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Published Sep 12, 2022 10:22 AM

For nearly 50 years, Osprey backpacks have served those called to adventure into the great outdoors. The company has evolved over the years, but the brand has become the standard for backpacks in North America and much of the world. Its quality is well-known, its service is excellent, and it stands behind everything it makes with its famous lifetime “All Mighty Guarantee.”

Since its founding in 1974, the Osprey backpack product line has expanded to meet a wide variety of adventures and traveling needs. It makes so many packs for backpacking, hiking, traveling, and beyond, that it can be difficult to figure out which one best meets your needs. Fear not: We’ve done the research for you so you can choose the best Osprey backpack to take on your next journey.

Best Overall

I love almost everything about the Atmos AG 65 (and the nearly-identical Osprey women’s backpack, the Aura AG 65). It’s designed such that nearly everything a backpacker needs is right there at the tip of your fingers. It edges out the other packs because it uniquely combines the best features Osprey has with its AntiGravity (AG) suspension system, which optimizes weight distribution in a way that maximizes comfort, even with heavier loads.

There are more features than I have space to write about. It has an adjustable frame, load adjustment straps, a sternum strap, and a somewhat rigid, adjustable hip belt that help you dial in your fit. The hip belt pockets and side water bottle sleeves make it easy to get snacks and water bottles, while the hydration port offers easy access to your reservoir. The “stow-on-the-go” trekking pole loop lets you hang your poles easily from one front strap, if needed. An integrated rain cover tucked into its own compartment on the back is another nice feature.

While the Atmos is a fantastically-designed backpack, there are a couple of points that crop up among user reviews to be aware of. While hip belt pocket zippers are easily opened with one hand, they’re difficult to close the same way. Another issue some have reported is that the metal internal frame can squeak. Of those that have identified this, most say it’s not a huge deal, but it’s noticeable. Personally, I do not get this squeak when I use the Atmos, and for those who have, most don’t find it to be a critical issue.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 4.8 pounds (L/XL)
  • Product dimensions: 34.65 x 15.35 x 14.17 inches
  • Volume: 68L (L/XL), 65L(S/M)
  • Materials: Recycled 210D nylon, PFC/PFAS-free DWR
Why It Made The Cut
  • Smartly configured, durable, near-perfectly engineered, and sporting plenty of load capability, the Atmos AG 65 can be used for backpacking, camping, or traveling.
PROS

Connected integrated rain cover

Side access ports, hip belt pockets, water bottle sleeves, and hydration ports put everything you need at your fingertips without pulling everything out

Adjustable frame

CONS

Hip pocket zippers are difficult to close with one hand

Some report “squeaky” frame

Best Budget

Osprey produces some of the best backpacks on the market, and although it’s not the most expensive brand out there, they’re not cheap either. Fortunately, for the frugal or new backpacker, there are a few quality Osprey backpacks priced under $200, and one of the best budget packs is the Rook 50.

The Rook 50 gives you a lot of backpack for about half the price of Osprey’s star products, the Atmos AG 65 and the Aether 65. Made of durable 600D polyester, it’s comfortable thanks to its ventilated AirSpeed backpanel, and the LightWire frame connects to the hip belt to effectively distribute weight. It even comes with a removable rain cover, which a lot of other brands sell separately. Plus, the back panel can adjust up to four inches, which means it can be dialed in to fit your torso just right.

One limitation that some users point out is the limited pockets. It has two side sleeves for water bottles, two hip belt pockets, and one lid compartment. That’s not too bad for a budget pack, but more would be helpful.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 3.49 pounds
  • Product dimensions: 29.1 x 16.3 x 13.8 inches
  • Volume: 50L
  • Materials: 600D polyester (main)/1000D (bottom)
Why It Made The Cut
  • This comfortable backpack comes with plenty of features and has enough room to carry you up to five days into the wilderness, but at a great price.
PROS

Integrated rain cover

Ventilated back panel

Adjustable harness customizes fit

CONS

Could use more pockets

Most Sustainable

Osprey has an impressive commitment to sustainability for its entire line of products. Of note, most of its packs use bluesign-approved materials, meaning that fabrics in Osprey’s packs meet a strict level of “ecological and toxicological requirements,” which helps ensure the products are eco-friendly.

But some products, like Osprey’s Archeon line, go beyond the bluesign materials, and are also made of recycled fabrics. The 1880D canvas is still quite durable and looks fantastic. This pack is smartly-made, with a main compartment and a water reservoir sleeve. A high-density polyurethane frame sheet and two aluminum alloy stays help to spread the load across the back panel. The hip belt of the 30L version has two mesh pockets for easy access to small items. Be aware that some indicate that the hip belt on this smaller version doesn’t help redistribute weight for heavier loads (this pack’s load range is up to 20 pounds).

The Archeon line actually has a number of sizes (30L, 45L, and even 65/70L), but the larger versions are hard to come by. If you find one, snatch it up if sustainability is important to you.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 4.02 pounds
  • Product dimensions: 25.98 x 11.81 x 9.45 inches
  • Volume: 30L
  • Materials: 1880D recycled nylon canvas
Why It Made The Cut
  • Although all Osprey products are bluesign-approved, some, like the Archeon 30, are also made of mostly recycled materials, making it even more eco-friendly.
PROS

Fixed-lid top with internal and external zippered pockets

Dual stretchable hip belt pockets

Integrated rain cover

CONS

A little heavy for a pack this size

30L hip belt isn’t sturdy like the larger versions

Best Value

Although smaller than its more voluminous cousins, the Atmos 65 and Aether 70, the Kestrel 58 comes with a myriad of similar features but at a lower price point, making it our best value winner. It has enough volume to carry several days worth of food and gear into the backcountry, and is made with durable nylon dobby fabric, which is tough enough to handle the rough terrain of the most challenging environment.

As mentioned, the Kestrel is loaded with useful features: a padded mesh hip belt with zippered pockets, an external reservoir sleeve, upper and lower side compression straps, a sleeping bag compartment, removable sleeping pad straps, ice tool attachments, stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachments, and a fixed top lid with zippered pocket. It even comes with a removable rain cover, which other brands often sell separately.

Although it doesn’t come with Osprey’s “AntiGravity” suspension system of the Atmos and Auro backpacks, the spacer-mesh harness distributes weight very well, making it a very comfortable experience. However, although Osprey indicates the load capacity is up to 45 pounds, some indicate heavy loads are fine on shorter trips but become uncomfortable on longer ventures. If you think you’ll be hauling a lot for long periods, the Atmos may be a better fit.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 3.75 pounds (S/M), 3.88 pounds (M/L)
  • Product dimensions: 30.7 x 14.2 x 13.6 inches
  • Volume: 56L (S/M), 58L (M/L)
  • Materials: 210D x 630D nylon dobby (main), 500D nylon packcloth (bottom)
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Kestrel’s size and feature-loaded design makes it a great buy for anything from day-hiking to three- to five-day trips into the backcountry.
PROS

Adjustable torso length and breathable back panel

Floating top lid with zippered pockets

Spacer-mesh harness works with hip belt to comfortably distribute weight

CONS

Heavier loads may be feel uncomfortable on extended trips

If you’re not looking to spend a week in the wilderness, but rather a day making connecting flights, this Osprey travel backpack is a nearly perfect carry-on backpack. First, the Daylite meets 85 percent of airlines’ personal carry-on baggage size requirements (according to Osprey). A quick comparison of the Daylite’s dimensions against guidelines for American, Delta, and United Airlines supports this.

The Daylite is designed to be worn as a regular backpack, with comfortable shoulder straps and an adjustable sternum slider to help stabilize your load. It also features an Airscape back panel that helps to keep your pack comfortable. But it’s also designed for the airport. The shoulder straps can be stowed so they don’t get tangled on things (like the luggage conveyor belt, if you choose to check the bag). Also there is a “trolley handle pass-through,” so you can attach it to the handle of wheeled luggage for easy transportation.

The internal layout is very much like a small suitcase, with a zippered mesh inner lining for small things, and an internal tie-down strap to keep your items secured. The only thing this great little bag is missing is a dedicated laptop holding sleeve. You can use the front shove-it pocket or even the internal mesh pocket for this, but it doesn’t feel quite as safe as having an actual laptop carry pocket.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 1.85 pounds
  • Product dimensions: 17 x 13 x 6 inches
  • Volume: 26L
  • Materials: 200D recycled polyester (main), 600D recycled polyester (accent and bottom)
Why It Made The Cut
  • This smartly-engineered Osprey travel backpack is the right size and right design to help make air or rail travel a lot less stressful.
PROS

Sized to fit most airline personal carry-on guidelines

Airscape back panel for comfort

Expandable capacity (the “+6” part of the name)

Trolley handle pass-through

CONS

No separate laptop sleeve

Best Travel

For those who like to live out of their backpacks for extended periods of time, in and out of trails and towns alike, the Farpoint series of backpacks offers a fantastic hybrid of backpacking and traveling functionality (the Osprey women’s backpack version is called the Fairview).

The Farpoint main backpack has a large panel lockable zipper access to the main panel, so you can secure it with a lock, if needed. The sides and top have padded handles, which are useful at transition points when you have to carry your pack any which way to get through crowded areas. The inside has a large mesh pocket and internal straps to keep things organized, much like a suitcase.

One of the features that makes the Farpoint our best travel selection, however, is the removable daypack. It’s practically its own mini backpack, with shoulder straps, lockable zippers, and a dedicated laptop sleeve. This is great if you have to check this bag, or if you’re just exploring a town and want to leave the larger bag in a hotel room or at your base camp.

The Farpoint may not be ideal if you’re planning on mainly staying in the backcountry, but the versatility of the Farpoint makes it great for when you plan to travel extensively on and off the trails.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 3.75 pounds (S/M)
  • Product dimensions: 24 x 13 x 12 inches
  • Volume: 52L (S/M)
  • Materials: 600D packcloth
Why It Made The Cut
  • Of all the Osprey travel backpacks, the Farpoint series does the best job of bridging the gap between the needs of the backpacker and traveler.
PROS

Stow-away shoulder straps and hip belt

Removable daypack with straps and harness

Padded top and side handles for easier carrying

CONS

Not as adjustable as an actual backpacking pack

Best for Hiking

The Exos series of backpacks is extremely popular with hikers and even ultralight backpackers. For this “best hiking backpack” award category, I chose the 38L because it’s ideal for packing everything you need for a long day hike, but not so large that you’re lugging around a lot of unused space (however, there are larger versions of the Exos if you’re looking to extend your range).

The Exos 38L (the Osprey women’s backpack version is called the Eja, and is identical in every way except for sizing) comes with everything a thru-hiker needs, including a ladder adjustment system to dial in the fit and a lightweight frame and hip belt to effectively distribute your pack’s load. It also comes with a removable zippered floating lid, which is great if you need to move around without your pack or just want to further lighten your load.

However, because it is something of an ultralight pack, some buyers have noted it doesn’t have as many pockets as traditional backpacks. However, for day hiking in particular, this comfortable pack is nearly perfect.

Product Specs
  • Weight: 2.695 pounds (S/M), 2.827 pounds (L/XL)
  • Product dimensions: 29.53 x 12.99 x 11.81 inches (S/M), 31.5 x 12.99 x 11.81 inches (L/XL)
  • Volume: 38L (S/M), 41L (L/XL)
  • Materials: 100D high-tenacity nylon ripstop (main and bottom)
Why It Made The Cut
  • This Osprey hiking backpack is great-looking, lightweight, and perfectly-sized for long day hikes or even shorter weekend camping trips (if you know how to pack).
PROS

Lightweight

Adjustable torso length

Removable floating lid

CONS

A little pricey

Ultralight design means fewer features

Things to consider before buying an Osprey backpack

Osprey makes a lot of different backpacks for hiking and backpacking, for traveling in the city and across the world. Heck, it even has Osprey baby backpacks.

When you’re deciding what Osprey backpack is best for you, ask yourself what exactly you plan on using the pack for. Do you plan to spend most of your time in the backcountry? Then a backpacking backpack is what you want. Do you need something that you can easily get through an airport? Then one of the Osprey travel backpacks designed to minimize aggravation as you go through security checkpoints and check-in stations is likely what you’re looking for. 

The fantastic thing about Osprey’s products is that there are so many shared features across them. But uniting all of these packs is Osprey’s backpack warranty, the so-called All Mighty Warranty. This is its guarantee that no matter what goes wrong with your pack, no matter when you bought it, it will make it right. That’s standing behind your product. 

FAQs about Osprey backpacks

Q. Where are Osprey backpacks made?

A. Osprey backpacks are made in a factory in Vietnam, but it also uses Navajo sewing personnel in Colorado who repair products as part of its lifelong All Mighty Guarantee. Plus, it has a distribution facility in Utah, as well as another office in England. 

Q. How do I put a water bladder in an Osprey backpack?

A. Putting a water bladder in an Osprey pack is super easy. Nearly every Osprey backpack has a separate water reservoir sleeve on the inside part (closest to your back panel) of the main compartment. You simply need to slide the filled bladder into this sleeve, then thread the hose through the hydration port of the pack. 

Q. How do I measure my torso for an Osprey backpack?

A. Ideally, you can get this done by skilled outfitters at stores like REI. But, if you’re going to go it on your own, Osprey has detailed instructions here. You’ll need to measure from your C7 vertebrae (top of spine), down to your iliac crest (the top of your hip bone). It’s not as complicated as it sounds, so check out the video if you need help.

Q. Are Osprey backpacks water-resistant?

A. Yes, to a point. Many of Osprey’s backpacks are DWR (durable water-repellent) treated, which contributes to the pack’s longevity and durability. However, they are not waterproof, which is where the rain covers come in. Oh, you wanted something waterproof? Then you may want to take a look at our best waterproof backpacks.

Final thoughts

Osprey’s quality and understanding of the needs of backpackers of all stripes has resulted in a ton of great choices, and the truth is, it has a number of backpacks that can meet a variety of needs. But the Atmos AG 65, which masterfully combines the best of all Osprey’s decades of engineering, is the clear champ for most folks.

Methodology 

Not everyone plans to disappear into the wilderness for a week or more, so the award winners above had to be the best in fulfilling the needs of each particular category. Someone plane-hopping from city to city has very different needs than someone hiking the Appalachian Trail, so I took a careful look at the features offered by Osprey’s impressive number of products to make sure we recommended the best fit for you.

The recommendations in this guide were determined by combining personal experience with the brand, extensive research of buyer likes and dislikes of the various Osprey products (both by using customer reviews on REI.com, Osprey.com, and Amazon, and by digging into comments on social media forums like Facebook groups and Reddit), and then comparing our favorites to other Osprey buying guides (in this case, I looked at the thoughtful guides published by Broke Backpacker, Outdoor Crunch, and Curated.com). I also found some interesting insight at Minimalist Travel and a great, detailed comparison of the Atmos 65 versus the Aether 65 (the two titans of Osprey’s backpacking world) at 99Boulders. Learn more about our product review process.