UPDATE: See lower half of article for post West Coast Trail update:
My pending 7 day hike on the West Coast Trail spurred me to upgrade my pack. My old M.E.C. pack served me well for 10 years on multiday canoe / kayak trips, snowshoe trips, and numerous adventures abroad, including multiple trips to Europe, Brazil, Peru, South Africa and New Zealand. However, technology has changed a lot, and faced with a rugged hike carrying a week’s worth of supplies I thought it was time for something new. Likely many readers are in the same boat so this review may be helpful.
After some searching I opted for the Osprey Atmos 65, and was pleased to review this pack for trailpeak.com. We head out on our West Coast Trail adventure shortly but have been training / testing our packs by loading them up and doing some hikes in our area.
I am very impressed by Osprey and the Atmos 65. The pack is sturdy, but extremely light. I have read some reviews that comment on it not fitting well on certain body types. However, my 5’7”, 150 lb frame likes the feel and comfort. This may also be because Osprey updated the pack's harness system. Despite being loaded with over 30 lbs of gear, it feels like an extension of me rather than something that I am forced to carry.
The mesh frame allows it to hold its shape, keeping it off your back and allowing plenty of ventilation. After a few hours hiking (uphill) my back is still dry whereas my girlfriend’s pack is too close to her back and both become drenched with sweat. There is an internal pouch for your hydration system, and a hole at the side for your hose to come out. Unlike some other packs I looked at, the outlet hole has over an inch of overlapping fabric this allows for a relatively good seal around the hose so water cannot get in. Waterproofing was a key feature for me, given that I will be hiking in a rainforest and on a beach.
I have relatively bony hips and therefore appreciated that the waist belt on the Atmos 65 has a padded portion that is adjustable and can be extended another 3 inches on either side. The belt also contains a couple of small and easy to access pockets for snacks, compass, etc.
As with most packs, the Osprey Atmos 65 has plenty of external straps so that one can attach a sleeping bag, mattress, etc. The side pocket and straps above it were particularly suited to nicely securing my tent poles. There is a removable divider in the lower part of the pack to allow one to create a separate bottom compartment for storage and easy access to your sleeping bag. Otherwise the main compartment is only accessible from the top. There is a removable floating dual compartment top pocket that can hold quite a bit of gear.
Finally, sometimes it is the small things that make a difference. The strings attached to the zippers are easy to grab and sturdy. I’ve broken a few strings on various packs over the years, but I don’t think this will be a problem with the Atmos. Also, there is the handy “stow on the go” trekking pole attachment. I have yet to use trekking poles, but in testing this out, it is a nice convenient way to affix your poles when on the go while still allowing you easy access to them when you need them next. When hiking without poles, I have been using this eye ring as a convenient place to clip a water bottle or GPS for easy access.
Alas, the pack is not perfect and there are a few minor annoyances. There is a large, easy access external stretch pocket on the front of the pack. However, this is held against the main pack by a central buckle and the elastic upper portion of the mesh pocket. Unlike some other packs there is no flap that comes down from the top to overlap the pocket opening. This leaves a small space where water could drip down into. However, if you really want your stuff to be dry, there are dual vertical zippered pockets on the front.
Unlike some other Osprey packs, the Atmos 65 does not have a built-in rain cover so you have to buy this separately.
Another minor inconvenience came with adjusting the height of the shoulder straps - I.e. the overall length of the pack depending on body size. These are held firmly in place by about 7 x 7 inches of Velcro which takes some effort to free up and move. I guess the upside is that once the height is set, it is unlikely the straps will accidentally move during use of the pack.
Those are my comments for now. Look for the post West Coast Trail update at the end of June!.. Readers can go get the tecnical specs for the Osprey Atmos 65, here. If you are thinking about a multi-day trek, especially in a damp or warm zone where ventilation is a must (i.e. hiking on the B.C. or Newfoundland coast), check this pack out and keep in mind Osprey is focused on innovation, so refinements and improvements are constantly being made to it's line-up of packs.
Post West Coast Trail update:
7 days of hiking along beach, boulders, forest trail, and at times endless mud pits put me and the Atmos to the test. It was an ideal size for this type of trip as I was able to carry almost all of my gear internally, with only my thermarest strapped outside. The multitude of external pockets – particularly the stretch pocket on the front were useful for easy access items. Throughout the trek the pack was pretty comfortable and it was easy to adjust the straps to redistribute the weight. My starting pack weight was 44 lbs., which is nicely within the recommended weight of 55 lbs or less.
The Osprey did a reasonable job of being water resistant. I did have an external pack cover, but given that it rained for 4 days, there were several times where the pack was exposed when I was setting up or taking down camp. My girlfriend’s pack ended up having water inside, but the Osprey maintained a dry interior. Despite at times being dragged along jagged rocks that I was climbing over, the pack did not experience any tears.
The most underrated pre-trek feature of the Atmos was the stow-on-the-go pole attachment. There were frequent (and sometimes endless) ladders on the West Coast Trail, and it was great to be able to quickly secure your poles scale the ladder and then retrieve your poles with ease. My girlfriend was frustrated with not being able to easily put away her poles (she has a non-Osprey pack). Eventually she partnered with another hiker who did not have poles, but did have an Osprey. Every ladder she would turn over her poles to the Osprey user to secure. I also discovered that I could secure 2 sets of poles in the stow-on-the-go mechanism.
My only new criticism of the pack would be the compartment for the water bladder. I brought along a 2 litre bladder, which unfortunately was too big to be contained entirely in the pocket provided to house the bladder. 2/3 of it fit in but the rest bulged out of the pocket into the main compartment. Not really that big a deal since it was still far enough into the pocket to be held in place, but it was kind of annoying that the top of this compartment had a zipper closure that I couldn’t even come close to using.
In summary, I like the Osprey Atmos 65. It carries a lot of gear, holds up to wear and tear, and has easy access features. The light weight suspension also provides good aeration, and the pack is comfortable when carrying multi-day trek gear and weight.
Gerald W. - Guest Reviewer, Adventurer