Whether you're scaling glaciers or projecting a summer rock route, the Halcyon 35:40 alpine mountaineering pack has everything you need for a day moving in the mountains.
Light for their size, yet still managing to include a supportive frame and plenty of features, the new Exos (his) and Eja (hers) from Osprey are also incredibly comfy and well ventilated. These hiking packs each come in a number of sizes. In this review we look at the Exos 48 and Eja 38.
For several months my wife Pegs has been using the Eja 38, while I've had the Exos 48. After extensive use through winter, spring and into summer, our opinions are both very positive. You wouldn't want to go climbing with them - that's well outside their remit - but for walking, including lightly-laden overnight trips, the Exos and Eja would be a good choice at a fair price. In terms of seasonality, they're fine for winter hills, but the ventilation and feature set on offer is really optimum for summer use.
For a pack of this capacity with a supportive, structured and well vented back system - not to mention plenty of pockets and the like - the weight seems more than fair. I'd certainly class this as 'lightweight'
Because they are essentially the same pack, but with gender-specific fits, this review is a two-for-one.
Exos 48: The Exos is available with a capacity of 38, 48 or 58 litres. I opted to review the 48, thinking it the most versatile size. On an overnight trip with a lightweight load this is enough room for camping gear, clothing and a couple of days' worth of food, without feeling over-stuffed. If you're just out for a lightly equipped day walk then its capacity is overkill, but there are also times when I find myself carrying a lot more than the minimum. With all the extra clothing and equipment that you need in winter, for instance, it's quite possible (unless you're being disciplined) to use most of those 48 litres on a day walk. In summer, I'll generally carry a fair bit of camera equipment, while on family walks it's normal to end up as beast of burden for all the spare kids' clothing and food. I've often appreciated the room in the Exos 48.
Eja 38: The Eja comes in 38 or 48 litre sizes. We're not clear why a 58 litre version isn't yet on offer (though watch this space) - are women less likely than men to go on overnight trips? We rather answered our own question here when Pegs immediately opted for the 38 litre model, on the basis that she'd mostly be using it for day walks. If you're just out for a lightly-equipped summer day then its 38 litre capacity is maybe a bit generous, but in winter it has proven ideal. And given the inevitable clutter of family walks, she has often managed to fill it even in summer. On an overnight trip it would need to be a fairly minimalist load inside the pack, though larger items like a tent or a mat could be lashed on outside - there are several options in terms of external carrying capacity.
Weight, fabric and durability
Exos 48: At 1201g (as weighed on our kitchen scales) the Exos 48 may not make it into the 'ultralight' category, but for a pack of this capacity with a supportive, structured and well vented back system - not to mention plenty of pockets and the like - the weight seems more than fair. I'd certainly class this as 'lightweight'.
Eja 38: Osprey quote this pack as 1130g in size M, and we make the size S just 1085g. Pegs thinks this weight is more than bearable, considering the feature set. The comfort and support on offer also help it seem lighter in use than it actually is on paper.
As a comparison, the similar-sized Osprey Levity 45 that we reviewed recently (see here) is only 800g. But the Levity achieves much of this weight saving by using a very thin 30 denier nylon on most of the body, while on the Exos and Eja you get a much beefier 100 denier high tenacity nylon. Thanks to this they are less of a niche item that needs to be handled with respect, like the Levity, and more general use packs that are able to take a bit of rough treatment.
To help keep a lid on the weight, all the straps are narrow webbing, the buckles mostly quite small, the frame is a light gauge wire, and padding is kept to a sensible minimum.
Fit and sizing
Exos 48: With a fixed back length, but coming in three sizes - Small, Medium and Large - the Exos should fit most adult males. I've been using the Large (51-58cm). I am 183cm tall with a fairly long back, and I'm just about big enough to fit this size - but I suspect I'd find a Medium too short. It seems to be a particular feature of this particular frame design that it rides high on the back. The frame rises above your shoulders, and comes in close behind the head so that looking hard upwards is restricted. You can also feel the lack of space behind your head and neck when wearing several hoods. It's clear just from this that the Exos and Eja are not mountaineering or scrambling packs, but aimed squarely at walking. Of course you could probably spend many days hillwalking without once noticing the headroom - it's only when you need to look straight up that it's a problem.
Eja 38: With a fixed back length, the Eja comes in two sizes - Women's Small and Women's Medium. Pegs has been using the Small, which fits a back length of 40.5 - 48cm. At about 170cm tall and with pretty broad shoulders she would normally consider herself more of a Medium or Large in women's sizes, but it turns out she's just at the upper limit of the Eja in size Small. You'd need to be quite a tall woman to need a Medium.
The harness system is fantastic on these packs, offering a well-considered level of cushioning, and way more ventilation than you'd get with most trekking packs. The shoulder straps and hip belt are well sculpted to fit closely without limiting movement; in the case of the Eja, the straps are cut to accommodate the female form. Padding is generally quite minimalist, and only placed where most needed, and this helps keep the fit nice and close. You get a broad hip-hugging belt, for instance, but with soft, flexible and shallow cushioning that helps it fit really closely. Padding on the shoulder straps is thin too, except across the top/front of the shoulders, where a slightly odd-looking double layer provides a deep spongy pad to protect the collarbone from any digging in. The foam is an open honeycomb structure, making it highly breathable. In hot weather this is great, though I do wonder how durable and long-lasting the exposed mesh will prove; I've spotted some minor snagging damage on the Exos already. With their spongy padding the shoulder straps are a little insubstantial, and with a very heavy load they don't feel that comfy or supportive. Keep the weight reasonable, and all's well.
Many trekking packs sit directly on your back, and thus need plenty of padding. The body of the Eja and the Exos, however, is held away from the body of the wearer, creating a wide full-length air gap. Structure is provided by a narrow, springy aluminium wire frame that wraps around the edge of the pack. Onto this is stretched a full mesh back panel, which covers your back without requiring any sweaty padding. This is Osprey's well regarded 'Airspeed' back system, as used in many of their packs. In warmer weather it feels amazingly cool and airy; the flipside is that it provides less insulation in winter than a typical mountain pack (something you may never have thought about, but will soon notice on a cold windy day).
The entire harness fits very snugly, hugging the load in close around the hips, shoulders and back to make for a well balanced and forgiving-feeling ride. A bit of flex in the frame helps accommodate the twist of your torso and hips, but there's no shifting around of the pack on your back - everything moves with you. Surprisingly, for a pack with an air gap, the centre of gravity doesn't feel too far to the rear either.
This is the same basic design as on the Levity, but there's more rigidity in the frame on the Eja and Exos. I thought the Levity's effective weight limit was in the region of 10-12kg, and beyond this the lightness of the frame begins to tell; given their increased robustness, the Exos and Eja would be supportive with significantly heavier loads than this. The back system seems ideal for a pack of about 40-50 litres capacity, but I'm not sure if the same performance would translate so well onto the Exos 58. When carrying a backpack that large I'd tend prefer a more robust frame structure, and firmer padding.
The Eja and Exos boast a comprehensive set of features. In terms of stuff storage, you get a zipped over-lid pocket with enough room for hats, gloves etc, plus a smaller mesh inner valuables pocket that includes a key clip (as all such pockets should). To save weight - about 120g - the main lid can be unclipped and left at home, leaving you with a secondary lid, the so-called 'FlapJacket'. A feature in common with several Osprey bags, this works well as a lid in its own right, though when not being used we do find it makes the mouth of the pack a little cluttered, and on occasion we've both clipped it by mistake instead of the main lid.
A large part-stretchy outside pocket is a good place to stash wet waterproofs, while there's an additional stretchy mesh pocket on each side that's easily big enough for a water bottle, trekking poles and the like.
The zigzag side compression straps work well to squeeze down a part-full bag, and also have enough length to fit a roll mat or other large items. For this job Osprey have also included a removable strap that lets you lash a roll across the bottom of the pack. Additional lash-on points are also provided on the body of the pack, doubling as retainers for the lid straps.
In a nod to winter use, a single axe attachment is provided; since the Eja and Exos are not technical climbing packs, one axe is enough. You also get a water bladder sleeve, a robust carry strap, and an odd little trekking pole attachment point on one shoulder (something we'd never use). With a curved base, the pack does not stand up on its own. We've been surprised at how annoying that actually is, though you do get used to it.
Light, comfy, well-balanced, supportive, well-vented and decked with pockets, straps and other features, the Eja and Exos are excellent rucksacks at an affordable budget. Whether you use them as large capacity day sacks or small overnight packs, there's plenty to like here. Instead of offering completely different rucksacks for men and women, Osprey have sensibly brought out the same model in male and female fit; our only criticism on this score is that women don't yet get the option of the largest capacity (something they say they're working on).
Exos 48 represents the latest in a significant heritage of ventilated and lightweight backpacking packs. Combining optimum comfort and stability with durable, superlight materials, Exos 48 is the ideal pack for moving fast on multi-day adventures. The Exos 48 offers all the benefits of a lightweight pack but without the normal compromises, helping you to move fast and light.
Our revolutionary ExoForm™ harness and hipbelt uses a dual mesh construction to deliver a comfortable and stable fit that puts a traditional harness design to shame. The ventilated AirSpeed™ backpanel will keep you cool when the weather turns hot, but still delivers a stable load-carrying platform. If you want to really hit minimal weight, remove the lid to expose the integrated FlapJacket™, which provides additional protection to the top of the pack.
For more info see ospreyeurope.com
Eja represents the latest in a significant heritage of ventilated and lightweight backpacking packs, but now with a specifically tailored women's fit. Combining optimum comfort and stability with durable, superlight materials, Eja is the ideal pack for moving fast on multi-day adventures.
Eja 38's backsystem also offers an impressive women's specific fit, with an ergonomically shaped hipbelt, harness, yoke and backpanel. Every element of the Eja has been laboured over to keep weight low, yet retain the best performance possible.
For more info see ospreyeurope.com
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