Gear Review: Osprey’s Updated Exos 58 Backpack
Actual Capacity: Small: 55L, Medium: 58L, Large: 61L
Weight: 2.75 pounds (L)
Load Range: 20-40 lbs.
I have used an Osprey Exos 58 for years and believe it has been a great all around choice for backpacking. Apparently, Im not alone in that thinking. The results of The Treks 2017 AT thru-hiker survey 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.
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. (My personal, mini Triple Crown.) 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 iteration 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.
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 capacity: 61 liters). The medium is 58 liters, and the small is another three liters smaller.
The Exos has a top-loading main 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. Theres also an internal sleeve designed to handle a three-liter water bladder.
My first test was to see how it would handle one of my larger loads. Arrayed in the photo above is what I pack for a multi-day trip in temperatures down to ~25 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.
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 pounds, including 2.75 pounds for the pack. Adding in two liters of water and four days of food at 1.5 pounds per day, and I was right at 30 pounds.
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 pounds, but my personal experience was that comfort quickly drops once you get 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.
Overall quality of construction is very high. While it has an All Mighty lifetime warranty, dont 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 adapted comfortably to my body. It also appears to allow the belt to be tightened 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.
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.
Two color options are available. Besides the black and red shown in the photos, there is also a two-tone green. Personally, I’d go for the black and red. As a photographer, I think brighter equipment colors enhance trail shots. In addition, they are easier to find when you lay them down. (Note to whomever found my “forest green” fleece on 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 theres 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 (size large) now weighs 2.75 pounds (44 ounces). 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. As I occasionally use a bear canister, the 58 is my choice. It provides me with extra space when I need it while weighing only two ounces more than its smaller cousin.
- 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 ounces
While certainly not ultralight, Im a fan of the packs design. Im 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, Ill enjoy the ventilation even more. For me, the comfort and carrying capacity of the Exos 58 outweigh the benefits of lighter packs Ive 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.
Check out Osprey Ejathe new women’s-specific versionhere:
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