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Hands-on Gear Review
Osprey Aura AG 65 Review
Cons: Waistband attached to back panel, tight hip belt pockets
Bottom line: This award-winning pack has stood the test year after year with its streamlined, lightweight design and incredibly ventilated and comfortable back panel.
Volumes Available (liters): 50, 65
Sizes Available: XS, S, M
Our continual favorite for women's specific backpacking packs is the Osprey Aura model. This year, we tested out the Osprey Aura 65 AG, which weighs only a few ounces more than the 50-liter model. We liked that it provides more flexibility and storage space without the added bulk. This pack model has been a long-time favorite due to its incredible comfort, support, and simple design. It has just the right number pockets to keep your gear organized, without becoming overly complicated. Additionally, the Anti-Gravity technology was by far the most comfortable suspension system of any pack we tested. Even in hot weather, this award winner provided support and ventilation that was incomparable to other models in our fleet.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Backpacking Packs for Women
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Aura 65 wins our Editor's Choice Award as the best all-around pack. Its women's specific design is super comfortable while remaining functional. We also appreciated the Anti-Gravity suspension system which provided plenty of breathability and support on long days in the backcountry. This pack scored highly in all metrics as a top-notch pack for any multi-day adventure.
A unique suspension design brings the highest degree of comfort to the Aura AG. A single mesh backing stretches the span of the back panel and connects continuously through the hip belt. It is a soft, perforated panel that offers incredible breathability. Comfort is not compromised by a lack of ventilation or support in the back, shoulders, or hips. The panel molds to your back and hips like a massage chair, with little time needed to break it in.
The shoulder straps fit well to a woman's shape and are ventilated in the same way as the back panel. Similar in design is the Thule Versant 60, whose straps are also narrow and straightforward. On the other end of the spectrum is the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 60 — Women's, a pack that has thicker, bulkier shoulder straps that are less breathable than those of the Aura.
Another unique aspect of the Aura is the hip belt design. Unlike most packs where the hip belt moves independently from the rest of the bag, the Aura's hip belt has been incorporated into the back panel in one fluid design. This restricts the hip belt from having a full range of motion outward. When first putting the pack on, this is noticeable, because you have to spread the two sides of the belt apart, but once it's on, the pack is very comfortable and stable. With a heavy load, this may present some discomfort in the hoisting process, but it otherwise feels comfortable as a single component.
The medium model of the Aura 65 weighs in at 4.38 pounds, making the Aura one of the lighter packs in this review. Only the Thule Versant 60, the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic Ozonic 60, and The North Face Banchee 65 - Women's were lighter than the Aura.
Many of these packs do not provide the same level of comfort and support as the Aura does. On the heavier side are the Osprey Ariel 65 and the REI Co-op Traverse. The Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 SL weighs in at 4.31 pounds, making it the closest in weight to the Aura. The significant part about the Aura AG, and what sets it apart, is its ability to carry both large and small loads comfortably. This is atypical with packs of this size and capacity.
OGL Measured Volume Bottom Line:
Total Volume = 73 L
Main Bag = 55 L
Pockets = 10 L
Lid = 8 L
The Anti-Gravity (AG) suspension system is the star of this pack. Past models of the Aura featured mesh back panels that contributed to breathability and conforming support.
The AG takes it to the next level with Exoform padded shoulder straps, a seamless stretch mesh back panel that wraps onto the hip belt, and an adjustable harness that is reinforced with load lifter bars. The pack has a perimeter frame that is incredibly lightweight. The continuous design of the back panel with the hip belt offers another degree of stability and support.
It conforms to your body while maintaining its initial tension, mile after mile. No other pack has a stable back panel design that is also soft and flexible. It also manages varying weight loads with incredible distribution. One concern raised with the Aura AG is how it handles heavier weight loads. The suspension system is designed to sit away from your back, as opposed to most stabilizing designs that rest the bulk of the weight against your back. No packs compare to the Aura in design, but similarly, comfortable suspension systems can be found in the Arc'teryx Bora AR 61; this model is incredibly comfy, and boasts a more straightforward design (if the mesh back panel of the Aura doesn't fit the bill).
Ease of Use
Ease of use is rated by how easy it is for the pack to be fitted, packed, and adjusted.
We rated the Aura AG with 9 out of 10 for ease of use. Though it takes a moment to get used to all of its adjustment points and straps, once you get the hang of it, this model caters to organization and ease of adjustment. All of the pockets offer easy access to your gear while on the trail and the compartments separate trail gear from camp gear so you can easily set up camp without having to unload the entire pack.
Versatility contributes to this pack's overall ease of use. It is suitable for all-day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips. It is easy to remove the lid and shrink the contender with compression straps to fill with only the essentials, or it can be packed full, expanded and stretched for those long trips in the mountains. Similar to the Thule Versant 60, it also has a large, removable brain that can be used on its own.
How simply the pack adjusts is another influential factor in this metric. The Aura scores highly in this category because it has a range of sizes the waist belt can adapt to easily. The adjustable harness also allows you to change the harness size too; the torso length can also be adjusted for an optimized fit. The Bora AR has a similarly easy to adjust harness. On top of the adjustment options for fit, the Aura AG has multiple compression straps on the sides, top, and interior, for securing gear.
Adjusting your gear correctly lends to better stability and support while backpacking. When there is loose space or moving gear inside of the pack, stability and comfort are compromised. Most models have these features as well, but the Aura and the Lowe Alpine Manaslu provide straps for fine-tuning adjustments. Final adjustments are easily made with the smooth pull of each shoulder strap, load lifter strap, and sternum strap. This pack has a plethora of adjustment options without being pretentious or complicated. Each point of adjustment is simple and straightforward.
At first, the Aura is a little overwhelming from an organizational perspective. With over nine pockets, the Aura has the most organizational features of any of the women's packs.
The main compartment has top and bottom access; the top cinches closed with a drawstring and has a small cover of fabric for trips where you remove the lid. The bottom compartment is ideal for a sleeping bag and has an internal separator for compressing the sleeping bag down or just to keep it separate. Our favorite pocket is the stretch mesh outer pocket that is similar, but larger than, that of the Osprey Ariel 65. It stretches out to accommodate a lot of essentials but remains tight against the pack when it is empty. The lid has two zipped pockets for storing identification, camera batteries, and other small, necessities. It is also removable for reducing the overall capacity and simplifying the pack. Though it seems like a lot, once we got the hang of it, we loved all the storage options this award winner has to offer.
For a pack with fewer pockets, the Deuter ACT Lite 60 - Women's has only three enclosed compartments, and the Arc'teyrx Bora AR 61 has the main body, lid, and two small external pockets. In either case, we recommend stuff sacks for further organization of the gear and food that will be packed in the main compartment. Unlike the 50-liter model we tested last season, the Aura 65 has sleeping bag straps on the outside, which we liked. It also accommodates a bear can much better than the 50-liter pack did. The Osprey Ariel or Mountain Hardwear Ozonic also accommodate a bear can well.
The Aura AG has the widest range of applications of the packs in our test. We took it on long day hikes, and with the compression straps and adjustments, the pack carries comfortably under a light load. The lid is removable for minimizing weight and any extra space that isn't necessary for shorter hikes. We experienced unmatched comfort on weekend trips with a moderate weight load not exceeding 20 pounds.
Lengthy backpacking trips lasting a week or more demand a durable, stable, and comfortable pack, the Aura AG is capable of meeting all of these requirements. This competitor is ideal for single day hikes to overnight and weekend trips to 10 days on the trail. It adjusts to appropriately suit your gear needs and remains supportive even when additional weight is added. The ideal weight range for this pack is under 30 pounds, but it can sufficiently carry up to 40 pounds.
The 65-liter version of this pack is among the least expensive packs in our review. At $260, it is neither the most expensive ($549) or least expensive ($170). It is an incredible value to invest in the highest regarded women's pack for a mid-range price. It is backed with Osprey's All Mighty lifetime guarantee. It is also the smallest liter capacity in our test, but can be used as a daypack or can accommodate a week's worth of backpacking gear. The advanced suspension technology and lasting comfort make this versatile pack an incredible value.
The Osprey Aura AG 65 is the Editors' Choice awarded pack for women's specific packs. It offers excellent suspension and unparalleled breathability with the Anti-Gravity system. The stretch mesh has evolved from its previous models to be softer, more conforming and tensioned well for maximum comfort. The Aura AG is versatile throughout three seasons of day hiking and backpacking, with varying trip lengths. In fact, no other pack offers the same features and adjustment options for such a great value, and it is backed by the reputation of Osprey.
— Jane Jackson
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