(first posted Tuesday July 27, 2010 at hiking.topicwise.com as part of my trip report of an 8 day hike in the canadian Cascade Mountains)
Aside from a few minor quibbles, I am super impressed with this pack. Mine – the large version (to accommodate my long back) of the Exos46 – has a 49 litre capacity and weighs in, on my scale, at 1080 grams. That despite having numerous pockets and otherwise being a full-feature pack. The weight is saved by using lightweight but nonetheless quite strong materials (except for some mesh pockets that will probably get trashed in the first serious bushwack).
This is an external frame pack, but an external frame pack engineered from the ground up. This pack does not even remotely resemble the external frame packs of my youth.
On this trip, I managed to fit all my gear and 8 plus days of food into the pack with no problem. Okay, you need to be weight and bulk conscious to do this, but I was prepared for virtually all contingencies and I tend to take lots of warm clothing since I get cold easily when at rest. Even with the weight of 8 days worth of food the pack was remarkably comfortable and carried well, though I didn’t test it with any serious scrambling, where it might possible fall short compared to a internal frame pack.
For all other uses besides scrambling, the air gap between the pack frame mesh and pack body makes for a lot less sweaty back. If you pack this thing with intelligence, you should be able to keep it from killing you during light scrambling also.
After using a top opening pack with no pockets during my PCT hike, I found the various mesh and stretch pockets, some with zippers, on this pack to be great for organizing gear that you want ready access to during the day. I stowed my tarptent in the large open pocket on the back of the pack. This allowed me not to worry about having a wet tent come into contact with other gear, and allowed me to leave the stuff sack at home.
The quibbles? Well, I found the trekking pole ‘stow away on the go’ system useless since I don’t have baskets on my poles, but others might find this quite handy. The little pocket on the shoulder strap is too small and in not quite the right possition; a little lower down and a little larger, this would be perfect for keeping bearspray close at hand. At first I was fairly unimpressed with the way the side mesh pockets were designed – the side opening is too shallow to securely hold a 1 litre water bottle, holster-style. I still think the design could use improvement, but I did figure out how to make them work for me.
Overall though this pack definitely gets a big thumbs up!