Osprey Aura AG 65 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Comfortable, plush padding, wide range of fitting options and adjustments, good number of pockets, easy-to-remove top lid,
Cons: Large, spring loaded waist band is hard to get into, suspension can feel bulky, expensive, hip belt can sag uncomfortably on some users
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Osprey Aura 65 wins an award for being Notable for All-Around Comfort. Its women's-specific design is comfortable while remaining functional. We also appreciated the Anti-Gravity suspension system, which provided plenty of breathability on long days in the backcountry. The Aura scored highly in our metrics, and because of its ability to fit many body types, line up of popular features, and comfortable body-hugging suspension, we feel that it represents an admirable all-around pack for many different users and uses.
Comfort and Suspension
A unique suspension design brings the highest degree of comfort to the Aura AG if the waist belt fits (more on that in a minute). 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. The panel molds to your back and hips like a massage chair, with little time needed to break it in. The hip belt is tough to get on, although it does loosen up a bit over time and the angle of the counter within the belt itself caused issues.
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 features reinforcing load lifter bars. The pack has an incredibly lightweight perimeter frame. 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 manages varying weight loads well if the hip belt is a good fit for you.
The hip belt design is a unique aspect of the Aura. Unlike most packs where the hip belt moves independently from the rest of the bag, the Aura's hip belt fits into the back panel in one integrated design, which restricts the hip belt from having a full range of motion outward. This seamless construction that makes the hip belt hug you so nicely, creates a challenge when trying to get into the belt. You have to manually pull the hip belts open and wedge yourself between them. Some of our testers found that the hip belt sits higher in the front than in the back, causing the frame to dig into the derriere of curvier women while the front of the hip belt rides up high and can dig in and pinch the belly. While some testers experienced this issue, overall, most find the hip belt to be extremely comfortable once situated.
The shoulder straps fit well to a woman's shape and ventilate via loosely woven layers of mesh and padding. The yoke of the shoulder harness runs a bit on the narrow side and won't be the best fit for women with broad shoulders. Our testers also noticed that they could feel the center of the yoke on their necks. This could irritate some but mostly just caused us to take note.
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. Because the shoulder harness and load lifters hold the pack farther back than some we tested, we noticed that the top of the pack shifted around when scrambling over uneven terrain, crossing logs, and bending over to pick up trash we found on the trail. The hip belt also seems to have a little trouble with heavier loads in the 35-pound range. When loaded down, the back slips down more as if the belt is having trouble transferring the weight evenly around the hips.
At 4.65 pounds, this pack certainly isn't the lightest in our lineup, but when you are wearing the Cadillac of backpacking packs with all the bells and whistles, the weight adds up.
A lighter pack will typically not have features such as a sleeping bag compartment, lid, and zippered organization pockets. Often lighter packs also have slimmed down suspension systems that are less comfortable and buckle under loads over 25 pounds and lighter packs also lack the versatility provided by the adjustability in the Aura's torso and hip belt.
Total Volume = 73 L
Main Bag = 55 L
Pockets = 10 L
Lid = 8 L
We rated the Aura AG highly for organizational features. 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 organizational system rating. It is suitable for all-day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips. It is easy to remove the lid and shrink the capacity 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. Properly adjusting your gear lends to better stability and support while backpacking. When there is free space or moving gear inside of the pack, stability and comfort are compromised. The Aura has multiple compression straps on the sides, top, and interior, for securing gear that didn't quite make the cut to get inside. This pack has a plethora of adjustment options without being complicated.
The Aura maintains a variety of useful features without being excessive. The majority of the pack's features are made up of the main body, the two zippered pockets on the outside, and the one large mesh stow pocket. Though this provides a lot of options for storage, it is relatively simple.
Although the main compartment appears to be too slim and curved to fit a lot, it performed well in our ping pong ball volume test. We even able to fit a bear can vertically with a little room to pack around. A bear can will also fit horizontally in the very bottom of the pack but we don't recommend packing it there as your heaviest items, like food, should be higher up in the pack. 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. When the lid is installed, this flap of fabric becomes unnecessary and can feel like it's just in the way. The bottom compartment is ideal for a sleeping bag and has a detachable internal separator to allow the main compartment to function as one or two chambers.
Our favorite pocket is the stretch mesh outer pocket. It stretches out to accommodate a lot of essentials but remains tight against the pack when it is empty. We love how the mesh and fabric integrate, adding to the durability of the mesh pocket, without compromising volume (you can fit a helmet in there). Behind this pocket are two surprisingly spacious zippered pockets. These should be loaded after the main body of the pack or the bulk of the gear will encroach on the main compartment, making it tough to load.
The lid has two zipped pockets: one small one on top for storing identification, camera batteries, and other small necessities and one larger one that has enough room in it for layers, lunch, and more. The zipper is long, allowing for a large opening which, combined with the light color of the fabric, makes it easy to see what you stashed inside. It is also removable for reducing the overall capacity and simplifying the pack.
Lacking a bit in size are the hip belt pockets. A smartphone does fit inside but our testers found it tough to get in and out. Add in a waterproof case and you'll have to look elsewhere for storing your phone.
Finally, the side water bottle pockets: they fit tall, narrow bottles well and a Nalgene type bottle fits tightly behind the elastic mesh. Each pocket has the option for vertical or and angled horizontal orientation. Sideways entry is easy to get bottles in and out of but as with this design in most packs, taller bottles get in the way of your elbows and wide, short bottles are hard to get in and out. Because of the tight, elastic nature of the pockets, empty, lightweight bottles stored sideways tend to wiggle their way out.
All these pockets give you a way to organize more than packs with a simpler design but make sure you have your systems dials or you'll be zipping, flapping, and digging to figure out where you left your water filter, and toilet paper, and headlamp, and, well, you get the idea. 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.
With a wide range of adjustability for both the torso and hip belt plus a range of compression straps and the ability to remove the top lid, the Aura gets high marks for adjustability.
The suspension system allows for an infinite range of adjustments with the torso heights, and it only takes a few seconds to move the shoulder straps. This model comes in 3 torso sizes yet still offers 3.5 inches of torso adjustability within each size which makes it forgiving for those who are unsure of sizing or still have the potential to grow.
The added ability to elongate the hip belt helps out backpackers with fuller hips and gives even more customizable options. The hip belt has one of the largest ranges of functional adjustability we have tested. The belt can adjust from a minuscule 24" all the way up to 52". What truly makes this belt stand out is the seven inches of adjustable padding. For women with larger waists, it can be extremely frustrating and uncomfortable when the hip belt padding ends behind your iliac crest. For tall women with small waists, a pack that fits both your torso length while being able to cinch down on your hips can be elusive. The Aura's impressive range of adjustability makes it a great option for many different body types.
We like that you can quickly cinch the pack down when you need it for lighter days, but it will expand quickly under bulkier loads. This pack can easily be suited for a quick weekend under the desert stars or be loaded up for a full-on winter alpine expedition. It's all about compression.
The Aura AG comes at a fairly good price, considering its durability, breathability, and long-standing popular design. It is an incredible value to invest in one of the highest regarded women's packs for a mid-range price. It comes with Osprey's All Mighty lifetime guarantee. The advanced suspension technology and lasting comfort make this versatile pack an incredible value.
If you're looking for a pack that has run the test of time and stood out as one of the favorites over the years, give the Osprey Aura AG a look. It is one of the higher-rated packs in our test and because of its crowd-pleasing components such as a variety of large pockets, a suspension that manages to be breathable while feeling like a bear-hug at the same time, and the capacity to accommodate varying sized women we called it out as being Notable for All-Around Comfort.
— Meg Atteberry