Hands down, the Osprey Aura AG 65 for women is the most comfortable pack I have ever tried on, bought or tested.
I received it during the winter, so I tested it on a couple of ski trips. Both were long, single-day treks, but I packed as if I were going on an overnight: 0-degree bag, tent, winter sleeping pad; three freeze-dried meals plus stove and cook kit; super-warm clothes (including down booties); miscellaneous items; and my hydration reservoir filled with 40 ounces of water. I hate nothing more than a pack with too many bells and whistles (all purported to add more space and options for packing yet all over-designed and over-built). So I was thrilled when all of the items I just listed (plus more) slid beautifully into this sleek 40- to 50-pound hauler.
My load weighed in the 35- to 40-pound range. Shouldering it, I skied from a local trailhead into the vast, snow-stuffed Indian Peaks Wilderness. I wore skinny, waxable Nordic skis, because I knew they’d be both fast and less stable than alpine touring skis. I wanted instability, so I could see how the pack would perform under it. The Aura more than aced my test: I have no idea how, but the open mesh, trampoline style back seemed to both hug and support my torso. I even have a nagging lower-back issue, and the Aura seemed to help it rather than hinder it. Its hipbelt is both stiff and molded (while remaining supple), making it feel like it was supporting my gear (and hips) instead of loading the weight onto my shoulders. Like a lot of packs, the Aura has belt straps you can adjust on the fly, which is great, because I swear I start to lose weight within minutes of hauling my outdoor bedroom uphill. But the Aura did more.
The mesh back panel (dotted with holes for ventilation) is one of the best I’ve tried in terms of wicking and transferring sweat. The shoulder straps are also slightly molded, offering more arm movement than other packs (another reason I skied instead of hiked was to test this feature). The spacious main compartment separates your sleeping bag from the rest of your gear. My load felt well balanced and evenly placed. Not once, skiing either uphill or down, did the Aura throw me off balance. Rather, it snugged against my back, with zero extraneous movement.
I also loved several unique design features. These include a removable two-pocket lid and a sewn-in nylon cover. Take the outer lid off, and the inner buckles over the main compartment to protect your stuff. Stretch front pockets hold things like goggles, a water bottle, snacks and extra gloves. Two gear loops above the sleeping bag compartment accommodate an ice axe and/or skis. I loved the look, feel and simplicity of the Aura’s overall design, and would suggest only one change. The hipbelt features two roomy, easy-access pockets (great for a camera, phone or more snacks). At those points, the hipbelt dug into my thighs more than expected.
But the rest of the pack was amazing, from the sizing down to the color. I’m 5 feet 5 inches, 135 pounds, and the medium (at 4 lbs. 2 oz.) was the perfect size.
An exclusive edition with bonus dry sack and rain cover is available at REI.
The Osprey Aura AG 65 is a 2015 Backpacker Magazine Editors’ Choice Award Winner. Watch Backpacker’s video review.