Gear Review: Osprey Eja Women’s Backpack
Ladies rejoice! One of the most popular thru-hiking backpacks is now available in a female-specific version. I used the unisex Osprey Exos on our AT thru-hike, and my husband Paul used one on our PCT thru-hike, so we’re intimately familiar with and big fans of the pack. This year, the Exos has been updated into a male-specific backpack, and the Eja has been released as the female-specific version of this same great pack.
Eja 38 Specs*
Capacity: The Eja comes in 38, 48, and 58 Liter capacities.
Size: XS, S, or M.
Weight: 2.45 lbs – 2.63 lbs
Load Range: 15-30 lbs for the Eja 38, 20-40 lbs for the 48 or 58.
MSRP: 38L: $180, 48L: $200, 58L: $220
*We linked to the 48 here, which will likely be a more popular choice for thru-hikers
Circumstances of Review
To give it a proper testing, I took the Eja out for a five-day trip on the Arizona Trail. With a lot of overgrown trail, plenty of bushwhacking, and an environment where every single plant wants to cut you, I was able to really put the durability of this pack to the test. Paul brought his Exos 48 and I carried the Eja 38 to really compare and contrast the two.
A Hipbelt that Fits
My biggest complaint about the Exos was that the hipbelt was simply too large. Almost every thru-hiker I knew had tightened the belt as far as possible. It’s nice to see Osprey listened, and have made the hipbelt smaller on both the Exos and Eja. It fit well, with room to tighten more if needed.
Slimmer Shoulder Straps
I didn’t have an issue with the shoulder straps on the Exos… until I put on the Eja. The straps are slightly more slender and shorter, so I was able to fit the pack without having everything tightened all the way. Plus, the sternum strap actually went over my sternum! Furthermore, I noticed that the sternum strap has been updated to a slider, making it easier to adjust.
More Durable Mesh Pockets
The weak point of the old Exos was definitely the mesh exterior pockets. I have patched many holes on the outside pockets of both of our Exos packs. Osprey added nylon to the bottom of the outer pockets, while keeping the top portions in stretchy mesh. These pockets are much more durable.
This pack holds a load extremely comfortably. Whenever I loaded the Exos over 30 lbs, the frame would press against my lower back and cause discomfort. I deliberately overloaded the Eja to see how it compared, and found that the frame itself never pressed against me like the Exos had, making carrying a load much more comfortable, even at 32 lbs.
Where Have all the Pockets Gone?
My biggest disappointment with the Eja is that Osprey removed the four most accessible pockets. The hipbelt pockets and shoulder strap pockets are gone. These pockets were perfect for storing snacks and my phone with easy access. Osprey made the side pockets larger to try and make up for this, but when I carried 2 liters of water in each side pocket, there was no room left for snacks. I made up for it by bringing a fanny pack to store these items. Otherwise, I’d have to remove the pack anytime I want a quick snack or to check my phone.
Rubbing from Buckles
When I wasn’t using my trekking poles and my arms were at my sides, I noticed that the buckles that tighten the shoulder straps rubbed against the inside of my arm. While it didn’t happen when I was walking with my poles, it’s something to consider if you don’t use trekking poles. More bothersome was the stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment on the left shoulder strap. It rubbed against the inside of my arm even when using my poles.
Size and Color
I would be great to see women’s outdoor gear that doesn’t just come with teal and purple accents. Also, the women’s version only goes up to size medium. That size works for me at 5’9”, but if you are on the taller side, you’ll probably have to go for the men’s version.
Time to get a little nitpicky. This is a really great lightweight pack. But, it’s pretty heavy to be called ultralight, and has some frills that could be removed to cut weight. If you want to streamline this pack a little bit, you certainly can. I did a little pack surgery and cut out 6 ounces! I took off the removable brain and attachment buckles, removed the upper attachment for the ice axe, and the straps for attaching gear externally. Also, I removed the stow-on-the-go trekking pole storage system, and the lower half of the side compression straps. Finally, I cut out the hydration bladder sleeve. My pack now weighs 2lbs 2oz, rather than 2lbs 8oz. It’s a pretty big weight savings with no major reduction in functionality.
At around $200, this pack comes at a great price. Unlike many other lightweight thru-hiking packs out there, you can find this one at REI, which means you can actually try it on before purchasing. Plus, it comes with the All Mighty Guarantee, which brings with it peace of mind that if the pack fails during your thru-hike (which isn’t likely), Osprey won’t leave you high and dry. The Eja carries a light-to-moderate load extremely comfortably, and can handle some excess weight in a pinch as well. This is a great pack for a thru-hike, and I’d recommend it to anyone who has gotten their base weight under 15 pounds. If you’re going a little heavier (base weight up to 18-20), the 48L or 58L is a great choice.
A quick note on capacity
A BV500 bear canister can fit horizontally in the 58L, or vertically in the 48L. I barely managed to cram it vertically into the 38L, but it was awkward and hard to get in and out with the curved frame, let alone to fit the rest of my gear in with it. For most thru-hikers, the 48 liter option works best.
Disclosure: This product was donated for the purpose of this review.
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