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Hands-on Gear Review

Osprey Exos 48 Review

Best Buy Award
Price:   $190 List | $142.38 at Amazon
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Pros:  Perfect for medium loads, relatively inexpensive, most complete set of features, many external storage and lashing options
Cons:  Relatively heavy, not as durable as others
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Osprey

Our Verdict

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 2017

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Total Weight Stripped Weight Claimed Volume
85
$245
Editors' Choice Award
29.4 oz 17.5 oz 38 L
77
$210
31.4 oz 20.4 oz 63 L
77
$190
Best Buy Award
37.6 oz 33.9 oz 48 L
75
$325
Top Pick Award
21.3 oz 21.3 oz 52 L
67
$340
32 oz 27.7 oz 55 L
64
$140
18.6 oz 18.6 oz 54 L
60
$160
38.7 oz 35.5 oz 45 L
53
$180
25.9 oz 18.6 oz 30 L

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Brandon Lampley
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
January 31, 2016

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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.

The Exos loaded up for a 40 mile off-trail circuit of Knowles and Mee canyons in far west Colorado. Without its top lid  this pack easily and comfortably carried our gear. The pockets right up front on both shoulder straps are awesome.
The Exos loaded up for a 40 mile off-trail circuit of Knowles and Mee canyons in far west Colorado. Without its top lid, this pack easily and comfortably carried our gear. The pockets right up front on both shoulder straps are awesome.

Performance Comparison


Check out the Overall Performance chart below to see where the Best Buy winning Exos 48 ranked amongst the other packs in our review.


Weight-to-Volume Ratio


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.

Between the large and stretchy front and side pockets  this pack has the most external storage. And add the lid to that if you choose to use it.
Between the large and stretchy front and side pockets, this pack has the most external storage. And add the lid to that if you choose to use it.

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.

Our wintertime base weight along with five days of food and fuel all packed up. The Exos has more than enough capacity and the large pockets let you put clothes  water bottles and gear where you see fit. The lid is on the pack here  but we leave it at home more often than not.
Our wintertime base weight along with five days of food and fuel all packed up. The Exos has more than enough capacity and the large pockets let you put clothes, water bottles and gear where you see fit. The lid is on the pack here, but we leave it at home more often than not.

Features


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.

The Exos has hip belt pockets  shoulder strap pockets  and big stretchy ones on the sides. Here we've routed the side compression straps inside the pocket. Doing so means being able to easily grab your water bottle and still apply pack compression.
The Exos has hip belt pockets, shoulder strap pockets, and big stretchy ones on the sides. Here we've routed the side compression straps inside the pocket. Doing so means being able to easily grab your water bottle and still apply pack compression.

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.

Adaptability


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.


Durability


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 extra FlapJacket closure makes the top opening of this pack weather-tight when you choose not to use the lid. Little chance of rain on this bluebird day up in Colorado's Indian Peaks Wilderness.
The extra FlapJacket closure makes the top opening of this pack weather-tight when you choose not to use the lid. Little chance of rain on this bluebird day up in Colorado's Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Best Applications


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.

Value


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. 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.

Conclusion


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.

This is how we feel most of the time...on top of the world!
This is how we feel most of the time...on top of the world!

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.
Osprey Ultralight Raincover
  • Cost - $35
  • Can be used to keep your gear dry from the elements

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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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 18, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)

50% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 67%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 33%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 2 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Aug 18, 2016 - 06:40pm
I just hiked the California section of the PCT and I really wanted to love this pack. Due to its popularity on the trail, it seems a lot of people like it a lot. But I tried both a Medium and Small size of the Exos for 3+ weeks each, and both pack were uncomfortable carrying 30-35lbs. The medium size frame came down too far past my hips and was digging into the top of my butt. Then the small size fit fine in the hips, but transferred too much load to my shoulders (I maxed out the load lifter straps to no avail).

I previously used a Deuter ACT Lite 50+10 which was SUPER comfortable, though unfortunately the internal frame failed. The Exos, by comparison, was ALWAYS uncomfortable no matter how I adjusted it. And I'm a pretty average-small dude, at 5'10 and 155lbs.

One other thing about the Exos… the frame SQUEAKS like crazy where it connects to the fabric of the pack. Like every step you take is "BRRRAP" "ZZZZACK" "EEEEEP" "OOOOONK" – and other Osprey users on the trail told me that their packs did the same thing (and they weren't all Exos). I called Osprey and they said this had been an issue with one of their pack models (Altos or something like that) but not the Exos. Except, yeah, it is.

I will be replacing it with a ULA Circuit, which a friend let me use his on the trail for an hour, and it was super comfortable. I had none of the issues with the Circuit that I had with the Exos.

I think the Exos is probably great carrying less than 20 lbs. But if you're wanting to carry closer to 30 lbs and occasionally 35 lbs, it might cause you a lot of grief and pain. I STILL have bruises on my hips from it and I've been off trail for a week.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Apr 27, 2016 - 06:07pm
JoeUser · Backpacker · Seattle, WA
It's not mentioned in this review, but I use the Osprey Exos 38 for alpine search & rescue missions. At 2.2 pounds, it's not the lightest pack on the market, but it's also durable enough so that it doesn't get torn up with rough use. It has a generous stretch back pocket for quick gear; stretch side-pockets; hip pockets; and my favorite feature…a small pocket on each shoulder strap for easy access to sunscreen, bug spray, or other small items. The back is vented mesh to help you stay cool. It doesn't look like much, but it's really comfortable. One downside for search and rescue…it only comes in blue or black, which make it harder to find at night.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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