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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Exos 46 > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Osprey Exos 46 Backpack
By Raymond Estrella

January 10, 2010


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 49
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 210 lb (95.30 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, plus many western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly UL, I try to be as near to it as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with brother-in-law Dave.

The Product

Manufacturer: Osprey Pack Inc
Web site:
Product: Exos 46
Size: Large (also available in Small and Medium)
Year manufactured: 2009
Weight listed: 2 lb 7 oz (1100 g)
Actual weight 2 lb 6.7 oz (1100 g)
Volume listed: 3000 cu in (49 L)
Load weight capacity suggested: to about 30 lb (14 kg)
Color reviewed: Ember Orange

Exos 46
Image courtesy Osprey Packs

Product Description

The Osprey Exos 46 pack (hereafter referred to as the Exos or pack) is a grey with orange highlights, top-loading pack, the Mama Bear (or middle) of Osprey's three new Exos series packs that they say "incorporates a ventilated suspension built for comfort with super light weight. The result is a highly specialized pack built for day long to multi-week adventures."

The upper body and lid of the pack are made of 70 x 100 denier "shadow check" (rip-stop) nylon. The bottom is made from heavier 160 x 210 denier Window Ripstop Cordura. Although I can find no reference to it in the attached owner's manual or the web site, the fabrics feel as if they have a polyurethane coating applied to the inside surface. It is tacky feeling inside the body. If this is the case it should add to the water shedding properties of the pack. (More on this later.)

The main pack consists of a single top-loading sack. There are no dividers or pockets inside of it. There is a 5 in (13 cm) extension collar at the top of the body. A thick draw cord closes the top of the extension. The draw cord secures with a twin-hole cord lock. A nylon strap with a lightweight quick-disconnect buckle goes over the top of the pack allowing it to be cinched tight should the pack be used without the top lid. It also helps compress the top of the pack, pulling the body away from the back of the wearers head.

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. 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. The hydration tube can go through ports on either side of the Exos to accommodate right or left-handed sippers. The two ports fit all my hydration tubes but they are just barely wide enough to thread an insulated tube through. The openings could use being made a little bit bigger for those of us that head out when the temps are below freezing. Here is a picture with an insulated Platy Hoser in play on a cold windy pass in the northern Sierra Nevada.

The timers going off, suck in your gut,

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 Talons did, with the water going between its back panel and pack body. 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 7 mm 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 thing.

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 to run 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 are made of mesh and are quite large. I can fit a Nalgene bottle with an insulating cover (for winter) inside them. 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 the left side of the pack face is a 15 in (37 cm) long vertical zipper. Opening it reveals a very large storage pocket. This is a new feature on Osprey packs (it is on my Exos 58 too, see review) and I like it. The way the pocket is constructed some of the volume of the items placed in it will be taken from the volume of the main pack. This keeps the pocket from bulging out too much and keeps the pack's profile trim.

The same side 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 7 mm 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. 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. There are four lash points on the top of the lid.

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 they make, 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.

Field Data

Exos & me, on the PCT, I'm so happy

Here are some of the hikes I have used the Exos 46 on over the past five months.

Dave and I did an 18-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Sawmill Campground south to San Francisquito Canyon. It had 3000 ft of gain, and a toe numbing 4700 ft of drop in temps that got up to 92 in the shade, which there was not much of. Almost all of the climbing was at the end in the hottest temps and I got a touch of heat exhaustion about three miles (5 km) from the end. This is because we cranked it out pretty fast, finishing in only 6 hours. I carried the Exos 46 loaded with 20 lb in preparation for the next month's big fall hike and wanted to see how it would carry.

I spent two days hiking and another driving/hiking placing water caches for upcoming backpacking trips in the Mohave Desert, Tehachapi and Piute Mountains. It was very hot, over 100 F (38 C) each day. I carried up to 3- gallons of water at a time in the Exos 46 along with my lightest summer gear. The heaviest day was 42 lb (19 kg) starting out. I put in about 25 miles total over the three days.

I carried it with 30 lb (13.6 kg) on what turned out to be a 33 mi (53 km) backpacking trip from Sonora Pass to Kinney Reservoir in northern California. We had 6400 ft (1950 m) of gain on trails that ranged from fine dust to granite and volcanic rock. The temps ranged from 29 to 52 F (-2 to 11 C). This is where the picture above was taken.

Then we did a 45.5 mi (73 km) two day out-and-back trip in the South Sierra Wilderness. We had 4000 ft (1220 m) of gain over trails that ranged from sand to dirt to rock and elevations to 8100 ft (2470 m). The temperatures ranged from 32 to 52 F (0 to 11 C).

Next we did an overnighter in the Domeland Wilderness. The temps ranged from 27 to 50 F (-3 to 10 C). The Exos weighed 28 lb (12.7 kg) starting out over trails that ranged from packed dirt to rock.

On Halloween I did a solo trip to the top of Mt San Gorgonio where I spent the night on the summit. As I had to carry two days worth of water to the top) plus a few luxury items like a book and some Scotch, my starting pack weight was 29 lb (13.1 kg). Even though I slept at 11500 ft (3500 m) elevation it only got down to 35 F (2 C) for a low. I ended up with 26 miles (42 km) and 5200 ft (1585 m) of gain. Below is a shot taken on the way to the summit.

Last was a 50 mi (80 km) backpacking trip that started in San Bernardino National Forest, skirted two Indian Reservations and ended northern San Diego County. This up-and-down hike saw lingering snow in the trails on rocky terrain up high and sandy desert terrain lower. The temperatures ranged from 25 F to 42 F and one night saw very strong winds. I had a starting pack weight of 23.4 lb (10.6 kg).

Carrying lots of water


This is my third Exos pack and it has become my favorite as the size of it fits with the even lighter style I now find myself at.

As with the Exos 34 and 58 I really like the Modified AirSpeed suspension. It keeps my back cooler than any of my other packs which means a lot to me as I sweat quite a bit during active pursuits. Having carried it in temps over 100 F (38 C) a few times I can say that it really works as advertised.

Besides being cool the suspension handles the weights that I carry quite well too. The pack is sized just right to get my gear in too. Even loaded with four days food and gear for cold weather with snow possible, and a two-person double-wall tent I could get everything inside the pack. I have taken to carrying my tent poles wrapped inside of a Gossamer Gear Thinlight pad strapped to the outside of the pack, but otherwise everything is inside as seen in this shot north of Sonora Pass in Northern California. (No the Thinlight is not my sleeping pad as I am too wimpy for that torture, the NeoAir is inside.)

Give me Contemplative, that's it baby

Like the Exos 58, the 46 has a zippered external pocket (just one instead of the 58's two). I really like this pocket as it gives me a place to keep my rain gear ready for instant deployment. Once the rain is past and the rain gear comes off I can put them back inside and know that my other gear is not getting wet.

The front stuff-it pocket is where I keep my trowel, hat (rain or sun) and fleece beanie. I will sometimes throw a shirt or wind-shell in it but usually put them back inside the main pack once I have time. My Seattle Sombrero can be seen poking out of the pocket in this shot doing a little headlamp hiking in the dark on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Got the Exos on, just hikin to the dawn

I like the side pockets on the Exos 46. I can put a large bottle in each and still have room for a small Packtowl in one side and light fleece gloves in the other. One thing I do not care for is the side opening. I have many times had items work themselves out of the pocket through these openings. Thankfully Dave is usually behind me to rescue them. Note I said "usually". I lost my favorite pair of light gloves on a solo trip.

I am still torn with my feelings about the hipbelt pockets. I love the size of them. I can fit my camera in one with no problem. One is filled with my compass, lip balm, hand sanitizer, emergency whistle, fire striker and sometimes sun-block. If Dave is carrying the camera then I fill the other pocket with Shot Bloks and Lara or Clif bars.

The thing that I don't care for is the mesh they are made of. It collects lots of twigs and brush plus lets dirt and sand in it easily. I would prefer them to be made of a light nylon.

I have always wondered if the material Osprey uses for their pack is waterproof as I can feel what I am pretty sure is polyurethane coating on the inside of the packs. Well I got a chance to find out when I forgot my pack cover on a trip. The fabric itself seems to be waterproof, but the seams are not sealed. The spot where the four lash points are on the top lid let water seep into the pack. I could see the fabric become dark from the moisture at the points that they were sewn on. I shall not forget my cover, I shall not forget my cover, I shall not forget my cover. Here is a picture of the coverless trek.

It rains in San Diego County?

The durability of the 46 has been just as good as that of its Exos siblings. I see no wear whatsoever to date. I worried that I would rip the mesh back when I carried the heavy water load. The Exos handled it a lot better than my calves did!

As the snows are now here I will be switching to my winter packs and putting the Exos 46 away for the winter. I have found that the large amounts of mesh in the back panel and pockets do not work well with snow, especially while it is falling. But the Exos is not positioned as a winter pack anyway. But come next spring I shall be breaking it back out as it gives an excellent balance of support and weight-handling ability in a light weight package. I leave with a shot of it near California's Domeland Wilderness.

In Domeland... where da domes at?

Ray Estrella
"I measure happiness with an altimeter"

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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