Osprey Xenith 88
This bag is a well designed expedition hiking backpack.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $359
This bag is a well designed expedition hiking backpack. It has a superb carrying comfort and excellent organization to make long expeditions possible.
- Sleeping bag compartment is useless
The Xenith 88 is Osprey's large, expedition worthy backpack. I have used this pack on a three-month expedition in the American Southwest, a 5-day backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and an overnight where I was carrying gear for two people.
This pack is comfortable and feature rich, while also being durable enough to handle off-trail abuse. Although the price tag is pretty high, you really get what you pay for with this backpack. If you are looking for a pack to use for long, unsupported trips, than this is it.
Firstly, I want to note that the durability of this pack is superb. In all the time that I have used it, the only damage is that the decals on the top and front of the backpack have started to peel. Also, the blue is a little faded.
The bottom part of the pack is made of a burly nylon, which has resisted ripping, even after setting the pack down in thickets of acacia and dragging it across desert granite. The rest of the pack is made of a similar, but thinner material, which has also proved durable enough, while still staying lightweight.
All of the buckles are made of heavy duty plastic and I have yet to have a problem with them. The zippers are also high quality and while they occasionally snag (especially the front two), they have not broken.
The Xenith 88 has many useful features, and is organized very well. All the pockets and compartments were useful in keeping my gear organized for three months in the backcountry. The hipbelt pockets are easy to use and plenty large to handle granola bars, gps units etc. The stow-on-the -go trekking pole attachment takes a little getting used to, but it is handy for putting away poles to look at a map, drink, or take on more difficult terrain.
The external hydration sleeve is useful, and works well with the Osprey Hydraulics 3-liter bladder (not included). However, if the bladder is all the way full, it tends to bulge out the back panel, so I usually only fill it about 2/3. The mesh pockets on the side are very large and can be used to store a lot of items, primarily water bottles. They hold a Nalgene very snugly. I have not been able to put water bottles back without taking of the pack though, even when using the angled hole.
The stretch mesh front pocket is good for drying out laundry on the go, or storing a wind layer to have readily accessible. The two front pockets are the perfect size for the 1 liter fuel bottles that work with most liquid fuel stoves, and they will also accommodate narrower water bottles. Be careful because stuff in these pockets tends to get squished when you lay your pack down (especially if you like to use it as a seat like I do).
The top lid has two very big pockets and can hold a lot more than seems possible. It also detaches and serves as a waistpack. What I like best though is that the waistpack buckle is the same as the hipbelt buckle, so if your hipbelt buckle were to break, you have a backup built into the pack. I think that Osprey did a great job finding innovative ways to make the pack easier to use.
The suspension system on this pack is really great. Once you spend the time to get it adjusted to your body, it works like a dream and made carrying heavy loads (up to 70 lbs for me) possible. The hipbelt has a padding similar to memory foam, which is very thick and comfortable on the hips. The shoulder straps are made of the same padding, but are slightly thinner and narrower to save weight without sacrificing comfort.
The back is not very breathable, but it does the job. I really like the rubber lines on the bottom of the backpanel. They are easy to overlook, but they do a great job of preventing your shirt from riding up your back under your backpack, which happens with many other packs.
Since durability and versatility are very important to me, I gave this pack 4.5 stars. It is comfortable, well designed and built to last a lifetime of expedition hiking. It comes with a full set of useful features and is backed by Osprey's All Mighty Guarantee. Very nice job with this pack, Osprey.
If you are listening, I would like to see this pack made available in more color options. Also, I would like to see a waterproof valuables pocket built into the top lid. Another cool feature would be to line the inside of the bottom of the pack with a waterproof material, so that when it gets set down in snow or a puddle, sleeping bags don't get wet. Lastly, get rid of the sleeping bag compartment divider. It is a waste of weight.