Eric Crosby was first introduced to the wilderness through a NOLS Semester in the Rockies, and soon after he became a Graduate of Colorado Mountain College’s Outdoor Recreation Leadership program. Eric wants to pass along this type of experiential learning to students of all ages and demographics. For four years he has worked for a YMCA non-profit, the B.O.L.D. and G.O.L.D. Mountain School (boys and girls outdoor leadership development) based out of Seattle, WA. This year Eric will be working for the Colorado Outward Bound School based in Leadville, CO.
When you are tired, hungry and chilled to the bone, the new Xenith 88 liter pack from Osprey has your back for that final push into camp. I recently ended my summer season working for the Colorado Outward Bound School. I took the Xenith on a 22-day mountaineering course in the North San Juans of Colorado. During this course, our group and the Xenith excelled, carrying up to eight days of food, climbing gear and all the other essentials. It was an amazing time taking in the rain, sleet, hail, wind, sun, and brush these breath-taking mountains have to offer!
Throughout my time in the San Juans, the Xenith 88 began to feel like an extension of my body. The airscape suspension back frame lived up to its name providing a comfy snug fit while allowing my back to feel the cool mountain breezes. The airscape back panel adjusts into five different sizes for a custom-fit- feel. I am interested in seeing the longevity of the Velcro that’s locks the back panel in place; it did not seem to have any problem staying together even when the Velcro was wet. The biofoam, custom mold hip belt wrapped around me securely above the hips allowing the airscape back panel to do its job effectively. I did not have the hip belt molded yet, but I am excited to see if it could this pack any more comfortable!
The hip belt is removable for molding and there seems to be some buckles that attaché it into place, this connect point is at the side pockets and the front of the hip belt. My initial thought was that those connection points could be more fixed with thread-through-style-buckles that could be more durable and not as heavy. The hip belt also sports a water-resistant and mesh pocket for easy access of your hiking essentials. The shoulder straps are comprised of the same material as the hip belt and I rarely ever felt them. The hip belt straps, load, and shoulder straps are easy to adjust and seem durable for extended use and lock-in tight. This new Xenith carries all of your mountain essentials as if it was padded with clouds, even if it is a 70 pound cloud.
The Xenith 88 has a lot of useful features I have been reluctant to value before carrying this pack. There are side mesh pockets with one mesh pocket on the back as well. These pockets are durable yet extremely stretchy allowing for all sizes of water bottles to fit in your side pockets. The back pocket seemed to protect wet shoes or jackets you are trying to dry out from brush and other debris.
The pole stashers that allow you to holster a pole with the Xenith 88 came in handy more than once when transitioning from a walk to more of a scramble. It is a simple system of shock cord that connects the poles, one piece of shock cord is on the shoulder strap and the other is on the bottom side of the pack. There is a potential to get a pole in the face if you fall, so heads up.
The brain is a smart and functional design. There are two zip pockets nice for separating and organizing. The brain removes quickly from two adjustable buckles, nice for exploding your pack at camp. The removed brain also converts into a fanny pack. The fanny is comfortable to wear and has padding on the underside of the brain. This padding also helps protect the items stashed in the brain while it is attached to the main pack.
The hydration slip pocket located behind the back panel is easy to access and allows the pressure created between your back and the weight of the pack to press on a water bag and push that hydration.
The compression straps on this pack are impressive. There are four straps on the sides, one load locking red strap that runs internally over top of a large load of gear and there is a horizontal strap that runs across the top, backside of the pack, for smaller loads. There are also sleeping pad straps toward the base of the pack. This amount of compression capability makes for a smooth, tight ride on or off trail. Sleeping pads are easily stashed on the sides vertically, or with the sleeping bag straps, horizontally.
The sleeping bag compartment is something I did not find useful. There is a light piece of fabric located at the bottom fourth of the pack and is supposed to separate compartments. I found when using this separator it was harder and more complicated to pack often creating dead space in the pack. I am also hesitant to use the side access zips with a large load in fear of having a zipper blow and compromising my gear and the pack’s ability to carry. I would also like to see a built in pack cover and maybe a stash pocket.
The New Xenith 88L pack is amazing! It carries like a dream and has useful features in a sleek and stylish design. The electric blue pops in the light, the color is represented well on the Osprey website. The Xenith is also the most water resistant pack I have ever carried with a burly durable outer material ready for the greatest of bushwhacks. Grab the Xenith for your alpine adventures and have fun out there!