Backpacking can be one of the best modes of cross training out there if you’re looking to stay in shape for ski season. It works the heck out of your legs, burns fat, and keeps your head in the mountains. If you’re in the market for a new pack, Osprey is in the process of changing the game with their new “Anti-Gravity” (Osprey AG) suspension system and it’s making big waves.
A Quick Lesson in Backpacks
Backpacks don’t change very often. At least, not in the aspect of how they function. You’ll get the occasional fabric redesign, or maybe some new pocket configurations or closure types, but the base function of backpacks pretty much stays the same. That function, carrying, is performed by the backpack’s suspension. A pack suspension helps distribute weight evenly amongst the entire surface of your back. By increasing the surface area, you decrease the amount of weight you feel when carrying. It also helps move a majority of that weight onto your hips and legs to optimize how the weight carries. Historically, there are 3 main types of frames. External, where the frame is literally on the outside of the backpack, were the “first generation” of packs. Internal Frame packs came next, where the frame is sewn into the pack make up the “second generation,” and most popular. And lastly, frame sheets, which are being used more and more in ultralight packs. Frame sheets are soft and designed to provide as much distribution as possible.
So what’s New with the Osprey AG Series?
The AG (Anti-Gravity) series provides a near perfect mix of the functionality between a frame sheet and the internal frame pack. What it does is use a tension based system that makes 100% contact with the contours of your back, spine, and hips. This is reinforced with an updated internal frame to help disperse the weight across the entirety of your back. What you get here is not only the strength and carrying ability of a standard internal frame pack, but you get the weight reduction, balance and contact of a frame sheet pack essentially giving you the best of both worlds.
Highlights of the Osprey AG Series
Atmos / Aura 50
The Atmos / Aura (male/female, respectively) series were the first packs to hit the market with the Osprey AG series in them, and they’re still my favorite. In today’s world, as gear gets ever more lightweight and small, 50 liter packs are the perfect “do-anything” backpack. Chances are, if you’re a weekend warrior looking to hit the trail for an overnight, 50 liters is more than enough. This pack series is simple, clean, and ready to go anytime that you are.
Aether / Ariel 70
Looking for the next step up? This year Osprey launched the Osprey AG suspension in their expedition packs and this is the greatest thing to happen to backpacking in a long time. In my opinion, the Aether / Ariel pack series was already the best bang-for-your-buck series on the market. As someone who’s been in pack sales for years now, these packs are the easiest to fit, lightest weight, and most versatile packs out there. Plus, add in the value behind Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee and you can’t go wrong, their the king pin. With the addition of the AG suspension they’ve only improved the already exceptional fit and comfort making this a must-own for multi-day backpackers. They come in 60, 70, and 85 liter pack sized. Personally, I prefer the 70 liter. Again, gear is getting lighter and smaller, unless you’re guiding or getting way up in the mountains you just don’t need 85 liters anymore.
Manta / Mira 26
Just headed out for a day? Well you certainly don’t need the size or build of a 50+ Liter pack. The Manta / Mira series is perfect. To give you reference, a large school-backpack comes in at about 21 liters, so at 26 liters this series is just a hair larger. It comes with a built in hydration system, good compression for longer hikes, and a smorgasbord of pockets for excellent organization.