The minimalist Exos has been a mainstay among ultralight packs, and in 2018—at long last—Osprey introduced its women’s-specific counterpart: the Eja. Going beyond the “shrink and pink” strategy, the Eja is a well-fitting, adjustable pack that comes in 38, 48, and 58-liter options. I took the 48-liter version backpacking and mountaineering in the Southern Alps of New Zealand and came away impressed by its ease of use, build quality, and versatility. However, the minimalist padding on the hipbelt and around the lower back was a letdown in terms of comfort. Below are my thoughts on the Eja 48’s carrying comfort, weight, organization, ventilation, durability, fit, and more. To see how the Eja stacks up, see our article on the best backpacking packs.
I have mixed feelings when it comes to the Osprey Eja’s carrying comfort. Above the waist, the pack is incredibly comfortable for its minimalist nature. At its foundation, a lightweight 4-millimeter alloy frame ensures the pack’s shape and stability without adding excess ounces. The AirSpeed mesh backpanel is form fitting and supportive and (as covered below) offers class-leading ventilation. The shoulder straps are made of Exoform, a thick ventilated padding, and fall exactly where they should without causing unnecessary strain or rubbing on the neck or shoulders. And the sternum strap is on a slider, allowing for full customization—an often overlooked feature that can be a deal-breaker, particularly for women.
Unfortunately, my experience with the Eja’s hipbelt was less positive. The AirSpeed backpanel is unpadded, even at its base, and the minimalist hipbelt offers limited cushioning. Even with loads as light as 20 pounds, a few days of carrying the pack left me with bleeding pressure sores and chafing on my lower back. I had to consistently tuck my hands under the shoulder straps and lift the load off my hips to reduce the pressure. I am not a backpack rookie, have become accustomed to the wear-in period associated with new bags, and had never suffered serious chafing until the Eja. Though I am quite bony, my shape is not atypical amongst the backpacking cohort. To be blunt, my new scars make me unlikely to choose the Eja again despite its other notably strong features.
At an advertised 2 pounds 7.2 ounces (my size small weighs slightly more at 2 pounds 8 ounces), the Eja 48 is impressively lightweight considering its features and nylon construction. The pack undercuts popular options like the REI Co-op Flash 45 (2 pounds 11 ounces), Gregory Maven 45 (2 pounds 13 ounces), and Osprey’s own Aura AG 50 (4 pounds 1.6 ounces). You can save a bit of weight with the new Osprey Levity/Lumina line (the Lumina 45 weighs 1 pound 12.6 ounces), but it costs $50 more and has a lower weight capacity. All told, the Eja should be plenty light for most minimalist adventurers and thru-hikers.
To reduce the Eja’s weight even further, you can remove the lid and use the otherwise redundant FlapJacket to cover the top of the pack. For extremely weight-conscious packers, the compression and accessory straps can also be taken off. Though I removed the lid while wandering from camp on day trips, I preferred to keep the compression straps in place to tighten down a light load. With only the top lid removed, the weight saving is 4.3 ounces, bringing my pack to just under 2 pounds 4 ounces.
Like many modern designs, the Osprey Eja features a simple top-loading main compartment with an internal hydration reservoir sleeve. On the outside, a lid and three external pockets make the Eja a great match for those who like to stuff items in pockets and strap gear to the outside. The stretchy mesh material on the front and dual access side pockets make packing clothing, food, and other items simple and quick. I could easily retrieve and stow gear like gloves and sunscreen without taking off the pack. Rounding out the pockets, there are two on the lid: one external and one on the underside with a clasp for keys. To shave off a few ounces, Osprey removed the pockets on the hipbelt and shoulder straps from the previous version of the Exos, a disappointment to many who enjoyed the convenience of these features.
To further assist with organization, there are a number of accessory cord attachment points for easy packing of a helmet, camp shoes, or other bulky items. Additionally, the Eja features side compression straps, removable straps on the front (intended for a sleeping pad), and an ice-axe attachment and bungee tie-off that held my tool securely on our trek through the Southern Alps. And finally, you get Osprey’s “Stow-on-the-Go” trekking pole attachment system, which secures the poles along the left side of the pack.
The Eja 48 is a standout pack in terms of ventilation, in large part due to its AirSpeed suspension. This tensioned mesh backpanel creates an open space between your back and the main compartment, allowing air to flow freely between the two. The added breathability is obvious—even after a grueling climb in the humid New Zealand summer, my back remained dry and my shirt did not take on that characteristic sweat shadow. Additionally, dual mesh on the shoulder straps and hipbelt ensures airflow in and out of the light padding. In short, it’s hard to find a more ventilated pack than the Eja. That being said, as I touched on above, I would gladly trade a drop in ventilation for improved carrying comfort.
Made with thru-hikers in mind, the Eja’s design attempts to strike that tricky balance between ultralight yet durable. For the most part, it pulls this off pretty well. The Eja is made with 210-denier (D) nylon along the bottom of the pack and 100D nylon in the body. For comparison, Osprey’s all-around favorite Aura AG uses a combination of 100D and 630D nylon and their ultralight Lumina uses 210D x 200D & 30D. I am not easy on gear, and surprisingly the Eja has held up (we have put holes in the 100D body of the men’s Exos, however). Although the stretch mesh of the pockets ripped fairly easily—from stowing angular items such as a camera—the small abrasions have not compromised the utility of the pockets and a simple patch job would be sufficient to fortify the tear. Furthermore, the zippers, buckles, compression straps, ice-axe loop, and other attachment points show no signs of wear.
The Eja 48 comes in three sizes: XS, S, and M. I opted for a small (bringing the volume down to 45 liters rather than the advertised 48 liters), and it fit my thin 5’7” frame perfectly. Although the height of the shoulder straps is not adjustable, they were ideally shaped for my body and created no undo pressure. I also found the adjustable sternum strap to be very functional. Many of my previous packs have shoulder straps that sit too widely and pull uncomfortably, but Osprey has this fit dialed.
As I mentioned in the carrying comfort section above, I experienced a great deal of chafing on my lower back from the hipbelt and backpanel. I’m fairly certain this was not a result of the pack not fitting well, as the weight rode evenly and the padding of the hipbelt rested directly over my hips. That said, the hipbelt is not as adjustable as some might need. The padded portion is attached to the backpanel of the bag, and some will find that it extends around the body only far enough to cover a portion of their hips. Sizing up might solve the problem, but it might then create fit issues elsewhere. In sum, I wish Osprey made the Eja with adjustable padding on the hipbelt.
The Eja comes in 38, 48, and 58-liter models. All three packs have the same design, pocket layout, and suspension systems. Osprey specifies a load range of 15-30 pounds for the 38-liter model and 20-40 pounds for the two larger versions. The 48 hit a sweet spot for my needs on minimalist multi-day trips, while the Eja 38 has appeal for day hikes when you need to carry a lot of gear or ultralight overnighters. And the highest capacity 58-liter option is a popular choice among backpackers and thru-hikers. Surprisingly, the packs do not vary much in weight—the Eja 58 tips the scales at only 2.3 ounces heavier than the 38-liter model.
Men’s-Specific Osprey Exos
The women’s-specific Eja is new in 2018, but its men’s counterpart, the Exos, has been a staple of the Osprey pack lineup for years. The Exos is offered in the same three capacities as the Eja, featuring an identical design, suspension system, and load ranges. It comes in S, M, and L, with larger torso and hipbelt measurements in slightly different shapes to accommodate broader frames. The Exos is available in black/red and green colorways. And this year’s version includes a few updates from the previous Exos, including a redesigned hipbelt, increased durability along the front stretch pocket, and a few added ounces. Unfortunately, the pockets on the shoulder straps and hipbelt have been removed.
What We Like
- Great organizational features and fit for such a lightweight pack.
- The stretchy exterior pockets are very convenient for stowing and retrieving gear on the go, even while wearing the bag.
- The suspended mesh backpanel and dual mesh foam padding offer impressive ventilation.
- Made in men’s and women’s-specific designs.
What We Don’t
- The Eja’s weight capacity maxes out at 40 pounds, and many will find its comfort begins to wane even around 20 pounds. If you’re not traveling with ultralight gear, consider a pack with a more padded hipbelt.
- The backpanel and hipbelt caused chafing and pressure points on my lower back. Make sure the pack doesn’t irritate you here, as this could be a deal-breaker.
- Osprey removed the pockets on the shoulder straps and hipbelt in the 2018 update of the Exos/Eja.
|Osprey Eja 48||$200||2 lb. 7.2 oz.||Nylon (100D & 210D)||38, 48, 58L||Top||5 exterior|
|Granite Gear Crown2 60||$200||2 lb. 4.2 oz.||Nylon (100D & 210D)||60L||Top||6 exterior|
|Gregory Octal 45||$190||2 lb. 6.2 oz.||Nylon (100D & 210D)||45, 55L||Top||5 exterior|
|REI Co-op Flash 45||$149||2 lb. 11 oz.||Nylon (100D & 420D)||45, 60L||Top||6 exterior|
|Osprey Lumina 45||$250||1 lb. 12.6 oz.||Nylon (210D & 30D)||45, 60L||Top||4 exterior|
It’s good to see that Osprey finally added the women’s-specific Eja to their lineup, but it joins a growing and formidable field of ultralight pack options. One standout is the Granite Gear Crown2 60, which we tested in Patagonia earlier this year. Both packs provide functional organization and decent durability with their strategic use of tough, 210D nylon. But the Osprey is offered in more capacities—the women’s version of the Crown2 only comes in a 60-liter model—and the Eja is the better back ventilator. Overall, however, we prefer the Granite Gear design. It weighs about 4 ounces less (compared to the Eja 58), has much better cushioning on the hipbelt and around the lower back, and includes practical features like hipbelt pockets (for more information, see our in-depth Crown2 60 review).
Another new pack for 2018 is Gregory’s Optic and women’s Octal. Taking direct aim at the Eja, the Octal features a lightly ventilated backpanel, stretch pockets along the pack body, and a 2-pound 6.2-ounce weight (for the Octal 45). Again, the Eja’s AirSpeed suspension delivers superior back ventilation, and it’s a little more durable with solid nylon covering the lower portion of its exterior shove-it pocket. Further, the Octal’s substantial lumbar padding can be a bit polarizing for those that don’t need the extra support. But the Gregory gets the edge in carrying comfort with better cushioning throughout. It’s a close call between the two, and the decision likely will come down to which pack fits best.
A final competitor to consider is Osprey’s own Lumina, which targets minimalist trekkers and thru-hikers. The basic design shares a lot in common with the Eja, including the suspended mesh backpanel and pocket layout, but in a trimmed-down form. At 1 pound 12.6 ounces, the Lumina 45 is about 10 ounces lighter, and the 210D x 200D hybrid nylon protecting the bottom and lower 2/3 of the pack is surprisingly tough. The Lumina does compromise in durability, however, with exposed areas of extremely thin 30D silnylon on the rest of the bag. If you’re able to get a comfortable fit with the Eja, it has the higher weight capacity at 40 pounds (the Lumina is only rated at 20-25 pounds), but otherwise we think the Lumina is the better design. Its combination of a strong metal frame, useful organization, and ventilation at a sub-2-pound weight is truly impressive.
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