The Atlas Athlete Pack is a high-performance backpack designed for hikers, adventurers, and photographers who want comfort, camera storage, and durability (with a lifetime warranty). I’ve used the Atlas Athlete Pack since 2019. Over the last four years, I have taken my Atlas Athlete to the death zone on Makalu Summit, more than twenty different countries, and countless multi-day treks. In this review, we will delve into the features and specifications of the pack, as well as my own personal experience using it.
ATLAS ATHLETE PACK REVIEW
As someone who hikes nonstop, travels full-time and is always carrying lots of camera gear, you can imagine a backpack is quite important to me. I use it every day and store my most valuable possessions inside. I spent a few years trying different bags and had a few that I enjoyed but none came close to the Atlas Athlete from Atlas Packs. In this article, I’ll give you as much information as I can and even share with you the backpacks I used in the past and why the Atlas Athlete outperforms them.
ATLAS ATHLETE QUICK SPECS
- Capacity: 20-40L Expandable
- Fits: Mirrorless w/battery grips and DSLR
- Fits: Lenses as big as 200-600
- Camera Storage: 7-10 liters
- Non-Camera Storage: 10-30 liters
- Inches: 21h / 23h x 11w x 7d
- CM: 53.5 / 53.8H x 28w x 18D
- Laptop: Fits 16″ MacBook Pro
- Weight: 4.5lbs
- Carry-on: Yes
- Waterproof cover: Yes
ATLAS ATHLETE PACK QUALITY
The Atlas Athlete model is constructed with high-quality materials that are built to last. I’ve absolutely smashed this bag over the years. Examples of situations where I have hammered this pack over the last four years and it has never ripped, torn, or come apart:
- Climbing into the death zone on Makalu on glaciers, ice climbing, and extreme cold
- Hiking through dense forests with sharp plants constantly catching the fabric of the bag
- Exposure to extended periods of salt water on longtail boats in Asia
- Many falls and crashes on hikes where the bag is dragged over rocks and dirt
- Thousands of hours of pressure on belt buckles
- Years of use of zippers, often with an overloaded bag
The Atlas Athlete is made with 500D Cordura nylon, which is abrasion-resistant and relatively water-repellent, ensuring that your gear stays dry in any weather conditions. The zippers are YKK and the buckles are Duraflex, both of which are known for their durability and strength. I can attest to that as I’m genuinely surprised to have never broken a zip. While the bag does withstand some rain before it wets your gear inside, it isn’t waterproof. However, it has a waterproof cover which is waterproof.
WHO IS THE ATLAS ATHLETE FOR
Adventurers who use camera gear: wildlife photographers, hikers, trekkers, and travelers. This is the premium adventure bag that will store your camera gear. Even if you don’t adventure often, the camera storage compartment will attract sports photographers, wedding photographers, and urban shooters. However, the main draw to the Atlas Athlete is that it can carry a larger load, several cameras, and lenses yet be more comfortable than most other regular camera backpacks.
WHO IS THE ATLAS ATHLETE NOT FOR
This pack isn’t for everyone. These are the reasons you shouldn’t buy this backpack
- Photographers only: This pack is only for photographers. The interior design is set up to keep cameras organized and safe. If you just have one small camera you don’t need the interior design, which takes up space and adds weight to a regular back. This is the wrong back for a regular hiker or trekker.
- Budget: It’s not cheap, there’s no way around that fact… There are backpacks on the market that are under $200 and even some under $100 that will do the job when it comes to carrying your gear. However, you will make sacrifices in comfort, durability, and interior storage design. I was using cheaper packs but eventually switched after a few long treks with bags that were carrying my camera gear but giving me back and neck pain as they weren’t designed for big adventures.
- Regular travelers: If you are doing small adventures, exploring cities and never embarking on big hikes or long journeys, I’d say that the Atlas Athlete is potentially overkill. I previously had no issue with my Wandrd 31L PRVKE model (pictured below) for smaller day trips, carrying a laptop/drone, etc.
ATLAS ATHLETE STORAGE CAPACITY
One of the standout features of the Atlas Athlete backpack is the ability to shift the storage capacity from 20 to 40 liters with the Origami Camera Core insert. This means that you can easily adjust the amount of storage space you need depending on your gear and the length of your trip.
The Origami Camera Core insert is designed to shift up to 3-4 liters of space between the front and back of the pack, providing additional storage flexibility. This allows you to expand the pack’s storage capacity to accommodate all of your gear, whether you’re going on a long photography trip or simply need to carry extra items for a day hike. Conversely, if you’re going on a shorter trip and don’t need as much gear, you can fold the Origami Camera Core and reduce the pack’s overall size and weight.
The ability to shift from 20 to 40 liters with the Origami insert makes the Atlas Athlete backpack a highly versatile and adaptable choice for any adventure.
ACCESSING THE CAMERA GEAR
As a photographer, being able to quickly access your camera and lenses can mean the difference between getting the perfect shot … or not. As a hiking camera bag, I want to be able to quickly stop, get out the camera, and put it away within seconds, so that I can continue on my route.
The Atlas Athlete actually allows me to just take off the chest clip and spin it around in front of me. I then unzip, reach in, and don’t even have to take the bag off. Alternatively, I normally hike with a Peak Design clip on the shoulder strap which clips onto my camera.
The customizable camera compartment is great for photographers who carry multiple lenses, a drone, or more than one camera. I just unzip that camera compartment and make my selection.
ATLAS ATHLETE PACK STORAGE SYSTEM
The Atlas Athlete pack is designed to be compact and lightweight, measuring just 6 inches in depth. However, it can hold a significant amount of camera gear thanks to its innovative design. The bag features a single-fold Origami Camera Core (TM), which creates 3-4 liters of space between the front and back of the pack. This space allows for easy organization and access to your camera gear.
The Origami Core is fixed and is not an insert like many other bags, which saves on weight. It is fully customizable and they give you lots of inserts to design it to best fit the gear you are trying to store. My tip is to put your heaviest items at the bottom to not overload the dividers.
The back panel of the Athlete Pack shuts tightly on your camera gear, ensuring that your equipment stays safe and secure. This design also helps with weight distribution, making it easier to carry your gear for extended periods. Even when the back panel is open, your gear will not fall out if packed properly.
WHAT I USUALLY CARRY IN MY ATLAS ATHLETE
I usually have my pack set up to fit my daily camera gear. I have the top flap down as I like to use that as a storage area for jackets, food, and other gear that isn’t a camera. My average camera setup for a big hike is:
- F4 24.105mm lens
- F4 16-35mm lens
- Sony A7riv
- Mavic Air2s and 2 batteries
- Insta360 (side pocket next to a water bottle)
- Small accessory bag with batteries and filters
- 100-400m (sometimes)
The rest is full of food, water, and clothes. I’ve often camped with it and done multi-day treks. It can be a bit tight when you have to carry the sleeping system and extra food etc. but it does work. I did the entire Manaslu Circuit Trek in Nepal with the Atlas Athlete and while I didn’t need a sleeping system, I needed a lot of warm clothes, layers, and extra gear. I carried a drone, 100-400mm, and two other lenses.
ATLAS ATHLETE PACK COMFORT AND FIT
The Atlas Athlete hiking camera bag is designed with comfort in mind. The padded shoulder straps and back panel provide excellent support and cushioning, even when carrying heavy gear. The pack is fully adjustable, making it easy to achieve a customized fit for your body type. The chest and waist straps can also be adjusted to distribute weight evenly, reducing the strain on your shoulders and back.
The main reason I bought the bag, is because I wanted something for multi-day or long single-day hikes and adventures. I wanted to be able to carry the cameras I needed alongside the food and clothes required.
The Atlas Athlete utilizes a really solid hip belt that allows you to shift the weight from the shoulders to the hips like a regular backpacking bag from Osprey or Gregory. It’s as close as you can get to an ergonomic backpacking bag in the form of a camera bag.
ATLAS PACKS HIP BELT OPTIONS
The hip belt on the Atlas Athlete pack is one of its standout features. Each pack comes with a custom hip belt that is available in a range of sizes and styles to accommodate different body types and overall load. The hip belt is designed to evenly distribute the weight of the pack, reducing strain on the shoulders and back and making it easier to carry heavy gear.
One of the unique features of the hip belt is its Molle attachments, which allow you to easily attach and access additional gear or accessories. The hip belt is also well-padded, providing extra support and cushioning for your hips and lower back. Additionally, the hip belt features magnetic fastenings, which are easy to use and allow you to quickly and securely fasten and release the belt.
Overall, the hip belt on the Atlas Athlete pack is a key component of its comfortable and functional design. The customizable sizing options, Molle attachments, excellent padding, and magnetic fastenings all work together to make the pack easier to wear and more versatile for a variety of activities and adventures.
ATLAS PACKS MODELS
There are actually two main models when it comes to Atlas Packs. I’ve used both and can honestly say that while I am stoked about the Athlete model, I don’t love the Adventure model. I tried the Adventure on a 7-day trek around Madeira Island on the Caminho Real 23. It wasn’t bad but I felt that it was a bit bulky and uncomfortable. There was too much room for cameras and not enough gear for a bag that size when it comes to hiking. It would be great for someone who has a lot of camera gear and needs to still take it on an adventure. I can fit all my gear in the Atlas Athlete, which I find much more comfortable and ergonomic. I ended up switching to a Gregory 70-lite backpacking bag for longer trips and just throw my camera gear in a cube.
BACKPACKS I USED BEFORE THE ATLAS ATHLETE
I actually used the Wandrd Prvke 31L for a long time. It did me very well for a couple of years and was smaller and more compact. However, as my adventures started to get more intense, the bag was letting me down. On long hikes, I couldn’t fit enough extra gear in and it was overloaded. It caused a lot of neck and back pain. Before the Wandrd Prvke 31L, I used a budget Victoria Tourist bag from Amazon that had a nice little camera compartment. It was $70 and served me well.
ATLAS ATHLETE AS PLANE TRAVEL CARRY-ON
The Atlas Athlete is almost always okay for carry-on luggage. I’ve never had a problem anywhere in the world except with very budget airlines in Europe who give you tiny bag allowances that almost no bag would fit. It fits under the seat in an emergency but I always stow it overhead and it fits in both directions. If you pack it to the max, it can be a bit suspicious as it looks like a backpacking bag so try not to overload it and bring attention to the bag.
ATLAS PACKS ACCESSORIES
Atlas Packs offer a wide range of add-ons that are designed to work seamlessly with their backpacks. So whether you need a larger hip belt for extra support, a sternum strap for better stability, or an upgraded shoulder strap for more comfort, they have you covered. They also come up with innovative designs such as nets, straps, loops, and buckles that help attach ice axes and extra gear to your pack.
I hope this was a genuine and helpful guide about the Atlas Athlete hiking and camera backpack. This review has been four years in the making and I hope my honest appraisal of Atlas Packs and the Athlete have helped you decide if it is the backpack for you.