Atlas Athlete Pack Review
I first heard about Atlas Packs after Christmas and after seeing the idea instantly fell in love with the look and concept. In my head I was trying to work out if this one rucksack would be the answer to what three rucksacks do currently. A rucksack for photography, everyday use and taking with me for camping and hiking and all range from 20-45L
So, I got myself one to see if it would answer everything above, was this to be the one bag to rule them all.
What Atlas Packs Say:
SUPPORTS MEDIUM SIZE SETS OF CAMERA GEAR- ATLAS ATHLETE PACK
"We’re photographers just like you and have never understood why bag manufacturers seem focused purely on “holding camera gear” vs designing a solution for camera use."
Looking for a camera bag with space for more than just camera gear. The Atlas Athlete features a 40 litre expandable shell and was awarded "Best Camera Bag for Travellers" by National Geographic.
ATLAS ATHLETE PACK FEATURES:
An industry first "Origami camera core". Allows camera section to be reconfigured between camera core and non-camera section of pack
2L Water bladder pocket with dedicated tube routing through back of pack
Dedicated pocket for a 15" laptop
Custom fitted waist belt (removable)
Aluminum frame / stay (removable)
The ultimate in comfort. Air vented mesh back panel, overbuilt harness and suspension system
Meets carry-on standards
Front shell can expand from 5 - 30 litres
Designed for small to medium sets of gear
Incredibly thin profile, just 7" in depth
Draw string top allows for easy closure and access
Tripods can be securely stored on either side of the pack
Quickdraw hip pockets hidden into sides of waistbelt
To put simply, yes the Atlas Pack Athlete did all the above from the everyday walks to and from the office allowing me to carry a 15” laptop, camera, tripod and extras or use for hiking where I can fit a stove, waterproofs and food inside and then the big shock, fitting all my camping kit inside. I’m used to using a 40L rucksack for camping anyway and this shocks people how I get everything in but with the ICU fixed I couldn’t rearrange this aspect of the Atlas pack so was nervous at first.
It’s worth adding the 40L option works for 3-seasons, for deep winter I do swap to a larger 70L to accommodate ice axe, crampons and thicker bags and extras needed to staying warm and using this set up is rare still. This year I only used the 70L set up twice so for 12 months of the year I can have my camera kit stored in one bag, never leaving anything behind and expanding the main stuff sack to any requirement I need.
It really is amazing how much fits inside the Atlas packs.
Before getting the Atlas Packs I sat with all my rucksacks and ICU’s measuring what would fit and dimensions. My currently Vanguard Bag-in-Bag 22 was the same size as the Atlas Pack Athlete Origami camera core compressed to the smallest set up. I knew camera kit would fit perfectly with my little Olympus system. In fact, I had a little extra room, meaning I can open the rear and grab anything from batteries, Peak Design Shell, filters, or wireless remote trigger. Before I had to squeeze it at the bottom of the ICU or use a separate dry-sack and store in the top lid of my rucksacks.
The ultimate test wasn’t going to be packing my everyday kit, this would fit in to any 20L rucksack, but my camping kit. The idea would be to only need one rucksack which held my camera kit without the need to remove it and just add the camping kit when I would be going out. The Atlas Athlete Pack swallowed the kit and was still very comfortable to use and wear with the kit inside.
What I packed: 4 season sleeping bag, air mat, stove, gas, food for 2x days, spare clothing, 2x down jackets with the tent strapped to the outside with tripod on opposite side and two 1 litre water bottles in the hip belt pockets. It took some getting used to with the packing method as I typically can leave the sleeping bag at the bottom of the rucksack with my previous Snugpak Endurance 40L and the camera kit at the top in an ICU, but with a built in ICU and located at the back I didn’t have this option and the 4 season sleeping bag simply wouldn’t fit at the bottom of the rucksack as it would previously. Smaller bags for summer will certainly fit as these are tiny in comparison. With the Atlas pack being able to expand to 40L and hold kit that will keep me warm down to -20ºc and fairly bulky I was very surprised and thrilled!
If it could hold this then the rest of the year would be plain sailing.
The added benefit with the expandable section was I could use a 40L dry bag with camping kit inside and simply pull this out when not needed and compress the Atlas Athlete Pack to the desired size. Handy and very quick to adapt the and meant less faff which I would typically have with emptying my entire rucksack before to swap to a smaller, lighter pack for day walks and then back again.
As a whole the rucksack isn’t pockets galore, it’s smarter than this and has the two top zipper pockets, immediately to hand. The largest of which is perfect for holding gloves, hats, power bank or the camera for even quicker access. The smaller pocket is useful for storing coins, pens and small items like this. Below the lid is another pocket which I have used for holding a map, compass and first aid kit. On the front exterior is another zipper pocket with a flexible nylon pocket. The front pocket I haven’t really used for anything and the deep flexible pocket I have used for holding a jacket or fleece and having quick access to it.
Better yet the whole of the exterior has webbing/straps so you can add carabiners, straps or para-cord to hold extra kit on the exterior. This allowed the bag to breath a bit more when filled and I could still strap a jacket to the exterior or additional kit. You may also notice from the photos I have customised the rucksack in my traditional decor with pins and badges. All of the badges have been sown on which, yes was difficult with the pockets and ensuring I could still use the pockets.
In terms of pockets the only exterior pocket I didn’t use or find that much value in was the hydration bladder pocket. It’s handy its quick access and sits on the side like it does, but when I did put a hydration bladder inside it bulged out rendering the side pocket un-usable. I can’t complain to much as I often don’t use bladders and typically the bladder would sit inside the pack and take up space here which could be used for camping kit.
(Kit packed in the above photos: Snugpak Special Forces 2 - 4 season sleeping bag, Snugpak Antarctic winter mat, Jetboil stove with coffee press and C100 cartridge, 4x dehydrated packs, 1L Camelbak bottle, 700ml bottle of wine, gloves, hats, buff, first-aid kit, head torch, spare clothes - fleece, trousers, socks, wash kit, Olympus OM-D EM-5 mkII with M.12-40mm + 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens, batteries, cover and cable on the exterior Snugpak Scorpion 2 tent, Snugpak ML6 Smock, Vanguard Veo 2 264CB tripod). Approx weight = 13kg
Instead I use the hip belt pockets for carrying bottles. Its rather clever in that the hip belts have pull out sleeves which fit a large 1L insulated bottle inside which keeps them secure, in place even when scrambling, climbing, running or when the pack is placed on the ground. Ultimately giving you fast access to whatever water source you need to carry. If they’re not being used for water bottles you could use them for carrying a lens or two but I’d be weary about leaving expensive items inside these pockets. Especially if you’re planning to go scrambling about with the rucksack as I do anyway. Leave the expensive kit inside where its safe and secure.
In terms of comfort the rucksack has plenty of points to adjust to fit your back and movement. The back panel itself has a softish mesh and padding which sits on your shoulders and lower back. When climbing and in 30ºc we saw over the bank holiday weekends I experienced no discomfort or rubbing. This was the same with the hip belts which wrap around the hips and when loaded with two litres of water either side in the pockets I found although they swing and move about a little it wasn’t uncomfortable to walk like this. Even fully loaded to 40 litres or at its compressed 20 litres. The belts on the shoulders and hips take the weight well and are easy to slip on and off and take off. The sternum strap (across the chest) has a little plastic whistle, this isn’t anything against Atlas Packs but these whistles are pretty useless but it seems to have become a mark or a badge for outdoor rucksacks to have them. Just buy yourself a pucker emergency whistle and leave it inside your first-aid kit.
The bag is full of features and looks the real deal, turning heads when you walk past. But the ultimate question, how much does this rucksack cost? For us in the UK it’s an expensive investment at £303.99 for the pack before delivery which starts at $30 up to $80 depending how quick you want the rucksack and then import tax is £85. Giving the rucksack a grand total of £413. That’s a lot of money in one hit but here’s a good way at the one big cost for such a fantastic rucksack.
During a trip to Scotland we found out how weather proof the rucksacks were, both the Athlete and Adventure rucksacks.
The bags performed as they should and no issues with equipment or the insides getting wet but we found when full of kit you could only just fit the rain cover over the exterior and not be able to fasten a tripod to the side. This seemed silly as the rucksack is aimed at photographers and the outdoors.
We immediately fed back this issue to Allan at Atlas Packs and he agreed and said changes to the rain covers were in development, following similar feedback. So future Atlas Packs could include an oversized, draw string style rain cover to accommodate extra kit on the outside.
If you consider a good 50-70L rucksack for carrying camping kit can be anything upwards of £120-200 depending on brand and style, my current rucksack for camping costs £140, my camera ICU is another £20 and I have two day packs both 25L for different requirements, a general day pack which is £125 and a dedicated photographic rucksack which is another £120. Combine all four of these items together gives me a total of £400 and this doesn’t include delivery which for the individual items is approximately £10-20 each minus the ICU which is £5 giving us a grand total which is upwards of £460. Not only does the Atlas Pack work out the same cost if not cheaper depending on the set up, it gives you a lot more space to remove up to four rucksacks being stored. Think of all that extra space you can now use to fill with other stuff.
I will let you make your own mind up if that is a worthwhile cost but when explained as the above and for those of us who are looking for a niche bag which answers hiking, camping and photography in one rucksack which does everything you need and some I can’t name another rucksack on the market which offers the value and customer service which Atlas Packs offers! There is similar rucksacks in the market such as Shimoda or NYA Evo Gear both of which are more expensive once you purchase the ICU and pay delivery, but neither have the unique 20-40 or 50-70 as the Atlas Packs or origami system, so no need to buy more ICU’s if you expand your kit.
I have thoroughly enjoyed using the Atlas Athlete Pack and it will continue to serve me for all purposes for a very long time, answering that ultimate question and desire, is there a rucksack I can use for everyday, photography, hiking and camping without having to keep chop and changing my kit in to different bags. Yes and its revolutionised my life and time wasted packing.
I have been asked a few times about my badges. To answer and save you time too, these badges are sown on and the pins using back protectors which you need a key to remove but stops the sharp pin damaging the interior and contents. Sewing these badges on took time and is awkward but clearly not impossible.
Disclosure: This Atlas Athlete Pack is my own rucksack and purchased by myself. I have not received any monetary gain, discounts or commission for this review.