Gear Review: Osprey Atmos AG 65 and Aura AG 65 Backpacks

December 9, 2015  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , ,   |   25 Comments
Osprey Aura AG 65

Osprey Aura AG 65

Backpack
Osprey Atmos AG 65/Aura AG 65
$270, 4 lbs. 11 oz. (men’s medium)

Men’s Atmos AG 65 sizes: S-L
S 62L/3,783 c.i., fits torsos 40-48cm/16-19 ins.
M 65L/3,967 c.i., fits torsos 46-53cm/18-21 ins.
L 68L/4,150 c.i., fits torsos 51-58cm/20-23 ins.
moosejaw.com

Women’s Aura AG 65 sizes: XS-M
XS 60L/3,661 c.i., 4 lbs., fits torsos 14-17 ins./35-43cm
S 62L/3,783 c.i., 4 lbs. 2 oz., fits torsos 16-19 ins./40-48cm
M 65L/3,967 c.i., 4 lbs. 4 oz., fits torsos 18-21 ins./46-53cm
moosejaw.com

A backpack is a little like a relationship: It’s hard to tell what it’s going to be like when you first meet, and then you get to know each other much better over time. But in that sense, the Atmos 65 is different from most packs I’ve tested over the past 20 years: It felt very different, in a good way, the first time I put it on, and that positive first impression bore out as I carried it backpacking with my family for four days on the Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park in August, on two hut treks in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park in March, and on a family ski trip to a backcountry yurt in Idaho’s Boise Mountains in January. It has also been the most-read, single gear review at The Big Outside for the past several months—a testament to the popularity of the men’s Atmos AG and women’s Aura AG series.

Osprey Atmos AG 65 suspension

Atmos AG 65 suspension.

The new Atmos carried very comfortably with 45 to 50 pounds on the Rockwall Trail, including two days of 10 and 12 miles and up to 3,000 feet of elevation gain; and over the course of three days on Fiordland’s Kepler Track (photo at bottom of review) and four days on the Dusky Track, carrying up to about 25 pounds on each. On our family ski trip to a backcountry yurt, I skied twice from car to yurt and back, about two miles with about 700 vertical feet of ascent and descent, with the Atmos AG full and weighing about 30 pounds. On one of those trips, I also pulled a gear sled (not attached directly to the pack) weighing 25 pounds.

My wife used her Aura AG 65 for the first time on the Rockwall Trail, carrying up to 40 pounds, and told me simply: “This pack feels awesome.”

Osprey’s new and innovative Anti-Gravity suspension in the Atmos AG and women’s Aura AG feels more like putting on a jacket than a backpack. It consists of a panel of lightweight, tensioned mesh extending from the top of the back panel to the hipbelt, fully wrapping around your back and hips while delivering ample air movement across your back, thanks to the trampoline-style mesh panel. It never shifted or threw me off balance, even when scrambling and clambering through thousands of vertical feet of tree roots, blowdowns, and very steep, muddy, and rain-slicked trail on the Dusky Track, or skiing downhill through heavy, mashed-potato snow.

 

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Osprey Atmos AG 65 hipbelt

Atmos AG 65 hipbelt.

An easily adjustable harness with perforated foam shoulder straps and a Fit-on-the-Fly hipbelt that can be adjusted (with a range of five inches/15cm) let me dial in a customized fit. The Aura’s hipbelt, shoulder straps, and pack shape are all designed to fit a woman’s body and shift the pack’s weight lower, closer to her center of balance.

With an 18-inch torso, I’ve always fit medium Osprey packs in the past, and I used a medium Atmos AG 65 on my first three trips with it (the yurt trip and trekking the Kepler and Dusky). But then I tried on a small and it fit me better. Osprey tells me the AG suspension may fit differently than other Osprey models, so measure your torso length and try on different sizes before buying. My wife has a 17-inch torso and the XS Aura fit her well, at the upper end of its fit range.

Atmos AG 65 inside cover (lid off) and front pockets.

Atmos AG 65 inside cover (lid off) and front.

The Atmos and Aura sport a couple of features I think should be standard on all packs made primarily for backpacking: hipbelt pockets (each big enough for three energy bars) and a stow-on-the-go attachment for trekking poles on the left shoulder strap. As a photographer, I like being to able clip my poles to my pack and quickly pull out my camera while hiking, but that attachment frees your hands for myriad purposes like grabbing a snack or water bottle. Stretch side pockets each hold a liter bottle, and a bladder sleeve inside. There’s a front, stuff-it pocket that can swallow a wet rainfly, and behind it, two voluminous, zippered pockets big enough for a rain cover, jacket, gaiters, and extra layers or snacks. The lid has two pockets spacious enough for all your small stuff like headlamp, hats, gloves, etc., and is removable by threading two straps, shaving seven ounces. With the lid off, an integrated cover panel clips into the lid straps to shield the pack’s top opening.

 

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Atmos AG 65 side pocket

Atmos AG 65 side pocket.

Side compression straps snug down partial loads and let you carry items on the outside. External sleeping pad straps are removable. The sleeping bag compartment panel can be dropped out of the way but not removed. The pack fabric promises durability, with 420-denier nylon pack cloth on the bottom, and high-tenacity nylon elsewhere.

Call it love at first click (of buckles) or whatever you like, but I am confident of enjoying a long and harmonious relationship with my Atmos AG 65.

The packs also come in smaller versions, the men’s Atmos AG 50 ($230, 4 lbs. medium) and women’s Aura AG 50 ($230, 3 lbs. 12 oz. medium).

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to buy a men’s Osprey Atmos AG 65 or Atmos AG 50 at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com, or a women’s Aura AG 65 or Aura AG 50 at moosejaw.comems.com, or rei.com.

 

Tell me what you think.

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Osprey Atmos AG 65

Osprey Atmos AG 65

See all of my reviews of backpacks that I like and all of my reviews of backpacking gear, plus my “5 Tips For Finding the Right Backpack.”

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza

 

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25 Responses to Gear Review: Osprey Atmos AG 65 and Aura AG 65 Backpacks

  1. Mark Williams   |  December 9, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Thanks for the review Michael! I’ve taken my atmos 65 out a couple of times and it’s a great backpack, but I fear that the frame is a little heavy at nearly 5 lbs compared to some of the ultralight packs out there not sold at your local REI.

    • michaellanza   |  December 9, 2015 at 9:11 am

      Hi Mark, thanks for the comment. Of course, whether you get an ultralight backpack or one designed for heavier loads (and thus heavier itself), like the Atmos/Aura AG series, depends on how much weight you intend to load inside it. Osprey’s Exos packs, for instance, are half the weight of the Atmos and Aura, but are also designed to carry about half as much weight. I talk about this in more details in my tips on buying a backpack: https://thebigoutside.com/5-tips-for-finding-the-right-backpack/

  2. Angelica   |  July 16, 2015 at 12:55 am

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for such a detailed review. I just ordered the Osprey Aura 50 AG from REI and am new to backpacking. I have been waiting for the Flash 58 to go on sale so its within in my price range, but they haven’t had my size for a while. I’ve seen so many reviews about how comfortable the Aura is that I decided to spend the money. I have bad neck, shoulder, and hip issues so comfort is a priority (several herniated discs from a car accident and a hip replacement, I’m only 28 and in ok shape). Most trips will be 2-4 days and will probably require me to carry ~25lbs of gear, I’m hoping to put most of the big/light stuff in my pack and the heavier things in my boyfriends pack. My question to you is is it better to go with a lightweight pack like the Flash 58 or a more supportive pack like the Aura 50 AG? I know fit is a personal thing, and I’ll probably end up trying them both, but I was hoping to get some feedback from someone who had tried many packs.

    • MichaelALanza   |  July 20, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      Hi Angelica, while I’m not qualified to give advice on dealing with injuries or physical ailments while hiking and backpacking, my personal experience tells me that ultralight backpacks are best for people who are not only fit but also don’t have underlying problems that can cause them pain or soreness; a really light pack might magnify that problem because it sacrifices a certain degree of support and comfort for low weight, whereas a more-supportive pack is designed precisely to make carrying weight on your back easier. I would also recommend you fill up any pack you’re considering buying with some weight and walk around in it for a while, even in the store, to see how it feels. I think anyone from Osprey or REI would give you the same advice. Good luck, thanks for writing.

  3. Ron   |  May 12, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Hi, Mike. I recently started reading your reviews and I wanted you to know that I appreciate the work you put into creating them.

    I recently started doing day hikes and plan on doing my first overnight backpacking trip soon. I’m looking at getting either the Atmos AG 65 or Baltoro 65. Some of my near-future backpacking trips with be with my 6 yr old child so I expect to be carrying the majority of his gear and clothing. Backpack weight is not a concern as the difference between the two seems negligible. I like the mesh panel on the Atmos AG but also like the articulating belt and shoulder straps on the Baltoro. As I purchase more gear, I plan to adventure into multi-day backpacking trips. Although probably more bag than I currently need, I’ve thought about the Baltoro 75 as well.

    Any thoughts on key differences between the two in regards to weight capacity, durability, comfort, etc? Between these two, which would be your preference?

  4. arizonahikersguide   |  April 29, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Hi, thanks for the review. I have an Osprey pack that I really like but the one thing that bugs me about these packs are all the straps, holders, zips, pockets, flaps, doodads and other fancy things. Does Osprey make a no nonsense lightweight pack without all the frills?

    • michaellanza   |  April 30, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Have you looked at their Exos or Kestral series packs?

  5. Andrew   |  April 25, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been looking for a new pack for a while and have narrowed it down to about 4 or 5. Two of the packs that have made it to my shortlist are ones that you have reviewed, the Atmos AG 65 and the TNF Banchee 65. I found both to be very comfortable in store with about 30lbs of weight. The Atmos may have been just a tad more comfortable, but that also could have been my subconscious telling me that I like the color better. However, something that I found intriguing about your review of the Banchee was that you said “it pulls double duty, functioning like both a weekend and a weeklong pack.” This is something that appeals to me as I enjoy doing a lot of both and would like to have my shiny new pack for both. Would you say the same about the Atmos 65?

    On a side note, I have around a 18in torso as well (I think I read in one of your posts that you are an 18). I tried a medium on which felt like it fit well, but they did not have a small to try. I was wondering what size you wore, as the small is rated for 16-19 and the medium is 18-21?

    Thanks!

    Andrew

    • michaellanza   |  April 26, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      Hi Andrew, good questions. You’ve narrowed your choices to two packs that are certainly among the top few I’ve tested. My first response would be that, whenever buying a pack, if you’ve checked out several and winnowed to two similar packs, and one feels/fits better on you, then you may have already made your choice right there. Pack fit is quite personal.

      That said, besides features/design differences, the big differences between the Atmos and the Banchee are the unique harness of the Atmos–which really does embrace your hips and torso in a way I’ve never seen in any other pack–and the weight of the packs, with the Atmos being about a pound heavier. I wrote that the Banchee is like two packs in one–weekend and weeklong–because it can carry a substantial weight, but it still compressible and light enough to be a weekend pack. I just now, after reading your question, looked at the two packs side by side, and the Banchee hipbelt is a little less beefy and supportive than the Atmos–again, making it feel a little lighter with a smaller/weekend load, but perhaps not lending as much support under a heavy load. So I think that answers your first question.

      Do you need a pack that carries 40 to 50 pounds, or a pack that carries a max of about 30 pounds? Did you consider the Osprey Exos 58 (https://thebigoutside.com/gear-review-osprey-exos-58-backpack/)? You can see all of my packs reviews at https://thebigoutside.com/tag/backpack-reviews/.

      I have an 18-inch torso and a 30-inch waist. I actually just recently tried on both the men’s small and medium Atmos; although I’ve always wore a medium in other Osprey packs, I found the small Atmos fit me better (although the medium fit was okay, but I was at the bottom end of the fit range).

      • Andrew   |  April 28, 2015 at 6:25 pm

        Thank you for the quick response. It amazes me how dedicated you are to your product. You are a great role model for anyone trying to follow a dream.

        I liked the Exos and feel like the majority of my trips will have less than 30 pounds, but I know that there will be trips when I will be carrying more than my own gear, whether that be with an inexperienced friend or a future child. I would rather have the ability to cary the extra weight comfortably than shave an extra couple of ounces and be in a bad situation later. I decided to order my top 4 picks to my house (TNF Banchee 65, Osprey Atmos 65, Gregory Baltoro 65, and REI Crestrail 70) so I can get a good couple of hours in each with my usual kit then take the others back to REI.

        Hopefully I’ll just win your contest and be able to return all of them next week!

        Thanks again for your awesome website.

        Andrew

        • michaellanza   |  April 28, 2015 at 7:23 pm

          You’re welcome, Andrew. You are taking a smart approach to finding your next backpack.

  6. carl gandolfo   |  April 24, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Mike, ignore my last request, please. I see Mike Ryan asked the same question and you provided a reply….thank you!!

    Carl Gandolfo

    • michaellanza   |  April 24, 2015 at 8:59 am

      Hi Carl, thanks for the comment and I’m glad you found the info you were looking for.

  7. carl gandolfo   |  April 24, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Great review and very timely for me as well!!

    Don’t know if this has been asked before but here it goes anyway. I am a trekker and avid landscape photographer. I recently downsized from a DSLR setup to a smaller mirror less system (the Olympus EM-1). How are you carrying your camera gear, especially for a quick grab shot? Do you use a separate bag within quick reach? I would hate to have to rely on the larger pack to also carry my gear – getting it on and off can become a pain every time.

    Thanks!!!

  8. Ksenia from Portland   |  April 4, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    This was a timely review for me! I am just getting back into backpacking after more than a decade (when I backpacked with my parents). My one concern about this pack is that although it distributes weight well, it is more bulky than other packs. I am a small female (5’3″, 110 lbs), in good physical shape, and am planning a few week-long backpacking trips. I wonder if it is worth knocking off a pound and going with an REI Flash 58 Pack vs. the Aura. As a relative notice, it is so hard to know! I’m having a hard time making this multi-year commitment to a pack 🙂 Any advice on how to make the most ideal choice?

  9. Andrew   |  April 3, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Michael,

    I poked around out the mesh on the back of the Atmos at my local REI yesterday and I’m a little concerned about it’s durability. Is it stronger than it seems? How has it held up for you? Do you share my concern?

    -Andrew

    • MichaelALanza   |  April 3, 2015 at 9:38 am

      Hi Andrew, yes, that mesh is lightweight, so I would avoid letting it contact sharp objects, certainly. But I think that mesh is as strong as it needs to be for its designed purpose, which is to create tension that helps the harness wrap around your hips and torso. Especially with the way the hipbelt holds its position when the pack is off your body, the back panel mesh isn’t positioned such that it would be typically exposed to things in the environment that could cut it (not like mesh side and front pockets on many backpacks, which take much more abuse, usually without tears).

      The short answer is that I believe it will be fine, especially if you exercise just a little bit of care in where you set the pack down–a basic (not hyper-cautious) level of carefulness that I employ with any gear I have, from packs to tents, etc. I’d also point out that Osprey (like a lot of reputable gear makers) stands behind its gear with an impressive guarantee (http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/web/all_mighty_guarantee): “Osprey will repair for any reason, free of charge, any damage or defect in our product – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, we will happily replace it.”

  10. Brian Reyman   |  April 1, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Nice review, thanks. Osprey packs definitely have some of the best features of any I’ve seen/tried. Many have adopted hip belt pockets but few have adopted stow-on-the-go trekking pole options. I wish more would do so.

    I always really like the Atmos line and will probably try this one out. The thing that always holds me back is the weight. While each pack fits differently for everyone, do you feel the comfort/features are worth the extra 3 pounds over something like the Gossamer Gear Mariposa or similar? The Atmos was always heaver, but it seems like it’s become even more so I found that pack to be nearly as – or just as – comfortable as the past Atmos that I’ve tried and while the weight limit on the Gossamer Gear is 10-15 pounds lower, that’s an easy tradeoff for the significant difference in weight. A pack 2.5x the weight of similar carrying options seems like a LOT.

    • michaellanza   |  April 1, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Brian, thanks for the comment. To answer your question, I think comparing the Gossamer Gear Mariposa (or any ultralight pack) to the Atmos is comparing apples to oranges. Gossamer’s website says the Mariposa is “best with loads under 30 lbs.,” and I think that’s true of any backpack weighing under 2 lbs.: http://gossamergear.com/mariposa-ultralight-backpack-all-bundle.html.

      Packs like the Atmos and Aura AG are made for carrying up to 20 lbs. more than a model like the Mariposa. If you never expect to carry more than 30 lbs., get a lighter pack made for that. If you want one pack for trips where you pack weight ranges from 30 to 50 lbs., I think the Atmos/Aura AG 50 or 65 are solid choices.

  11. John   |  April 1, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Michael,

    For me backpacks are like footwear, and are probably after footwear, the most important piece of gear to focus your purchasing decision and dollars. I like a lot of the features on the Atmos 65 and 50 but they did not work for me. I spent several hours testing them two REI outlets.

    The critical issue for me is regardless how I adjust and re packed the weight and adjusted every conceivable feature of the pack I always felt like the weight was too far back and pulled me backwards.

    My go to packs are a custom made McHale SARC that I can ‘breakdown’ or alternatively ‘expand’ from about 65 litres to 90 litres by Dan McHales unique bayonet suspension system, and an Arc’teryx FL45. Both sit tight to my back. Yes they are warm but the weight is where I like it and is easily adjustable throughout the day. I used the SARC last year carrying ~25 lbs for 14 consecutive days through the Alps and then for 32 consecutive days caring 45-55 lbs across Spain.

    There is a reason backpacks like shoes come with different suspension system designs. People come with different shapes. As I said these Osprey packs have wonderful features and the reviews I have read have been glowing – but they will not work everyone.

    • michaellanza   |  April 1, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience, John. I agree that any pack may not work for everyone. Whenever someone has trouble fitting a pack, or trouble finding one that carries comfortably for them, I advise them to try on different brands and models, look for those brands that offer a high degree of customization of fit, and learn how to load a pack appropriately to keep much of the weight close to the middle of your back.

  12. Mike Ryan   |  April 1, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Michael,

    I’ve taken up backpacking again. It’s been many years since I’ve had more than a day pack on my back. I’ve been borrowing a backpack recently but was in Boise this last week and just bought the Atmos 65 from REI also and I agree with you that it just felt right when putting it on. I’m looking forward to the first trip with it to either the Tetons or the Sawtooths. It’s great to live in an area where I can get to either of those two places for a quick weekend trip.

    In your review of the Atmos above, you mentioned being able to free your hands to access your camera gear. I too am a photographer. How do you carry your camera and lens when backpacking? I believe I saw a picture of you on your blog with a front, Lowepro camera bag. I’ve used a similar set up but find the front bag a little cumbersome at times. I believe part of the reason was my harness system was not holding it tight enough to my chest and around my waist. Have you used any other methods to carry and access your camera gear? Maybe I need to invest in a better front bag with the proper harness. I’ve also seen clips that attach your camera to the shoulder pad. Have you tried those?

    By the way, just found your blog the other day and have re-read most of it from the last several years to present. I’ve also shared it with some friends. It’s now in my ‘favorites’ file. Great blog and information. I like the beautiful images of the places you’ve visited. I will continue to refer to this site and your advice.

    Thank you,

    Mike Ryan
    Pocatello, Idaho

    • michaellanza   |  April 1, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Hi Mike, always nice to hear from a fellow Idahoan. I think you’ll like the new Atmos AG. To answer your question, I had used a LowePro chest pack for some years (including when the photo on my About page was shot, in Patagonia), and it has its pros, including a rain cover. But I never liked how a chest pack impeded my view of my feet when hiking. For the past few years, I’ve been using a Ribz Front Pack for carrying my camera and second lens, as well as a few other, small items like map, gloves, etc. See my review of it: https://thebigoutside.com/gear-review-update-ribz-front-pack/

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