Gadling Gear Reveiw: Osprey Atmos 50 Backpack

I’m one of those people who almost exclusively uses a backpack when traveling. I simply prefer carrying my gear on my back rather than dragging it behind me in a piece of luggage, particularly when navigating through a busy airport. Over the years I’ve managed to collect a number of packs in a variety of sizes, which makes each of them useful depending on the length of the trip. Whether it’s a weekend escape to the coast or a month’s long expedition to the Himalaya, I have a pack suitable for the journey.

My favorite pack by far is my trusty Atmos 50 from Osprey. Not only is it comfortable and spacious, but it is also rugged enough to withstand the rigors of the road. It is so good in fact that it has been a constant companion on trips to six different continents. When I heard that Osprey had updated the Atmos with a new model I was eager to discover if they had managed to improve on the already great design or if their tinkering was ultimately detrimental to the product that I already loved. I needn’t have worried one bit.

Fundamentally the Atmos 50 remains largely unchanged. As the name implies it has a capacity of 50 liters, most of which is contained in its cavernous main storage compartment. A removable storage pocket on the lid is perfect for keeping small gear items close at hand while two large front pockets help to keep other essential items well organized. An integrated hydration sleeve allows backpackers to stay well hydrated on the trail while removable sleeping pad straps and tool attachments extend the carrying capacity beyond just the pockets themselves.As you would expect, the trademark Osprey comfort remains intact on the new Atmos packs as well. An easily adjustable harness makes it a cinch to find the right fit for nearly any body type and a new, thickly padded, hip belt can be adjusted quickly and easily without ever having to take the pack off. The shoulder straps cinch up tightly to keep the Atmos locked in place while on the move, yet still allow the wearer nearly unrestricted motion, even while carrying a heavy load.

One of my favorite features of the original Atmos 50 was the integrated AirSpeed frame, which allows for the passage of air between the wearer’s body and the pack itself. This feature comes in very handy on long days on the trail as it provides some ventilation to the back, keeping you as comfortable and cool as possible, even while carrying a lot of gear. The new version of the Atmos has a redesigned frame that is smaller and lighter yet still manages to perform at the same level as the original. Because the new frame design is more compact and flexible, it is much easier to get this new pack into an overhead compartment, which is always appreciated on crowded flights.

Despite all of the things I love about the Atmos, both old and new, there are still areas where it could be improved. For example, as good as my original Atmos 50 is, its design sometimes made it a challenge to find gear items that I had packed away at the bottom of the bag. On more than one occasion I’ve wished that there was an alternate way to access that gear, either through a bottom zipper or a side panel. Other packs that I own have this ability and I had hoped that Osprey would find a way to add this feature as well. I was a bit disappointed to discover that alternative access wasn’t part of the new design, however, which means I’ll have to continue to dig for that elusive pair of hiking socks that I invariably stuffed to the bottom. Smart packing can help alleviate this issue to a degree but it seems no matter how well you anticipate what you’ll need, Murphy’s Law will ensure something is always just out of reach.

That minor quibble aside, if you’re in the market for a new backpack for an upcoming trek, or like me you simply prefer to travel with your gear on your back, the new Atmos 50 from Osprey is a real winner. Lightweight and comfortable, yet still able to carry everything you’ll need, the new version of this old classic refines the product in some important yet subtle ways.

This is a pack that will see you through many adventures both big and small, but if you feel the need for even more capacity, Osprey offers the Atmos in a 65-liter version as well. That pack is nearly identical to the 50 in every way other than size. MSRP on the Atmos 50 is $199 while the Atmos 65 will set you back $240. Both packs are worth every penny and will last you for years to come.