Osprey Atmos 65
$239, 3 lbs. 7 oz. (medium)
Sizes: S 62L/3,783 c.i., M 65L/3,967 c.i., L 68L/4,150 c.i.
When you’re carrying a heavy pack on a hot day, a breeze across your sweaty back can feel like a plunge into a cool swimming hole. That may be the first thing you notice about the Atmos 65 (which also comes in a 50-liter version; the women’s packs are the Aura 65 and 50): the ventilated mesh back panel keeps the pack off of your back, allowing for excellent airflow. But you get more than just a cool back with the Atmos and Aura packs—you get high-end fit and organization. I carried up to about 55 pounds (including more than 20 pounds of water) in the Atmos 65 backpacking with my wife and school-age kids for three days down Spring Canyon in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park; and on a family trip to a backcountry yurt, skiing three miles in and three back out with about 35 pounds in the pack, while pulling a sled loaded with at least 60 pounds of gear and food attached to the backpack with carabiners. (Note: I’m not recommending the Atmos as a ski pack or for pulling a sled, and it’s not designed for either purpose; I just used it for that because I was testing it out and it worked well enough.)
For starters, the hipbelt is luxurious, thanks to foam that has good cushion and support under a heavy load. The length of the hipbelt’s padding can be adjusted while wearing it, for a more precise wrap around the hipbones. The adjustable harness—uncommon in a pack that’s available in multiple sizes—gives you three inches (7.5 cm) of latitude to dial in the torso fit. Mesh shoulder straps are nicely padded and breathe a little. I also like this pack’s organization for bigger loads and longer backpacking trips: two big front pockets; two spacious hipbelt pockets; a removable lid pocket; a sleeping bag compartment with its own zipper access, and, of course, a hydration sleeve and port. One small caveat: Be careful about not putting too much weight in the front pockets, or the pack will pull against your shoulders. But load it wisely and this pack carries 50 to 55 pounds with impressive comfort for a model that weighs in under three and a half pounds.