRNP. The Loop I did was slightly modified to include the North loop section which brought the loop to be over 100 miles.
The loop took 7 nights and 8 days with temperatures from 30 degrees to 80 degrees F. The mesh suspension of the backpack was fantastic even when the temperatures were cool because I sweated less which meant I stayed more comfortable. My second to last day on the Wonderland covered 20+ miles and 6K ascent and descent. Because the Exos is lightweight but still comfortable, it made the miles and vertical travel much more pleasant than heavier backpacks.
Osprey Exos 48 backpack at Grandpark - MRNP
When transitioning to lightweight or ultra-lightweight backpacking set up, I believe the backpack should be one of the last or last items to buy. If everything you put in your backpack is heavy, than it defeats the purpose of the UL backpack and in fact is probably less comfortable than one with more support.

My experience with the Exos is that the upper weight limit is around 30lbs. I only got near that weight when I got a resupplied with a food cache and carrying warmer sleeping bags and down jackets for autumn weather for the Wonderland. If you pack carefully, the exos makes a great approach and mountaineering pack for Glacier Peak and Mt. Olympus where most of the miles is on the approach, the key is to pack light though!

Osprey offers the Exos in 38.48, and 58 liter volume capacity, but I found the 48L size pack to be a nice sweet spot for 1-3 nights out. Overnight trips offer plenty of extra space, which I often use for food luxuries, or simply going light and fast to cover a plethora of miles.

The features that I loved the most about the Exos backpack are the dual side hip pockets and the dual pockets on the shoulder strap. These allow for quick access to sunscreen when you are transitioning from morning to noon or bug spray when the dawn or dusk hits. Plenty of room to throw in a energy gel or bar and there is little reason or need to stop or take off your back. Small features like this add up when you are trying to cover a lot miles and vertical where time adds up for stopping.

Summary:
Whether you are through hiking or trying to go light and fast, there is a reason why there is a cult following around the Exos series of backpacks from Osprey. The Exos 48 backpack may not be the lightest backpack in the world, but it's certainly one of the most comfortable, breathable, and most versatile light weight backpacks you can buy.
Quick overnight to Gothic Basin with the Exos 
Pros:
  • Extremely breathable and comfortable back panel and hipbelt
  • 2 chest and hipbelt pockets offers easy access to important items
  • Durable
  • Available in 3 different size torso lengths and 3 different volume sizes
  • Lightweight
Cons:
  • Wouldn't want to put more than 30lbs in it.
  • Top lid cannot be extended much for additional volume.

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