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Osprey Exos 48 Review

Best Buy Award
Price:   $190 List | $131.99 at MooseJaw
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Pros:  Great for medium loads, inexpensive, thoughtful set of features, external storage and lashing options
Cons:  Heavy, less durable than others
Bottom line:  Our award winner for Best Buy has tons of features, carries medium sized loads well, and is comfortable to boot.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Osprey

Our Verdict

For the most bang for your buck, nothing beats the Osprey Exos 48, making it the obvious choice for our Best Buy Award for ultralight backpacks. Out of the five highest scoring packs, this competitor is the most affordable and is widely available both online and in stores. The Exos is perhaps (and with good reason) the most popular and widely used pack 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. Though it is one of the heavier models in our ultralight review, it's still about half as heavy as most traditional internal frame backpacks.

For those on a limited budget, commonly carry medium loads, or just want a pack that is easy to obtain, the Exos 48 is our top recommendation. For a lighter (around 7oz lighter, in fact!), more adaptable choice, check out our Editor's Choice Award Winner, the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. You can also remove the waist belt and frame on the Gossamer pack, adding to its adaptability. Our Top Pick for Ultralight Enthusiasts is a different animal altogether. It pares the feature set down to a minimum and weighs 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.

Counting ounces? Or pounds?
Osprey Exos 38

The Exos is also made in a 58-liter version (the Exos 58) for larger loads and a 38-liter version (Osprey Exos 38), pictured to the right. 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.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Backpacks for 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Brandon Lampley

Last Updated:
Sunday
January 31, 2016

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The Exos 48 earned high scores in almost all categories, even though it is quite a bit heavier than most other models in this review. It carries 30 pounds better than any other we tested and has the most extensive set of useful features among our contenders. Unlike many of the packs in this review, the Exos has a large 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 above 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 size medium, 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 an average weight-to-volume ratio. Our volume tests also revealed that our test model pack was nine liters larger in capacity than the other two top scorers (Gorilla and Ohm). While all have virtually the same size main compartment, the Exos has larger external pockets. Similarly, the ULA Circuit has a large, mesh pocket on the outside that adds lots of extra storage to the overall volume of the pack.

Load Carrying Comfort


While this product is one of the best packs for carrying 30-pound loads, we found it less comfortable than several others in the fleet when carrying a light load around 15 pounds. This model earned "great" for 30-pound loads and "good" for 15-pound loads.


Some folks think the tensioned frame feels almost like a turtle shell 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 with ease, and the shoulder straps and waist belt offer more padding than most. Overall, we find simple frames are more comfortable with light loads. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa has a more substantial overall carrying capacity, but with its simple structure, actually carries lighter loads more comfortably than the Exos.

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. The hip pockets on the sides are large, and the small, stretchy pockets on the shoulder straps can hold small items, like sunscreen or a phone. 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. The Haglofs L.I.M. Strive 50 has similar zig-zagging compression straps that work in the same way. 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' 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 tons of other small 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 you're after, you won't be disappointed.

Adaptability


This Osprey model 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 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 four 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 airframe of this pack seems less durable; we don't recommend sitting on this contender 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 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 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. In our experience, it performs best when carrying 20 to 35 pounds. If this is your common minimum and maximum total weight, this is the pack we recommend. Pockets and lash straps cover this model, meaning you can always have the items you want easily accessible at your fingertips.

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


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.
Brandon Lampley

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 31, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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