Osprey’s men’s Exos and women’s Eja packs would seem like shining examples of gear proven to perform so well for so long that redesigning them risks customer backlash. As a longtime fan of the packs, I was eager to take the Exos 58 on a long cruise—nine days and nearly 130 miles through the High Sierra in August, mostly on the John Muir Trail with some on- and off-trail detours. I came away from that walk convinced that, with what they changed and what they kept in the Exos/Eja, Osprey done made these packs even better.
I started the hike with 10 days of food (18 pounds, in case we went over nine days), which pushed my pack weight toward 40 pounds—which, not surprisingly, felt too heavy for the Exos 58. Still, while Osprey rates it for 30 to 35 pounds, the pack carried surprising well, distributing the weight evenly: It simply felt too heavy without making any specific body part, like my shoulders, bear the burden painfully. A few days into the hike, once the weight had dropped to around 35 pounds and under, it felt much better even on two consecutive 17-mile days, one of those with a cumulative 8,000 vertical feet of up and down.
The pack’s LightWire perimeter frame carries 30 to 35 pounds comfortably by shifting a large portion of the pack weight onto your hips, while the flexible, wide, breathable, perforated-foam hipbelt and contoured shoulder straps distribute that weight nicely, without any pressure points: I carried the Exos 58 for upwards of eight hours a day—on days ranging from 9.9 to 19.5 miles, six of them with around 5,000 to over 8,600 vertical feet of elevation gain and loss—and finished every day impressed with how good the pack felt.
The Exos and Eja lines come in two torso sizes and three capacities (38L, 48L, and 58L) with adjustable suspensions in all of the packs—the most significant update for 2022. A very easy-to-use ladder of five positions for the shoulder straps allows you to quickly adjust it within the pack’s four inches of fit range for torso length. My 18-inch/46cm torso fell in the middle of the ladder on the S/M Exos—and the middle position on the torso-fit system best for me, meaning there’s room within that range for people with a torso measuring 16 to 20 inches (although 19 inches is on the cusp between S/M and L/XL and someone with a 20-inch torso is probably better off with the L/XL).
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Although Osprey made no changes to the suspension, changing the harness from fixed to adjustable improved the fit for most people by greatly reducing the chance of your torso falling between sizes—as a result, improving comfort, which I definitely noticed. The taut, trampoline-style back panel keeps the pack off your back, allowing excellent ventilation.
I shoehorned my ultralight gear—plus a bear canister and a collapsible camp chair (see both in this review)—and food for a whopping 10 days inside the Exos 58 for our Sierra hike. With careful packing, the top-loading Exos 58 has the capacity for weeklong trips and ultralight thru-hiking. Its wide mouth eases the task of loading and unloading even a bear canister—although a large canister cannot fit horizontally inside the pack, only vertically, which definitely makes packing more complicated.
Made from 100 percent recycled materials, the Exos and Eja packs have gotten somewhat more durable. While the materials used—bluesign-approved, recycled, 100-denier, high-tenacity nylon ripstop in the pack body and bottom and 400-denier high-tenacity nylon in accents—are not themselves more durable, the packs now have stronger mesh in the back panel and other areas that increases durability in high-wear areas. One example: Osprey had observed that a particular seam failed more often than other seams in the last generation of these packs because it joined separate pieces of open mesh and was under heavy pressure. They redesigned it and that seemingly small improvement may keep a lot of packs from going in for repairs.
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Responding to popular demand, Osprey brought back the two hipbelt pockets on the Exos and Eja. Otherwise, many features from the previous version of the Exos and Eja have carried over into this 2022 update, including:
- The extendable and removable floating lid, which you can leave home to trim the pack’s weight, replacing it with the integrated FlapJacket flap that clips over the mouth of the main compartment;
- The zippered lid pocket and under-lid pocket both offer space consistent with competitors in this category;
- The spacious front mesh pocket, where I stashed a wet rainfly and shell jacket, and the two dual-access side mesh pockets, which you can reach inside when wearing the pack, each of which holds a liter bottle;
- Z-compression straps on both sides for shrinking the pack as well as tucking objects inside those straps;
- The trekking poles attachment on the left shoulder strap;
- The ice axe loop with a bungee tie-off;
- And a safety whistle integrated into the sternum strap.
The Exos/Eja lines include the smaller Exos 48 and Eja 48 ($240, 48L/2,929 c.i., 2 lbs. 12 oz.) and Exos 38 and Eja 38 ($220, 38L/2,319 c.i., 2 lbs. 11 oz.).
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Osprey Exos 58 and Eja 58
While there are lighter ultralight packs, the smartly reimagined Osprey men’s Exos 58 and women’s Eja 58 remain leaders in comfort and features for ultralight backpacking and thru-hiking with 30 pounds or more inside, while still light enough to use for shorter trips.
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See my picks for “The 10 Best Backpacking Packs” and “The Best Ultralight Backpacks,” “5 Expert Tips For Buying the Right Backpacking Pack,” and all reviews of backpacks, backpacking gear, ultralight backpacks, and ultralight backpacking gear at The Big Outside.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all gear reviews at The Big Outside.