Expert Review: Osprey - Exos 38 Backpack

This review is my friend Charlie's honest opinion of the pack, which he purchased with his own money in summer of 2021.

Two people stand at the bottom of a mountain with a sign indicating distances to different peaks. They are both wearing backpacking backpacks.

Charlie Nick and Riley Bruen at Kilimanjaro Basecamp. All photos courtesy of Charlie Nick

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About this Review: This review is my friend Charlie's honest opinion of the pack, which he purchased with his own money in summer of 2021.

My take

Weighing in just below three pounds, the 2021 Osprey Exos is an extremely lightweight pack for fast and light backpackers who enjoy 2–4 day hiking trips. My friend Charlie has used it to carry photography equipment and other gear on multiple summit climbs in Colorado, Virginia, and Tanzania. He’s found the pack to be light, spacious, and easy to adjust.

About the pack he owns

  • Model: 2021 Osprey Exos
  • Gender: Men’s
  • Size: Medium
  • Pack capacity: 38

About my friend Charlie

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 190 lbs
  • Experience: 2 years of backpacking

Test conditions

  • When he bought it: Summer 2021
  • Length of trips: 2 to 5 days
  • What he carried:
  • Total pack weight: 30–40 lbs
  • Used for: Car camping, backpacking, and trekking
  • Where he’s used it: Colorado, Virginia, Tanzania, Africa
  • Terrain: 14,000ft to 19,000ft peaks
  • Seasons he’s used it in: Spring, summer, and fall

How it performs

Back Breathability
5/5
Comfort
5/5
Design
4/5
Durability
4/5
Versatility
4/5
Weight
5/5

What he was looking for

Charlie was looking for a convenient backpack to hike 14,000 peaks with photo equipment in tow. He wanted something that was easy to adjust, lightweight, and with lots of straightforward features and easily accessible pockets.

Why he chose this gear

Charlie noted that the Exos carried a tripod and other photography equipment very well, in addition to regular day-hiking gear.

Two people on a trail in the woods with backpacks.

Hiking to the summit of Kilimanjaro

What he loves about it

  • Durability: So far, it has traveled by air to Africa with no issues yet. While hiking a 14,000ft peak, he was constantly taking it off to rest on scree and talus; this pack can handle rock edges.
  • Weight: The Exos is extremely lightweight. Weighing in at less than three pounds, it is portable for adventuring on trails and mountains.
  • Ease of use: All the pockets inside the backpack are easily accessible for hiking essentials and the harness is easy to adjust.
  • Suspension and comfort: It was very comfortable for a five-day trek to Kilimanjaro. The pack proved to be very breathable and the harness system effective.
  • Adjustability: The harness is designed to sit off the back of the wearer, which makes it a more comfortable pack to carry. It fits snugly and is easy to adjust.
  • Capacity: This pack was able to manage one day of clothing, a rain jacket, a down jacket, toiletries, camera, and GPS equipment.
  • Weather Resistance: Osprey offers effective pack covers, and Charlie used one on the Exos to keep it dry.
  • Features: The 3-liter reservoir drinking water bladder fits, and the belt is comfortably shaped to cup one’s hips.
  • Organization and pockets: There is a lot of logic in the design: the pockets are easily accessible, and they’re deep enough to carry trekking poles and other gear safely.
  • Hip belt: It has a comfortable wraparound technology that wraps and supports one’s hips and back.
  • Pack Access: The top of the main pocket opens wide enough to add a sleeping bag and down jacket in compression sacks.

Issues I encountered

  • Durability: Because the fabric is so lightweight, it may not be the toughest against sharp objects poking from inside or out.
  • Adjustability: The harness is limited in its sizing so be cautious and measure your spine to be 100% sure that you are purchasing the right size.
  • Capacity: This is a 2-4 day pack for a super minimalist hiker or a multi-day porter assistance trip.

Favorite moment with this gear

The best moment with the Exos was while summiting Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. The pack was great for the final summit day because we needed to be especially light and fast. We were hiking at 1am and needed to be off the mountain by 7–9am, so this leg of the trek required a lightweight pack with only the essentials. Charlie left behind all the overnight gear and was able to take only what he needed plus his camera equipment.

Value for the money vs. other options

The Exos was reasonably priced compared to most photography packs. Most backpacks for day hikes or multi-day are not as lightweight and therefore would be extremely heavy with photo equipment inside. For perspective, I use an Osprey men’s Talon 44; it is definitely heavier and I suffered a bit on the Kilimanjaro hike. For this situation, I wish I had the Exos 38 pack as well.

Final verdict

The Exos is a great backpack for multi-day trekking with photo equipment due to its light weight yet ample capacity and easy adjustability.

Selling Osprey on Curated.com
OSPREY - EXOS 38 PACK
$180.00
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Written By
I love helping folks to find all the gear they need for big adventure trips. I've been an outdoor enthusiast all my life. I started as a horsewoman, paddler, and skier. My dad worked at the local ski hill, so my youth was pretty active outside. I owned a couple of horses and led trail rides for fiv...

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