Many people in the backpacking world trust Osprey’s products, especially the Atmos and Aether backpacks. While both are stand out models, you’ll need to decide which is best suited to your hiking style.
After your footwear, choosing your backpack is the most important decision you’ll be making, so getting it right is pretty important!
Both the Atmos and the Aether fall into the “big backpacks” category – these are for overnight or multi-day trips. Osprey also makes excellent daypacks for shorter trails.
What You'll Learn
- Osprey Atmos vs Aether: Quick Comparison
- How to Adjust an Osprey Backpack
- Other Notable Differences
- Osprey Accessories
- Final Comparison: Osprey Atmos vs Osprey Aether
Osprey Atmos vs Aether: Quick Comparison
Here’s a quick look at the features and pros/cons of the two models – more detail to follow. If you’re torn between these two packs, we’ll show you how they stack up against each other.
|Osprey Aether||Osprey Atmos|
|Size Capacity||57 – 63 liters||62 – 68 liters|
|Load Range||35 – 60 pounds||30 – 50 pounds|
|Standout Feature||Detachable DayLid daypack (US version only)||“Fit-on-the-Fly” hip belt makes adjustment easy when you are walking|
|Main Compartment Access||Top and side||Top only|
|Additional Pockets||Front mesh; 2 hip belt; extra storage straps & loops (Total 11 + main compartment)||Front mesh, 2 hip belt, extra storage straps & loops, (Total 7 + main compartment) water bottle storage on both sides|
|Main Focus||Capacity & Versatility||Comfort & Ventilation|
Storage is the primary feature of any backpack. The Atmos and the Aether have a lot of storage features in common; there are also some key differences in how i’ts organized and accessed.
The differences in capacity and load-range are thanks to the different anti-gravity suspension systems: an intelligent design feature to increase comfort when carrying a full pack.
A key feature on each pack, their anti-gravity suspension systems work a bit differently. I’ll go into further detail on this later.
Both packs come in a small, medium & large, allowing for an almost-custom fit for every shape and size.
|Osprey Aether||Osprey Atmos|
|Small||57 liters||62 liters|
|Medium||60 liters||65 liters|
|Large||63 liters||68 liters|
In addition to their main storage compartments, both the Osprey Aether and Atmos offer external pockets and other storage features. Both models boast the following additional organization perks:
- Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole storage attachment
- Front stretch mesh pockets (ideal for storing a rain fly or other gear you may need to access quickly)
- Zippered pockets on the hip belt, which are perfect for snacks or storing a phone
- Internal sleeves for storage and protection of a hydration reservoir of up to 3 liters
- Two ice tool loops
- Removable sleeping pad straps
- Sleeping bag compartment (zippered) with a removable divider to afford your sleeping bag extra protection
The Atmos also offers two easy-access side storage pockets to keep water bottles comfortably close at hand.
The US version of the Aether offers one of the biggest storage perks that I’ve seen on a backpack. The top lid, known as the DayLid, is removable and functions as a complete daypack; with a rain flap to protect the gear left in the lower portion of the bag.
Annoyingly, it’s unclear when this feature will be available to backpackers outside of the United States.AccessAccess to the main compartment is where the two backpacks differ:
- The Atmos functions only as a standard top-load, top opening backpack.
The functional FlapJacket which protects your gear from the rain when you remove the top is worth mentioning. The FlapJacket is a patented protective flap that keeps the contents of your backpack dry while still allowing you access.
- The Aether is also a top-load backpack, but it offers handy zippered access to the main compartment from the side of the pack. This is an excellent feature for those situations when you need to access to the gear lower down in your main pocket.
Both of these packs are designed for maximum carrying comfort, with plenty of ventilation and load-distribution features built in.
The major stand-out feature of these two packs, separating them from other manufacturers and the rest of Osprey’s current product lineup (aside from the Aura and Ariel, the women’s models), is their Anti-Gravity Suspension system.
Anti-Gravity Suspension Systems: How Do They Compare?
Through a combination of a mesh back panel that provides more even load-distribution, increased ventilation, some handy compression straps, and internal engineering, these packs are both designed to distribute weight so that they feel lighter than they are.
There is some compromise involved with this. The anti-gravity technology doesn’t work with loads over about 60lbs, which is why both of these packs fall below that load range.
In general, the feature is less efficient the more weight you load into the pack, so neither of these backpacks should be stuffed over its capacity.
The Aether’s anti-gravity mesh is much flatter, so presses against the body. Providing support for a higher load weight, it also means that you’ll feel more of the weight and that the ventilation isn’t as even.
Here’s a video from Osprey about the anti-gravity system:
Neither the lower weight capacity of the Atmos nor the flatter design of the Aether is a total dealbreaker for me; but it’s worth noting the two packs are designed for different situations and backpackers:
- The design of the Atmos has comfort as top priority, making it a good choice for those with back problems, or difficulty hiking with a heavy pack. It’s also great for very hot days or steep climbs, as it is better ventilated.
- The Aether offers more storage features and weight capacity, making it perfect for long or difficult treks. Perfect for cold weather backpacking, as the lower ventilation won’t cause overheating, and the load range is sufficient to cover heavier winter gear.
One of the primary features of Osprey’s technical backpacking packs is their adjustability. With very few exceptions, there is an Osprey pack that will fit almost anyone!
In this area, the Atmos does have a slight advantage over the Aether.
Its Fit-on-the-Fly hip belt allows for quick and easy adjustment, so you can easily change the fit of the hip belt even when you’re walking.
How to Adjust an Osprey Backpack
Osprey backpacks come with an owner’s manual with detailed instructions for adjustment. It’s worth reading through this, as each model has a slightly different system.
There are a few quick tips to keep in mind:
- Adjust the pack so that most of the weight falls onto your hips rather than your shoulders, to save your back. You have to strike a nice middle ground, though: having all of the weight on your hips can pull you off balance.
- If the pack is making you feel off balance, try adjusting it so that a bit more of your weight falls onto your shoulders.
- If too much weight falls on your shoulders, adjust the pack to shift that to your hips. Remember, more weight should fall on your hips than on your shoulders, but not all!
If you slip out of the shoulder straps and unbuckle the waist belt, a perfectly adjusted Osprey backpack will still hug your hips and stay mostly in place.
Another note on the Anti-Gravity Suspension System
The anti-gravity suspension system features a wide mesh where the backpack meets your back that evenly distributes the weight of the pack and hugs your body to provide better lumbar support.
Though both the Osprey Aether and Atmos feature an anti-gravity suspension system, they work in different ways.
The flatter profile of the Aether’s suspension system allows for more weight and stability but presses into your body more. So the Aether can hold more weight but doesn’t offer the same feeling of lightness (or the same level of ventilation) as the Atmos.
Other Notable Differences
Color! While color shouldn’t be your sole deciding factor (why not?) when it comes to choosing a backpack, you don’t want to saddle yourself with something ugly, that you don’t like.
The Osprey Aether is available in the following colors:
- Neptune Blue: a very bright, high visibility blue tone
- Outback Orange: a subdued but still quite noticeable darker orange
- Adirondack Green: a classic deep green reminiscent of older canvas packs
The Atmos comes in the following colors:
- Rigby Red: a deep yet bright red
- Unity Blue: a much more subdued blue than Neptune, closer to a navy tone
- Abyss Gray: a light but still quite subdued gray tone
While the color options are completely different, there are both subdued and eye-catching variations for each pack.
Another significant difference between the two is their unloaded weight.
The Aether clocks in at a hefty 5.2 pounds at its largest capacity, while the Atmos is a bit lighter at 4.6 pounds (also in its Large size).
You can reduce the weight of the Aether a bit by removing the DayLid. You can, of course, use the DayLid on its own for shorter hikes where a heavy pack would be unnecessary.
- Hydration Bladder: both packs sport an internal hydration sleeve, for a bladder size of up to 3 liters – but the bladder itself will need to be bought separately.
- Raincover – it always annoys me slightly that they can’t just sell the cover with the pack. But hey-ho, here’s one for the Atmos and one for the Aether.
Final Comparison: Osprey Atmos vs Osprey Aether
Both the Osprey Aether and Atmos are solidly built, feature-rich packs. While one is not necessarily superior to the other, you’ll need to consider how their respective features match your needs.
The fit and feel of a backpack varies so much that it’s hard to make a definitive statement as to which one is “better”. The only way to know for yourself is to give one a try.
That said, I do prefer the Osprey Aether thanks to its higher weight capacity and removable DayLid. But, the Atmos may be better for you at least in certain situations.
Here’s a short video showing more about the Aether:
The Aether is great for :
- Longer treks where you need more gear and supplies (or those of us who tend to take more gear than we need)
- Colder expeditions where ventilation isn’t as much of a problem
- Users who want the flexibility of the removable DayLid
The Atmos might be better for backpackers who are looking for the ultimate in comfort. Here’s a video showing more about the Atmos:
- Ideal for shorter trips of 2 – 4 days where a daypack wouldn’t provide enough room
- Might be friendlier to less experienced hikers and those with back issues
I also like the easy-access water bottle pockets on the Atmos and wish something similar had been worked into the design of the Aether.
*Product Images credits: © Amazon.com