Traveler's Gear Box: Osprey's Atmos 65 Backpack

Osprey's Atmos 65 is a great three-season option for heading into the backcountry. It's not the lightest option out there, but it has some nice features.

Traveling light in the backcountry is quite subjective. Gear that is a necessity to one person is superfluous to another. A heavy pack to one person is light to another. That, no doubt, is why not all backpacks are created equal.

A buddy of mine invested in a GoLite Jam II that weighs 1 pound, 10 ounces. The Osprey Atmos 65 (MSRP $239) tips the scales (in a large) at 3 pounds, 12 ounces. But it also holds 68 liters of space vs. 54 liters for the Jam II.

But this review is not intended to compare and contrast the Osprey and the GoLite. Each has its own utility, its own qualities, its own supporters.

If you're a long-time Traveler reader, you know I'm partial to Osprey. I've long used an Aether 70 pack in the backcountry, and also have a Manta 30 daypack. But I'd like to think my loyalty is justified.

Of course, whether a pack works for you goes beyond its manufacturer or its features. Some packs just don't fit one's torso properly no matter how many adjustments it offers. A suspension system that feels great for one person, might pinch or poke another. Pack weight might be more important than features to another. That's why it's so important to head down to your local gear shop and sample various pack lines. Only once you've found one you're happy with can you dare to buy another model from the same manufacturer off the Internet without testing it.

As for the Atmos 65 (Osprey also makes a women's version of this pack, the Aura) it's intended to be a three-season workhorse. And it rises up comfortably to the task. There's a sleeping bag compartment on the bottom, with removable outer straps that you can use to cinch a sleeping pad or some other piece of gear.

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This is just some of the gear that went into the Osprey Atmos 65, and there was plenty of room to add more and keep your pack weight under 30 pounds, and even under 25 pounds depending on your choices.

While the pack is top loading, it does have some nice outer pockets you can resort to for items you want to be handy. On both sides of the pack you have a deep, zippered pocket that runs down the side that can handle water bottles, JetBoil kits, some sleeping pads, rain gear and more. And there are smaller stretch pockets at hip level for stashing things like water bottles (although this pack is hydration-system compatible with a sleeve inside the body) or binoculars.

You'll also find a large catch-all stretch pocket that will swallow quite a bit, and a sort of Daisy chain of loops to which you can attach an ice axe or other piece of gear. The loops would work for trekking poles, except there's Osprey's "Stow on the Go" pole attachment on the belt system.

The detachable lid has an outer pocket that can store miscellaneous small items, such as your wallet, keys, and cellphone, as well as a zippered mesh pocket on the underside of the lid. Plus, there are two smaller zippered pockets on the waist belt that can hold within reach point-and-shoot cameras, GPS units, or snacks.

All these storage possibilities are hauled on Osprey's AirSpeed Suspension system with its breathable mesh back panel that is scalloped where it attaches to the pack body to promote airflow. Adjustment straps allow you to raise up, or down, the pack on your back, and the EVA foam cushioning in the main harness that attaches to the pack can be adjusted 3 inches up or down as well.

The waist belt is also adjustable via a Velcro system that allows you to extend/retract the foam padding to your desired hip fit.

A slight disappointment is that the pack does not come with a rain cover, although you can buy one separately. Ditto with a hydration system. But if Osprey can build in a rain cover to their daypacks, and outfit them with a hydration system, why can't it provide one with their backpacks?

In the end, while the Atmos 65 is not as light as the GoLite Jam II, (and, no doubt, other packs on the market) it offers more volume, more nooks and crannies to stash items than the GoLite, and is more than a pound lighter than the Aether 70. It's a nice step in the right direction of lightening your load while not skimping entirely.

Traveler footnote: Osprey guarantees its packs and "will repair for any reason, free of charge, any damage or defect in our product -- whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday."