best thru hike backpack

Best Thru Hike Backpack. The Osprey Exos 58

Making the claim that any backpack is the best is a bold move, but after wearing the Osprey Exos 58 for over 2000 miles on the Appalachian Trail I feel very confident that it is the best thru hike backpack for the money.  Here is my story and full review. 

Everyone has a backpack somewhere in their house and every one of them has a story. I've owned three and loved them all.  My mother bought me my first backpack when I was a kid and it lasted me from fifth grade to the end of high school. It's still somewhere in the back of my closet today, and if I found it I’m sure I’d still know every nook and cranny and secret pocket.

best thru hike backpack

​My father bought me my first man-size hiking backpack just before I left to work at a summer camp after graduation. I lived out of that backpack all summer. It was perfect. It fit everything I owned and had a zipper that ran down the entire main compartment for easy access. There were just enough straps and pockets to be cool but not overkill.  I loved everything about that pack and dreamed of the day I could break it out for its first real hiking trip.  Little did I know that that would be a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

I generally adhere to the mindset of, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” So when we started our thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail I brought that ole' backpack that served me well for so many years and quickly learned an important lesson..  Buy the right gear for the right hike.

The shoulder straps and hip belt of my old pack fit like a roller coaster seat, and the straps looked big enough to hold a boxcar. It had a lower-lumber support gadget that I tightened too far and didn’t know how to loosen, which gave me back problems. The wide belt chafed against my hips, and the shoulder straps made my shoulders sore.

We'd been through alot together and I held on to my old faithful backpack far too long on the AT. It got harder and harder to watch other hikers practically skipping down the trail with packs that looked like they weighed next to nothing.  One evening I took everything out and weighed the pack.  SEVEN POUNDS! On it's own!   That was it, it was time to make a change.

I Needed an Upgrade, I Needed the Best Thru Hike Backpack

I had seen so many Osprey Exos 58's on the AT and heard the positive reviews from other hikers that it was an easy choice and I ordered it online, sight unseen, and had it shipped to me on the trail. It was a great pack, I knew that, and the fact that it weighed two and half pounds and only cost $190 didn't hurt. This was cheaper and lighter than most of the other thru-hike packs I researched and there was no question that this was the best thru hike backpack for me. 

osprey exos 58 review


  • Floating Top Lid - A removable floating top lid with an underlid zippered mesh pocket for extra organization.
  • Mesh Side Pockets with 'InsideOut' Compression - Side stretch pockets with extra tension for more secure loads.
  • Zippered Hip Belt Pockets - Dual pockets for storing often needed items.
  • Sleeping Pad Straps - Cross-functional, removable sleeping pad straps for carrying gear externally.
  • Integrated 'FlapJacket' - When the top lid is not in use this system provides compression and protection from the elements.
  • Stretch Mesh Front Pocket - Large front stretch mesh pocket for quickly stashing gear.
  • Tool Attachment - A single tool loop at the base of the pack works with the side compression strap for carrying tools.
  • Cord Tie-Off Points - Multiple points for the quick attachment of additional gear.

​When I first picked it up I was mesmerized by how light it was, and such a contrast to the beast I'd been carrying. Ripstop nylon, an aluminum frame and just enough bells and whistles, it was awesome and felt like air.  I didn't realize just how indispensable it was until well after I bought it. 

Technical Specs






2.49 lbs

32h x 14w x 14d inches

 61 L / 3722 cubic inches

100 Denier High Tenacity Ripstop

6065 Aluminum

Storage Space

I was a bit fearful of whether or not it would hold all the gear I needed it to. It looked miniscule tucked in it's box. Once I loosened all the straps and folded it out I was pleasantly surprised. The fifty-eight liters of space this backpack offered was just enough for an Appalachian Trail thru hiker. Any more would have been unneeded space; any less would have made it a day pack. And if you did feel like there was too much space, the top flap of the backpack is removable.

osprey exos 58 review

Mesh pocket inside the hood.

The backpack has two front pockets on the hip belt. These are a highly underestimated accessory. Front pockets can be used to place what needs to be readily available like snack bars, phones, headphones, or a pocket knife. This saves on time because you don’t have to remove the whole backpack to access these items.

Dual side belt pockets.

​The Exos 58 also features an abundance of outer webbing which is useful for quick and convenient access to gear.  Pictured here is one of the large, side compression mesh pockets.  They are larger than most and can hold a variety of gear including large water bottles. 

Large mesh pockets on front and sides, plents of compression.

Comfort and Fit

There's a reason the Exos 58 is the best thru hike backpack and it's comfort and fit.  The entire design of the pack centers around it being comfortable day after day, week after week.  Unrivaled cushioning and support come from the harness and hipbelt built from Osprey's Exoform technology, a proprietary system of seamless, layered mesh with a energy gel mesh pocket inside.  

best thru hike backpack

The backpanel is also made of a 3D tensioned mesh with side ventilation.  It's as breathable as it is light and keeps your load centered and comfortable.


100 Denier ripstop nylon is tough stuff and the core fabric of the Exos.  As you can see from the pics I took after finishing the AT, the outer mesh pockets show some wear but the nylon is almost spotless.  It never ripped or tore and kept my gear dry.

osprey exos 58 review

Drawbacks of the Osprey Exos 58

After a few hundred miles of hiking the mesh on the outer stretch pocket began to rip from continuous scraping against trees or rocks when I squeezed through tight spaces. In places like the White Mountains of New Hampshire this was a hundred-percent unavoidable.  It's probably something the company could address with a different fabric but that outer mesh pocket was great for stuffing a shell or other damp gear you wanted to air out.  I consider this a minor issue, especially given how durable the pack was over such a long distance. 

osprey exos 58 review

Best Prices on the Best Thru Hike Backpack

Wrapping It up

I carried the Osprey Exos 58 for over 2000 miles and would do it again in a heartbeat.  There are plenty of packs on the market to choose from but when you weigh all that this pack has to offer; the reasonable price, the light weight and all the storage features it's definitely the best thru hike backpack you can buy for $200.  I still have mine and use it on all my multi day hikes, it's got lots of miles left in it!

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