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Hands-on Gear Review
Osprey Exos 48 Review
Cons: Relatively heavy, not as durable as others
The Osprey Exos 48 easily offers the most bang for your buck, making it the obvious choice for our Best Buy Award for ultralight backpacks. Among the five highest scoring packs, this one is the most affordable, and it's the only one widely available both online and in stores. The Exos is perhaps (and with good reason) the mostly widely used backpack for ultralight and lightweight backpacking adventures. With a feature set that includes nearly every strap and pocket you could possibly want, plus superior comfort when carrying more than 25 pounds, we highly recommend this pack. It is one of the heavier models in our ultralight review, but about half as heavy as most traditional internal frame backpacks.
If you're on a limited budget, commonly carry medium rather than very light loads, or just want a pack you can purchase easily and have right away, the Exos 48 is our top recommendation. Our Editors' Choice winner, the Gossamer Gear Gorilla, is 8 ounces lighter, and carries lighter loads much better. It is also much more adaptable; you can remove the frame and waist belt if you want. Our Top Pick for Ultralight Enthusiasts is a different animal altogether. It pares the feature set down to a minimum, and weighs in a full pound less than the Exos. If you're relatively new to ultralight and lightweight backpacking, or simply want a pack that performs incredibly well for medium weight loads, the Exos 48 is for you.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Backpacks for Thru Hikers and Backpackers
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Osprey Exos 48 earned our third highest overall score, even though it is one of the heavier models we tested. It carries 30 pounds better than any other we tested and has the largest set of useful features among our contenders. It is the only award winner with a top lid. Use the lid if you want or leave it at home to save a few ounces.
How to Get It:
Osprey products are widely available at online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
Check out the Overall Performance chart below to see where the Best Buy winning Exos 48 ranked amongst the other packs in our review.
This pack is available in three sizes with different torso lengths and waist belt sizes. We tested a medium model and it fit our 5'11" and 32" waist lead tester just right.
Weight Bottom Line:
Total Weight with all modular components = 2 lb 5.6 oz
Pack stripped of components = 2 lb 1.9 oz
Removable Lid = 3.7 oz
While you could remove the Exos' frame, we do not recommend this.
OGL Measured Volume Bottom Line:
Total Volume = 59L
Main Bag = 40L
Front Pocket = 7L
Side Pockets = 6L
Removable Lid = 6L
At 17 g/L max and also 17 g/L stripped, the Exos earned a middle of the pack score for average weight-to-volume ratio. Our volume tests also revealed that our test model pack was 9 liters larger in capacity than the other two top scorers (Gorilla and Ohm). While all have essentially the same size main compartment, the Exos has significantly more exterior storage in the super stretch front pocket and its lid than the Gorilla or Ohm 2.0.
Load Carrying Comfort
While this product is one of the best packs for carrying 30 lb loads, we found it less comfortable than several others when carrying a light load around 15 lbs. We scored it "Great" for 30 pound loads and "Good" for 15 lb loads.
Some folks think the tensioned frame feels kinda like a turtleshell with light loads. But this tensioned frame structure is what makes it carry medium loads so well. It is easily the best pack of this bunch for carrying more than 30 pounds. The frame distributes weight well and the shoulder straps and waist belt are more padded than most others. We find simple frames more comfortable with light loads; the Gorilla and ULA Ohm 2.0 are more comfortable at light loads and pretty darn good at 30 pounds.
We could fill pages describing all the standard features of the Exos. Rarely does a product completely distance itself from competitors in one of our metrics, but the Exos does with features. This tensioned frame pack not only has a floating lid, but also a FlapJacket top closure. We often head out without the lid, and the FlapJacket is a major benefit compared to packs with only a drawstring top closure. The stretchy exterior pockets (main and side) hold more volume than any other. Hip belt pockets on each side are slightly larger than the Gorilla's and stretchy pockets on the shoulder straps can hold anything from a tube of sunscreen to your sunglasses or a small camera. You can slide your maps in between the hip belt pockets and the waist belt there's even velcro inside there to make it two small slots or one big one. Although we didn't find it super useful, there's even a dedicated trekking poles securing system on the left hip and shoulder strap.
Zig-zag compression straps run up both sides of the main pack and can be routed inside or outside of the side pockets. This is a major benefit when you want to reduce the internal pack volume but still have full use of the side pockets. Lack of this internal routing is our chief complaint with the compression straps on the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400.
As you'd expect, there's a single ice axe loop on the Exos's back, and an internal pocket holds a hydration bladder, with a loop at the top to secure it. Right and left ports let you route the drinking hose to either shoulder. There are also a zillion more little features, like reflective pull tabs at the openings of the stretchy side and shoulder strap pockets. If bells and whistles (on the sternum strap) are what your after, you won't be disappointed.
This Osprey pack earned a high adaptability score. If you're looking to strap bulky but light items to the outside of a pack, this one has the most options. The lid floats, bottom straps will accept a rolled foam pad, the stretchy main pocket is huge. To top it off, sewn in webbing loops along the back provide the spots to attach bungee cords if you desire, and are large enough to easily clip a carabiner to.
The Osprey Exos 48 works "just OK" with a BV500 bear canister. The tensioned frame doesn't play nice with the can, but it just fits.
Rough use durability is not one of the strong suits of the Exos, though it is backed by Osprey's no questions lifetime warranty. While there are things we like about the stretchy side pockets, this is a prime area for wear. After the first 4 days in the wilderness with this pack, we had put holes in the stretch mesh side pockets. Scraping across a tree trunk or rock wall while hiking will do it. More durable, and preferred, are side pockets made of durable pack fabric. A stretchy mesh main pocket, and durable side pockets both of the other award winners adopt this strategy.
Like the ZPacks Arc Blast 55, the tensioned air frame of this pack seems less durable; we don't recommend sitting on this pack or tossing it around willy nilly.
The Osprey Exos 48 is the best pack we tested for backpackers whose loads usually range from 20 to 35 pounds. We found that no other pack carried 30 pounds as comfortably. The Exos is a perfect crossover pack between the ultralight and lightweight backpacking worlds which makes it an excellent pack for thru-hikers who sometimes need to carry lots of food and water.
This bag won our Best Buy Award, which we give to the product that delivers the most bang for your buck. There are several significantly cheaper packs in this review, but none performed well enough to recommend them over the Exos. The JanSport Katahdin 40, for example, is less expensive, but also heavy, small, a poor load carrier. Backpacks are one of the items where you really get what you pay for most of the time, and we're surprised Osprey packs don't retail at a higher price.
The Osprey Exos 48 is a perfect lightweight backpacking pack and it's light enough to break into ultralight territory as well. We feel it performs best when carrying 20 to 35 pounds. If this is your common min and max total weight, this is the pack we recommend. Pockets and lash straps cover this pack, meaning you can always have the items you want easily accessible at your finger tips.
Sizing, Accessories, & Other Versions
Like most packs from large manufacturers, the Exos 48's waist belt is permanently attached. Three size options are available: small, medium, and large. If you find that you can't typically get the right fit from "standard sizes," we recommend checking out the options from smaller manufacturers who typically allow you to mix and match the torso length and waist belt sizes.
Osprey's UL Raincover is the perfect complement to this pack.
The Exos is also made in a 58 liter version for larger loads and a 38 liter version. Ultralight backpackers who love the feature set of this pack can save 3 ounces with the 38 liter version. According to our independent volume tests, we think the Exos 38, minus its lid, would be weight competitive and similar in total volume to the Editors' Choice winner Gossamer Gear Gorilla.
To help your belongings stay dry check out the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks and Sea to Summit Pack Cover.
— Brandon Lampley
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