Osprey makes some of the most innovative backpacks available on the market right now. If you’re looking for high-performance gear that’s able to keep up with you on the trails, then Osprey is easily one of the best fits for you. They’re committed to cultivating a sense of adventure. They’re backpacks that are designed to keep you out on the trails as long as you want to be out there.
They’re made with the understanding that the only thing keeping you from reconnecting with the world and forging new paths is the logistical nightmare of carrying all of your provisions with you. If you could carry your home on your back, you would, and Osprey’s packs bring everyone one step closer to that.
For folks trying to seek out the thrills in life, these packs are some of the most crucial parts of reclaiming the world. It’s hard to pick the best Osprey bag for those reasons, so we’re going to compare the Osprey Atmos and the Osprey Aether to make choosing between the two a little bit easier!
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Osprey Atmos vs Aether – Which Backpack is Best in 2021? – Overview
When you’re shopping around for something like a new backpack it feels impossible to let your mind settle on something after a while. You end up comparing stats back and forth. You get stuck on details like exact measurements, the number of compartments, and how the colors look under specific lighting conditions. It’s easy to get hung up on those things because they matter.
Backpacks like this cost a decent chunk of change, and when they’re as well made as Osprey’s backpacks, you’re going to be holding onto these bags for at least a few years. If you want to make it easier on yourself, just remember that a backpack needs to do a few key things. They need to be comfortable, versatile, and practical.
A bag that isn’t designed to deliver you a reasonable amount of comfort is going to cut your trip short. You’re carrying a lot of stuff on your back when you’re backpacking, and if you’re forcing all of that weight onto two inches of your shoulders, you’re going to regret it very quickly. Backpacking is an activity that’s all about commitment. When you head out on the trail, there’s only one way to get back to where you started, and that’s by walking.
If you’re being actively tortured by your backpack the entire time, you’re going to erode your willpower and nearly all of your precious energy is going to be wasted on wrangling your brain. You also don’t want to be inflicting undue stress on your body. Our bodies are incredible, they’re capable of feats that you could never imagine, and every single generation we find ways to push ourselves further and further.
No matter how spectacular the feat, we have to take care of ourselves, though. Going backpacking with a sloppy bag that’s not giving you any support is going to be murder on your spine and your knees. You’re going to be finding unnatural ways to compensate for the horrible stress your body is under. If you’re bearing the weight of your equipment well outside of your center of gravity, your body immediately wants to compensate for that. You’ll start using horrible posture and you’ll be putting that pressure on parts of your spine that don’t need any extra stress, and you’ll be dealing with the consequences of a bad bag for years.
Versatility in a backpack is going to be a major deciding how to even begin packing your bag. You can save space in a plethora of ways depending on the functionality of your bag. If you’ve got straps on your bag for bedrolls, you suddenly have a ton of room on the inside of your bag for other provisions. If your bag has detachable straps that serve as pillows, you’ve just killed two birds with one stone. Do you need a water bottle, or does your bag has space inside of it for a water bladder?
All of these things need to be considered before you even begin to hit the trail. When you’re looking at a good backpack, you should think about the equipment you tend to bring along with you. Are you able to eliminate some of that just by finding the right bag that has something built right into it? Your backpacking can become so much more pleasant when you have a bag that works in tandem with your equipment, exponentially boosting the usefulness of both your bag and the equipment you have on hand.
It’s possible to go overboard with feature creep. It’s also possible to shoot too low with your backpacks. You need something that’s not going to become a burden halfway through your week. If your backpack is full of cables and gadgets that are going to end up dead after your first day, then your bag might now be very practical.
If your bag technically holds a lot of weight, but it all extends outwards, forcing you to bear it all on your spine, or it all comes straight down, throwing off your balance and risking injury, then your bag might not be practical. You’ll know what practical means to you based on where you like to backpack and how far, but this is the hardest to quantify. You need to use your critical thinking and common sense to determine how useful a bag will be once you’re out in the wild with it.
Osprey Aether: Suspension and Frame
The Osprey Aether is an internal frame backpack with adjustable torso length, adjustable hip belts, and adjustable shoulder straps. The shoulder straps feature a pair of load lifters, which are going to be one of the best things about this pack. They didn’t name the Aether after the legendary immaterial substance for nothing. This bag is all about relieving the load you have on your back and making your backpacking more achievable.
The load lifters are a simple mechanism. They just apply a little bit of oppositional force to your shoulder straps by clipping into place above your trapezoids, which are the muscles that are taking most of the punishment when you’re carrying around a backpack. This is nothing like lugging around one of those backpacks you had back in high school when you were carrying around too many books.
The straps are meant to accommodate the weight, they’re wide enough to evenly distribute the load across your back, and the load lifters keep the straps from digging into your shoulders, leaving you to focus on the walk ahead of you. We can’t stress enough how helpful the load lifters and the cushy foam straps work together with the rest of the bag to create a manageable load when you’re really putting this bag to the test.
Osprey suggests a maximum load limit of about sixty pounds, which is a ton when you’re carrying it for days at a time, and we think that load limit is accurate. The magic imbued in the straps can only go so far, and you’re getting dangerously close to uncomfortable territory, which is going to be a nightmare when you don’t have any way of offloading that weight until you either make it back home or hit your next checkpoint.
The tricks Osprey pulled to give this backpack the kind of structure it needs to give you the effortless support that it does make it feel more like an external frame backpack than the floppy internal frames you may have grown accustomed to. The inclusion of a hip belt and the way the adjustable straps work mean that Osprey had to give the internal frame of this bag a much more solid structure than other internal frames.
They also built this bag to reach way over your head, keeping your center of balance somewhere natural. Adding this verticality to the bag only served to give it even more structure, so you’re truly just gliding along while the bag does most of the heavy lifting. The Osprey Aether really shines in its external carrying capacity. There are several points of attachment that allow this bag to carry much more than the internal capacity of the bag.
If you’re the tactical type, you can slap a few tools on here MOLLE style, or you can strap some oversized packages onto the back of your bag using everything that’s immediately available on the bag. Getting your larger gear out to the trails is pretty simple when you’ve got this backpack along for the ride. With a little bit of quick thinking and ample space, this bag creates massive opportunities for massive transport all over its front side.
Osprey Aether Summary
This bag is all about long-distance trips. The suspension system laced throughout this bag is designed specifically to make sure the load you’re carrying is distributed evenly along your back and hips, allowing you to muscle through 60-pound loads like they’re nothing. That’s the magic of this bag, making it well worth the money. Other cheaper bags will ask you to carry all of that weight with your shoulders alone, distributing your weight way below your hips and pretty far behind your bottom.
It’s an unnatural center of balance, and you end up obliterating your posture to compensate. The Osprey Aether is a modern marvel, and that’s before we’ve even mentioned the easy access this bag gives you to all of your stuff. The zipper access on the front will get you directly into the bulk of your bag with no fuss at all, and the convertible top gives you all of the functionality of a heavy-duty backpack or the lighter, more recreational daypack for lugging your things around after you and your crew have settled into a campsite and you want to poke around the immediate area without burdening yourself with an amount of weight equivalent to a small child.
Overall this is a bag that’s incredible for long trips, heavy loads, and ambitious backpackers. If you’re trying to cover some serious distances with a lot of stuff on your back and you want to do it without throwing your lumbar system out, then you’re going to love the versatility and sheer effectiveness of the Osprey Aether.
Osprey Atmos: Suspension and Frame
The Osprey Atmos is similar to the Aether. They both feature a prominent hip strap that’s meant to take a lot of the pressure off of your shoulders by recruiting the steadier parts of your body. They’re both bags with a lot of ventilation sewn throughout their bodies, making them comfortable to leave on over the course of your day, and they’re both incredibly comfortable options for backpackers that put a premium on their bag’s ability to keep them going without constantly reminding them of the incredible burden they’ve packed into their bags.
The Atmos also has some anti-gravity qualities in the shoulder straps, making this pack a breeze to carry. The biggest difference between the two is that the Atmos is laser-focused on comfort. When you slip it over your shoulders and clip that belt into place for the first time, it’s like the most comforting firm embrace you’ve ever felt from a bag. This bag’s straps are cushioned specifically to allow the weight of your bag to distribute itself evenly across your back and body.
Instead of digging into your shoulders, the weight is gently laid across your muscles and it gingerly massages itself into the springy foam of the straps, encompassing your body with your provisions without ever once feeling like it’s out to punish your shoulders for having the audacity to carry your supplies. The Atmos is a great deal smaller than the Aether, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as capable of creatively storing your necessities all around itself.
This bag is chock full of compartments with specialized purposes, taking a lot of the mental load off of you when it’s time to load and unload this pack after long days of trailblazing. These compartments range from an internal sleeve built to accommodate hydration reservoirs up to 3L, there are mesh pockets all over the place for easy access to things like your shovels, hatchets, and external water bottles. You have a sleeping bag compartment located along the bottom of this bag and detachable sleeping pad straps, saving you room for bringing along a pillow.
Osprey Atmos Summary
This bag is just plain comfortable, there are no two ways about it. A comfortable bag is hard to beat. When comparing the Atmos to the Aether, the Atmos almost seems small by comparison, but 40-pounds worth of equipment is nothing to sneeze at. These backpacks are more than capable of outfitting you with several days’ worth of equipment, and the insane level of comfort you’re getting in exchange for twenty pounds is going to go a long way.
If you’re uncomfortable during a hike, you’re not going to make it very far, but this particular Osprey bag totally circumvents that major obstacle. One knock against this bag is its lack of external points of attachment. When you’re trying to get as much in your bag as possible, it’s sometimes useful to have loops and hooks for your things to sit on the outside of the bag.
There’s plenty of outdoor equipment that doesn’t need to be protected from the elements as hermetically as your other equipment, and missing out on space on the outside of your bag is a real shame. The ventilation on this bag is superb, you’re going to feel like there’s nothing between your back and the air around you, it’s incredibly breathable. The wide straps of this bag along with the load lifters and the hug-like hip straps are all pulling overtime to make a bag that’s a force to be reckoned with.
We’re going to have to give this one to the Aether. The Atmos is an incredible bag, let’s get that straight. If your needs are better served by picking up the Osprey Atmos, then by all means you should feel empowered to pick it up. However, from a raw performance perspective, this bag is just out of this world. The support it gives your body when your pack starts hitting the upper limits of its weight capacity is just mind-blowing. You’re going to feel like a backpacking superhero once you’ve loaded this backpack up and thrown it over your shoulders.
The straps, the load lifters, and the overall structure of this bag are just something special. You’re going to be able to fit a surprising amount of equipment in here. The 60-pound load limit is much higher than you think it is, just try lying out sixty pounds of equipment at home, you’ll see how crazy it is to be able to carry all of that almost effortlessly because of how well-machined this bag is. It’s spacious, it’s comfortable, and it’s an absolute marvel to behold.