The Osprey Exos 58 rucksack – the star of the show!
I have had the Osprey Exos 58 for around a year and feel that it is now a good time to review it.
I bought it as a lightweight replacement for my Berghaus Verdon rucksack. The Exos weighs in at a little over 1 kg which is around half the weight of my previous rucksack.
It’s not the lightest rucksack on the market, but it does have a frame, which for me is important. The frame allows one to carry heavy loads comfortably and in the case of the Exos, the frame splays out around the hips to encase one’s hips with a large load bearing surface.
I’ve not had a frame system like this before and for me at least it makes the rucksack feel very comfortable. With other rucksacks, it aways felt that ones hips were being loaded over a very narrow area, but with the Osprey Exos, the frame seems to do a really good job of distributing this load – though I have to admit it did feel plain weird the first time I put the rucksack on.
The frame and mesh design also leaves a small gap between your back and the rucksack proper to allow air to flow through and prevent sweat build up. This aids comfort in hot summer weather.
On two of my hikes I have taken the Exos way above it’s 15 kg load limit. On both occasions I was carrying 20 Kg over some pretty mountainous terrain in both the Lake District and North Wales. The only issue that I found with this additional load is that the rucksack exhibited some lateral movement if one leant over too far either left or right – which for me doesn’t happen too often.
Under its designed load limits there are no issues with lateral movement.
There has been surprisingly little wear and tear on the rucksack, despite the fact that it is made of lightweight materials and that I do tend to treat my kit quite roughly. The only notable issue is mentioned in the first photo below.
Review disclaimer: This rucksack was bought privately by myself, using my own funds. I have no connection with Osprey whatsoever. I feel that I had better mention this as Mountain Warehouse (http://www.mountainwarehouse.com) have graciously given me a set of hiking poles to try out and review at some future date. So it’s best to clearly state where my equipment is sourced from.
Anyways – on with the photo review!
The back of the Osprey Exos 58. The back is very spartan compared with rucksacks that have adjustable back lengths. This is what in part, makes this rucksack so light. The downside is that you really need to visit a shop and get them to measure your back up so that you can buy the right length version.
If you look at the left hip wing (on the right of the picture) you can spot some damage where the netting has been holed. It’s the same story the other side too. Luckily these holes have stabilised in size, so I don’t anticipate any problems from them. This is the only significant wear and tear after a year of use and believe me, I don’t treat my equipment delicately 🙂
For me the best part of this rucksack is the way the frame has been designed. These are the white tubes seen in the photo. Unlike other rucksacks they spread out at the hip to effectively encase your hips with a pair of solid netted ‘wings’. This is the most comfortable hip system I have ever used on a rucksack. Even before one connects up the hip belt, you can feel the rucksack’s frame wrapping around your back and spreading the load over the wide netted mesh in the solid wings.
The belt buckles clip together. The clip is keyed in such a way that it can only be connected in the correct manner – so there is no chance of connecting the straps up incorrectly. Once connected one simply grabs the two straps at either end and simply pulls them outwards. This ensures that the buckle always remains central. The hip belt is not padded in the traditional sense, which means that they will flop back onto the back of the rucksack with no support. This means that one has to get into the habit of unfolding the hip belt away from the back of the rucksack before putting it on. This used to annoy me, but I do this automatically these days.
Unlike some rucksacks the chest strap is adjustable up or down to place it in the perfect position. The only downside is that there are only four fixed positions available. But for me this isn’t an issue as the strap goes exactly where I need it to go. Rather unusually, the chest strap features a built in whistle, which could come in handy in an emergency. It also has a great stowage point for my compass too!
The arm straps are narrow, but I have never had any comfort problems with them. I do have a question though. What’s the purpose of the this pocket on the left arm strap? Answers on a postcard please 🙂
The Exos 58 comes with two Ice-Axe stowage points, though I have only used it for one. The stowage points are very easy to use and very secure. The latching system of the upper holding point, as seen on the right in the photo – has an ingenious mechanism which makes the securing and releasing of the Ice Axe very easy.
A close up of the ice-axe latching mechanism. To use, one simply squeezes the button down to either tighten or slacken the toggle. The toggle is designed to go in vertically and then rotate 90 degrees to lock it in place. The button is then used to tighten the lock once it is in place. This prevents the toggle from rotating into the open position.
The stow-and-go system is used for stowing hiking poles that can be easily stowed and removed on the go, without having to take the rucksack off. An igneous design that will get it’s first field test on my next walk. More information can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSX2iKZXw6U. The hiking poles were provided by Mountain Warehouse (http://www.mountainwarehouse.com) for review purposes – which is quite fortuitous as many people keep telling me they make a big difference to a walk! Thanks guys 🙂
On the bottom of the rucksack are two holding straps for holding a sleeping bag, tent or anything else for that matter. I have never had cause to use these as I can stow all my kit internally.
Both sides of the rucksack have a zigzagged draw string. By default one is routed under the mesh pockets whilst the other is routed over them. I have only used these once and that was to mount my crampon bag on the side of the rucksack.
The top lid pocket is very spacious. You wouldn’t believe how much equipment I stuff into the lid! It also features a key holder as seen on the right, though I tend to use the key holder that is built into my hiking trousers.
The top lid is fully detachable for those that want to save further weight. I personally find the lid’s compartments way too handy to remove! It also has vertical adjustment to allow one to effectively adjust the height available in the main compartment.
The under-the-lid zipped net pocket. I love this pocket. I keep the first aid kit there and the day’s lunch plus the spork. It means that when I stop for a bite to eat, or if I need the first aid kit, it is all easily to hand without having to rummage through the main rucksack compartment.
The outer stretch compartment. This is made of a material which stretches over anything that you choose to put in it. To the right of that is a zip leading to one of the ‘side’ pockets.
The outer stretch pocket. This pocket is useful for stowing gloves, hats and most other things. In the rain I tend to stow the tent’s outer fly here. There is enough room to ensure that items are secure, plus the stretchiness of the material keeps these items fixed firmly in place.
The stretch compartment features a drain hole, which makes it perfect for stowing a wet flysheet or perhaps wet water-proofs.
The outer stretch pocket being used to stow the wet flysheet of the tent. It’s ability to stretch makes it the perfect quick stowage for larger items. It also helps keep those items anchored down and stops them from moving around.
The side net pockets are one of the most useful features of the Exos. They are large enough to hold substantial items, like a water bottle safely without them falling out. However, the killer feature is the side hole which allows one to remove and place items in these pockets whilst on the move without taking the rucksack off. For my water bottle it is perfect. I can grab it whenever I need it. This is one design feature that would probably prevent me from entertaining any other rucksack model!
The rucksack provides two H2O points, one on either side of the rucksack. Internally there is space to stow one large hydration bladder. I have never used this as I find that it is difficult to keep track of water usage in a hydration bladder. That and the fact that my Travel Tap allows me to grab water from anywhere, which is much more useful!
This is a shot of the inside rear panel of the rucksack. Here one can see the large pocket for stowing a hydration bladder and the bladder hook-up point top centre. The zip is a mystery to me. It leads to the outside of the rucksack between the back net mesh and the rucksack proper. I’m guessing that some people stow kit there?
The inside of the Exos 58 is cavernous. It holds a lot of equipment – I have used it for a 5+1 day hike with full winter kit with no space problems. It is a single compartment and this is the only access to it. There is a draw string to close up the top.
As an illustration I have popped my Akto tent into the rucksack to show how much head room there is. The tape measure measures approximately 56 cm’s of compartment height – an important measurement if your tent has long poles…
The Exos 58 is not fully waterproof. It will keep out light rain, but like most rucksacks it will eventually let in water. I use a large dry bag (not included) on the inside to keep my kit dry. If the tent is wet – which is most of the time – it tends to be stowed in the Exos’s main compartment, but outside of this dry bag. I prefer a dry bag to a rucksack cover as it doesn’t need deploying, still gives you full access to the rucksack and will keep things dry even if the rucksack takes a dunk in a stream!
This is another massively useful feature. This under-the-lid strap is attached to the rucksack at both ends and in the middle. There are two locking clasps on either side of the middle mounting point. This strap allows me to quickly stow ready-use clothing without having to open up the main rucksack. The strap can be tightened down really tightly to ensure that you don’t lose said items of clothing!
The under-the-lid strap is seen here holding my waterproof hardshell top and my fleece under the lid. Both of these were worn earlier in the day, but the weather had changed. Being able to quickly stow items of clothing without having to go into the main compartment is a God-Send. The other advantage, is that had the weather turned bad, I could have very easily accessed these items of clothing without having to open the main compartment. The under-the-lid strap when combined with the closed lid mean that these items of clothing are not going anywhere!
Under the left arm (on the right), but difficult to see, is my crampon bag which is mounted to the outside of the rucksack using the useful straps provided there.
One downside I have found with the Exos is that the upper shoulder loading straps – seen here dangling down over the shoulder straps – sometimes work themselves loose.
These zippered hip belt pockets have proved to be extremely useful. I use both of them to stow the day’s on-the-go field rations. This allows me to leave the rucksack on whilst snacking out!
The Exos 58 comes with two ‘side’ pockets, though in reality they go from the sides all the way around to the front and meet in the middle. These are ‘inside’ pockets which means that they can be a little tricky to use if the main compartment is full. That said, they are a lot easier to use in this situation than my previous rucksack. These pockets are very large. I tend to use the right hand one to stow two 1 litre water bottles – normally one of them is full at any one time. The left hand pocket is used to stow toilet kit – the spade, survival knife, bags and toilet roll.
To sum up, I think that this is a great rucksack that is lightweight and packed with more features than one would expect. Many of its features are pretty unique too. I suspect that this rucksack was designed by people that actually do hike, as these features are not gimmicks – they are genuinely useful.
The rucksack is so good that I will be keeping it until it is no longer serviceable.
Osprey have released a 2014 version of the rucksack, but this looks quite different from the 2013 version. So in some respects I have some reservations that the new one might not live up to the high standards set by the 2013 version.