Introduction

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.

Atom 30L Durston 1 2
The Atom by Atom Packs.

Specifications

  • 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

Features

Stock Model:

  • Dual side pockets
  • Angled front mesh pocket
  • Two mesh shoulder strap pockets
  • Bottom mesh pocket
  • Roll top
  • Sternum strap
  • Trash port
  • No hipbelt

Customizable Add-ons:

  • Only one shoulder strap pocket (+ 14g/0.5oz)
  • VX07 or VX21 back panel (- 14g/0.5oz)
  • Bound seams (+ 12g/0.5oz.)

Review Context

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

Atom 30L Durston 2
After 20 miles mostly off trail on day one, Sitka was happy to accept a ride on day two.

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.

Performance Assessment

The Atom lacks a frame and padding of any sort other than in the shoulder straps. In essence, it is simply a bag plus shoulder straps and a variety of external features.

The shape of this bag and the design of these features are what shapes the Atom’s performance. My performance assessment considers the following items:

  • Materials
  • General shape
  • Side pockets
  • Shoulder straps and pockets
  • Bottom pocket
  • Front pocket
  • Roll top
  • Stability
  • Construction quality

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