This Thing Rules

The best thru hiking backpack for beginners

When the trail is long you need something better

When it comes to backpacking, I’ve never considered myself a gear snob. For about a decade, I used a perfectly serviceable rust-colored Kelty backpack that I picked up at a New Jersey camping store on sale for just $99. Over the course of hundreds of miles — including a multi-week trek on the Appalachian Trail — I grew quite fond of this pack, despite the fact that it had no bells and even fewer whistles. Sadly, last year, the bag ripped beyond repair, so I was forced to get a new one.

In the end I replaced it with the Osprey Atmos AG 65. I used it on a hiking trip in Acadia National Park over the summer, and now I don’t miss my old Kelty quite so much. The Atmos’ shoulder strap padding is at once substantial and super-comfortable, and the waist belt hugs my hips in a way that ought to make my wife jealous. Then there’s the open-mesh, trampoline-style back pad, which keeps everything nice and well-ventilated back there — much appreciated during the warmer months. And the pack’s "anti-gravity" suspension really seems to make all the stuff I’m hauling around seem that much lighter.

Frankly, I don’t think I could ever go back to a less-advanced pack. And if that makes me a gear snob, so be it.