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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Osprey Atmos AG and Aura AG 2016 > Test Report by Theresa Lawrence

OSPREY AURA AG 65 PACK

Test Series by Theresa Lawrence


Initial Report - July 5, 2016

Field Report - August 29, 2016
Long Term Report
- November 2, 2016 

TESTER INFORMATION

Name: Theresa Lawrence
Email: theresa_newell AT yahoo DOT com
Age: 38
Location: Sparwood, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)
Waist Measurement: 29 in (74 cm)
Hip Measurement: 39 1/4 in (100 cm)
Torso Length:19.5 in (50 cm)

I have more than 15 years of backpacking experience. Day hikes and 2-3 day backpacking trips take place on most weekends throughout the year while longer trips are only occasional. I backpack predominantly in mountain terrain (Coast Range, Cascades and Canadian Rockies) with the goal of summiting peaks. Activities I use my gear with include mountaineering, ski touring, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, trail running, Search and Rescue and overseas travel. I like my gear to be reasonably light, convenient and simple to use though I would not claim to be a lightweight hiker.

Initial Report - July 5, 2016
PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer:
Osprey Packs, Inc
Manufacturer's URL:  www.ospreypacks.com
Year of Manufacture: 2016
Made in:
Vietnam
MSRP: $260 USD
Listed Weight:
Measured Weight:
4.53 lbs (2.04kg)
5 lbs (2.27 kg)
Volume:  65 L (3967 cubic in
Dimensions:
31h x 15w x 15d in (79 x 38 x 38 cm)
Load Range: 30-50 lbs (13.6-22.7 kg)
Materials:

Main: 100D X 630D Nylon Dobby
Accent: 210D High Tenacity Nylon
Bottom: 420HD Nylon Packcloth
Sizes Available:
WXS, WS, WM (tested)
Colors Available: Silver Streak, Rain Forest Green (tested)

DESCRIPTION                                                                       

The Aura AG 65 is a pack intended to accommodate heavy backpacking loads and longer treks. What makes this pack able to do this is its unique suspension system trademarked 'Anti-Gravity'. This system is adjustable for torso length and includes a mesh, contoured back panel that allows for ventilation as well as comfort. There is also a 'Fit-on-the-Fly' hip belt that is adjustable. In fact the hip pads at each side can retract into the pack for a smaller waist. Another unique feature is the 'FlapJacket', which is a protective cover for the top of the pack when the lid is removed. It is part of the pack and not removable itself. This pack is top access only, but has a zippered sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider. There are sleeping pad straps on the outside of this compartment, which are also removable. There are lots of options for organizing gear; starting with two pockets on the lid, a hydration bladder pocket, dual hip belt pockets, dual mesh water bottle pockets, a mesh stash pocket on the back, and another set of dual zippered pockets outside the main body. Also included are the two sets of tool loops and a 'Stow-on-the-Go' trekking pole attachment that runs off the shoulder strap. Last but not least, a safety whistle embedded in the sternum strap and many compression straps for changing volume and securing items finish off this fine pack. 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT ON

My first impression of this pack was that a lot of thought and creativity had been put into the design. It displayed modern lines and technology, namely the 'Anti-Gravity' suspension system. As soon as I put this pack on, I was surprised in a good way, by the fact that the hip belt seemed to hug me very strongly. Much like a big bear hug. How this will translate into the field is yet to be determined. I was able to adjust the length with a very user friendly yoke and camming device. I was able to achieve a personalized fit quite quickly. I was also able to shorten the hip pads to accommodate my hip size, but now I have quite long tail straps. As this was the largest pack of the three sizes offered, I was not at all surprised, just pleased that the hip pads were where they should be on my hips instead of all the way around to my middle. I do like the size of the hip pockets. They are large enough that I can put more than one small item in them. I also like the size and shape of the toggles for the zippers. They are easy to find, grasp and use. I already wish that the same such toggle had been used on the cord that tightens the top access of the main body. Currently there isn't anything, just a knot at the end. This would allow it to run much smoother. The only true reservation I have is my usual concern over mesh, which is that it will snag and thus not endure. My worry with this pack especially is that the back contoured ventilation panel is dependent upon the integrity of this mesh (see photos above). I am however, very interested not only in seeing how this all functions, but how it will hold up. 

SUMMARY

So far my impressions of this pack are very positive. I admire the workmanship, creativity and design of this pack. Many unique features that appear to have very performance-based functions with aims to make my backpacking experience more pleasurable. In the coming months I hope to unveil their successes or short-comings. I will be taking this pack on multiple backpacking trips into alpine terrain where I will be able to test it in some very challenging terrain. I will also be using it to travel on an overseas trip to Greece. Check back in a couple of months to find out more about how the field testing went.


Field Report - August 29, 2016



FIELD CONDITIONS


Over the past couple months I've taken the Osprey Aura 65 on one base camping trip and two backpacking trips. The first consisted of four days and three nights at Lake Ohara in Yoho National Park and the latter consisted of two days and one night on Sofa Mountain in Waterton National Park and four days and three nights at Limestone Lakes in the Height of the Rockies Provincial Park. With the exception of a couple of glorious days of sunshine, the majority of weather was an unfortunate amount of precipitation from thunder showers. Temperatures ranged from 9 C to 30 C (
48 to 86 F). Terrain consisted of forest and alpine scree. Distance covered with the pack was approximately 120 km (75 mi). Elevation gain to date is over 3600 m (11,800 ft).

FIT AND COMFORT

My thoughts about fit and comfort have been continually evolving throughout the two months of field use. My first adjustments have since changed and are still changing. I can't seem to find the right spot yet and I'm still experimenting with different positions of the yoke. What I've found is that when I put the yoke downwards, I can lengthen the shoulder straps to achieve a fit for my torso length or I can raise the yoke and tighten the shoulder straps and still achieve a fit for my torso length. As a result I'm playing with different heights of the yoke. When I first set up the pack, the yoke was fairly low on the back and I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my balance. When the pack was full I felt as if I would tip over backwards, so this position I discovered put my center of gravity backwards. I then moved the yoke upward and this was much better. I still don't feel that the fit is perfect, the more I hike with it the more I find need for adjustment. Sometimes my head would hit the pack and sometimes it would feel as if I had a bar across the top of my back. I feel I am still working towards comfort and happy fit. Having said that, I find the hip belt very supportive and comfortable. It is also quite bulky and stiff making it laborious to put around me and I do feel as though I am running out of room to cinch it up when I'm not wearing layers. I am using the smallest hip belt setting and am almost touching either side. I also have extremely long tails that I have to tie in knots so they don't get in my way. I do like the shoulder straps, they are nicely padded.  

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Thunderstorms have plagued the past 2 months in the Rockies where I have been hiking. And it rained for 7 out of the 10 days that I've hiked with this pack.  The one thing I dearly missed was a rain cover. While the pack material beads up water for some decent repellency, it was no match for hours of rain or a short deluge of stormy weather. Once saturated with water everything inside was wet. After my first use in the rain, I now bring a rain cover that I stole from one of my other packs. It does the job, but it doesn't fit the pack as well as it could. Having only ever lived on the west (wet) coast and the Rocky Mountains, which are notorious for thunder storms, I am a big fan of packs that come with rain covers.

I love the hip pockets. They are of a size that is useful for my GPS, snack bars, camera and knife, making these items easy for access on the trail. Sometimes the zipper is tricky to open or close because of how the waist belt curves, putting it at an odd angle that requires two hands to work it open or closed. Only a minor issue. The mesh pockets are holding up well and they proved handy to stash things like bug spray, bear spray or a Nalgene bottle. I can reach these items myself with one hand. The large stash mesh pocket on the back was handy for stowing layers and gaiters quickly without having to undo the main pack area. The two zippered pockets on either side of the pack are large enough to put rain gear and my first aid kit, among other things. They helped to keep things organized. I also found these useful to put all the items that would normally be in my top lid, when the top lid is removed. The top lid with two pockets is of a useful design and is fully adjustable to fit varying volumes of pack underneath.

I found the 'Flap-Jacket' to be useful when the top lid was removed. It covered the top access of the pack nicely. It was just odd to have the double fabric (flap and lid) when the top lid was in use. There was a lot of extra fabric and extra buckles that sort of tucked away, but not really. I found this pack to be really restrictive when scrambling with hands on rock to summit peaks. Even in its most compressed form with the top lid removed, the frame including the bulky waist belt and straps made it difficult to move on all fours. This pack is great for pounding the trail, but it doesn't convert well to a scrambling pack, which I like to do as most of my trips involve backpacking into an alpine area followed by scrambling to the summits of surrounding peaks. I found my balance was always off and being pulled back and my arms were restricted from raising by the top of the frame, or the back of my head would hit the frame if I tried to look up to find my route.

I was able to use all the tool loops and 'Stow-on-the-go' options for trekking poles and ice axes. They were all straight forward to use. The 'Stow-on-the-go' feature was particularly useful for when I wanted to ditch my poles for hands-on scrambling. I could do this myself without taking off my pack. I do like the size and shape of the toggles on the zippers. They offer good grip.

The mesh contoured back panel, I felt did offer good ventilation. I'm not sure about the 'Anti-gravity' suspension system. As I mentioned above, I'm still playing with the position of the yoke, which I'm finding greatly affects center of gravity and load position. So, I would like more time with the pack to hash it out and come to a final conclusion before I make further comments.

SUMMARY

So far I'd say that there are many things I really like about this pack and some challenges I've had with fit and comfort that I'm hoping will be worked out before this test is over. At this time I would say the pack is definitely well made and expertly crafted. I'm just not sure that it fits me all that well or if I just need to continue to make adjustments until I find what works. I am probably at the smaller end of this packs dimension limits, but I was too tall for the smaller sizes available. My likes and dislikes to date are listed below. It would be best to check back in approximately 2 months to find out my final opinions on this pack. 

Likes
- 'Stow-on-the-go' trekking pole holder
- Large hip belt pockets
- Multiple large mesh pockets on sides and back
- Top lid is removable with 'Flap-Jacket' to replace it
- Sturdy fabric
- Cushioned waist belt and shoulder straps
- Mesh contoured back panel allows good ventilation
- Size and shape of the toggles on the zippers offers good grip

Dislikes
- No rain cover included
- Removable lid doesn't convert to a waist pouch or mini-pack (no way to use it on its own)
- Did not make a good scrambling pack, frame restricted my movement and head from looking up
- Still needing to troubleshoot finding the best adjustment for my size (work in progress; jury is still out on 'Anti-gravity' suspension).

Photo right: scrambling up Sofa Mountain with the top lid of the pack removed and straps compressed to make for a small scrambling pack. Also note, the poles in the 'Stow-on-the-go' position.


Long Term Report - November 2, 2016

LONG TERM FIELD CONDITIONS 

Since the field report I have taken this back pack on another three overnights in Glacier National Park, Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. The total distance hiked from these trips was 36 km (22.4 mi) and the total elevation gain was about 1200 m (3940 ft). Temperatures ranged from 3 to 12 C (37 to 54 F). Weather was a mix of rain, sun and clouds on the first trip and sun and clouds on the second trip. Trail conditions were well maintained trails up to alpine locations. I also brought this pack traveling to Greece for three weeks. It mainly endured airport travel and car camping during this trip.

COMFORT & FIT

I had some issues with finding the right settings for fit as mentioned in my earlier report and found that the more I used it the more I was able to trouble shoot and break the pack in. In the end I was able to work it out to my satisfaction. I still found that this pack was more comfortable on non-technical easy trails than on more difficult uneven terrain where it still felt restrictive and cumbersome compared to other packs I have worn.

PERFORMANCE & DURABILITY
 
I'm pleased overall with how this pack held up. It is very well made and is still in great shape. This is even after its travel through all the baggage handling that occurred overseas. The features on the pack were well used and proved useful. I found the pack somewhat heavy on its own due to the sturdy material and extra material for the 'Flap Jacket', which when used with the lid always felt redundant. But of course it was useful when the lid was removed. I still wish I had a rain cover as I kept encountering ill weather. I was able to use two 1 L Nalgene bottles in each side mesh pocket. They could be used in two ways; horizontal and upright. I was pleased that I could easily grab my water on my own with one had and put it back in its holster with the help of the other hand when it was in the horizontal position. I enjoyed this convenience very much.

SUMMARY

Overall I think Osprey did a good job constructing this pack. I'm not sure how they could use my feedback to improve upon the fit and comfort on more technical trails, but this was a great long distance trail pack, which was able to hold a lot of gear in convenient locations with a comfy waist belt. I appreciated the size of the pockets, though the waist pockets were tricky to zip up and unzip due to the curvature of the waist belt. Perhaps a little more material in this area would have loosened this up a bit more. I plan to continue using this pack in the future for long distances on well kept trails and I would also not hesitate to bring it again on my travels overseas. My  updated likes and dislikes are as below. 

Final Likes
- 'Stow-on-the-go' trekking pole holder is convenient
- Large hip belt pockets
- Two large mesh pockets on sides (great for storing 1 L Nalgene water bottles)
- Mesh back pocket that can hold many 'on-the-go' items
- Top lid is removable with 'Flap-Jacket' to replace it
- Sturdy fabric
- Cushioned waist belt and shoulder straps
- Mesh contoured back panel allows good ventilation
- Size and shape of the toggles on the zippers offers good grip

Final Dislikes
- Hip belt pockets are difficult to zip open and close due to curvature of hip belt, it takes two hands and some fiddling
- No rain cover included
- Removable lid doesn't convert to a waist pouch or mini-pack (there's no way to use it on its own)
- Frame restricted my movement and head from looking up and arms from reaching high in front of me
- Required a fair bit of troubleshooting and breaking in to find the best adjustment for my size

I'd like to thank Osprey Packs, Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to take part in this test series. 




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