After suffering through almost fifty miles of hills in the California sun under what became an 82 Liter “book bag,” (review here) I had to bid farewell to my Mystery Ranch Terraplane. A fan of Dana Gleason’s from way back, it took all I had to put that green beast of burden on eBay and get on my pro deal website to buy the frequently praised Osprey Atmos 65 (retail $259). What is sadder still is I do not regret it for a moment.
When I pulled the Atmos out of the box, the first thing I noticed was the overall weight of the empty ruck. Though slightly smaller than the cavernous Mystery Ranch (17 liter loss), I also save 3.5lbs of pack weight. The medium Atmos is 65 Liters (3967 cubes) weighing in at just over four and one half pounds. The 100 denier Osprey versus the 500 denier bombproof design of the Terraplane is likely a help in the weight department.
The Atmos is a top feeder with a generous, removable lid split by two separate pockets for your priority items; perfect for a small first aid kit, a headlamp, and even an extra layer for your rest stops. A water resistant, trademarked “FlapJacket” lies beneath the lid to allow the user to remove the lid when not required, thus saving weight. It also acts nicely as one more layer of weather resistance between the backcountry and your stuff.
Additional storage comes from the remaining 9 pockets. The largest is the roomy sleeping bag compartment with dual side pockets centered by a “beaver tail” style mesh storage that is perfect for wet items, an extra layer or other items you need to secure but gain access to quickly. The water bottle holsters have the unique Osprey feature of being multi-positional. Accommodating a full size Nalgene you can position the bottle vertically or at a slight cant with the top facing forward for easy access while moving. The internal pocket for a full size hydration bladder is another improvement over my past expedition style packs. I have found that the two smaller belt pockets are nice to have, but not easily accessed and difficult to close when wearing the pack. Osprey does sell supplemental pouch systems to provide the user a chest pouch that works well on the move.
The real draw to the Atmos is that it features the company’s Anti-Gravity suspension system for your back, shoulders and hips. Built to be gender specific, the Osprey Anti-Gravity provides the hiker with a mesh panel that provides breath-ability integrated into a design that contours with your body’s shape. The load lifters above the shoulders as an example, off set from the shoulder straps higher than your traditional bag allowing the shoulder straps to curve over the shoulder in lieu of the traditional “cinching” down. Along with the higher placed load lifter, the mesh back panel acts as a hammock around your back that continues down to the lumbar area and hips. This not only offsets your load from your back for ventilation, but carries 60lbs of gear with an efficiency I have never experienced. Like the shoulders, the hip belt design offsets from the hips for better load carrying using mesh and padding contoured with the body. This is my chief complaint on packs of almost all other designs. No hip belt I have used to date has offered a build that allows for semi-custom fit with excellent load carry and limited bulk to this level. The Atmos design also allows an additional 3 inches on the hip belt for that semi-custom feel. Two tabs velcroed to the interior of the padded loop offer an extension option so it can offer micro adjustments on the move. The back has a similar sliding adjustment feature offering up to four inches of movement for fine adjustment.
The lightweight materials and efficient load bearing is a force multiplier for me on the trail. Carrying heavy loads in the hills and mountains and not fighting my hip belt to stay cinched thus sustaining the load on my hips, where it belongs, instead of bearing down on my shoulders like my previous packs is a huge advantage. The old saying I learned as a young Marine that “ounces equals pounds, pounds equals pain” is time and again proven in long, arduous trips. Cutting a pack’s weight down to half my last saved close to four pounds of material, fast tech buckles and straps. This offers me the chance to go lighter without sacrificing any gear and carry that load in a manner more efficient than before.
The energy save after or during a hike is really the juice for any load carrying system. As a recreational hiker, you want to have the energy to go that extra mile to a vista or arrive at camp ready to enjoy a fire with friends. Lack of fatigue also allows for clearer thought, better decision making and the ability to respond if an “event” occurs on the trail. This applies to any crisis or preparedness situation as well. As a SAR member or having a lengthy overland movement to relocate family and pets due to a natural or man made crisis, you want to move light, stay agile and efficient and be able to stay situationally aware for a longer duration.
Osprey offers a good return policy for gear and as in most companies affiliated with the outdoor industry have excellent customer service. They also offer a lifetime parts replacement policy which we have already used on other packs and it was fast and painless.
So far, the bang for the buck is well worth it for this pack and I look forward to additional testing and evaluation as I approach a week long trek in Zion. The carry and weight was the focal of this review and so far I’m excited at the results. Sustainability and durability will be evaluated with time and use.