Gear Review: Osprey Atmos 65: Comfort plus bells and whistles

Bob Ward
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

Several months ago I wrote in this space about an Osprey backpack that I’d purchased for my 9-year-old daughter, and how it contributed to a 100 percent successful two-night trip into the backcountry of Canyonlands National Park.

That experience got me thinking about replacing my own 16-year-old backpack; the straps were wearing out, buckles had broken and holes in the fabric were patched with duct tape. I appreciate well-worn, battle-scarred trusty equipment as much as the next guy, but I felt pretty sure that a new, 21st-century backpack might lighten my load and increase my comfort.

Enter the Osprey Atmos 65, which I’ve now used on two summer excursions – one on the remote beaches of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and another on a high-elevation bushwhack in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of Colorado. The latter trip, in particular, put the pack to the test by forcing me to use both arms and legs to cross streams, scramble up and down rocky slabs and crash through willow thickets. Through all that off-balance activity, the backpack never caused any soreness or irritation in my back, shoulders, neck or arms. The Atmos hugged my torso and rested comfortably on my hips and back about as well as any 35-pound object possibly could.

I certainly noticed those extra pounds when hoisting myself over stone ledges or descending awkward boulder fields, but a loaded backpack has never felt so natural as this one. At the end of the trip – 20-plus miles of hiking and climbing with 6,000 feet of vertical gain – my legs were the only sore part of my body.

In other words, the pack passed its test with flying colors; my conditioning was the weak link.

A backpack is worthless if it isn’t comfortable. All the ingenious pockets, flaps, waterproofing, zippers, high-tech fabric and storage won’t mean squat if the pack isn’t fundamentally balanced and well-designed. The Atmos is both. In addition to a sound basic design, this pack has a boatload of nice bells and whistles: the light-but-sturdy foam shoulder straps and hipbelt; the tensioned mesh layer that allows air to circulate between the pack and my back; the zipper pouches on the hipbelt that carry small food items, cameras or tools; the well-placed loops and straps for hard-to-carry gear like helmets, ice axes and trekking poles; and the two surprisingly deep zipper pockets on the pack’s front.

I was tired and sore by the time I arrived at the 12,500-foot lake where I camped below the Crestone Needle and Broken Hand Peak. But the soreness had nothing to do with the smartly designed Atmos 65, and probably would have been much worse without it.

Score a three-pointer for Osprey.

Rating: 5 stars