Osprey Exos 48 Backpack Review | Most Comfortable Ultra-Lightweight Backpack

Last Updated on 05/03/2024

Osprey Exos 48 Backpack Review

In this Osprey Exos 48 backpack review, I share my thoughts on this lightweight and extra comfy hiking rucksack. Spoiler alert: this is my favorite backpack for thru-hiking, and I am biased, but let me tell you why.

Osprey Packs are, in my opinion, the best in the world. Sure, brands like Deuter, Lowe Alpine, Gregory, HLA, and many other backpack brands are equally high quality. But Osprey has a bag for everything which are so well-designed, comfortable, and durable that they dominate many of the different backpack categories.

For example, they make the best day packs, carry-on backpacking bags, duffel bags with wheels, or thru-hiking backpacks (like the Exos). And if you really like the Exos backpack as much as I do, you can get it in three different sizes for different types of trips.

Is the Osprey Exos 48 Backpack Worth It?

The Osprey Exos backpack is well worth the money it costs. Not only is it great for hiking, but you can also fit 2-3 bags of groceries, or a laptop and your gym clothes. It’s just a great bag. Here are four of my favorite things about the Osprey Exos 48 backpack:

  1. It is very lightweight for a framed backpack, weighing just 2.57 lbs or 1160 g.
  2. It is the most comfortable backpack I have ever tried, even with a full load.
  3. The back panel sits away from your back, allowing air to circulate, making it very breathable.
  4. Compared with other lightweight bags that are less comfortable, the Osprey Exos is reasonably affordable.

Osprey Exos 48 Backpack Review

Osprey Exos 48Outdoor gear buy

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Specifications

  • WEIGHT: 2.57 lbs / 1160 g
  • VOLUME: 48L
  • CAPACITY: 35 lbs / 16 kg
  • MATERIAL: 100D High Tenacity Nylon Ripstop

Features

  • 2 X Hip Belt Pockets (on the Updated Version)
  • Adjustable Suspension (4 Inches)
  • Top Pocket Web Loop Attachment Points
  • Removable Floating Lid with Top and Under-Lid Zipped Pockets
  • Integrated Flap Jacket Cover for Lidless Use
  • Internal Hydration Sleeve with Center Back Hose Port
  • Front Stretch Mesh Pocket for Stashing Gear
  • Dual-Access Stretch Mesh Side Pockets
  • Dual Strippable Side Compression Straps
  • Web Lash Points for Attaching Overloads
  • Removable Sleeping Pad Straps
  • Dual Ice Axe Loops with Bungee Tie-Off
  • Dual-Zipped Hipbelt Pockets to Keep Essentials Handy
  • Stow-On-The-Go Trekking Pole Attachment
  • Sternum Strap with Integrated Safety Whistle

There are the standard features of an organizational pocket inside the top lid, whistle on the chest strap, compression straps on the outside, two side pockets with multiple access points, large stretchy mesh front pocket, trekking pole, and ice ax loops, webbing to hang wet clothes from, and internal water reservoir holder. Believe it or not, these features are fairly minimal in terms of what some of the more heavy-duty Osprey packs have to offer.

Osprey Exos Backpack Test

First Thoughts

The Osprey Exos 48 lives up to the hype of being an excellent hikers backpack. It perfectly molds to the shape of your back thanks to the mesh suspension and instantly feels comfortable. It also feels incredibly lightweight and well-supported, even with a heavy load.

I stuffed it full of bulky camping gear and was out on the road within 30 minutes of its arrival. After taking it for a quick test drive, I am happy to say I came back smiling. It passed the test, but how did it fair after two years of use? Here is a breakdown of its performance and my comments on each feature.

Osprey Exos 48 Men's Backpacking Backpack, Blaze Black, Small

Size and Weight

Weighing just 1.16 kg, this is by no means a heavy pack, but it does weigh more than other ultra-lightweight backpacks. That is because it doesn’t sacrifice comfort to save a few hundred grams.

It is available in 38L, 48L, and 58L sizes however we recommend either the 48 or 58-liter capacity. If you were thinking of getting the 38-liter Exos, consider that you can remove the brain of the 48-liter version to have a 40-liter backpack. This gives you more options in the future when you need different-sized bags.

Hauling Capacity

You have plenty of space for camping gear, clothes, food, water, and any accessories you carry on a thru-hike. We found that we had more than enough space for five days of supplies and 2 liters of water, all packed inside. If you need to carry more food and water, you can fit large bottles in both side pockets, and you can easily attach your tent to the outside of your bag when needed.

You can easily haul 35 lbs of gear without any issue, and the comfort is another level above its rivals. When you carry more than 35 lbs, you may start to get gear touching the mesh back support, but if you pack properly, you can have a much higher maximum load weight. If you do plan to carry a heavy load, though, I would certainly recommend the 58-liter size above, which has a higher maximum load and spreads the weight out across your back more evenly.

Osprey Exos Backpack on a Thru Hike

Comfort

The Osprey Exos 48 is by far the most comfortable backpack I have ever owned. It beats more heavy-duty backpacks which have ten times more cushioning simply because the mesh is so forgiving it is like 3D suspension. Because it offers so much comfort, there is no surprise that it is one of the most popular backpacks for hiking the AT, CDT, and PCT.

You can choose between a small/medium or a medium/large, which helps to get get a better fit if you are either short or tall. The shoulder straps, waist belt, and sternum strap are all adjustable so that you can tinker with how it feels until you get the perfect fit.

Not only is the bag a pleasure to wear for hiking because of how it feels on your back. It also keeps you comfortable in another way by keeping you cooler in hot weather. By letting air flow through the back panel, you don’t suffer from a sweaty back even half as much as with other backpacks.

Durability

The Osprey Exos backpack is not quite as durable as other Osprey backpacks like the Kestrel or Farpoint. That is because it uses a more lightweight fabric (100D High tenacity ripstop nylon) to save weight. Rest assured it is still very durable, but the stretchy mesh panel on the front is vulnerable to scuffs. Mine has a few snags on it.

Osprey Exos 48 Men's Ultralight Backpacking Backpack, Tungsten Grey, Large/X-Large

The place where you need to be most careful is on the corners where the mesh back panel meets the bag. If you damage it here, it may compromise the integrity of the bag when carrying heavy loads. I haven’t experienced this, but I bet someone has.

Adjustability

You can adjust the back panel by as much as 4 inches to suit your torso length which helps to get a very snug fit. You can also adjust the suspension straps, shoulder straps, waist belt, and sternum strap to really customize the fit. Because you can get the backpack in a small/medium and a medium/large version, you can always get a great fit.

Hiking with the Osprey Exos Backpack 48L

Breathability

With possibly the best back support of any thru-hiking backpack out there, Osprey’s AirSpeed ventilated trampoline suspended mesh back panel provides maximum ventilation. It hugs your back without making you sweaty and provides suspension and comfort with a heavy load which is perfect in the heat.

The shoulder straps and hip belts are made from Exoform mesh and ventilated foam padding for maximum comfort and airflow. They look fairly minimal at first glance and don’t seem too thick or padded, but once you try them, you realize that they provide all the support you need and are very breathable.

Organization

The organization is not this backpack’s strong point, but I would still give it a 7 out of 10. The reason I say it isn’t so strong is that inside the backpack, you only have the hydration reservoir holder and no other pockets. All other pockets are either on the lid or on the outside of the pack.

You have two side pockets with dual access, which allows you to store smaller water bottles at an angle so you can easily reach them and put them back without taking off your bag. You can also store things like hiking poles, an axe, rainwear, and sitting mats in the side pockets and secure them with the straps higher up.

A nice feature is the stretchy front mesh pocket which I use all the time to stuff a waterproof jacket, store my bag of litter, or quickly stuff with shopping when restocking. Above this, and on the sides, are loops and compression straps that you can use to attach items if you wish. Some people like to carry a cup so that they can drink directly from streams whenever they pass. Or if you hike with a dog, you can easily attach a rope leash and dog water bottle.

On the lid of the bag, you get an outer access pocket and an internal access pocket. I like to use the inner one for valuables and occasionally toiletries, and the outer one has a waterproof bag cover, some snacks, and my headlamp. Overall, the storage works perfectly for me but some people may be used to more organizational pockets and separates inside.

Osprey Exos 48 Rucksack

Weatherproofing

While the material is treated with a DWR and will keep things inside dry in a brief rain shower, in sustained or heavy rain, you really need to use the included pack cover. A massive benefit of hiking with this backpack in the rain is that the air mesh back panel lifts the bag away from your back. So your bag doesn’t get soaked from the rain running down your back as other bags do.

Frame Type

The frame is very rigid on the corners, which is necessary to support the stretched web mesh back panel. Unlike with other framed backpacks, you will never feel the frame on your back because of how the mesh suspends the bag away from you. The only place I have heard some people experience discomfort is on the hips, but I suspect this could be partly solved by ordering the smaller-size backpack.

Openings

There is just a single opening at the top which is fine and to be expected of such a lightweight backpack. It has a nice wide mouth that can be opened and closed single-handedly. I have never struggled to fit my tent and sleeping bag in, although to make the most of the space, you should stick something down in the lower corners first.

Osprey Exos 48 Men's Backpacking Backpack, Blaze Black, Small

Final Verdict

Osprey bags are known for being extremely comfortable and having excellent features. The mesh back panel is my favorite feature of the Exos backpack, but we also like the removable brain and storm flap jacket to use without the lid.

Until we see more mesh back panel backpacks, we will continue to use and recommend the Osprey Exos 48-liter backpack for thru-hiking. It is unrivaled in comfort and doesn’t weigh so much that it feels heavy or unmanageable. If you currently use a larger backpack that weighs closer to 2 kg, then this is the obvious choice to save weight and upgrade to more lightweight gear.

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I hope you found this Osprey Exos 48 Backpack Review helpful. I genuinely love this backpack and am not paid by Osprey to say that other than from inserting my own affiliate links.

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This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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