I really want to hate this bag. After all it weighs 1kilo, holds just 50 liters and is mass produced in vietnam with second tier textiles (compared to cuben fiber). But I also want to give this bag an honest shot – I paid just 100usd for it on sale and compared to many other backpacks that can be bought in regular outdoor shops; this bag is light. So here I am a couple of weeks later and 100 kilometers on my back with it and I don’t want to give it back. It’s a love hate relationship here: It’s heavier and smaller than my zpacks arc-blast, it’s arguably uglier, and because I really want to hate it I really searched for all the problems I could.
The truth is though, that vietnamese children really know how to sew.. Ok, I take that back, I actually have no idea at all if there are actual children working 7 days a week 16 hour shifts, eating left over textiles in some kind of soup concoction to survive.. I’m sure these are well trained, educated, well paid adults that work under excellent conditions. It’s just my bias towards outsourcing production to cheap labour countries that has a habit of forming opinions for me.
Anyway, as I said the Vietnamese really know how to sew – the Osprey EXOS 48 is an excellent lightweight bag that I think would fit most lightweight hikers quite well. For the price I can definitely recommend for anyone to try it – also Osprey has at least in the past been well known for their excellent working conditions and social awareness. I’m sure they still are even if production has moved.
I will start with my gripes first as I really wanted to hate this bag:
The frame is not adjustable – I know for a lot of people this is a ridiculous assumption, but I am used to the Arc-blast where I can actually make the frame tighter or looser against my back. The actual bow-ness in the frame. I would like to have the frame just a tad bit closer to my back so that the balance is a little better.
The mesh side pockets – were obviously designed by 10 year old vietnamese kids that have tiny bendable arms that can without a problem snake their arms around their bodies and reach down into this tiny little pocket to get the water bottle or anything else a kid might put in there. As for adults, well we would have to take the pack off, have it either hang on one shoulder or put it on the ground, open up the tight little pocket with one hand and insert or remove so called water bottle with the other. I use just a small lightweight PET coke bottle as my water bottle – imagine trying to do this with a massive Nalgene bottle. Granted, at least the made mesh pockets – some companies don’t even bother with this awesome feature.
Two lids – Why? I think one lid would have been sufficient here: maybe it’s me that doesn’t get it? Maybe one of the lids can by detached and used as a front pouch? It’s not very obvious anyway.
It’s heavy for a 51 liter bag – At 1 kilo this bag weighs 400 grams more than my Arc-blast and carries 10 liters less. Again, I really am looking for reasons to hate this bag.
Hip belt pockets suck – Perfect for little vietnamese fingers and toys, but for any real usage they should have just left them off and sold bigger add on pouches or something. I think my side pouch can hold a cliff bar, maybe a snickers in there as well or two of these tiny kex bars.
That’s it – that’s all I can bitch about on a bag that I really wanted to hate. I used it on a three day hike here in Sweden and found it big enough for all my gear and three days of food and goodies
So what’s good about this bag?
Excellent carrying capabilities – My total pack weighed roughly 7 kilos at the start. It was more comfortable than with my Arc-blast. I hate saying that, it hurts admitting that. It sat on my hips beautifully and my back was nice and aired out the entire time. Most of the time I didn’t even think about the pack being there. It really is a wonderment of craftsmanship how well this bag sits on my body.
Good design – This bag though made for tiny hands and fingers is an excellently designed and functional pack for what it does. A few gripes with the water bottle being a bitch to take out, and it can always have more entries and zippers into the pack (just about any pack could)
It is half the weight of similar bags – I bitch about it being heavier than my Arc-blast, but go into any store and you will be hard pressed to find a lighter weight bag with the same carrying capacity, features, functions and above all price.
How can I not recommend this bag? Hiking in it has been a dream – it sits so well on my body that it disgusts me. I think this is a great pack for most lightweight hikers for up to a week of hiking. The side pockets and hip-pockets could be much better, the frame could be adjustable and these packs could still be made in the USA. But then they probably wouldn’t cost 100usd and be available at your local gear shop. Also, I am a bit of a hypocrite as I love almost the entire Haglöfs LIM gear series – who do you think makes those?
If you see this in the shop feel free to try it on – just be warned, when you put it on your back, you will be 150usd poorer.