Osprey — Going Strong At 40 Years Old

Best Backpacking Backpacks

History of the Best Backpacking Backpacks

Osprey celebrates its 40th anniversary as a company this year. In those four decades, the company has grown from a small specialized backpack company in Santa Cruz, California to the leading performance backpack manufacturer in the world.

Osprey was born in 1974 when founders Mike Pfotenhauer and Laurie White began designing and manufacturing custom technical backpacks for Sierra-bound hikers and mountaineers.

In 1994, the company moved to the small town of Cortez, Colorado — where they remain based today.

Best Osprey Backpacks

The first Osprey packs were sown by hand and the company resisted taking its manufacturing overseas. Eventually, competition forced them to move production from Colorado to Vietnam.

A testament to his commitment to the company, Pfotenhauer moved to Vietnam as well, eventually starting a separate Osprey branch in Ho Chi Minh City.

Having their own office in Vietnam assured that Osprey could ensure fair labor practices in its factories. It also allowed the company to oversee production to ensure its high standards for quality were upheld.

Taking a look back on the first Osprey packs compared to current models, its clear that the quality of the packs has not been lost with the company’s growth. Seeing the changes in the products unveils how the company perfected their designs to create some of the most innovative backpacks in the world.

High-Quality Internal Frame Backpacks

The very first Osprey pack, The MP, was the original pack to feature the Osprey internal frame system — now standard in most of the company’s products.

The 1974 pack featured metal buckles, leather patches, a Velcro hip belt and a one-of-a-kind internal compression-sack sleeping bag liner.
osprey kestrel 38 Osprey Best Backpacking Backpacks

An improved version of that same internal frame system now supports packs like the the Aether 7o Pack.

The Aether 70 pack has other features that first appeared in the original MP, like a compression system with 3 horizontal straps and one internal strap.

It also features a removable hip belt — first introduced by Osprey in 1986.

The Osprey Aether 70 Pack is available at REI for $289.95.

Women’s Specific Osprey Backpacks Then and Now

Osprey introduced its first women’s-specific backpacking backpack, the Osprey ISIS, in 1993.

The ISIS was the first of a long line of women’s packs that Osprey developed over the years. Osprey was one of the early companies to recognize the need for outdoor gear designed to fit a woman’s anatomy.

Backpacking backpacks for women Osprey Best Women's Backpacks

Today, Osprey packs like the Women’s Viva 50 Backpack fit even better on a woman’s frame.

Everything from the torso length to the hip belt can be adjusted specifically to its wearer.

The Osprey Women’s Viva Backpack is available from Amazon for around $200.

The Most Popular Backpacking Backpacks

Osprey launched it’s first Aether pack in 2001.

The Aether 60 was one of the first packs to feature the company’s “Straightjacket” compression system — first introduced in 1998.

The first Aether 60 was considered very lightweight for its time — a legacy that has carried over to the current version.

Ultralight Backpacking Backpacks Best Lightweight Backpacks

The Aether of today is recognized for its load carrying comfort. A host of upgrades to the pack have not added unnecessary weight — making it a a favorite among the backpacking community.

The Osprey Aether 60 Backpack is available from Backcountry for $259.95.

Osprey Child Carriers For Hiking and Backpacking

The first line of Osprey Child Carriers, the Poco Series, was launched in 2012.

Today, the Poco Series packs are some of the best child carriers on the market.

Osprey Poco Series Child Carriers Best Child Carriers For Hiking and Backpacking


Featuring a soft, ventilated seat that adjusts up and down for superior fit and balance, as well as adjustable stirrups, the Poco Series packs are designed to keep parents and children alike comfortable and supported.

The Osprey Poco Child Carrier is available at REI for around $200.

Osprey Ventilated Backpacking Backpacks

Osprey’s first ventilated Atmos 50, launched in 2005, used a swivel aluminum peripheral frame, a 3D backpanel, convoluted and perforated thermo-formed straps and hipbelt, and a welded front stretch pocket.

It was one of the first Osprey packs to take advantage of Osprey’s custom molding hipbelt technology. Now standard across the Osprey backpack line, the heat technology was also introduced for the first time in 2005.

Osprey Ventilated Backpacking Backpacks Best Ventilated Backpacks


The 2015 version of this pack, the Atmos AG (AntiGravity), features one of the most innovative suspension systems ever developed. It also has the first fully ventilated hip belt.

The ventilated back first seen in the 2005 version is improved with a single piece of suspended webbing that creates more cushioning and greater breathability.

This pack will hit the market to a very eager public in 2015.

Where to learn more

Want to learn more about Osprey and its innovative products?

Check out a link to one of our partners:

Here’s to another 40 years Osprey! Thank you for taking some of the weight off our shoulders…literally.

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