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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Exos 34 > Owner Review by Ray Estrella
Osprey Exos 34 Backpack
September 03, 2009
September 03, 2009
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Osprey Pack Inc
The Osprey Exos 34 pack (hereafter referred to as the Exos or pack) is a grey with orange highlights, top-loading pack, and the smallest of Osprey's new Exos series that they say "incorporates a ventilated suspension built for comfort with super light weight. The result is a highly specialized pack built for weekend to week long trips." I really enjoy their claim for the 34, "If you are a master of the art of lightweight packing this is your pack. With plenty of room for weekend to week long trips and our AirSpeed suspension all coming in at 960 g (2 lb 2 oz) you'll be the envy of every fastpacker on the trail." Well, I am not a master but I sure am trying, and have whole heartedly joined the fastpacking craze. So let me tell you about the 34.
Inside the pack is a large deep hydration pocket made of light-weight nylon. It will hold my largest hydration bladder, a 4 L model, with ease. (Although doing so takes a lot of space from inside the pack.) There is a nylon strap with a tiny quick disconnect buckle at the top of the hydration pocket that allows those models with a hole at the end to be secured by it. This keeps the bladder from sliding down to the bottom of the pack. I like this feature a lot and purchased new Platypus Hosers just to take advantage of it after I got the Exos 58 (my first Exos, see review). But I have not used it all that much with the Exos 34, more on why later.
Just above the hydration pocket a curved zipper may be seen crossing the pack from side to side. Opening it reveals the space between the mesh back panel and the pack body. The zipper is to allow the space to be used by a hydration bladder much like the Talon series packs did, (see my many reviews) with the water going between its backpanel and pack body. It can also be used to carry extra clothing or say a ground pad. Placing items inside this space will cut down on the amount of ventilation enjoyed though.
Two side compression straps run in a V-configuration on each side of the pack, one upper and one lower. These straps are made from 7mm nylon webbing and go through some very small duckbill buckles. These are the skinniest straps I have ever had on a pack and all the other straps I mention on the Exos are the same size and material.
Osprey calls this side compression the InsideOut Compression system. Here is what I love about it. As may be seen in my reviews of the company's Talon series of packs when the compression straps run over the pocket it makes it very hard to get anything in and out of said pockets unless the straps are loosened first. I suggested two years ago running the straps under the pocket, maybe through a "button-hole" like slot in the fabric. They have made the Exos with the option to reroute the straps underneath which I did the minute I saw them.
The side pockets, seen above (note the hole), are made of mesh and are quite large. I can fit a Nalgene or Aquafina bottle inside them with ease. The pockets have an elastic top and also have an elastic side opening.
On the front of the pack is a pocket made of "stretch woven material". This pocket is open at the top and secures with a centered fast-disconnect buckle, sharing the same strap that goes over the top of the pack body. (It has fast-disconnect male ends on both ends of the strap, which runs through a double-D buckle near the middle.) Where the buckle meets the pocket can be seen some orange tri-patterned areas going down and across. This is reinforced fabric to add support when a heavy load is cinched into the pocket. At the bottom of the pocket is a hole to drain water from wet-stored items.
On each side of the pack face is a 15 in (37 cm) long vertical zipper. Opening them reveals large storage pockets. This is a new feature on an Osprey pack to me and I like it. The way the pockets are constructed much of the volume of the items placed in them will be taken from the volume of the main pack. This keeps the pockets from bulging out and keeps the pack's profile trim.
The left-side face of the pack boasts one large ice axe or tool loop at the bottom that correspond to a bungee-style tie-off above. There are four extra tie-off loops on the lower section also should gear need to be lashed on. At the bottom is a set of 7mm sleeping pad straps. Also at the bottom left side is an elastic bungee loop threaded through a piece of tubing. This is half of the "Stow-on-the-Go Trekking Pole Attachment". More on it later.
An adjustable and removable lid bearing an Osprey logo patch sits on top of the Exos. It has a large mesh pocket on the underside of the lid that is meant for permits, wallets, and other items that need to be protected and kept from being lost. (I have a sticker that my wife got for me in it for display.) The lid has a large outside pocket accessed by a zipper with a little zipper-pull. Inside of this space is a key-ring clip.
The suspension of the Exos is a departure from all the Talons I have been using for the past two years. It is more like the big full-featured packs that Osprey makes, but lighter weight. They call it the Modified AirSpeed suspension. It has a tensioned breathable mesh backpanel that is stretched over a 6061-T6 alloy aluminum frame. The pre-curved anatomical white powder-coated frame runs all the way around the edges of the backpanel. It has two suspended cross-struts to provide extra support for the edges. The mesh is scalloped along the edges to give even more ventilation to the pack where it sits against the back.
This pack is not adjustable for torso length so choosing the correct size is imperative. The shoulder straps are the same slotted foam covered by mesh (BioStretch) as my Talons have. But the harness is at a fixed location on the backpanel. The straps have the common adjustments top and bottom. The top adjustment pulls the pack closer to the back, while the lower adjustment transfers weight between hip and shoulders.
The right-side shoulder strap has three elastic loops that a hydration tube may be threaded through. The left strap has two elastic loops and a stretch fabric gel pocket. Below this is another tubing covered elastic cord that runs through a tethered cord lock. This is the other half of the "Stow-on-the-Go Trekking Pole Attachment" system.
When conditions dictate having two hands free, for scrambling or such, rather than taking off the pack to stow trekking poles on the back tool loops they can be put out of the way without removing the Exos. Here is how it works. Collapse the poles down and stick them through the bungee loop that is on the pack. Then pull the bungee loop on the shoulder strap over the poles and pull the cord tight. They are now held in place at an angle under my left arm.
Crossing the shoulder straps is a four position sternum strap that closes with a quick-connector that doubles as a whistle.
The hip belt is constructed the same way as the shoulder harness. It has the normal Osprey "V" type routing of the adjustment strap. By pulling the straps towards the center instead of away it tightens the belt. Each side of the hip belt sports a huge pocket. The body of the pockets are the same mesh as the side pockets. A zipper with a small finger pull accesses them.
The first trip I used it Jenn and I went for four days of assorted approach hiking, climbing and day-hiking in Red Rocks, Nevada and Zion National Park in Utah. Our first day was rained out and got very cold but the next three days were great. Temps ranged from 40 to 72 F (4 to 22 C) with elevations from 3600 ft to almost 6000 ft (1100 to 1800 m). Winds were constant, but mild except for the first day when they were very strong.
Dave and I went to San Gorgonio Wilderness. We went to Washington Monument and climbed San Bernardino Peak and East San Bernardino Peak, plus spent some time looking for the junction of a long defunct trail. (We never did find it.) We stayed at Limber Pine Bench. The weather was foul the first day with snow and later rain. The next day was nice but cool. It got down to 36 F (2 C) at night and was probably down there when the snow started falling but the Kestrel weather station was under the Packa (pack cover). We went 20 miles (32 km) with 5630 ft (1716 m) of elevation gain. We were on dirt, rock, packed drift snow and fresh snow. I carried a 25 lb (11.3 kg) pack.
I went back to San Gorgonio Wilderness to do some bushwhacking to find an old unmaintained trail. I spent the night at Limber Pine Bench again. It was much warmer this time. The temps were between 42 F and 67 F (6 to 19 C). I went about 18 mi (29 km) over every kind of terrain from rock to deep pine and oak duff. I started with 26 lb (11.8 kg) in the pack.
Next was a two and a half day backpacking trip in Sequoia National Forest in the Sierra Nevada range just south of Mount Langley. The temps ranged from lows of 30 F to highs of 80 F (-1 to 27 C). The high point was 11200 ft (3400 m). This trip saw 59 miles (95 km) with 7340 ft (2240 m) of gain go into the hiking log. My starting pack weight was 23 lb (10.4 kg). The picture above was taken along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on this trip.
I also had a couple long day-hikes that I used the Exos 34 as a daypack. I have at least a dozen days use of the pack at the time of this writing.
I had been very happy with my Osprey Talon 33 and on paper saw no reason to change from it when first looking at the specs of the Exos 34. I bought the Exos 58 as I did not have anything in that size range and was so impressed by it that I bought the Exos 34 when the opportunity to get 40% off presented itself. But it sat for a while as it was winter and I did not need it. I finally started using it in late spring and have been very satisfied by it.
If I have to say what one thing I like the most it would have to be the suspension. I am a very hot hiker. I sweat like crazy and normally have a soaked back after a hard push to a pass or peak. The AirSpeed suspension keeps my back cooler and dryer than any pack I have ever used. When Jenn and I were in Zion her back was very wet under her Talon 11 when we took a break on top of Angle's Landing, while mine was barely damp. The picture above was taken on the way to the top.
But there is a lot that I like also about the Exos. The pockets are very much improved. I can fit my tall Aquafina bottles in them where they stay put. I can access them with ease. Getting them back can sometimes be a chore just because the scalloped bottom of them catches the compression straps at times. I really like that said compression straps can run inside the pockets, instead of outside.
The only thing I do not care for about the pockets is the side opening. While it can be nice to make access easier I have had items fall out of the pockets through these openings. It is especially easy for this to happen when a water bottle is pulling the side access open. Below can be seen a water bottle in place. The blue tucked under it is my UL Packtowl washcloth. It has fallen out (thankfully noticed by Dave) a few times. I try to remember to wedge it under the bottle now.
The weight of the Exos 34 compared to the weight it will comfortably support is awesome. While I will never be an Ultra-Light backpacker I have been trying to approach it. The Exos 34 has been great with the weights I have been able to get down to. Of course these have definitely been summer loads, plus they were in areas that the bear canister was not required.
One thing that I have had to do on most trips though is forgo using a hydration bladder. Once a full bladder is inserted it takes a lot of the room from inside the pack. So on all the backpacking trips I have used bottles. I have used bladders when using the Exos 34 as a day-pack many times. One suggestion for Osprey is to make the opening for the hydration ports a bit larger. It is very hard squeezing my bite valves through the small opening.
I got to put the Stow on the Go trekking pole storage to use with the 34. While bushwhacking in the San Gorgonio Wilderness I had to down climb a large boulder field. It was very unstable and right away I saw that the poles were going to be a problem. I was able to quickly collapse them and stick them in the attachment loops and complete the climbing. Once at a safe spot I pulled the poles back out and was on my way.
This same trip got to see the durability of the Exos' materials. I missed the trail I was trying to hit and ended up in some pretty hairy terrain. I had to push through thickets of scrub oak that I could barely see through. Then while kind of plunge-stepping sideways down a very steep section. I wandered into a scree field that was covered by years of duff. I inadvertently set off a landslide. I found myself on my face sliding down the mountain in a ton of sharp rocks. I had to roll sideways over the pack to get out of the main part of the slide, grabbing a small sapling to stop myself. The trip along the ground destroyed my pants plus I was torn up pretty bad. To my surprise I still had both water bottles and the only thing that happened to the pack, besides being very dirty, was a small hole in one side pocket. It can be seen in the picture near the top of the review. I did have to take off the pack to pull all the sticks, stickers and pine needles out of the AirSpeed backpanel and all the mesh of the assorted pockets, hip belt and shoulder pads.
In fact another thing that I would like to see is the hip belt pockets made from a light-weight nylon ripstop instead of mesh. While I love the size of these pockets every time I set the pack down I have the chance to get dirt and crud inside of them.
The stuff-it pocket is great and is big enough for me to stuff all of my rain gear in it or to carry my water shoes and trowel as is the case in this picture hiking through a burned section of the PCT.
The top lid is very roomy. I carry a large first aid kit, sunglasses, headlamp, beanie, TP, wallet, car keys, bug repellent, and the day's lunch items inside it.
The sleeping pad straps will just fit my Z-Lite pad and hold my ThinLight pad with ease but most trips they go unused. I try to keep everything inside the Exos.
This makes two Exos packs that I have been very satisfied with. Because of this I just got the last of the series, the 44 to use this fall on some long backpacking trips that will see me carrying cold weather gear, but trying to go as light and low volume as possible. If it works as well as the 34 and 58 have I will have something good to share by spring of 2010 I am guessing. Come back often to check, won't you? (Ha, that is one way to bring in the visitors…) I leave with a picture in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, the day before the landslide.
I measure hapiness with an altimeter. This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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