I think there are two things that can make or break a backpacking trip: footwear and backpacks. If either of those things fails or fits you poorly, “you’re gonna have a bad time”. And since the whole point of backpacking is to enjoy nature and have a good time, you better be sure your pack won’t let you down.
Before Mike sucked me into backpacking, I was big on day hiking. As a day hiker, I rarely ever carried more than 15-20lbs at a time, and generally used a small Camelbak MULE. That pack got me through some amazing day hikes, including the Grand Canyon, Zion, Old Rag, and many more. But it was definitely not sufficient for an overnight trip, so my hunt began.
I knew that Osprey had a good reputation for building women specific packs, and a good friend of mine has an Osprey day pack that she raves about. So that was my starting point. Fortunately, I didn’t need to go any further.
I started with the 2014 model of the Osprey Aura 65, and took it on a 3 day trip through the wilderness around Mount Rogers. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a flaw with the frame, and I had a pretty significant hot spot on my shoulder blade at the end of that trip. I was a little nervous because we had a trip to Yosemite coming up and I needed to make sure I had a pack that would do the job.
Fortunately, I had purchased the pack from REI, who have an outstanding return policy. Also fortunately, in the time between my purchase and my return, Osprey updated a few of their packs, the Aura being one of them. The new pack is equipped with their awesome “anti-gravity” suspension system. Other than that, the pack is almost exactly the same as the old model, which I loved except for the flaw that caused my issues. The pack comes in different sizes, I ended up needing an XS because of my short torso. (I’m 5’1″, and have longish legs for a short person).
I loaded the new pack with my typical gear, making sure it would be close to trail weight and leashed up my dog, Bear. We hit the roads around my house for a couple of 2-3 mile jaunts during which I was able to get the straps all adjusted properly and test out the fit. There were no issues and it rode perfectly.
I carried the pack for over 45 miles in Yosemite with a 40lb load over some big elevation changes and I barely even noticed it was there.
There are some things I really like about this pack and only a couple of things I would change.
- This pack has a LOT of pockets. For someone like me, who likes to over organize my pack, this is ideal.
- The “beaver tail”. This stretchy front pocket can hold a lot of stuff that you might want readily available (an extra layer, hat, gloves, etc.)
- The anti-gravity suspension. If you haven’t checked it out, DO IT. It’s ammmmmmazing.
- It’s super light. Weighing in at only around 4lbs means I can put more crap inside my pack and not break my back.
- Larger hip-belt pockets. They were too small to be very functional. The stuff I could fit in there was hard to get back out since I couldn’t get my whole hand in to find things or pull them out.
- A better hydration sleeve system. This doesn’t really exist on any packs I have found…but it’s a pain to try to fill a bladder and get it back into a full pack. I usually end up having to take half the stuff out of my pack to get my bladder back in the pack.
- A mesh compartment in the lid for small items like chapstick and car keys. The lid is really roomy and stuff shifted around a lot in there which was awkward. I figured out how to avoid it by changing how I packed my bag, but still really missed a small personal items compartment.
They also have a men’s version of this pack called the Atmos, which I think I have ALMOST convinced Mike to buy.
Both the men and the women’s versions of this pack also come in a 50L size, which I am super tempted to get for those one night camping trips. But seeing as I already have way too many packs, I should probably hold off for a while to keep friends from submitting my name to Hoarders.
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