Expert Review: Osprey Women's Aura AG 65 Pack

This review is my honest opinion of the pack, which I purchased with my own money in September of 2016.

A woman with a backpack overlooking the hazy sunrise somewhere along the Colorado Trail.

Overlooking the hazy sunrise somewhere along the Colorado Trail. All photos courtesy of Grace VanSurksum

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About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the pack, which I purchased with my own money in September of 2016.

My take

This pack allows the beginner backpacker to the thru-hiker to get out there with comfort and confidence. I bought this pack for my first overnight backpacking trip in 2016 and it has been with me ever since. I’ve used it for one-nighters, car camping, base camping, and even 500 miles of thru-hiking. It is comfortable, specifically made for women, durable, and versatile.

A woman with a backpack picks blackberries.

Picking black berries while entering the Redwood Forest in Northern CA

About the gear

  • Model: 2016 Aura AG
  • Gender: Women’s
  • Size: Large
  • Pack capacity: 65L

About me

  • Height: 5’5”
  • Weight: 135 lbs.
  • Experience: 6 years

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: September 2016
  • Length of trips: 1-35 nights
  • What I carried:
    • Sleeping pad: Exped FlexMat
    • Sleeping bag: 2021 REI Co-op Magma 30 Women’s
    • Tent: 2020 Nemo Hornet 2 person
    • Other: Food, water, cooking gear, safety items
  • Total pack weight: 18-60 lbs (empty pack weighs 4.4 pounds).
  • Used for: Car camping, tent camping, backpacking, thru-hiking
  • Where I’ve used it: Vermont Long Trail; Colorado Trail; Sawtooth Mnts, ID; Redwood National Forest, CA; Shenandoah National Park, VA; SunValley, ID
  • Terrain: Gnarly root covered and steep hiking trails, High altitude mountains, Backcountry skiing Hut trip
  • Seasons I’ve used it in: All four seasons

How it performs

Back Breathability

What I was looking for

I needed a backpack to do some overnight camping with my friends in Vermont. One of my friends had an Osprey that she loved, and I had heard they were high-quality packs that would last me a long time—a one-and-done purchase. Osprey guarantees a life-time warranty, and the engineers and designers are always innovating and improving, making the pack lighter and more durable. I wanted a pack that would be comfortable and allow me to carry a heavy load (I like to cook elaborate meals in the backcountry) for a long distance even though I had little hiking/camping experience.

Why I chose this gear

The pack is designed specifically for women; I remember trying it on and it hugged my hips so nicely before I had even adjusted the size or buckled the waist strap. The frame is light and curved to distribute the weight evenly and close to my center of mass. The back panel is mesh and allows for air to flow between me and my pack, making back sweat more tolerable. The shoulder straps and waist belt are also breathable and well-padded (no hip blisters for me)! There are lots of pockets and zip compartments so I am able to keep all my gear organized and safe. The 5L brain is removable, a feature that came in handy when I was thru-hiking to lose some pack weight. At the time, I didn’t consider any other options because it was exactly what I needed for getting into backpacking. Now, however, I might consider a slightly smaller capacity and lighter pack for pushing longer miles.

A woman taking off her backpacking backpack on a trail.

Setting down my pack in the middle of Vermont along the 283 mile Long Trail

What I love about it

  • Durability: I have taken this pack winter backpacking, carried it through the rain for multiple days in a row, used it as a chair, and fallen down hills and off cliffs—and not a single thing has broken or torn! But, if anything does happen, Osprey offers a lifetime warranty for any damage or defect, no questions asked.
  • Suspension and comfort: AG stands for Anti-Gravity, and rightfully so. The perimeter frame is lightweight and the continuous breathable mesh hugs me from my back to all around my hips for stability and comfort.
  • Adjustability: This pack is known for its adjustability, making it easy to lend to friends! The store employee fitted my pack for me. Once on the trail, I asked a seasoned hiker how to adjust my pack and I had no problems. The load lifter straps brought the weight of the pack as close to my center of gravity as possible and transferred the weight off my shoulders and down to my hips.
  • Capacity The pack is 65L with a 5L removable brain. What I have found with this pack is that I can always fit more, I just have to decide if it’s worth the weight to carry it. I was able to carry a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and food with ease. It will also fit a bear canister in the main pocket or the bottom compartment.
  • Features: This pack features an adjustable torso length, women-specific Anti-Gravity suspension, an adjustable shoulder harness, straps, a hip-belt and load lifters, zippered hip belt pockets, a hydration pack compartment with a hose exit port on the shoulder strap, easy-access water bottle side pockets, a removable top brain, an aluminum frame, a sleeping bag compartment, and outer tiedown straps.
  • Organization and pockets: I love how this pack is laid out. I always know where I put certain items. There is one large compartment accessible from the top and a slightly smaller, lower compartment for a sleeping bag or sleeping pad. There are two large side zip pockets, a mesh outer pocket for easy access, two hip belt zip pockets, and a brain with three zip pockets.
  • Hip belt: The hip belt is what makes this pack special. The back panel and hip belt are one integrated, padded piece, with a congruent, breathable, 3D mesh that hugs the hip belt inwards, keeping it snug on my hips. At first, I found it a little challenging to open the belt wide enough to get my hips in, but I got used to it and learned to love the little hug I always get while wearing the Aura.
  • Pack Access: The main compartment is accessible from above with a drawstring closure and either a flap or brain to buckle and cinch down. The rest of the pockets are accessible by zipper making the pack heavier, but keeping all my gear safe.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Weight: This pack is on the heavier side because of all the cushion and suspension that makes it so comfortable. It’s 4.7 pounds, which is perfect for moderate overnight trips, but not ideal for week-long thru-hiking. I like to use it mainly for base camping. Because it is so comfortable, I can carry 50 to 60 pounds so I have everything I need for a long stay at a base camp.
  • Ease of use: There are lots of pockets so it’s easy to stay organized, but not too many pockets and compartments where I forget where I put things. Due to the back panel and waist belt being all one piece, it can be a little tricky to get the waistband open to wrap it around the waist. However, this integrated design is what makes the pack so comfortable and conforms to the wearer’s specific shape. Adjusting the torso length is not very intuitive either, but once I googled it, I was able to figure it out.
  • Weather Resistance: This pack is not water-resistant and gear will get wet—a lesson I learned the hard way when I got caught in a rainstorm and had to sleep in a half-wet sleeping bag. Pro-tip: line the inside of the bag with a durable garbage bag.
A  black dog sitting next to a backpack.

My favorite hiking partner patiently waiting by my pack

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite time with my Aura AG pack was the long weekend myself, six of my friends, and our collective seven dogs backpacked into the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho near Red Fish Lake. It was a 7-mile hike to three lakes, all feeding into one another with waterfalls. It was beautiful and peaceful. One of my favorite backcountry activities is to cook elaborate meals, but this involves a lot of heavy gear and food. I took everything, a big pot and camp stove, sweet potatoes, coconut milk, vegetables, cutting board, chef’s knife, tapestry, etc.—all of the non-essential comfort items. I am glad I had my Aura pack because it has so much space; whenever I feel like I can’t possibly shove another thing into one of the many pockets, I always seem to find another nook or cranny. Was the pack super heavy? Yes. Was I able to carry it the whole way thanks to the extreme comfort and suspension technology of the Aura pack? Yes. Did we have a blast and a delicious meal? Also yes. I also took the Aura pack on the 283-mile Long Trail in Vermont. I was able to get my base weight down to less than 18 pounds which just proves the versatility of the Aura AG 65L pack.

Value for the money vs. other options

Although Osprey packs are a little more expensive than some other brands, but it is totally worth the extra dough. The new Osprey Aura costs about $275. Other brands have packs anywhere from $350 to $150. Usually, as price increases, pack weight decreases. Osprey has found the sweet middle ground between weight and durability. For example, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Windrider pack is $350, but only weighs 1.9 pounds and the material has been known to puncture easily. The Gregory Amber 65 pack is $170; while still a quality pack weighing 3.5 pounds, it doesn't have the patented Anti-Gravity design or lifetime warranty. Osprey packs will last YEARS, and Osprey offers a lifetime warranty that will fix or replace any broken or damaged items, no questions asked.

Final verdict

Overall, this pack is ultra-comfortable, adjustable, durable, and versatile. I have used this backpack for six years now, and will probably use it for at least another six. It will always have a special place in my heart as my first backpacking backpack.

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Meet the author
Camping & Hiking Expert Grace VanSurksum
Grace VanSurksum
Camping & Hiking Expert
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Written By
Grace VanSurksum
Grace VanSurksum
Camping & Hiking Expert
Hiking abnormally far distances is my passion. Sleeping outdoors is my medicine. Walking in nature is my meditation. I hiked almost 500 miles last summer and plan to hike another 1800 miles this upcoming winter in New Zealand. BUT, I wasn't always a hiking "expert". Before I hiked the long trail, I...
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