This is my review of the Osprey Exos 58 rucksack, which I used on my expedition across the Pyrenees on the HRP in 2011. Verdict: at just 1150gms weight this is a seriously good pack for the lightweight trekker.
First of all I decided to replace my pack for one reason: weight. For over twenty years I had been using a classic and bombproof Karrimor Jaguar S63 pack. It shows great durability but at a cost of over 3kgs in weight. My target base weight for the HRP was under 10kgs, and I could no longer justify the rucksack being my heaviest piece of equipment.
The key tradeoff in buying a backpacking rucksack is weight vs durability and comfort. I considered several ultralight rucksacks from OMM and GoLite, as well as newer lightweight sacks from Deuter, Lowe Alpine and Gregory. But from the early reviews Osprey’s Exos range caught my eye the most.
Most of the “big name” manufacturers had little weighing in at less than 1.5kgs, and 2kgs seemed to be the norm. I discounted anything less than 1kg mainly because I felt that diminishing comfort would offset the weight saving, much as I did with choosing boots. Both OMM and the Osprey came in at 1.1kgs, a good balance.
Several features of the Osprey attracted my attention, and I will mention these in turn in the review.
The Exos comes in three fixed back-lengths. My frame at 6ft (1.83m) fitted the medium size of sack. I found it remarkably comfortable, even when weight approached 13kgs with a full load of food and water. Although the straps and waistbelt appear narrow and lacking in padding on first glance, the die-cut perforated foam proved to be durable and cool and combined to give a balanced and easy carry.
The sack consists of a main compartment, two front-loading deep pockets, a top pocket, side mesh and a front pouch. The main compartment comfortably housed the larger items: sleeping bag, groundmat and clothes bag along with cooking gear and food.
The front pockets are much larger than they seem, and are brilliantly designed to give space and shape. Being on the outside of the pack, these give easy access to items for the trail, such as cag and overtrousers, hat and gloves, munching food, sun screen etc. A wet cag can also be put back without soaking stuff in the main compartment.
I am a top-pocket freak! All I need in a sack is a top pocket. The Exos has one that suited me fine, with sufficient space for a bag of camera bit and bobs, valuables, headtorch and other small items.
The front pouch is a convenient place to stick a map or guide book, and with the strap gives an extra place to hang drying socks and t-shirt.
Best of all, the side mesh pockets are large enough to each take a litre bottle of water and have a side access so that I could get to the bottles without taking the pack off.
The rip-stop nylon material seems as hard-wearing as any other pack I have used and showed no signs of wear. Waterproofing was good, although prolonged rain pentrates anything after a while, so I would recommend using internal dri-bags and an external rainscreen.
After fifty days, there was some scuffing on the reinforced seams on the bottom of the pack and some wear on the mesh on the back panel. The small pockets on the waistbelt also chafed against the back mesh when full of stuff, and both would be better for a little reinforcement. Osprey should do this as it would not compromise the weight.
The hanging loops on the outside of the pack frayed quickly, so I would imagine that using them for climbing hardwear might be problematic after a while. No such problems with the narrow fastening straps, however.
This is a seriously good pack for the lightweight trekker. A little on the high-side for price at £130 pounds or thereabouts, but one which I would have no trouble in recommending. Pack details from Osprey
I should also mention that Osprey arranged to repair the worn mesh pockets on the waistband with no fuss. Excellent service.