The Osprey Exos 48 continues to be our favorite reasonably priced pack, which scores highly in all metrics. Affordable, versatile, and widely available, the feature set is extensive and allows you to pick and choose which features are best suited for your use. The pack is comfortable whether you're carrying 30 pounds or 10; though it is a bit heavier than most in this review, it makes up for it in comfort and ease of use. For folks who are new to ultralight travel in the backcountry and are still transitioning from a full backpacking kit, the Exos is a great option. It's best for backpackers whose loads usually range from 20 to 35 pounds, and is a perfect crossover pack between the ultralight and lightweight backpacking worlds. This pack is one of the most popular and widely used packs out there for lightweight backpacking use, and for a good reason!Editor's Note: This review was revised on August 19, 2022, with info on the updated version of the Exos 48L.
Osprey Exos 48 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Great for medium loads, inexpensive, thoughtful set of features, external storage and lashing options
Cons: Heavy, less durable than others
Compare Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Product Update Note — August 2022
Osprey has updated the award-winning Exos line since our last test cycle. The photos above show the old version (left) and the new version (right). The AirSpeed suspension system sees an upgrade, with a stronger mesh aimed at increasing durability for thru-hikers and a new ladder adjustment system designed to offer up to four inches of torso adjustability. As a result, the pack is now only available in two split sizes: S/M and L/XL. The updated pack adds two hip belt pockets and is now built with bluesign-approved recycled 100D high tenacity nylon ripstop on top and bottom, with 400D nylon for tie-down areas, all of which is treated with a PFC/PFAS-free DWR coating. With all these upgrades, you can expect a price increase for this new pack. Although our review still refers to the old version, we are now linking to the new Exos 48L, which is now readily available.
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.
Osprey has given their Exos series a makeover (as well as introducing a women's version, the Eja). Osprey states that they've tweaked the suspension and hip belt designs to help with load distribution and comfort.
This pack is available in three sizes with different torso lengths and waist belt sizes. We tested a size small, and it fit our 5' 7" tester perfectly.
At 18.9 g/L, the Exos was on the lower end of the spectrum regarding its weight-to-volume ratio. Unfortunately, the new model lacks the super stretchy mesh that made up the external pockets on the previous model, and so we lost some overall volume there when we measured the new pack.
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 Gossamer Gear Gorilla.
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.
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. Unlike the previous model, the new Exos has slimmed down a bit when it comes to extra pockets.
The hip pockets are gone, as are the small shoulder strap pockets. We found that the pack is more streamlined and easier to use overall without these additional pockets. The new model is more in line with other ultralight models, like the Gossamer Gear Mariposa.
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 significant benefit when you want to reduce the internal pack volume but still have full use of the side pockets. This pack is chock-full of features, and you will probably discover the ones that suit your needs after a few times with this pack out on the trail.
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 a spot to attach bungee cords if you desire, and are large enough to easily clip a carabiner to.
One of the most notable differences in the new version of the Exos is its newly designed, much more durable stretch mesh pockets.
Previously, the Exos had fallen short in the durability metric because the stretchy pockets on the back were prone to catching on sticks and branches and often ripped. Now, the Exos has durable nylon fabric incorporated into the pockets, which are still somewhat stretchy, to greatly reduce the overall wear and tear this part of the pack sees.
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. Its reasonable price tag will get you a pack that will last a long time and performs well in a variety of situations. 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.
The Osprey Exos 48 is a perfect lightweight backpacking pack, and it's light enough to break into ultralight territory. 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.
— Jane Jackson & Brandon Lampley
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is commited to honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year. We buy all the products ourselves. We won't accept manufacturer's freebies. No ads. No "sponsored" content. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing.Learn More