The Atom is a simple pack with a clear mission - it has no frame, no hipbelt, no attempt at back ventilation, and not even padding in the back panel - instead, the design focuses on fast and efficient travel.
In lieu of features designed to accommodate a big load, the Atom provides features to enable quick access to your supplies so you can keep moving. To paraphrase Andrew Skurka, it’s a pack for ultimate hikers, not ultimate campers.
The Atom is fully customizable. Atom Packs doesn’t just tolerate customizations but encourages them (perhaps they will tire of this, but for now, it’s excellent). Such a service is valuable for hikers that know what they want, but with great power comes great responsibility. You might be tempted to continuously second-guess your configuration, meaning that you’ll never be satisfied with your current build.
- 30 L capacity
- Listed Weight: 14.1 oz (400 g)
- Measured Weight: 14.7 oz (417 g)
- Main Fabric: VX07
- Back Panel Fabric: 500D Nylon
- Dual side pockets
- Angled front mesh pocket
- Two mesh shoulder strap pockets
- Bottom mesh pocket
- Roll top
- Sternum strap
- Trash port
- No hipbelt
- Only one shoulder strap pocket (+ 14g/0.5oz)
- VX07 or VX21 back panel (- 14g/0.5oz)
- Bound seams (+ 12g/0.5oz.)
Packs on the extreme ultralight end of the spectrum have seen innovation in recent years, with a variety of new ideas emerging to improve how hikers interact with their packs. These features include bottom pockets, better and larger shoulder strap pockets, and new features like Atom Pack’s “trash port”. Gone are the days of removing a pack every time you need to store or access gear.
The result of these innovations is a blurring of the line between backpacking and running packs. This new generation of small and light packs is designed to make gear and supplies more accessible, so users spend more time accessing the pack while on the move and less time stopping to root around. The Atom and other packs in this family allow you to store larger items and a full day’s worth of food within arm’s reach. Plausibly, you could hike all day without removing the pack.
I evaluated the Atom in that context, asking how well the pack works to facilitate big mile days with a light load and few stops. From this standpoint, a great pack is one that provides optimal access to gear and supplies while remaining sufficiently durable and ultralight.
Description of Field Testing
I carried this pack from April to December 2018, primarily on fast-and-light hiking trips, including day hikes up to 30 miles and overnight backpacking trips up to 3 nights. I also used it for ski touring, rock climbing, and mountaineering.
Member's Only Content
Login as a Premium or Unlimited Member to read the comprehensive Performance Assessment and Author Commentary sections of this review:
- Performance Assessment
- Product Strengths & Limitations
- Compared To
Member's only version is 4,040 words and includes 13 photographs.
Review Rating: RecommendedAs is, I’ve relegated my Atom to a niche role in my pack quiver, but I’m always excited when a trip comes along where I can take advantage of its features. It is a well constructed pack, and the stock model is suitable for short trips. It won’t be my primary pack for short trips though, as it falls short in enhancements that would increase functionality and comfortability during trips in rugged terrain involving significant off trail travel.
Where To Buy
- You can buy and customize your Atom here.
- Read Dan’s first looks review of the Atom by Atom Packs.
- Atom makes other packs that are just as customizable. Mark Webb reviews the Prospector here.
- Here’s a cool BPL thread in which the community brainstorms ideas for pack customization.
Product Review DisclosureUpdated September 15, 2018
- How we acquired these products: Product(s) discussed in this review were either acquired by the author from a retailer or otherwise provided by the manufacturer at a discount/donation with no obligation to provide media coverage or a product review to the manufacturer(s).
- We do not accept money or in-kind compensation for guaranteed media coverage: Backpacking Light does not accept compensation or donated product in exchange for guaranteed media placement or product review coverage.
- Affiliate links: Some (but not all) of the links in this review may be “affiliate” links, which means if you click on a link to one of our affiliate partners (usually a retailer site), and subsequently make a purchase with that retailer, we receive a small commission. This helps us fund our editorial projects, podcasts, instructional webinars, and more, and we appreciate it a lot! Thank you for supporting Backpacking Light!