Meet the well-deserved winner of our Trail Gear of the Year awards. Our testers cannot stop raving about the Atom+ EP50 and its uniquely bespoke approach to design.
While bigger brands remain wedded to traditional backpack styles and designs, Atom Packs is a market disruptor with a cutting-edge, forward-thinking strategy. The Keswick-based cottage business have given a British twist to the US ‘thru-hiking’ movement. Their ultralight backpacks are highly-customisable, including well-thought-out features and tailored sizing options.
They strike a fine balance between weight, durability, comfort and structure. Each of these elements being of equal importance for a high-performance piece such as this. But is the Atom+ EP50 worth the splurge? Let's dive deeper into why we believe that this is one of the best hiking backpacks for 2023.
The Atom+ EP50 in Detail
The off-the-shelf Atom+ EP50 weighs just 750g – that’s up to 1kg lighter than some comparable packs. It delivers a close-to-the-body carrying experience that’s so comfy and light-touch you almost forget it’s on.
Load transfer is good – courtesy of the removable carbon-fibre hooped frame (55g) and foam pad (15g) – and the materials used (EcoPak EPX200, 210-denier Robic Extreema, Dyneema mesh and 500-denier textured nylon) feel tough enough for extended trail abuse, despite being light. Our favourite features are the shoulder strap bottle pockets, on-the-move accessible side pockets, and huge stretchy stuff pocket.
Our Three Favourite Things
It would be utterly pointless to buy loads of ultralight camping kit, only to stuff it inside a heavy, chunky, backache-inducing pack. Instead you’ll need your actual backpack to be light and minimalist too, like the The Atom+ EP50, which clocks in at just 750g. For extra ultralight points, you can use it as a frameless pack – saving yourself 70g – or if you want an extra bit of structural rigidity and support, simply use the removable carbon fibre hooped frame (55g) and foam pad (15g).
Atom Packs are completely customisable. A tool on the brand’s website allows you to create your pack just the way you want it, tweaking everything from the size, materials, colours, pockets and straps. Want a tropical teal and deep purple colour scheme? No problem. Prefer Dyneema stretch pockets rather than bullet netting? All sorted. Fancy a Y-shaped top strap instead of a single strap? Consider it done. This modular approach is clever and innovative, and enables you to fine-tune your pack to your exact hiking needs.
Unlike most major brands, which often manufacture products in China and other parts of South and South-East Asia, these packs are handmade in Atom Packs’ premises in Keswick. The handmade approach ensures a more bespoke and personalised approach (although lead-in times can be slow), and there’s something heart-warming about knowing some gear is still made in the UK, under the shadow of Skiddaw and the Lake District’s majestic northern fells.
1. Atom Packs The Atom+ EP50
Best hiking backpack 2023
- Incredibly lightweight
- Clever design features
- Tailored size options
- Patchy availability