CDT Backpack Review

Snow Angel on the CDT

Making a snow angel on the CDT in Montana with my final CDT pack: the Lumina 60.

On my CDT thru-hike I used three different backpacks: my 2013 Exos 58, which finally wore out after 3,662 miles of harsh use, and two different 2018 Lumina/Levity 60 packs. Below, I review the two models (3 packs) I used on the CDT (see “The Gear That Got Me Thru (CDT Gear List)” for my complete gear list).

New Mexico Water Cache

Stopping at a water cache in New Mexico with the pack I started the CDT with: the 2013 Exos 58

CDT Backpack 1: Osprey Exos 58 (~3,662 Miles)

  • Size: Small (Unisex; 2013 Model)
  • Weight: 43 oz (2.69 lbs; 1.22 kg)
  • Miles: ~1700 PCT + ~1462 CDT + ~500 other

Review (10/10): I love the 2013 model of the Exos 58; it is still my favorite pack. The Exos 58 I used on the CDT to hike from the Mexican Border to Steamboat Springs, CO (~1462 miles) is the exact same pack I used to hike ~1700 miles of the PCT in 2014. It replaced the 2013 Exos 58 pack that I used on my 2013 Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike. After >3,362 miles of use, including crossing the Mojave Desert (PCT ’14) and Chihuahuan Desert (CDT ’18), the fabric on the top pouch of the pack, “the brain”, began to break down from too much UV exposure. Initially, the strap holding the brain to the main pack pulled out; I resewed it to the pack 3 times, but the fabric was too weak to hold the stitches, and holes started popping up all over the top of the pack because the UV exposure had weakened the fabric. Osprey, to their credit, has awesome customer support and replaced this worn-out pack for free, as well as all of their other packs that I have worn out or that have been defective.

NOTE: If I could have replaced my old Exos 58 with a new 2013 model Exos 58, I would have, but the new Exos 58 has gone through a number of significant revisions since 2013 including: elimination of hip pockets (I’m still grumpy about this), redesign of straps, new padding materials, shifts to darker colors (the only Exos 58 packs at the REI in Albuquerque New Mexico were black; a black pack in the desert, don’t get me started on that rant), and gendered differences for men’s/women’s packs. The design changes seemed likely to change the fit of the pack as well as the optics, which is why I didn’t just replace the old 2013 Exos with a new 2018 Exos.

20180830_073119

Stopping to check out a campsite on the CDT in Montana with my first Lumina 60 pack.

CDT BackpackS 2 & 3: Osprey Lumina/Levity 60 (~1,000 Miles)

  • Size: Small (Women’s)
  • Weight: 30 oz (1.87 lbs; 0.81 kg)
  • Miles (Pack 2): ~1000 miles (Steamboat Springs, CO to Butte, MO)
  • Miles (Pack 3): 536 miles (Butte, MO to Canadian Border) – present

Review (7-8/10): Since I had to go to a new pack and couldn’t get a replacement with the same design as the 2013 Osprey Exos, I opted for the Osprey Lumina/Levity, which is 12 oz lighter than it’s cousin the Exos 58. It wasn’t clear what the real differences were between the Men’s packs and the Women’s packs, other than slightly different padding distribution in the hip belt, and the fact that they didn’t have any of the “small” packs in stock in the Men’s version, so I went with the Lumina size:small. I liked the pack, but not as much as my beloved 2013 Exos 58.

Within the first two days of using it, I managed to puncture a hoel in the sil nylon of my new Lumina 60: I pushed my poles into the side pocket (as I was used to with my Exos), and they went all the way through the fabric of the inner pocket and into the main body of my pack. I patched it with some duck tape and kept hiking. That hole never got bigger, and I didn’t have a problem with the tent poles after that. Unfortunately, after ~741 miles (Steamboat Springs, CO to 50 miles North of Lima, MO) my Lumina had a catastrophic failure; the sil fabric split from the frame along an ~12 inch length of the frame while I was putting my air mattress into my pack. By reorganizing my pack so my sleeping bag was in the area of the split, I made due until I could get to Butte, Montana. Osprey gave me the option of replacing the pack with any model I’d like, and I decided to give the Lumina a second chance. I used the second Lumina for the rest of the trail, and was relatively happy with it. I haven’t gotten any holes or punctures in it yet… hopefully I’ll get 1000 more miles out of it before I have any more issues! So far so good.

20180804_103703
Backpacking through the Wind River Range in Wyoming with a 9-day food carry in my Lumina 60 pack. What was the max load for this pack again? 10 to 25 lbs? I wonder how much my pack weighs in this picture…

Summary

  • I miss the hip pockets on the old Exos 58 packs, but adapted pretty quickly to that change by increasing the size of my hip pack and putting the items I used to have in the hip pockets there.
  • The fit on the Lumina 60 is definitely different than it was on the Exos 58, but not enough different to make me hate it.
  • Although structurally the Lumina seems to be able to handle loads that are heavier than the recommended 10-25 lbs, the Exos is definitely more comfortable to carry when fully weighted, which makes sense since it is designed for 20-40 lb loads.
  • The Lumina 60 felt like it had a much, much larger volume than the Exos 58, even though it’s only a 2L difference (small: Exos/Eja 58 = 55L, small: Levity/Lumina 60 = 57L).
  • Although the exterior surfaces of the Lumina seem to be at least as rugged and durable as the Exos, the sil of the inner bag of the Lumina/Levity requires a bit more TLC. Be careful putting anything with jagged edges or pointy parts into the Levity/Lumina, and instead of shoving everything into the pack in the morning, consider loading the Levity/Lumina a bit more gently.
  • After inspecting both the men’s and women’s versions of the Exos/Eja and Levity/Lumina, and spending a long time talking to the Osprey sales rep, I’m still not sure what the major differences are between the male and female gendered packs except their colors and that most places don’t carry the Men’s Small pack’s in stock. I’d love to try them both on a trip and get back to you about that, but since the only gear I get is the gear I buy, that probably isn’t going to happen.

One thought on “CDT Backpack Review

  1. Pingback: The Gear That Got Me Thru (CDT Gear List) – Patches Thru

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