Does a rucksack have to compromise on performance to prioritise a low weight? Follow Bristol Shop’s Hannah as she takes on Osprey’s latest ultra-lightweight trekking packs and gives her thoughts.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been testing out Osprey’s latest iteration of the Eja 38L backpack – the women’s equivalent to their Exos range. Osprey is renowned for its innovative packs, covering day hikes, backpacking trips, and travel. With the Eja, I think Osprey have found the perfect middle-ground between heavier, more traditional bags and their minimalist, ultralight counterparts. The Eja is built with lightweight backpacking in mind, without compromising on features and comfort.
I’ve found the 38-litre variant perfect for wild camping and backpacking trips in the summer when I can pack light. Inside the (single entry point) main pocket, I can just fit a three-season down sleeping bag, sleeping pad, two-man tent, a few extra items of clothing, cook system, and a few days of food. This makes it perfect for overnight and weekend camps, or longer trips where I can resupply en route. There’s also a stretch mesh pocket on each side for water bottles, and a removable floating lid with two zip pockets – one larger storage pocket and a smaller mesh pocket on the inner. The reinforced stretch pocket on the front is very spacious given the size of the pack – I can easily fit a map and hardshell with room to spare. Thankfully, Osprey has now reintroduced hipbelt pockets to this range. I can squeeze an iPhone 11 into these, but you’d struggle with anything bigger, especially given the pre-curved Exoform hipbelt. However, the curve on the hipbelt helps it sit flush to the hips, and I’ve noticed much better load transfer away from the shoulders compared to my other Osprey bags.
This is my first time using a pack with a suspended back panel. I’d always been wary of its centre of gravity falling too far behind me but, despite my initial hesitancies, I’ve been impressed by the AirSpeed suspension system and the ventilation it brings. There’s about 5cm of space separating the tensioned mesh panel and the main body of the pack; this brings a noticeable airflow that’s much appreciated on warm hikes. Whilst this ventilation may not be a priority in the cooler months, Osprey has included a single ice axe attachment in addition to the Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment. Between this and its lightweight, Osprey has opened it up for use as a winter hillwalking day pack.
The Eja weighs in at a mere 1.2kg for the M/L size. This is about as light as any framed pack on the market with an adjustable back system and full ventilation. To achieve this, Osprey has utilised 100D nylon for most of the pack. This isn’t the toughest, but I haven’t had any issues so far. In fact, I find myself treating this pack with a bit more caution due to the mesh back panel anyway, but this is certainly no bad thing, and snagging the mesh has not yet resulted in it ripping.
Despite its minimal weight, Osprey has suggested a load limit of 10kg and with this kind of load it feels like the lightest and most comfortable pack I have carried. It’s certainly not the ideal use case, but I’ve also used it to carry my climbing gear into the crag. I really appreciate the carry system on longer walk-ins, and it only begins to feel less stable as the weight creeps up beyond that limit.
The women’s specific design goes well beyond a colour scheme; the pack is narrower and deeper to lower its centre of mass, in line with women’s body shapes. The shoulder straps also sit narrower, as is often the case with women’s specific bags. The LightWire alloy frame is curved for an anatomical fit and wider at the bottom. This is exaggerated even more so than in the Exos packs – to sit well on the hips and transfer load away from the shoulders. All of this combines to make a backpack that doesn’t rub or cause pressure points.
With a flexible mesh back panel, two sizes in each pack, and 10cm of torso length adjustability, the Eja will fit a variety of people. If you’re unsure which size you’re after, or need a hand adjusting the pack to fit, feel free to pop into one of our stores. We offer a backpack fitting service and are always happy to advise!
Overall, Osprey’s latest Eja range offers a fully featured pack with a brilliant carrying system and ventilation. It also comes with the reassurance of Osprey’s ‘All Mighty Guarantee’ and their improving green credentials (the Eja is made from 100% recycled nylon ripstop).
As with most lightweight kit, it comes at a slight cost of durability and a couple of much missed additions (namely, a rain cover). But, for anyone looking to move towards lighter backpacking gear, the Eja is a perfect solution without sacrificing comfort.