Gear Upgrade: More Backpack, More Fun

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hike essentials and two backpacks

Osprey Atmos AG 65 vs Osprey Stratos 34

A few weeks ago, I switched my backpack from a 34 liter model that’s great for day hikes to a 65 liter model that’s more suited to overnight adventures. I’m really happy with the upgrade.

My Osprey Stratos 34 is a marvel of good design. It’s roomy and hard-wearing, and it has tons of functional nooks and crannies. It’s a great day pack.

However, this year I’m planning a series of overnight stays in the Catskills and Adirondacks — and for that purpose 34 liters is not quite enough storage space.

red backpack
Fully packed Osprey Stratos 34

I also seem to carry a slightly larger kit than most people (see below), so the Stratos 34 was starting to feel a little crammy, especially in winter.

unpacked backpack
Osprey Atmos AG 65 and my hike essentials

I took these photos in the shoulder-season — which explains the LL Bean puffy and the Hillsound trail crampons — but everything else is what I take on every hike. (How do people get away with less?)

Compartment Syndrome

The Stratos 34 has a ton of small compartments, which is great for compartmentalizing your gear — until you realize some of the compartments are not quite big enough to hold everything in an organizational category. I always ended up trying to figure out if my headlamp was in this pocket or that pocket.

The Atmos AG 65 has fewer compartments but they’re much roomier. Now I keep all my food and snacks on my right, in a single compartment, and all my electronics and most useful kit on my left, in the other side compartment. My emergency supplies are stored in the bottom compartment. The main/largest compartment is where I keep things I rarely use: webbing, cordage, extra clothes, the pack’s top lid — and, of course, my reservoir is in there too.

Bonus: getting a full water reservoir in and out of a backpack is one of the few pain points in packing for a hike; it’s so annoying. With the 34L Stratos, it was a wrestling match that always ended with me having to unpack half the main compartment so I could shim the reservoir into position. With the 65 liter Atmos, there’s so much extra room it’s now a breeze to load the reservoir.

hike essentials and two backpacks
Osprey Atmos AG 65 vs Osprey Stratos 34

An In-Between Size

In the pic below, I have everything above packed — and there’s still a ton of space to pack even more.

packed backpack, blue
Osprey Atmos AG 65 — fully loaded but with plenty more room

This 65L pack is an an in-between size: it’s a little bigger than a standard overnight pack but it’s still a lot smaller than a thru-hiker’s pack. It’s definitely a little too big for a typical day hike. But it means I don’t have to switch packs if I want to go camping, or if I just want to carry some extra stuff when I’m hiking with friends. I can see this pack being perfect for 2-3 nights in the wilderness.

The smaller Stratos comes with a rain cover as standard. The larger Atmos does not, which means you have to buy one separately. But I found that the rain cover for the Stratos actually fits over my Atmos as I currently have it configured: no top lid and only ½ full — so I can hold off buying that cover for a while.

An upgrade like this is so welcome, I only wish I’d done it sooner.

If you want to know more about how to choose a backpack, read this post on backpack basics, or you can flesh out your current hiking kit with this master checklist. This post is filed under hiking gear.

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