Gear Closet: Osprey Atmos 50 Backpack

It is difficult to improve on perfection. Especially in the world of outdoor gear. One of my all-time favorite pieces of gear is my Osprey Atmos 50 backpack. I love it so much that I’ve taken it with me on trips to six continents and it has always served me well.

It is the perfect size to fit in most overhead compartments and yet still carry all the gear you need for an extended trip. My Atmos has been up mountains, across deserts and down rivers, and while it has a few battle scars it remains in great condition and always ready for a new adventure.

With all of that in mind I was a bit skeptical when I learned that Osprey had updated my favorite pack for 2012. After all, there were very few things that I could see them improving upon. Turns out the new Atmos 50 is a refined product that takes everything I loved about the first iteration and tweaks it in some important, yet subtle, ways that makes it an even better pack.

Designed for traveling and backpacking light, the Atmos offers plenty of storage options for packing all of our necessary gear. In addition to the spacious main compartment, the bag also has a floating pocket in the  lid, two hip pockets on the belt, an adjustable stretch pocket on the front and two large zippered side pockets that remain one of my favorite holdovers front he previous design. Better yet, those two pockets have been more subtly integrated into the design and are larger than on my older model Atmos.

One of my favorite features of the previous version of this pack was how easy it is to adjust the fit and how comfortable it is to wear when you’ve found the proper settings. I could wear my old Atmos for hours on end and yet still barely notice that it was on my back.

Fortunately, Osprey managed to not only carry over those features but improve on them. The new Atmos has adjustable straps and belts that make it even easier to find the perfect fit and the new adjust-on-the-fly hip belt and harness are welcome additions.

Over the years backpack manufacturers have devised a number of different suspension systems that are designed to help provide ventilation while wearing their packs. Most of those efforts have met with minimal success, but my oriental Atmos was amongst the best I had ever used.

In the 2012 edition of the pack Osprey has updated the design once again and just like everything else about this new bag, the evolutionary upgrade improves upon the original. The new suspension allows for more air flow while still remaining comfortable to wear over extended periods of time. We may never see a suspension system that keeps us perfectly cool while on the trail, but the new AirSpeed suspension is a solid step in the right direction.

Other great features of the pack include an integrated hydration sleeve, built in tool loops and removable sleeping bag straps. Those small, but much appreciated, touches help to round out a great package that remains lightweight and rugged, yet high quality in every way.

While it is quite obvious that I love this pack and find it an improvement on my beloved first generation Atmos in nearly every way, there is one thing that I would have liked to have seen integrated into the design. Neither version of this pack offers access to the bottom of the main compartment other than through the top.

Having access through the bottom or  side can be very useful when trying to locate hard to find gear items, as it can be a bit inconvenient to have to completely unload the pack just to get to those base layers you stuffed to the bottom on the off chance that you might need them. Perhaps we’ll get this option in the next iteration of the Atmos.

I never thought I’d be retiring my old Atmos 50 pack, but the new Osprey Atmos is such an improvement in nearly every way that I’m looking forward to using it on future adventures. As I said earlier, it is difficult to improve on perfection, and yet somehow Osprey managed to do just that.

MSRP: $199 (and worth every penny!) Pick one up at

Kraig Becker

2 thoughts on “Gear Closet: Osprey Atmos 50 Backpack”

  1. Curious how much weight you've carried in your Atmos 50. I tried the 2012 version and found the hip belt to be unreasonably uncomfortable with anything approaching 35 pounds on a long day. I didn't like the way the hip belt is constructed. I ended up returning it. The ventilation of the back panel was amazing though.

  2. A-Bomb: I've carried similar loads in mine and found it to be quite comfortable. Sometimes the fit that works for one person doesn't for another, but I thought the belt offered a snug, comfortable fit for my needs.

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