The Opsrey Exos 38 is a lightweight pack recommended for backpacking and day hiking and not primarily designed for cycling. That’s not to say it won’t work for cyclists, and in a cycling context I was able to trial the Exos during my commute to and from work. I transferred all my gear from my messenger style shoulder bag to the backpack, threw it on and off I went. The first ride didn’t go too well. When riding the pack was making contact with the back of my helmet which required me to crane my neck when moving my head left or right. Loosening the shoulder straps meant the bag flopped around my back which I also found a bit annoying. I was beginning to think this pack was not the most suitable for cycling. It turned out that user error was the problem. Hiking packs are fairly sophisticated pieces of equipment that should not only be fitted correctly (yes, there are different pack sizes independent to storage volume) and they must also worn correctly, much like a bike.
The Exos has torso specific sizing. Your local Osprey dealer will have a ‘pack sizer’ which makes choosing the right size a cinch. The second step is wearing the pack correctly. The hip belt should pass across the front of your hips (funny that) which is a great start for getting it right. Ospreypacks.com has detailed instructions on wearing the pack to get all the straps in the right place and a guide on how to pack it correctly. Wearing the pack correctly solved the issue with the helmet contact, however, the pack still sits high enough on you back to impede your vision when doing checking you’re your shoulder for lane changes in traffic.
As a backpack it works very well; it has good volume without being excessively large or cumbersome. It has a large main storage area which includes a sleeve and exit point for a hydration bladder (not included) and an abundance of external storage options. Noticeably absent is any accommodation for a laptop or tablet but again this a hiking pack not a work bag. I found the removable top pocket handy for small bits and pieces such as wallet, keys and phone.
I was able to use the Exos on a short weekend trip and was able to fit everything I needed into the pack for the weekend, including cycling gear, with the use of some of the outer storage options. The stretchable mesh front pocket is the perfect size for helmet storage, side pockets fit bidons well and I even used the side trekking pole carriers to strap on my floor pump, leaving my hands free to wheel my bike and another suitcase for my family’s gear.
On that trip I also got to test the Exos on a visit to the zoo; maybe not quite the adventuring that Opsrey would envisage but with a good three hours of walking, reasonably loaded the Exos shone in a situation more closely resembling to its intended purpose. The Exos features an ‘Airspeed SL Suspension’ system which is an alloy frame that suspends the pack away from the body so that air can flow between the pack and your back so it doesn’t get sweaty. This system achieved the desired result with a good level of comfort. Fortunately I never needed the weather protected ‘Flapjacket’ that provides protection from the rain, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
The Exos has plenty of good storage options for your cycling gear. It’s a very good pack for hiking and also versatile enough to use on weekend cycling getaways, going to races, or cycling events. So as a general purpose and hiking pack it works well, and while you can ride with it, I wouldn’t recommend it if you are looking for a dedicated commuting pack, especially in a city environment mainly because I found lane changing vision was impaired.