Gear Review: Osprey Exos 58 Backpack

 Osprey Exos 58 Details:

Size: Small 55 liter, Medium 58 Liter, Large 61 Liter
Weight: 2 lb, 11 oz, to 2 lb, 12 oz
Load Range: 20-40 lbs.
MSRP: $220
Warranty: Lifetime

I have used an Osprey Exos 58 pack for years and believe it has been a great all around choice for backpacking. Apparently, I’m not alone in that thinking either. The results of The Trek’s 2017 survey of AT hikers listed it as the most popular pack. Last week, I presented a program at the Adventure Summit in Dayton. The featured speaker, Dale “Grey Beard” Sanders (oldest man to thru-hike the AT) began his presentation by walking out on stage wearing an Exos. When I check my gear closet, two of the three backpacks in there have Exos written on them. So, I had high expectations when Osprey sent me the newest version of the Exos 58 to test.

Grey Beard showing off his pack

I have had extensive experience with older versions of the pack. Besides numerous weekend trips, my first Exos 58 carried my gear on thru-hikes of the Colorado Trail, Long Trail and John Muir Trail. When I sent the pack back for repair of a worn hip belt attachment, I learned that their All Mighty Guarantee was the real deal. Rather than repair the pack they sent me a newer model, at no charge. That pack was happily carried on thru-hikes of the Tahoe Rim Trail and Sheltowee Trace and remains in good shape.

This newest alliteration of the Exos 58 has not yet been on any thru-hikes, but enough shorter trips (Twin Creek and Caesar Creek backpack trails in Ohio and up and down some serious elevation changes in Great Smoky Mountain National Park) to give me a good feel for the new model.

The Pack

Like past versions, the pack is built around an aluminum frame with Airspeed suspension which allows for ventilation room between the load and your back. At 6’ 2” with a 22” torso measurement, I went with the large; actual size 61 liters. The medium is 58 liters and the small is another three liters smaller.

The Exos has a main, top loading compartment, two large side stretch pockets, a large front, stretch/mesh pocket and a removable “brain.” If the brain is removed, an integrated flap still covers the main compartment. There’s also an internal sleeve designed to handle a 3 liter water bladder.

My first test was to see how it would handle one of my larger loads. Arrayed in the photo below is what I pack for a multi-day trip in temperatures down to 25 or so at night. Since it is required on occasion, I included a 650 cubic inch bear canister. The load also contained a solo tent, 20 degree bag, pad, cook kit, 2nd set of clothes, fleece, down vest, rain jacket, rain pants and typical odds and ends.

All my crap!

It all fit!

The entire load fit with (a little) room to spare. No item needed to be hung or strapped to the outside of the pack. My weight at that point was 20 lbs., including 2lb., 12 oz for the pack. Adding in two liters of water and four days of food at 1 ½ lb. per day put me right at 30 lbs.
The pack felt comfortable at that weight, easily adjusting to put most of the tonnage on my hips through a well padded hip belt.

Osprey states the pack can handle up to 40 lbs., but my personal experience was that comfort drops quickly above 35. Thankfully, I rarely need to go that high. With lighter loads (two days of food, no bear canister, no brain), the pack was just a joy to carry. The side compression straps kept smaller loads from shifting. Heavy or light, I had no issues with ill fit or rubbing.

A smaller load without the “brain”

Overall quality of construction was very high. While it has All Mighty lifetime warranty; don’t expect to need it. Although the pack closely resembles the earlier model, there have been some significant changes that affect the use of the product.

New Model Changes

The hip belt has been redesigned to have a wider, but shorter padded area. I found that it quickly adapted comfortably to my body. It also appears to allow the belt to be tighten around a smaller waist size. On the Colorado Trail, I went from 180 pounds to about 165 and nearly ran out of hip belt adjustment. This new version would alleviate that issue. For those that like lots of pockets, the downside to the change is that the zippered pockets on the hip belt are gone. I suppose I could use a few more of the dozen pockets on my cargo pants.

Heading up toward Chimney Tops in GSMNP

The other small pocket to disappear was on the shoulder strap. The folks at Osprey state they were looking for simplification with these changes. On the flip side, the side “water bottle” pockets were made larger and can now handle items like tent poles (or in my case, rain gear) while still giving access to a water bottle without having to remove the pack.

The sternum strap can now be quickly adjusted by simply sliding it up or down, a significant improvement.

The pack comes in two color options; the red & black pictured or a two tone green. I vote for the red & black as it shows up better in pictures and when you lay it down on the trail. Note to whomever found my “forest green” fleece along the Sheltowee Trace Trail: you’re welcome.

Overall, the pack is built to be more durable than past versions. The frame is slightly redesigned, and there’s less stretch material and more nylon on the remaining pockets. The Airspace mesh and brain attachments have been beefed up as well. This should all add to long term durability. On the downside, this tougher version does result in a weight penalty. The Exos 58 in large now weighs 2 lb., 12 oz. This is four ounces more than the previous model. For those looking for the lightest weight possible, removing the brain drops the total by 4 1/2 ounces. In addition, the trekking pole attachment, sleeping pad straps and side compression straps can all be removed to save a bit more.

If weight is an issue, you can consider the Exos 48, though you only save two ounces with that version.  As I occasionally use a bear canister though, the 58 is my choice.

Pros and Cons

• Strong history as a quality lightweight pack. Lifetime Warranty.
• Airspeed suspension keeps ventilation between the load and your back.
• Very comfortable with loads up to 35 lbs.
• New version appears more durable than older model.
• Hip belt can tighten further for smaller waists.
• Easy adjustment of the height of the sternum strap.
• Larger side pockets can handle more than just water bottles.

• Hip belt and shoulder strap pockets have disappeared
• Weight has crept up four oz.

The Verdict

Reward for a steep climb

While certainly not ultralight, I’m a fan of the pack’s design. I’m willing to pay some weight penalty for the comfortable carry and rugged construction. In addition, the ventilation on the back provided by the Airspeed suspension was huge plus on uphill climbs even during some unseasonably warm February weather. Come July, I’ll enjoy the ventilation even more. For me, the comfort and carrying capacity of the Exos 58 “outweigh” the benefits of lighter packs I’ve tried.

Osprey has taken a winning design and fine-tuned it for simplicity and durability. Despite the loss of pockets and the addition of four ounces, the Osprey Exos 58 remains a great option for either overnights or thru-hiking.

Boundary Waters 101

Starting in Northern Minnesota and spreading into Canada are over two million acres of preserved wilderness just waiting for you. The Boundary Waters may just be the finest place in the world to canoe, camp, fish, immerse yourself in nature, unplug and recharge. And the best part is that a Boundary Waters trip is one that nearly anyone can experience.

Join me this Saturday, February 10 at 2:30 pm at the Adventure Summit as I deliver the information needed to approach a trip to this special place with confidence. Whether you’re considering taking your first trip there or just need a reminder of why you should return, Boundary Waters 101 should be an educational, yet entertaining presentation.

The Adventure Summit is region’s premier outdoor adventure expo. Held at Wright State University on February 9-10, there will be displays, competitions and speakers providing a weekend of outdoor skill culture and experience. For more information on all the excitement, check out their website.

If you can’t make the presentation and still want to learn about the Boundary Waters, check out my newest book, Boundary Waters 101.

Walking in Circles: A New Book

Many backpackers dream of taking epic, once in a lifetime thru-hikes that take months and cover thousands of miles. The author is not one of those people. For me, the best thru-hikes are those that are still epic, but take weeks, rather than months to complete.
The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) is one of those trails. At 170 miles, the distance is less intimidating than many, but the experience is still amazing. This is a great trip for anyone that wants to immerse themselves in a possibly life changing adventure, but doesn’t want to give up the life they have to do it.

Make no mistake, this trail is not an easy hike. It weaves through the Sierra Nevada after all. However, the scenery is amazing, thru-hike logistics are simpler than most and navigating the loop is pretty direct. Come along with me and discover all the specific challenges and rewards of a thru-hike around the TRT through my new book: Walking in Circles: Backpacking the Tahoe Rim Trail. As an introductory offer, the E-version is only 99 cents when purchased through Amazon during the month of January. Be warned, however. Once you’ve finished the book, your bucket list may have gotten a little longer.