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Osprey Exos 58 Backpack Review (2018 Model)

Exos 58 Backpack Review

Osprey Packs Exos 58 Backpack (2018 model)

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability
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Ventilated Ultralight Backpack

The Osprey Exos 58 is a lightweight top-loading backpack that's great for multi-day trips and thru-hikes. It has a rigid frame that makes it easy to carry heavy loads, while a well ventilated back panel keeps your shirt dry.

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The Osprey Exos 58 Backpack is one of the most popular backpacks used by thru-hikers and lightweight backpackers because it combines the organizational layout of a top-lid backpack, lightweight materials, and a rigid internal frame capable of hauling heavy loads. The most notable change in the 2018 Exos 58 preserves those characteristics but eliminates the hip belt pockets and shoulder strap storage which many backpackers count on to store snacks, insect repellent, and electronics. Time will tell how backpackers will respond to the lack of  these accessory pockets, but the Exos remains one of the few mainstream “ultralight class” backpacks available with a true frame and back ventilation, which are must-have features for a large percentage of backpackers.

Specs at a Glance

  • Volume: 58L, also available in 48L and 38L
  • Weight: 2 lbs 11 oz. (size medium, tested)
    • Optional removable top lid: 5.4 ounces
  • Torso: M: 18 – 21 inches
  • Hip Belt: M: 27 – 48 inches
  • Bear canister compatible: yes
  • Maximum recommended load: 30-35 lbs.

Organization and Storage

The Osprey Exos 58 is very different from most ultralight backpacks because it’s configured with a floating top lid instead of a dry-bag style roll top. With two zippered pockets (one pocket on top and one inside), the floating lid lets you sandwich extra gear between the lid and the top of the pack’s main compartment so you can carry extra technical equipment or supplies that won’t fit inside your pack. Top lids are a great feature, especially when you need to carry bulky gear like rope coils or tent bodies that won’t fit into the main compartment of your pack. The extra top pockets also provide handy access to hats, gloves, snacks, and navigation gear.

If you don’t need the top lid on the Exos, you can remove it to save gear weight. This reduces the weight of a medium-sized Exos 58 by 5.4 ounces bringing it down to a very respectable 2 pounds 4.6 ounces.

The Exos 58 has a deeply curver ventilated gap behind the shoulder straps that helps prevent perspiration buildup
The Exos 58 has a deeply curved, ventilated gap behind the shoulder straps that helps prevent perspiration buildup.

There’s a nylon flap under the top lid that is permanently attached to the pack, what Osprey calls a FlapJacket, that covers the drawstring opening of the main compartment. When you remove the top lid, the FlapJacket is used to protect the main compartment from rain in its stead. The rear of the FlapJacket also clips into the same rear straps and buckles used by the top lid so you’re not left with any extra straps or buckles to get in the way.

While the Exos 58, also has good open storage in the form of side and front mesh pockets, the main compartment is where the bulk of this pack’s capacity is. With close to 3500 cubic inches of room, you can put a ton of gear and food inside. Being a mainstream manufacturer, Osprey computes the volume of their packs using industry norms and only counts covered and zippered storage when they calculate backpack volume. If you are comparing the volume of the Exos 58 with a pack from a cottage backpack maker, be aware that they often add in open and closed pocket volumes, so the Exos 58 may feel quite a bit larger.

The main compartment curves sharply inward to accommodate the shape of the ventilated frame, but can make it difficult to locate gear because you need to reach around the curve to get to it. When packing the Exos 58, you also need to position that the heaviest items as close to your back as possible, otherwise the pack has a tendency to pull you backwards and off-balance. This is a common issue with ventilated backpacks, and while pulling the Exos’ load lifters forward can help reduce the back-tilt, the backward pull is quite noticeable when the pack is heavily loaded.

The Exos 58 has side water bottle with front holes that make it easy to pul lout and replace water bottles when on the move
The Exos 58 has side water bottle with front holes that make it easy to pull out and replace water bottles when on the move.

With the exception of a hydration pocket, hang loop, and top compression strap, there’s nothing inside the Exos 58 main compartment like a sleeping bag compartment or interior pockets to break up the seemingly cavernous space. Still it’s easy to see inside the main compartment because lightly colored fabric panels help channel light to the pack’s interior.

In addition to the main compartment, the Exos 58 has two stretch side mesh pockets which can be used to store water bottles.The mesh is not strong enough for off-trail travel and I would recommend you stay on trails with this pack in order to keep the pockets from tearing. Each pocket is reinforced with solid fabric on the bottom for better durability and has a holster-style opening cut in front, which lets you position bottles sideways so you can pull them out and replace them when on the move. I’d just caution against using tall bottles or packing small items in the side pockets because they fall out of the holster sized water bottle holes.

There is also a front mesh shovel pocket on the back of the pack which is useful for carrying items that you want easy access to, without requiring that  you stop and open your backpack. I can’t live without a mesh pocket like this and use it to stuff light layers and snacks that I want easily accessible during the day.

External Attachment Points and Compression System

The Osprey Exos 58 has one Z-style side compression strap on each side of the pack. The strap can be threaded in front of or through the side water bottle pocket, which is handy because they won’t get in the way if you run them outside the pocket. Still, I’m not a huge fan of the Z-style threading pattern because I think it makes it difficult to strap bulky gear like snowshoes to the side of a pack.

Osprey added additional gear loops around the perimeter of the front mesh pocket, so you can attach bulky items like snowshoes to the back of the pack with webbing straps or cord.
Osprey added additional gear loops around the perimeter of the front mesh pocket, so you can attach bulky items like snowshoes to the back of the pack with webbing straps or cord.

But don’t let the Z-style straps deter you from rigging up two horizontal compression straps instead. One of the great things about the Exos 58 is the distribution of gear loops around the perimeter pockets, the pack bag seams, and even the top lid, making it easy to rig up your own custom compression system with an extra cord lock and some guyline or a piece of webbing.

The other key attachment point on the Exos 58 is the sleeping pad strap on the bottom of the pack, a feature which has largely disappeared from the lightweight backpacking market. While the strap is optional and can be removed, it’s super handy to have if you’re a thru hiker, hammock camper or winter camper and carry a bulky foam pad to sleep on at night.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Osprey Exos 58 is a ventilated “trampoline-style” backpack. Breathable mesh is suspended in front of the back panel creating a ventilated space behind your back that’s designed to evaporate sweat before it can soak your shirt. The mesh is tightly stretched across the aluminum frame, hence the name trampoline, which also serves to anchor the hip belt and load lifters.

The 2018 Exos doesn't have hip belt pockets anymore.
The 2018 Exos doesn’t have hip belt pockets anymore or “gel” pockets on the shoulder straps anymore.

The aluminum frame on the Exos 58 is the secret sauce that “makes” this pack. It’s super lightweight and stiff, providing great load transfer to the hips, so you can really load up this pack and still get a very comfortable carry. The nice thing about an aluminum frame is that the torso won’t collapse, causing the torso length to shorten when you load the pack to capacity, which can be an issue with other lightweight packs.

The shoulder straps and hip belt are both covered with a stretchy mesh fabric that is soft and helps wick moisture to prevent rubbing and chafing. While they’re both well padded so they conform to the shape of your collarbone, shoulders, and hips and don’t slip.

While ventilated backpacks provide good airflow behind your back, they can pull you backwards and off balance unless you pack heavy items as close to your back as possible.
While ventilated backpacks provide good airflow behind your back (note air gap above), they can pull you backwards and off-balance unless you pack heavy items as close to your back as possible.

But there’s one thing about the Exos 58 that I don’t particularly like and that’s the length of the hip belt, which I think is too short. There is simply no way that the size medium Exos 58 fits someone with a 27-48″ waist. I think a maximum of 38″ is a more realistic upper limit.

If you buy an Exos 58 and the hip belt padding only wraps around the back of your hips, which happens when the hip belt is too short, you won’t be as comfortable or get the load transfer you should expect. This isn’t just a sizing issue with the Exos 58, but a sizing issue that I repeatedly encounter with Osprey Packs that don’t have adjustable hip belts. If the front padded portion of the Exos hip belt doesn’t wrap around the front of your hip bones (see How should a Hip Belt Fit?), get a larger size. If that still doesn’t fit, buy a different backpack.

Likes

  • Lightweight and high-capacity (58 L)
  • Easy to remove top lid w/ lightweight replacement lid
  • Optional sleeping pad straps on bottom of the pack
  • Lightweight perimeter frame provides great load transfer and control
  • Lightly colored fabric strips improve main compartment visibility
  • Lots of external attachment points all around the pack

Dislikes

  • Hip belt is not adjustable
  • No hip belt or shoulder strap pockets
  • Holster style cutouts in the side mesh pockets are less secure for stowing small items
  • Single Z-style side compression strap can be awkward to use

Recommendation

The Osprey Packs Exos 58 Backpack is a top-loading backpack that’s easy to configure for  many different kinds of hiking and backpacking trips. Weighing just 2 pounds 11 ounces, it boasts a stiff aluminum frame and ventilated suspension that provides excellent comfort and control for loads up to 30-35 pounds. If you want a large but lightweight (58L) backpack with a real frame and a top lid, the Exos 58 is a great choice. Sizing can be a little tricky however, since the hip belt lengths available are tied to the torso length of the pack. If the Exos 58 fits you, great. It’s an excellent backpack. If it doesn’t fit, give it a pass.

For complete specs, I suggest you visit the Exos 58 product page at REI since the Osprey Packs Sizing Guide at OspreyPacks.com can be difficult to understand.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

Written 2/2018.

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16 comments

  1. Hum. Kinda disappointed in the 2018 model.
    For the 48 litre variant, they added 130 g to the weight of last year’s model. The model that still featured hip belt pockets and main strap pockets.

    I fail to see where they actually improved their product, especially given the higher weight.

    Of course it’s only really bad because I planned on upgrading from my Exos 38 to the Exos 58 for sheer comfort and ease of use for multiple day hikes (the added weight is negligible).. but the 2018 model does not seem attractive :>

    • Given all the hype, I expected more. The thing that concerns me the most on this pack is the sizing. I’d hoped they’d fix the fact that their fit advice is horribly wrong, but it seems to have gotten worse. SIZE UP if you buy this pack. The hip belt length and torso length run small. The exos is not a bad pack if it fits. In fact, the function set is quite good and checks all the boxes, but the sizing is horrific.

      • Philip, thank you for the comment regarding the sizing. I measured my torso at 18,5”, which put me right in the middle of small and medium according to Osprey’s sizing chart. Since I always wear small, I would have normally went with the small pack to order it online. But because of your comment I went with the medium and I’m really glad I did. There is no way a small would have fitted me. The medium fits well but is still on the small side. The medium is definitely not good until 21” as it is supposed to be. People should consider going with the large after 19,5”.

  2. I have been disappointed by the changes Osprey made to their bags. The only good changes were the front zippers on the Aura/Atmos and the awesome daylid on the Ariel/Aether. The colors are great though. I actually gave a customer the old version of the Exos which had just been returned and he liked it. Waiting to see the new Levity/Lumina. That could be a game changer. I know Osprey is trying to keep up with the Joneses, but I don’t think this is it.

  3. I just don’t get lack of hip-belt pockets. They are so useful! Who wants to take their pack off to get that lip balm, or toothpick, or sunscreen, snack, or mosquito repellent or earbuds or whatever? I have the Hyperlite Daybreak and often find myself just not wanting to take it dayhiking just for that very reason. Otherwise, it’s a very fine pack, but it would be a great one if it just had that one added feature.

    JRM

  4. From my google+ post…
    Great backpack. I have the 2017 model. I like the hip belt pockets and shoulder strap storage. Not sure why they would get rid of those on the new model.

  5. Whatever you do, no matter how good anyone’s review, don’t buy any pack until you’ve tried it on with your gear inside. The most important things about a pack, IMHO, are fit, fit, and fit–it’s gotta fit you, fit your gear, and fit you with your gear (not sandbags, unless you normally carry them) loaded inside. Pack fit is as individual as shoe fit. A long (even though though boring) hike around the house with a loaded pack is an excellent idea before you decide whether or not a pack is a keeper. Don’t forget to include the equivalent in weight and bulk of a week’s food and a day’s water along with your “base” gear.

    My hips seem to be completely incompatible with Osprey”s hip belts; those I have tried (quite a few models) cause me pain over the hip bones. I don’t seem to have this problem with other makers, although there may be other problems there. But that’s me, not you!

    Just a warning not to neglect the “fit” part, regardless of how sterling the reviews!

  6. I tried on an old version of the exos, and it just didn’t fit quite right, although of course packs never feel bad in the store – they just feel ok. I remain grateful to the REI employee who talked me into trying on a Granite Gear Blaze they had in because someone had returned it. It wasn’t until that pack that I understood how good a pack should actually feel!

    I will say, though, that having hipbelt pockets irritates my arms, so I’m kinda with Osprey on this. I always seem to rub against them. Is there a way for a backpacking company to build a fanny pack onto the hipbelt instead of having side hipbelt pockets?!

  7. I suspect that those who don’t use trekking poles to be prime candidates for packs wirh no hip belt pockets.

    I admit that I haven’t looked at the belt on the new Exos, but it may be possible to DIY detachable pockets, or use those from another brand (zpacks, ula). In any case, probably far better than the glaringly useless clamshell pockets on the atmos.

    Locked shoulders prevent me from reaching side pockets, so I made bottle pockets for my arc haul that slip on right behind the oem belt pockets. Works great.

  8. The lack of hip belt pockets is a deal breaker for me, especially considering the older version had them. Why take features away?

  9. I tried the pack on and found the hip belt extremely comfortable. The split in it kinda hugs the hips well. The old Exos never worked for me. Loss of pockets is a bit of a pain, but I have some that can easily be attached.

  10. I used the Exos 58 2017 model to backpack the Maine 100 mile wilderness last summer. It worked quite well. However, I later used it to hike the Hunt trail to Mt. Katahdin summit. This is a very rugged trail with handholds and places requiring squeezing between rocks. Somewhere along the way, I must have rubbed one of the mesh pockets containing a 1L Smartwater bottle against a rock. The pocket developed a tear which expanded when used on a later hike. I sent it back to Osprey for repair. Osprey will fix problems with any of their packs no matter when or where you purchased it. The mesh used in the pack is lighter weight and thinner than other Osprey packs. Despite this problem, I would still recommend the pack. I’m surprised that the new model eliminated two features (hip and shoulder strap pockets ) which I made good use of for snacks and small items like electrolyte tablets.

  11. A good review. My wife bought a 2017 Exos 58 year as we backpacked Lake Superior Provincial Park’s Coastal Trail twice over 10 days. She loved the pack as it was much lighter than her Gregory Deva 60 litre pack. I went from my excellent but way too heavy Gregory Baltoro 65 litre to my Granite Gear Vapor Trail.

  12. In terms of durability, do you think this or the Gregory Optic is a more durable bag? Really like them both but want something a little on the durable side. Obviously lightweight sacrifices some durability…

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