Is this the ultimate load carrier? It is certainly up there with the best.
When preparing for the Skye Trail earlier this year I was given the opportunity to try the Xenith 88, having owned a Xenon 70 since 2010 I jumped at the chance to upgrade to the new incarnation of my beloved trekking pack.
The trip involved a lot of kit, and I am happy to carry a bit of extra weight if it means I’m more comfortable, I also took a lot of food, deciding not to re-supply in Portree which was a mistake so My Pack weight was a shade over 20KGs. To make sure this is carried in a reasonably comfortable way you need a back with a seriously good back system. The Xenith packs certainly have that covered. A lightweight external frame combined with the Precurved bioform hip belt transfers the weight very effectively to your hips, so your back and shoulders don’t take the weight. The back length is adjustable via a velcro pad, and the hip belt can be custom moulded in store for a bespoke fit. Fitting a pack can be as complicated as fitting boots and I would always recommend having a pack fitted by one of our experts.
The Trail covers all types of different terrain from well-maintained trails through mountain passes to long slogs across wet bogs with no path to follow. Along with a full day on the Trotternish ridge which has some seriously steep climbs and descents. This variation in terrain and walking styles presented many challenges, all of which the pack met head-on making my trip a much more enjoyable experience. Sure I had sore shoulders and legs after the first couple of days, but as with all good kit, I hardly noticed the Xenith once I was wearing it and accepted the weight, no blisters on my hips or bruised shoulders I have had in the past. During the steep climbs, I was able to pull the top tension straps tight and have the weight much closer to me, stopping me leaning too far back, and then on the descents loosen the weight off so the weight would sit lower, making me more stable. You can make all the adjustments on the fly, without taking the pack off, apart from the back length.
This flagship pack is full of pockets and features, I used all of them on the trip. The two zip bellows pockets on the front were really useful. In one side I kept my hot drink kits, the other one had my water filter, first aid kit and kitchen kit. On top of these is a large stretch mesh pocket I used this to hold my Poncho and tarp. These pockets were excellent for stashing things you need to get to quickly and didn’t mind getting wet. The lid on this pack is huge with loads of room, and has a mesh pocket underneath with a key clip, which is sneakily where I stashed my car key for the week. The lid is so cavernous you have to be careful not to put too much in it as it can quickly be overloaded and cause the pack to be top-heavy. I kept a drybag with hats and gloves in and my map and compass. Inside the main compartment you can divide the pack if you wanted, I prefer to have one open tube making everything easier to get to, this bag also has the benefit of side zip entry so you rarely have to take everything out to find what you want. This is where I had a couple of drybags, one with a set of dry clothes and one with my sleeping bag and roll mat, also I had my stove, tent and food in various nylon bags. Loads of kit!
I really recommend this pack if you want a super comfy load carrier, don’t be put off by your bag weighing a bit more as all the parts which make it a good load carrier weigh more than a lightweight alternative. And when you have a heavy load and a long distance to cover you will be happy you picked the Osprey Xenith.
This review was written by Stu, assistant manager of the Exeter Shop. As well as several other treks in Scotland, Stu has also been backpacking in New Zealand and twice taken part in the Hilleberg Outdoor academy in Sweden. He is often out wild camping with his German Short-haired Pointer, Hunter by his side.
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