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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Atmos 65 > Test Report by Mike Curry

OSPREY ATMOS 65 PACK
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - May 25, 2009
FIELD REPORT - July 28, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - September 29, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Curry
EMAIL: thefishguyAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 39
LOCATION: Aberdeen, Washington
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 220 lb (99.80 kg)

I've been backpacking, climbing, ski-packing, bushwhacking, and snowshoeing throughout the mountains of Oregon and Washington for the last 25 years. I'm an all-season, all terrain, off-trail kind of guy, but these days (having small kids) most of my trips run on the shorter side of things, and tend to be in the temperate rainforest. While I've carried packs (with winter climbing gear) in excess of 70 pounds (32 kilos), the older I get the more minimalist I become.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Colors available (Photos courtesy of manufacturer)
Manufacturer: Osprey
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.ospreypacks.com
MSRP: None Listed
Size Tested: Large
Listed Weight: 3 lbs 12 oz (1.70 kg)
Measured Weight: 3 lbs 11.5 oz (1.69 kg)
Color Tested: Green Apple

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

General:

Upon first look, the Osprey Atmos 65 pack appears to be a well-designed and attractive pack. The green apple color, I'm pleased to report, is slight darker than it appeared to me on their website or their print materials and is a very nice color. The overall design is very good looking and gives the initial impression of having a lot of features without appearing cluttered. The pack is clearly filled with a lot of innovative features, yet its appearance isn't overly complex. Workmanship is clearly of the highest quality. Despite having looked over every visible stitch and seam in the pack I was unable to find so much as a loose thread end.

IMAGE 2
Atmos 65 on log
Materials/Components:

The Osprey Atmos 65 pack uses a variety of your standard nylon materials (webbing and fabric, for example), including 210D Twill Velocity Cordura and 160 x 210 Window Ripstop. In addition to these, however, there are a wide variety of innovative components. The harness system, for example, uses Osprey's BioStretch mesh covered perforated foam. This appears it will improve comfort by breathing better and being lighter weight than more traditional systems. Even some of the more mundane elements of a pack, such as webbing buckles and other hardware, are improved on the Atmos 65. Aside from the integrated whistle in the sternum strap buckle (which has become fairly commonplace), Osprey uses an interesting bungee tie-off for ice axes that use Osprey's exclusive Y-clip, something purported to make looping handles quick and easy (something I'm anxious to try out). Even Osprey's zipper pulls, with plastic loops that keep them open, show innovation and attention to detail.

Features/Configuration:

The first thing I noticed about the Atmos 65 pack was the AirSpeed Suspension system. Everything about this seems focused at both keeping air flowing around your body and keeping weight light. At the heart of the system is an aluminum hoop frame that seems basically to be little more than a tensioned wire that supports a tensioned panel that rides against my back. Twin cross struts keep the pack itself away from my back about 1.5 in (4 cm). The material that connects the pack to the tensioned panel runs the perimeter of the panel, and has openings along both sides allowing air to flow freely between the back and my back. Even the hip belt and shoulder straps contain a perforated foam material that not only improves airflow, but likely reduces weight over other materials.

IMAGE 4
Close-ups of features
After looking at the suspension system, the next major feature that caught my eye was the hydration configuration. In addition to the traditional hydration sleeve, I have the option of unzipping a zipper inside the pack to access the void between the tensioned panel of the harness and the pack, where a hydration reservoir can be hung. My immediate thoughts were that a reservoir would flop around in this space, but on good trail I might not mind that, especially if the water was cold against my back, or better yet, was forming lots of condensation to keep me cool. During the winter months, I imagined myself stuffing an extra fleece in the void to reduce ventilation and slightly increase storage. I look forward to experimenting with this feature.

One interesting feature of the pack is Osprey's stow-on-the-go attachment system for trekking poles. This system is supposed to allow me to attach my trekking poles in a cross-body type configuration while on the move. Given that I often backpack in off-trail locations, I appreciate the idea of such a feature when I reach a section that requires some scrambling. I look forward to trying this out.

The overall configuration of the pack seems quite good. The main compartment is divided top and bottom with a divider that can be disconnected to drop out of the way. The lid is detachable and has a mesh "map compartment" underneath. And there are two vertically-zippered outside compartments on the back, with a stretch panel over them that provides additional storage. I look forward to seeing how the stretch panel holds up under rough conditions. One interesting compartment feature is the side "water-bottle" pockets, which are made of the same stretch material as the panel on back. These pockets can not only be accessed from the top, but also from the side closest to my back. I look forward to seeing if this is something I like, or something that makes me more prone to lose things. The real uniqueness, however, is in the "Inside/Out Compression" system. The compression straps for the main compartment can be configured either inside these pockets or outside them. If I am using them to hold a water bottle, I can configure the straps inside the pocket so the water bottle doesn't interfere with them. If I'm hauling something I want secured in those pockets, I can configure the compression straps outside those pockets so they are holding those items in place.

IMAGE 3
Zipper access to space behind tensioned backpanel
The final feature I find particularly innovate is the Ergo pull belt. The webbing straps that tighten this belt loop from the pack to the buckle and back, so that tensioning is done by pulling the loose ends forward. Also, the belt contains a mesh pocket on each side, which I look forward to trying out with small pieces of gear.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The instruction manual identified all the primary features of the pack along with basic instructions for how to use them. The instructions seemed clear, and while they referenced the website for information on the warrantee, they provided no care information, which surprised me.

TRYING IT OUT

To give the pack a try, I placed about 15 lbs (6.8 kg) of gear in the main compartment and put it on. After taking a few moments to adjust the harness straps, I clipped together the Ergo Pull belt and tightened it up. I was immediately pleased with the fit and comfort of the pack, and was particularly impressed with how easy the Ergo Pull belt was to operate (it was not only easier to pull the loose ends forward, but the tension of the belt seemed more evenly spread across my hips).

IMAGE 5
Tensioned mesh backpanel
I wore the pack around for a walk, making some adjustments to straps as I went. I was amazed with the stability of this pack. With other packs I find myself frequently loosening straps to gain some ventilation while on good trail, then tightening them back down to stabilize my load for scrambling. Wit the AirSpeed suspension on the Atmos, I had a very secure and stable load with constant ventilation around my back. I can't wait to see how it performs under real field conditions.

Overall, I found all the features of the Osprey Atmos 65 pack easy to operate and fairly intuitive, and was very impressed while trying it out.

SUMMARY

At first look, the Osprey Atmos 65 pack appears to be an attractive, well-engineered, well-made, and innovative pack. While I question how a few of the features will perform under real-world conditions, the primary systems (the harness system and pack itself) look as though they will function well. I look forward to seeing how the pack will perform under the rigors of real-world use.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1
Atmos 65 loaded for weekend trip
I have used the Osprey Atmos 65 pack on three trips totalling five nights during Field Testing. All trips were in the southern Olympic mountains of Washington State. I have also used the pack for 3 day hikes where I was needing to carry extra gear.

Weather conditions included temperatures ranging from 65-95 F (18-35 C) while wearing the pack, and included both sunny and overcast days, but no rain. Winds were generally light, from a light breeze to 10 mph (16 kph).

Loads varied, ranging from 15 to 40 lbs (6.8 to 18 kg) before water. These included trips up to two nights in duration.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Comfort:

The Osprey Atmos 65 pack is one of the most comfortable packs I have ever used. One of the primary reasons for this is the ventilation. On the hottest day I used it, my back (indeed, my entire body) was sweating profusely. After about 20 minutes on the trail, I thought my hydration reservoir had sprung a leak, as my back suddenly felt cold and wet. I took off my pack, and while my shirt was sweaty I didn't find any sign of a leak. After repeating this several times I finally realized that the cold, wet sensation across my back was actually caused by a breeze between my back and the pack. Every time there was a slight breeze, the air movement across my back cooled my sweaty shirt so much it felt like someone was pouring cool water on my back. My hiking buddies were envious.

In addition to the ventilation, the general design of the suspension is also quite comfortable. I find the shoulder straps to be most comfortable when worn slightly wider than I usually wear them, but the sternum strap is more than long enough to accommodate this. I find the load most comfortable when I wear the hipbelt slightly higher than I normally would, but the design of the hipbelt makes this pack more comfortable than other packs I own when worn high on my hips.

The curvature of the frame also impacts my comfort. While I initially tried wearing the pack very high so that the frame perfectly matched the curvature of my back, I've found that by wearing it slightly lower it transfers the weight more effectively to my hips, making it more comfortable for long days on-trail. I still wear it high when off-trail, though, as the load feels more stable this way.

Volume and Configuration:

The volume and configuration of this pack allow me to use it in a wide variety of conditions. I have used it for several day hikes where I was carrying a good deal of bulky items (extra fleeces for the family, etc.). The compression straps allow the volume to be reduced significantly, making it an acceptable choice for my higher-volume day hikes. For my typical lightweight overnighter, I find the pack to work well when compressed to it's minimum volume. For a mid-weight two-night trip, I begin to let the straps out some. I believe, based on my experiences to date, that the volume and configuration would make this pack more than acceptable for a typical 5-7 day lightweight summer trip for me.

While I love the overall volume and configuration of this pack, there is one thing that I'm not so fond of regarding the pack configuration. The curvature of the pack makes it very difficult to stand the pack upright on the ground. While I love this curvature while wearing it (it adds to the comfort of the pack), it can make it a pain to load sometimes.

IMAGE 2
Atmos 65 loaded for heavy overnighter
Features:

Several key features really stood out to me during the test period. Topping the list is the suspension and ventilation system. Not only is it incredibly cool and comfortable, it is easy to adjust, and offers what I consider a perfect balance between durability and light weight as well as between simplicity and functionality. The hip belt transfers weight more comfortably than any other pack I have ever used. The perforated waffle foam straps not only provide good ventilation, they conform better to my body than other suspension systems I have used, and have resulted in no noticeable hot spots or chafing.

One interesting observation relates to the integrated whistle in the sternum strap buckle. While I own several packs with this feature, the whistle on this pack is much louder than any other that I own, and requires less blowing force to achieve a given volume. I'm not sure if that is due to a design difference or manufacturing variations, but it makes it even easier to annoy my hiking buddies (and would probably come in handy in an emergency, too).

The dual vertical zip front pockets have proven to be very useful. I generally use one to keep my raingear handy (though I haven't needed it yet this summer), and the other to keep any clothing layers I have removed. The elastic panel compartment has been used to carry a fleece jacket once, and a small hydration pack/summit sack once. I've found I prefer not to use that compartment if I can avoid it because when I've stuffed it full it has a tendency to hang up on brush when travelling cross-country, though it hasn't been a problem on trails.

The InsideOut compression straps have been very useful, indeed. I have found them to work well inside (when using the pocket to carry my camera or a water bottle) as well as outside (when carrying items like tent poles). The pockets are very secure in both configurations, and I have found it to be an excellent place to store my camera, which can be pulled out through the opening that faces my back.

The hydration sleeve works perfectly with my favorite hydration reservoir, which has a capacity of 2.5 L. I have not tried deploying the reservoir in the void between my back and the pack, but hope to during long-term testing.

The Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment is something I haven't used much, but playing with it initially it seems to function quite nicely. I hope to gain more experience with this feature during long-term testing.

Finally, the mesh pockets on the hipbelt have been an interesting feature for me. I find them too small for most of the items I want to put there. I can fit my small digital camera in one, but not if the camera is in its case. I find myself using them generally to carry my cell phone or another small item and my inhaler (for asthma).

SUMMARY

The Osprey Atmos 65 pack is one of the most comfortable packs I've ever used, due in large part to its ventilation and load bearing characteristics. While it can be difficult to stand upright for loading due to its curvature, that is a drawback I'm willing to accept for the exceptional comfort provided by that curvature and the pack's other features. I find it to be useful as an oversized day pack for long gear-heavy day hikes and scrambles as well as overnighters and two-night trips. I would not hesitate to take it on trips of up to a week based upon my experiences so far.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Osprey Atmos 65 pack for an additional five nights of overnight use and on two additional day trips during long-term testing. With the exception of one day trip to Mt. Rainier National Park, all use was in the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. Overnight use included one two-night trip and three one-night trips.

Daytime high temperatures ranged from 60 F (16 C) to 95 F (35 C). Load weights ranged from a bulky 15 lbs (7 kg) on a day trip to 40 lbs (18 kg) on my two-night trip (which is much heavier than normal for me).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Osprey Atmos 65 pack has continued to perform exceptionally well during long-term testing. On hot days, I honestly wonder how I ever suffered along with some of my other packs. The ventilation this pack offers between my back and the pack, and the ventilated waffle-foam straps, are truly incredible.

In terms of durability, I have not noted any failures or significant wear so far. Other than some light soiling and scuffing, due mostly to off-trail use, the pack looks much like it did when I received it. It continues to be as comfortable as ever.

I did, during long-term testing, get the opportunity to use the Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment several more times. It is a feature that I'm not quite as excited about as I thought I might be. The feature works well, and it is quite easy to get the poles in and out after a little practice, but I don't find it quite as useful as I thought I would. I usually want to stow my poles when I reach an area where I am doing some scrambling and need to the use of my hands, and this usually occurs in locations that are brushy. When stowed across my body, the poles tend to hang up on the brush. That said, the feature is very useful when I'm having to scramble up a washout in a trail, and saves a great deal of time over taking off my pack and securing the poles in a more traditional way.

I also experimented with hanging my hydration reservoir in the void between the mesh suspension and the body of the pack during long-term testing. This did free up a fair amount of space in the main body of the pack, and the reservoir didn't swing as I walked (which I was concerned it might). The reservoir did shift a few times as I climbed over obstructions in the trail, but I didn't find it particularly bothersome (though I probably wouldn't do this on a serious scramble).

I also experimented (in cooler weather) with stuffing extra clothing in the void between the mesh suspension and the body of the pack. This stopped the ventilation, though I would say the pack was still cooler to wear then most others that I have used. I was quite surprised at just how much clothing I could cram in the space, and how much space in my pack it freed up.

SUMMARY

The Osprey Atmos 65 pack is an extremely comfortable and versatile pack with incredible ventilation that makes is a top performer in hot weather. It is loaded with features that are innovative and useful, and is appropriately sized for a wide range of trip lengths, ranging from heavy day trips to multi-day adventures. It is one of my favorite packs.

CONTINUED USE

I believe the Atmos 65 pack will be the first pack I reach for in hot weather, and it will also be one of my first picks for any trip of 1-3 days due to its incredible comfort. It is, without a doubt, my favorite pack in this size range.

I would like to thank Osprey and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Atmos 65 pack. This concludes my report series.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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