Since early June, I’ve logged well over 300 miles with the Osprey Eja 38 on my back. (The men's equivalent is the Exos, which my 15-year old son tested in the same timeframe.) Throughout the summer I hiked almost daily with the Eja, which weighs a scant 2 pounds 8 ounces on my scale, and then chose it for my Tour du Mont Blanc thruhike. It did not disappoint.

Osprey Exos/Eja

On the Italian/Swiss border: The Osprey Exos and Eja 38 proved ideal for our 110-mile, 9-day Tour du Mont Blanc hike.

The best thing about this pack: the weight transfer to the hips. Never—not once— did my load, which was always 15 to 25 pounds, feel cumbersome. Rather, it felt laser-welded right into the small of my back and the sides of my hips. I kid you not, I rarely even noticed it was there.

The secret sauce is the metal perimeter frame and its unique bottom-heavy shape. The frame measures 9 inches wide at the top and flares to 16 inches at the bottom. Mike Pfotenhauer, Osprey's founder and director of innovation,  explained it to me: The flare in the frame means that “The hipbelt pads sit wider apart than normal so when you tighten the belt, it pulls your back and lumbar deeper into the ample airspace behind it.”

Osprey Eja 38

Note how much wider the Eja's frame is near the hips. This is how the pack achieves its unprecedented load transfer.

The lumbar bulge is also positioned higher than normal, too. This is why when you tighten the load lifter straps, the whole pack is directed right into to the small of your back.

It’s rather remarkable how “one” I became with this pack. 

The trampoline suspension was immaculately cool. Not once did my back get noticeable sweaty, despite the high summer sun and some grueling climbs.

The capacity of the Eja 35 was right on for our 9-day perambulation around the Mt. Blanc massif. We were hiking hut-to-hut and only carrying clothing, food, water and some other essentials, but no camping or cooking gear. The large single compartment swallowed everything easily and I love the big, easy-access shove-it pocket on the front of the pack: My extra layer and guidebook lived there every day.

The dual side pockets are deep and secure enough for liter water bottles, and side access makes them easy to reach while wearing the pack. I stashed my phone in one and could quickly whip it out at a photo opp. These easy access pockets almost made up for the fact that there are no hipbelt pockets on this pack, something I missed for tiny items like lip balm and energy chews.

Which leads me to a few gripes. The 2-part toplid is too fussy. It consists of a large detachable brain and a fixed flap underneath. While I like the idea of having the option of removing the toplid, I wished I could also remove the flap. On my TMB hike, I opted to go without the toplid, because I felt like I was constantly having to fumble through the flap to access my gear. I missed having that extra storage on top.

Bottom line: This pack has a next-level suspension system that takes the “load” out of load carrying.

MSRP: $180

Available in men's (Exos) and women's (Eja) 38-, 48-, and 59-liters


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