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 while carrying it on multi-day hikes in Canyonlands National Park, the Canadian Rockies, and New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park and a ski trip to a backcountry yurt in Idaho’s Boise Mountains.
I found the suspension comfortable for hours a day with 45 to 50 pounds inside it on a five-day hike in The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, when I was often carrying 8.5 to 14.5 pounds (four to seven liters) of water, and on a four-day family hike (bearing some of my family’s gear and food weight) on the Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park (though certainly not all backpackers would find that much weight comfortable). I had 35 pounds in it on a family ski trip to a backcountry yurt in Idaho and 25 pounds on two hut treks in New Zealand’s Fiordland, the Kepler Track and Dusky Track. Plus, my wife has used the Aura AG 65 on countless backpacking trips from the Wind River Range to the High Uintas, Ruby Crest Trail, and Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail.
Osprey’s 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.
The men’s Atmos AG and women’s Aura AG each come in three sizes fitting a wide range of torso lengths: men 16-23 inches (40-58cm) and women 14-21 inches (35-53cm).
They also have 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) to 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.
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.”
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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. My wife has a 17-inch torso and the XS Aura fit her well, at the upper end of its fit range.
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.
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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.
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.
The packs also come in smaller versions, the men’s Atmos AG 50 ($315, 4 lbs. medium) and women’s Aura AG 50 ($315, 3 lbs. 12 oz. medium). Osprey also offers lighter, more streamlined versions of these packs, with the same design but intended for slightly lighter loads, in the Atmos AG 65 LT ($290, 4.1 lbs.), Atmos AG 50 LT ($270, 4 lbs.), Aura AG 65 LT ($290, 3.8 lbs.), and Aura AG 50 LT ($270, 3.8 lbs.).
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Osprey Atmos AG 65 and Aura AG 65
With their unique, super comfortable harness and suspension, comfort with 45 pounds or more, and numerous backpacker-friendly features, the Osprey men’s Atmos AG 65 and women’s Aura AG 65 rank among the very best packs out there today for moderate to big loads. 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.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to buy any model of the men’s Osprey Atmos AG at ospreypacks.com, backcountry.com, or moosejaw.com, or any model of the women’s Aura AG at ospreypacks.com, backcountry.com, or moosejaw.com.
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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.
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