Choosing a Backpacking Rucksack

By the end of next week (which also coincides with the end of Month Three), I aim to have acquired or at least ordered a rucksack for my up-and-coming backpacking adventures.

Here, I’m going to share the two three packs that I’ve narrowed my selection down to.

Being a fan of Osprey packs and having owned the Manta AG 28 for day-hiking since May 2016, I was always going to look at their range, first of all.

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Osprey’s Atmos AG 65 was, if I’m not mistaken, awarded ‘best on test’ by Trail magazine only a few months ago. It has a lot of features (like my daysack) with the addition of height and hip-belt adjustment, which isn’t always found elsewhere. These features are important because, if your pack isn’t comfortable or doesn’t fit probably and there’s no means to adjust it then, it’s going to have an effect on your body and your experience.

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Female hikers: this pack is also available in the Osprey Aura series.

There’s also the Atmos AG 50

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Would a 50lt pack be big enough for a week’s backpacking and hiking?

Well, away from the computer, I’m attempting to answer this through practical experiments across my living room floor (you’ll see more on this, soon). In the guide book I own for the Camino de Santiago, author John Brierley writes that you shouldn’t require anything larger than 50lt.

But it’s important to remember then, that on the Camino, most “peregrinos” will be spending their nights at a guest house or “albergue”. They may not even carry a small tent, sleeping bag or mat; which would save at least 15lt in anyone’s backpack.

So, for the time being, I’m looking at 65lt packs because I’ll definitely need to carry sleeping equipment while trekking around the UK. If I get around to attempting hikes that last a fortnight, I may also need that extra 15lt for food and clothes supplies.

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Obviously, the Osprey packs come with a high price-tag and I may not use them any more than twice a year. That’s why I’m also looking at the Lowe Alpine Atlas 65, which is nearly 40% cheaper than the Atmos 65 AG and bears many similar features, even if it doesn’t bear the term ‘anti-gravity’.

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I’ve also noticed that there’s at Diran 55:65 pack available in the mens’ range, which does offer the option to add or remove 10lt of capacity and load… And complicates my decision making!

Female hikers: these packs are also available in the Diran ND range.

My instinct tells me that it’s probably worth spending the extra money, since I’ll save 15% with my Ramblers membership… But intend to inspect both packs in person, before making any final decisions.

I thought that was it, until I read an newsletter from Osprey this week…

They’ve just released the Aether AG 60 rucksack. It is competitively priced against the Atmos 65 and does bear a strong resemblance, albeit for 5lt less of capacity… But still, I wonder what that extra £30 might be worth…

Another I hope to see and try in person!


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Female hikers: this pack is also available in the Osprey Ariel AG series.

So, I think that leaves me with no fewer than four rucksacks to hunt down, try on and inspect over the next week. Once that purchase has been finalised, I’ll then be looking for a set of drysacks or compression sacks.

Narrowing this selection down to two – and I do mean two, this time – has been quite simple:

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First, we have the Exped Ultralite Fold Drybags (pack of 4), which I’m assuming are more lightweight (as well as £2 dearer) than the almost-identical Fold Drybags Set of 4. Very reasonably price, in my opinion and there’s the obvious appeal of being able to purchase a set – which appeals to me, while I’m currently uncertain of the quantity and volumes I require.

Sizes included are: 3lt, 5l, 8lt and 13lt.

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Osprey also produce their own range of Ultralite Drysacks but not currently available in any form of a package; you have to buy them individually. As far as I can tell, the one advantage they may have over the Exped packs is their rectangular shape, which could make for more efficient packing, as they claim…

I’d love to come across a comparison review from someone who’s used both types extensively. Osprey’s bags seem to jump from 6lt up to 12lt with nothing in between. They work out at about the same price versus the Exped – I’m really surprised they don’t charge extra for the logo.

Most sources I’ve seen and read suggest that something between 8lt and 12lt should be adequate for storing clothes for a week’s worth of walking. Anything larger, as far as I can see, would be better suited as a waterproof liner for a daypack’s entire contents.

Electronics and essentials might fit in a 3lt bag… 5lt could be for food or toiletries; maybe smaller clothing items, like underwear… 8lt might be a space to keep my T-shirt separate from the rest… See, I really don’t have this all figured out yet!

I hope that someone finds food for thought and planning in all of my words.

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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