As most of you know, as a big fanboy and devoted first-hand customer; I've been publishing in-depth guides to all kinds of Osprey backpacks (full post list at the bottom of this post) for the last 2-3 years.
Recently I'm getting asked a lot about my best Osprey hiking backpack picks, so here you go. Hope it helps you.
First things first: Backpacking might refer to both traveling and overnight camping trips.
So, if traveling will be your primary (or only) use, then stop reading this guide and check out my Best Osprey Backpack for Travel post instead. I do recommend some backpacking backpacks there.
If, however; your primary (or only) use will be hiking/camping (overnight or not), then keep reading this post.
I do recommend reading this short post entirely because Osprey packs are far from being cheap. But here are some quick answers:
- Atmos AG 65 (women's counterpart is Aura AG 65) is my overall multi-day top pick. Perfect for 2-5 nights.
- For really heavy hauling and/or extended (5+ nights) trips and thru-hikes, the best Osprey pack would be Xenith 88 (women's counterpart is Xena 85) in my opinion, although I'm pretty sure most of you would do perfectly fine with Aether AG 70 (women's counterpart is Ariel AG 65) as well.
- If you're looking for smaller packs (2-3 nights tops), I'd recommend Stratos 50 (women's counterpart is Sirrus 50), but Kestrel 48 (women's counterpart is Kyte 46) is a great alternative.
- Best osprey backpack for day hiking and/or single night camping is Talon 33 (women's counterpart is Tempest 30). Kestrel 38 and Kyte 36 are best alternatives for men and women respectively.
An important comment: If you're shorter than, say, 5'1"; or taller than, say, 6'6"; strongly consider getting the incredibly adjustable series: Volt/Viva. They'll probably be even more comfortable than Atmos/Aura for you.
Navigate to the in depth explanations of each group here:
#Note: 60 - 70 L is the sweet spot where the versatility of overnight hiking & camping trips maximize. Check out Osprey's great infographic on their own blog to get informed more about pack volumes.
I've contacted Osprey's customer service myself about this and laid out my findings here in my Dimensional Inconsistencies of Osprey Backpacks post.
Now let's get to the bolts and nuts.
COMPLETE DATA SET: Osprey's All Hiking & Backpacking Backpacks Listed
Let's begin with the data set I've been collecting for the last few years first. All links direct you to the related product pages on osprey.com:
- Bold are my top picks for each group (based on trip length).
- If you tend to pack more or less than the average person, then shift the trip length values accordingly.
- If you're planning to get either one of them, I'd also highly recommend you to check out Osprey's own PackFinder tool as well.
To see the full table and my top picks, visit my post Best Osprey Hiking Backpacks.
Rotate your phone sideways for a better table display.
Features & Organization
Weight (M Size)
Trip Length: 7+ nights [>90 L]
Trip Length: 5-7 nights [75 - 90 L]
Trip Length: 2-5 nights [55 - 75 L]
Sweet spot. Versatile picks.
Trip Length: 1-3 nights [45 - 55 L]
Trip Length: 0-1 nights [<45 L]
Always opt for the larger pack when in doubt.
Why? Because having the extra space but not needing it is always better than needing the extra space but not having it.
To my experience, this is likely to happen regardless of our plans.
Where is durability?
The real reason I didn't take durability into play here isn't Osprey's all mighty lifetime warranty (although it's a part of it).
I mean, it's great to have it after all, but their incredible customer service and warranty policy would still cost some effort and time from the user's end in case of unexpected damages.
The real reason I didn't incorporate durability here is that after years of using and backpacking with people using Osprey backpacks, one thing I've learned is that most of us will never even need to turn to their incredible warranty.
Because almost all Osprey backpacks are made of very high quality, wear resistant fabrics. You can get a feeling of their robust structures even when you simply lay your fingers on them.
I say almost all Osprey packs are very durable because I'd maybe exclude the ultralight and hyperlight series a little bit here: Exos/Eja and Levity/Lumina lines.
Even they are still more durable than their ultralight competitors coming from other brands - but their light nature inevitably requires them to be a little more fragile than the other rock solid packs.
Other than that, yes, some are still more durable than the others and vice versa, but the difference is really non-existent in practice.
I'll lay out my top picks now.
Extended (5+ nights) trips (>75 L)
These extra large Osprey packs are rather rare and hence you don't get much options.
You can look at Aether/Ariel AG Series as a little inferior cousins of Xenith/Xena Series. But it's still a fantastic series of packs.
Multiple accesses to the main compartment, convertible top lid daypacks, smooth harness and shoulder straps, lots of pockets and external gear attachment capability, etc.
They're the Bugatti of backpacks...
...with Xenith/Xena being a little more equipped to Aether/Ariel AG.
They aren't one of those packs that are just stuffed with features to compensate other downsides, oh no. They're both extremely comfortable backpacks (although they're fairly heavy at 5 lbs).
In fact, they're the only two series of Osprey backpacks that offer state of the art custom molding hipbelts (find source here on Osprey's own site).
Here's how it works:
- You drive to an Osprey Dealer,
- Have them take the removable hipbelt of your backpack,
- Heat it inside an oven and,
- Mold it to your unique hip and waist anatomy.
The result: You're handed over the only hip belt in the WORLD designed for the unique curvatures of your own body.
Released after Aether/Ariel's so-called "IsoForm" custom molding design, "BioForm" custom molding design of Xenith/Xena is Osprey's most recent technology in this field.
This is why superior BioForm hipbelts of Xenith/Xena are going to respond even better to your unique curves during the molding process.
Now, going the extra mile this much might seem overkill or even outright ridiculous to you.
But when you're hauling all your belongings for a week long trips throughout long distances, trust me it's not.
This is actually the reason why it's only incorporated to the backpacks with extended trip main purposes only: Xenith/Xena and Aether/Ariel Series.
Osprey themselves agree that it'd indeed be an overkill for anything less aggressive than that.
I've talked more about this in my Osprey Xenith vs Aether post, so check that out if you're interested. My top picks are Xenith 88 and Aether AG 70.
The typical 7+ day backpack volume is 90+ liters. This leaves you with one option: Men's Xenith 105.
Compared to Xenith's other smaller 88 & 75 liter counterparts, besides extra tens of liters of volume; Xenith 105 is constructed with a thicker (4 mm vs 3.5 mm) and more robust peripheral frame in addition.
This in the end makes carrying really heavy loads (loads that are heavy even for Xenith 88/75!) noticeably more comfortable due to incredibly well enduring suspension capability.
Unfortunately, Osprey didn't introduce a women's counterpart for Xenith 105, so the largest option is Xena 85. No idea why they went down this route.
That said, if you're a female looking for a 90+ L pack, you can get Xenith 105 and might still be perfectly fine with it.
Design differences in men's/women's models take place in the curvatures and shape of the pack (mostly belts and straps) - which I would say isn't going to be a huge difference unless you're shorter than, say, 5'7".
Multi-day (2-5 nights) trips (55-75 L)
Generally speaking, 60 - 70 liters is considered to be the sweet spot for most people. Best of both worlds.
If you're a regular reader of my Osprey related posts, then you know I'm a huge fan of both of them.
Comfortable, useful, versatile, ventilated and well organized. It applies to a huge range of potential buyers - which is why it's almost impossible to go flat out wrong with them.
REI also recommends it not only as the best Osprey backpacking backpack but the best backpacking backpack out in the entire market:
*Video is time-adjusted.
If you're quite short (say, shorter than 5'1") or quite tall (say, taller than 6'6"), then the Volt/Viva will be more comfortable than any backpacking backpack out there (including Atmos/Aura AG 65).
If you aren't quite short or tall, Volt 60/Viva 65 are still going to be surprisingly comfortable alternatives - although noticeably less so than the Atmos/Aura AG 65.
One organizational sacrifice you make going from Volt 60/Viva 65 to Atmos/Aura AG 65 is the loss of two useful zippered front pockets which would make your frequently used items readily available.
Unlike Atmos/Aura AG 65, you do get the raincover with Volt 60/Viva 65.
But raincover is not only less valuable in most cases, but it's also replaceable by purchasing separately - which you certainly can't do so for zippered front pockets.
Very heavy hauling
When you're hiking during the winter or with kids and/or pets, it's likely that really heavy hauling will come into play.
This is why 3 important features;
- Bulkier suspension,
- Additional J-zip front access to the main compartment and,
- Convertible top lid daypack,
They're not only going to keep you more comfortable and less sweaty along the way, but also offer a superior access to your higher amount of items.
You can read more about them in this post where I review and compare Aether/Ariel Series.
They're equipped with a raincover instead.
I've written more about Osprey Aether vs Atmos before, so check that out as well if you're interested to hear more.
Weekend (1-3 nights) trips (40-55 L)
But are they really optimal for this range as well?
Well, long story short, if you pack like most people during weekend backpacking trips, then chances are, the superior suspensions of Atmos/Aura AG 50 are most likely going to over-qualify.
After all, you don't need an airplane engine in a car.
I mean, if you're getting an Atmos/Aura AG 50, I'd probably stop most of you there and point another pack.
I've talked more about this in my Atmos/Aura AG 50 vs 65 post.
However, if you're one of those folks who tend to pack really dense, heavy stuff; then as you can imagine, I would have to make an exception for you.
Atmos/Aura AG 50 can be an optimal choice in that case.
But what if you're like most people and pack typical, normal weight stuff?
Osprey designed them specifically for your purpose, and hence advertises them in such ways as well.
Not only their suspension quality are just the right amount, but it also comes with all the bells and whistles you actually need - and nothing you don't.
The reason Stratos/Sirrus 50 are admired so much is because they're somehow pretty successfully made quite light without sacrificing too much comfort or organizational features.
In fact, any organizational feature for that matter.
It offers 3 accesses to main compartment (top, bottom & side) and comes with an integrated raincover.
If you've been researching Osprey packs for a while, then it probably caught your attention that you don't easily get to see these features all together even in a well equipped backpack - let alone a light pack like Stratos 50!
I think it's safe to say that they more or less perform equally well.
Kestrel/Kyte Series is a top-notch backpacking, hiking, and, in my opinion, also a little bit mountaineering backpack line.
Although I wasn't that fond of previous versions, they stepped up their game with most recent 2019 updates.
Apart from these practical benefits you get when using Kestrel/Kyte, they're also pretty if you ask me.
Day hiking & overnight camping (<40 L)
Front loading backpacks become more acceptable here, so if you'll be traveling with your backpack as much as you'll be day hiking, then you can get a travel backpack rather than a hiking or backpacking backpack.
If you're sure you're looking for a hiking/backpacking backpack, though...
Your best alternatives here are the smaller options of Stratos/Sirrus & Kestrel/Kyte:
Compared to their larger volume options;
- Kestrel/Kyte 36 lacks the side zipper pocket,
- Stratos/Sirrus 36 disallows the ability to remove the top lid (as well as its stash pocket).
Let's wrap everything up...
Conclusion & Quick Answers
Here are my top picks in a nutshell.
- Extended (5+ nights) trips: Xenith 88 and Xena 85. Alternatives are Aether AG 85 and Ariel AG 75.
- Typical (3-5 nights) trips: Atmos AG 65 and Aura AG 65. Alternatives are Volt 60 and Viva 65.
- Weekend (1-3 nights) trips: Stratos/Sirrus 50. Alternatives are Kestrel 48 and Kyte 46.
- Hiking (0-1 nights) trips: Talon 33 and Tempest 30. Alternatives would be Stratos/Sirrus & Kestrel/Kyte.