Osprey Aura AG 65 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Comfortable, plush padding, highly adjustable, good number of pockets, easy-to-remove top lid
Cons: Large, spring-loaded waistband is hard to get into, suspension can feel bulky, expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Osprey Aura 65 is one of our favorites because of its comfortable women's-specific design. We appreciated the Anti-Gravity suspension system, which provides plenty of breathability on long days in the backcountry and even wraps around your hips to make sure that they're ventilated too. The Aura scores well across the board because of its ability to fit many body types, its premium comfort features, and its classic organizational systems. It is an admirable, all-around comfortable pack for many different users.
Comfort and Suspension
A unique suspension design brings a high degree of comfort to the Aura AG. 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 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 manages varying weight loads well.
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, most found the hip belt to be extremely comfortable once situated.
Another awesome thing about the Aura is that 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 might not be the best fit for women with broad shoulders.
One concern we have with the Aura AG is how it handles heavier loads over 40 pounds. Because of its superb breathability, 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. Therefore, 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. Also, when loaded down, the back of the hip belt slips down on some testers, causing some discomfort.
At 4.5 pounds, this pack certainly isn't the lightest in our lineup, but when you want the Cadillac of backpacking packs, all the bells and whistles add up.
A lighter pack generally doesn't have features such as a sleeping bag compartment, a top lid, and zippered organization pockets. Lighter packs also usually have a slimmed-down suspension system that ends up being less comfortable while heavier packs generally have more comfort features. It's no wonder that the Aura is heavier, as it is the cream of the crop comfort-wise.
We regard the Aura AG highly for its organizational features. The well-placed 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.
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 it provides a lot of options for storage, it is relatively simple and easy to use, which we appreciate.
Although the main compartment appears to be too slim and curved to fit a lot, it is even able to fit a bear canister 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 on the pack is the large mesh outer pocket. It stretches out to accommodate extra layers but remains tight against the pack when 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 is packed, or it can be tough to load.
The top lid has two zipped pockets: a small one on top for storing identification, camera batteries, and other small necessities and a larger one that has enough room for layers, lunch, and more. The zipper is a bit on the shorter side. But, when combined with the light color of the fabric, it makes it easy to find what you stashed inside.
Another great feature is that the hip belt pockets are huge. A smartphone easily fits along with snacks and lip balm. What's even better is that you get two hip belt pockets that are both spacious.
Finally, the side water bottle pockets fit tall, narrow bottles well while a Nalgene-type bottle fits a little snugly. It is easy to access bottles with a vertical and horizontal entrance. While in the horizontal position, the taller bottles get in the way of your elbows, while wide, short bottles are hard to get in and out.
All of these pockets are great and give you plenty of options for storage, but make sure you have your systems dialed or you'll be zipping, flapping, and digging to figure out where you left your water filter, toilet paper, and headlamp.
The Aura stands out for its incredible adjustability, once again earning high marks in this metric.
The suspension system has a sliding range of adjustment in the torso length, and it only takes a few seconds to move the shoulder straps. This model comes in three torso sizes yet still offers three and a half inches of torso adjustability within each size which makes it even more forgiving of a pack.
The added ability to elongate the hip belt helps backpackers with fuller hips and provides an even greater range of fit options. The hip belt has one of the largest ranges of functional adjustability we have tested - it can adjust from 24 inches to 52 inches. What truly makes this belt stand out is that not only is the webbing extendable, but it has 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 and your hips is hard to come by. The Aura's impressive range of adjustability makes it a great option for pretty much everybody.
The Aura's price tag is what we'd expect considering its comfort, breathability, and long-standing popular design. While it's not inexpensive, you get all the things that the backpacking world has come to love about Osprey packs: advanced suspension technology, lasting comfort, and quality.
The Osprey Aura AG 65 has not only stood the test of time but is a consistent standout favorite year after year. We love the breathable, hip-cradling comfort of this pack that manages to feel like a bear-hug while at the same time being practical and durable.
— Madison Botzet
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