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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Exos 58 Backpack > Test Report by Derek Hansen
Osprey Exos 58 Backpack
Test Series by Derek Hansen
3 Mar 2009
The Osprey Exos 58 Backpack incorporates a ventilated suspension system and is marketed for “active, light pursuits.” Osprey describes the Exos as a “highly specialized pack built for day long to multi-week adventures.” The pack is fairly light for the volume and features some unique features such as the Stow-on-the-Go attachment system for trekking poles; the ErgoPull design hipbelt adjustment system; and inside/out compression straps.
The Exos pack came with a set of instructions that reviews the pack from “top to bottom.” The instructions covered how to remove the top pocket (the “floating lid”); the dual hydration ports and elastic keeper straps on the harness; the Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment system; the dual tool attachment and bungie tie-offs; the external pockets and compression straps; and the ErgoPull hipbelt attachments.
I found the instructions very useful, especially for how to use the inside/out compression system. The straps can be configured to go on the inside of the external mesh pockets, on the outside of the mesh pockets, or in a combination of inside and out, thanks to a keyhole opening in the mesh pocket.
The Osprey website is full of great information, especially the detailed product images and close-ups showing the unique features of the pack. The step-by-step instructions for the Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment system was especially useful.
The Osprey Exos 58 pack arrived safely in a plastic bag with all the manufacturer tags and instructions. The pack feels and looks very well-made with great attention to detail.
The main compartment with spin-drift collar extended showing hydration bladder pocket (currently being filled by my closed-cell-foam pad), hydration ports, and hose fastener.
The Exos is a top-loading pack with no additional access points to the main compartment (i.e., no sleeping bag access on the bottom). I actually prefer this in a pack and have never used the sleeping compartment in other packs I own that have them. I use a large plastic garbage bag inside the main pack when I load my gear, so anything but “top loading” would be difficult for me anyway.
The spin-drift collar is 5 in (13 cm) tall, and can add some volume to the pack as long as I keep the floating lid in place.
Inside the main compartment is a large pocket to hold a hydration bladder. My 2.5 L (85 fl oz) Platypus practically “disappeared” inside this pocket and I imagine it could easily hold larger bladders. I have never used hydration bladders, for various reasons, and prefer to keep my water on the outside of the pack to access. The pack does feature access holes on the top of the pack, just under the spin-drift collar, on both sides where a hydration hose could easily fit. The access holes are marked by H2O icons, and there are multiple straps on the left or right of the harness to attach the hose easily.
Removable Top Pocket
The floating lid of the backpack is removable and has two pockets. The main pocket is accessible when the floating lid is attached to the main pack and can hold a considerable amount of gear. When the floating lid is open, there is a smaller mesh pocket that can easily hold my map or small booklet. On the frame side, the floating lid is attached to the pack by two small 0.28 in (7 mm) webbing straps on the left and right and one 0.75 (2 cm) in center strap. On the outside, the floating lid is attached via two plastic buckles which are tightened by 0.75 (2 cm) in webbing straps.
Inside the main floating lid pocket is a small plastic clip, suitable for attaching keys or other gear.
The suspension system begins with an aluminum frame that includes cross struts in the center of the pack. “Floating” in front of the frame is a “3D” tensioned mesh back panel that is stretched over an ergonomic frame. The mesh panel reminds me of some expensive office chairs currently on the market. The AirSpeed logo is printed on the pack behind the tensioned mesh panel. The overall appearance is striking and the fit feels comfortable.
The AirSpeed Suspension carries into the hipbelt where the alumnimum frame wraps round the hipbelt providing a snug fit across my hips. One of the first things I noticed when wearing the pack is that the hipbelt is not as stiff as other packs and is constructed out of mesh and perforated foam. The hipbelt feels a bit flimsy, but once I was strapped in, the entire system felt strong and I could really feel the weight distributed down to my hips.
The hipbelt has a really nice “pully” system to cinch down the belt. Osprey calls it their ErgoPull, which is exclusive to their packs. To operate, I pull evenly straight in front of me to tighten the belt. The system works very well and I feel I can get more torque with less strain.
The hipbelt also has large zippered mesh pockets on both sides. The zippers and pulls are well-constructed and are easy to open and close. I can fit my pocket knife, compass, snacks, and other small items in these pockets with ease.
Straps and Attachments
The sternum strap has an integrated whistle on the buckle.
My first impression of the straps and attachments is that a lot of effort went in to making the pack load well and be as light as possible. Most of the compression and attachment straps are small (0.28 in or 7 mm) and have small “duckbill” buckles, but so far the straps and fasteners feel sturdy and well-made.
I love that the sternum strap has an integrated whistle on the lock. I’ve retro-fit a few of my old packs to have this handy feature. The sternum strap is adjustable by means of a few pre-punched holes. The net effect is that I only have a few places for the sternum strap, but I also know that the strap won’t slide up and down while I’m hiking.
The Exos also features “inside/out” compression straps. Using the 0.28 in (7 mm) webbing straps and duckbill buckles, the Exos has eyelets that are accessible through a keyhole cut out of the two outer mesh pockets. This means I can route the compression straps inside and/or outside the mesh pockets, depending on what gear I choose to have in the pockets.
So far, this adaptable system works great. In one mesh pocket I store my 2.5 L (85 fl oz) Platypus with the straps on the outside. In the other mesh pocket, I have the straps inside the mesh pocket, keeping my trowel secure. The outer mesh pockets have access holes on the top and on the side. I’m guessing this would allow me to put a Nalgene or smaller water bottle laying horizontally for easy grab-and-go accessibility. I was worried, however, that some of my gear might fall out of those large side holes if it wasn’t secure. Thankfully the inside/out straps seem to work the way I’ve packed the bag so I’m hopeful nothing will fall out of the mesh pockets.
The Exos also has standard straps for fitting the shoulder harness, including upper and lower adjustments. The webbing straps are lean and small; not the typical thick, expedition-style harness. The Exos also has two tool attachment points with bungie tie-offs.
On the left shoulder strap there is a small sewn-in stretch woven pocket that fits my cell phone perfectly. The product literature also recommends this pocket for energy gels.
Stow-on-the-Go Trekking Pole Attachment
The elastic straps and shock cord make it easy to store my trekking poles on the fly.
A really nice feature of the Exos is the Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment. Osprey fitted an elasticized loop below the side pocket on the left side of the pack. There is also a shock cord lock on the left shoulder strap. When I shorten the trekking poles, I can easily attach the pole to this harness. The poles fit under my left arm and I will see how it works while hiking.
My only real snag with this pack was that the upper cord lock for the Stow-on-the-Go attachment wasn’t working. I took the cord lock apart and found that the spring was jammed. I’ve seen this condition before when cord locks are depressed too tightly, causing the spring to catch on the plastic and render the locking mechanism pointless. Once I released the spring and re-assembled the lock, everything worked fine again.
The Exos comes with three other main outer pockets that are very useful. Two main pockets have zipper enclosures and are on either side of the pack. The vertical pockets are perfect for my odds-and-ends gear like my first-aid kit and water purifier. The other large pocket is in the center on the back. A small webbing strap in the center keeps the pocket closed, but it is otherwise an open pocket. I found the stretchy material perfect for stuffing my fleece while I was hiking around with the pack.
Once I examined the pack, I immediately went on to filling it full of my gear. I was able to stuff it full of a few extra items and got the weight close to 30 lb (13.6 kg), but my typical pack weight will remain around 15 lb (7 kg).
Laying the gear to be packed on my Tyvek ground sheet.
I pack very simply. First, I put the large garbage bag into the backpack and then stuff my down sleeping bag directly into the bottom of the pack. Next, I packed in my down jacket and extra clothes, also inside the garbage bag. Once my clothes and sleeping bag were packed, I closed up the garbage bag and tucked it inside.
I put my torso-length sleeping pad inside the large hydration pouch. My pad is cut to fold in thirds and so it fit nicely in the pouch.
On top of the garbage bag, I put my shelter and cook kit. On top of that goes my food/bear bag. In this way, I can easily access my cook kit, food, and shelter should I need it during meal times or in inclement weather.
My remaining gear went into the various external pockets. Everything fits nicely and everything has a place, even the trekking poles! My final pack weight with food and water for a weekend trip was about 17 lb (8 kg).
On The Trail
For my first test-run, I loaded the Exos with 30 lb (13.6 kg) of gear. The pack felt comfortable on my shoulders, and I felt the weight directly on my hips.
I went out for a trial hike with my family and attempted to summit Mount Elden, elevation 9000 ft (2743 m). The starting elevation was just under 7000 ft (2134 m) with temperatures starting out at around 35 F (2 C) and remaining cool as we gained elevation. The pine tree forest surrounded us as we hiked and the views were amazing.
I packed the Exos with some extra gear to see how it performed at about 30 lb (13.6 kg). I noticed a little discomfort on my hips for the first mile (1.5 km) or so as we hiked, but I soon got used to the fit and weight. In fact, I had to carry my three-year-old for some of the hike up and down, so my shoulders really bore some weight.
We weren’t able to summit due to the snowy conditions near the top, but the four-hour trip did provide a good opportunity to condition myself to the pack and get a feel for how it works.
I am extremely excited to test this pack and look forward to my upcoming trips. The pack is very well-made and I am impressed with the attention to detail and well-considered design.
So far my only real concern is that on the bottom of the pack where the metal frame curves around the hipbelt, I already noticed some wear on the bottom of the pack. I’m concerned that these two protruding points will get some abrasion when I set down the pack over time.
This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be appended to this report in about two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for more information.
18 May 2009
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
March 27-28 - Arizona Trail, Coconino National Forest. I took my daughter on a section hike of the Arizona Trail, but we only hiked about two miles (3 km) before it got too dark. That night we experienced a low of 19 F (-7 C) and a high of 50 F (10 C) the next day. I packed 30 lb (13.6 kg) of gear in the pack for this four-mile (6 km) trip.
April 17-18 - Arizona Trail, Coconino National Forest. My desire whetted after hiking the Arizona Trail with my daughter, I wanted to hike a longer section solo. With just a short overnight allowed, I completed a 12-mile (19 km) section that took me past Walnut Canyon and into the Flagstaff Lake country. I carried 20 lb (9 kg) of gear, including a brand-new bear canister (a BearVault BV450). The overnight low was 34 F (1 C), and the high the next day was sunny and 70 F (21 C).
April 24-25 - T-Six Mountain, Coconino National Forest. Having taken my daughter hiking, I had to take my son next (to be fair). For this trip, we chose to go explore some Forest Service roads near Sedona, Arizona. We hiked a short distance and made our camp in a sheltered ponderosa pine enclave. The low was 38 F (3 C) with a high of 58 F (14 C). I packed 22 lb (10 kg) in the pack, including the BearVault.
May 15-16 - Upper Pumphouse Wash, Coconino National Forest. I took my oldest sons (6-year-old and 3-year-old) on a Father and Sons outing with some friends. Although the event was in the national forest, we were able to literally “car camp” and drive on forest roads very near where we wanted to camp. I packed most everything for the three of us in my pack, except our food and my son’s bulky sleeping bags. My pack weight was about 15 lb (6.8 kg). The overnight low was 36 F (2 C), and the high the next day was 78 F (26 C). We did some day hiking in the canyon on Saturday.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Exos has been amazing. On my trip in March with my daughter, I packed extra winter gear into the pack, to include two sleeping bags and a fleece bag liner. The pack was pretty full, mostly because of the second synthetic sleeping bag. Our two-mile hike to our camp was on mostly flat terrain with moderate hills and some rocks. The pack was remarkable in terms of load and balance. I liked how the hip section curved around my 34 in (86 cm) waist. A few times I rocked back and forth seeing how the pack shifted. With the torso clip in place, the pack was solid. During this “shakedown” the hip belt unbuckled, which surprised me. The straps are thin and lightweight, but after I re-clipped it, I had no other problems with it coming undone. In the morning, I stuffed the tarp into the kangaroo pocket because I wanted the frozen condensation time to dry while we hiked.
On my solo section hike on the Arizona Trail (AZ Trail), I packed my normal gear list and slept in a hammock. I purchased a new BearVault BV450 as an excuse not to hang a bear bag—I decided it was much easier to stash a canister than try to hang a bear bag in a pine tree (more challenging for me than the trees in Virginia!). With the bear canister in place inside the pack, I still had ample room for more gear, but I did add about 2 lb (.9 kg) with the canister. I have not attempted to strap the canister to the outside of the pack.
In a deal with my wife, I promised to hike quickly the next day to meet her at the end of the trail section so I could take care of the kids. As the temperature rose, I quickly shed layers. The kangaroo pocket proved a handy feature and held my fleece jacket and a lightweight wool base layer well. I also stored my hand-held radio in the same pocket.
Stopping for meals (breakfast and lunch) was made easy by the pack’s top loading pocket and side pockets. I stored the bear canister near the top so it was easy to access.
This section of the AZ Trail has some flat sections, but it also dips in and out of Walnut Canyon. At times, I used the Stow-on-the-Go attachments to store my trekking poles. Getting the bottom attachment is pretty easy, but tightening the cord lock on the top is a challenge because I have to hold the poles and depress the lock with one hand and pull the cord with the other. It’s a little tricky. But, having stowed the poles, I was able to free my hands during sections of the trail. It didn’t bother me to have the poles under my arm and they stayed in a good position despite being jarred during some rock jumping.
When I was out with my sons in May, I packed three hammocks and my personal gear in the pack. We met our friends along a forest road where we agreed to meet. I enjoy this kind of car camping because although we drove into the forest, there are no services and we were fairly remote. While our friends were setting up their large canvas tents, my sons and I hiked further into the forest to set up our hammock stealth camp. My younger son is just a little too young for long hiking, so this sort of event was just perfect. I was glad to have the pack because it fit nearly everything we needed so I didn’t have to make multiple trips or haul extra gear.
In all my trips so far, I still find the pack can fit more gear than I can think to put into it. The top floating lid pocket remains the most unused part of the pack for me. I currently use it to hold my head lamp, a strip of Tyvek, and my mylar space blanket. In fact, I have more pockets than I am used to having. I store my compass in one of the hip pockets, and some spare batteries and my pocket knife in the other hip pocket.
FIELD USE SUMMARY
The Exos is a wonderful pack so far. A great deal of attention went into its construction making many thoughtful changes to make the pack light and functional. The pockets are roomy and hold more gear than I can think to put into it. The Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole feature works well and is un-obstructive while hiking, but can be a little tricky to stash. The hip-belt fits me very well and the torso length seems just right.
The only minor rub so far is that the hip belts tend to fold into the pack when I put it on, so I have to pull them out from behind my back to use them.
LONG TERM REPORT
14 Jul 2009
Field Locations and Conditions
19-20 June: Anderson Mesa, Arizona Trail, Flagstaff, Arizona. High: 66 F (19 C) Low: 39 F (4 C). Overnight rain. Pack weight: 28.3 lb (13 kg). I included my bear canister inside again, along with a 12 x 12 ft (3.6 x 3.6 m) tarp and two sleeping bags.
30 June: Upper Pumphouse Wash, Flagstaff, Arizona. Pack weight: 15 lb (7 kg). My plans changed en-route, so my desire of a mid-week overnighter turned into a long day hike. The weather was wonderful and the wash is amazing.
3-4 July: Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii. Pack weight: 10 lb (5 kg). My wife joined me for an amazing backpacking trip on the famed Kalalau Trial on Kauai. We both packed light since we didn’t need sleeping bags, a bear canister, extra clothing, or lots of water.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During my hike on the Anderson Mesa, I took my three oldest kids with me. They carried some personal gear, but I brought the rest in the Exos. I was able to fit two sleeping bags, a bear canister, shelter, food, kitchen, and other odds-and-ends. The pack carried very nicely. At two points along the trail we had to crawl through a fence, so I had to remove the pack. The hip belt straps have a great feature that makes it easy to adjust, although the buckle feels small to me; I wish it were a little bigger. I carried the most weight on this trip—almost 30 lb (14 kg), and the pack really filled out well (see photo inset “B”).
My real adventure during this period was hiking the Kalalau Trail on Kauai, Hawaii (see photo inset "C"). My wife and I found time to be together for a few days and we decided to hike the famed hike on the archipelago. After our backpacking trip on Kauai, we flew to Oahu for a normal “tourist” experience. I packed everything for our trip in the Exos, but for the backpacking portion, I removed all the non-essential gear, which brought my final pack weight around 10 lb (5 kg). The pack had a very reduced volume (see photo inset “A”), and I used the compression straps to cinch the pack down. The pack is about half full compared to my trip on the mesa. The AirSpeed frame worked wonders for both comfort and breathability in the humid environment.
The hike was absolutely spectacular (see photo inset "C") and I had no problems with the pack.
Travel: For the plane ride to Hawaii, I wrapped the Exos in a large plastic bag and checked it as luggage. The pack handled the trip to Honolulu and the island hop very well in this plastic bubble. On the way back, the airline wouldn’t give me a plastic bag, so I checked the pack as luggage and crossed my fingers. I was really worried I would lose a strap, or worse. Thankfully, the pack made it okay, but I noticed grease stains on the outside pockets where it was in contact with the machinery. For the trip back to the mainland, someone suggested I take the pack as my carry-on luggage. I asked, and the airline said it would be fine. The pack fit nicely in the overhead compartment, and I was glad to know that the pack was safe on this final voyage home.
I’m actually sad this test series is coming to an end. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Exos pack and am really, really pleased with its performance. The pack is light and yet has so many great features available on heavier packs. I like how the frame curves around and provides additional support for the hipbelt.
My only critique is that I think the hip belt buckle is a little too small. On two occasions the buckle popped out of place when I bent over to retrieve something.
I would like to thank Osprey Packs, Inc., and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.
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