Watch the review
How it’s made
Making the switch from my Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 was tough, nothing could possibly beat my first backpack. But, when a viewer told me about Atom Packs making ultralight backpacks in my choice of materials right here in the UK, I rushed to the computer to check them out. They were cheaper, lighter, more durable, customisable and had much better reviews. I got in touch with Tom Gale, Founder of Atom Packs to collaborate on some content to support them, in the process I earned my custom Atom+ and after 600 miles, I definitely have a few things to say!
How did you earn your Atom+?
I collaborated with Tom because I saw the level of quality in their packs and as the only manufacturer of UL packs here in the UK, I wanted to support them somehow. I proposed that I meet Tom for a chat to discuss a promotional video idea I had and a podcast to help promote the brand and tell folks about the Atom Packs story and their gear, all of which I’d do for free. One of the videos was the “how it’s made” video above, which was actually Tom’s idea. “Let’s do a ‘how it’s made’ video of a pack which you can then keep to say thanks!” And so, my custom Atom+ was born and it was mine to take away and test.
Watch the promo video
A growing company
Atom Packs has now manufactured over 1,000 packs which have been shipped worldwide, and the numbers just keep rising. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with Tom, Mo, Jen and Laura who continue to make Atom Packs in Keswick in the Lake District from their new workshop. It’s so exciting watching them grow.
Why a custom Atom+?
Choosing which customisations to have on a pack should be based on previous experiences and pet peeves with what you’re used to. With this in mind, I went for a z-shaped set of shock cords on the sides which use line-loc adjusters to help compress the pack contents but also to secure my water bottles. Bending over to tie a shoelace and having my water bottles fall to the floor was no longer an issue with the Atom+. I also went for dual removable hip belt pockets should I wish to use an Atom Packs Roo fanny pack in the future. As standard, the Atom+ also comes with a removable hip belt which is perfect should I choose to use the Atom+ as a day pack. I upgraded the top strap to a Y strap for extra stability when securing a bear canister to the top on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Build and quality
The Atom+ came very well stitched and the VX21 fabric I chose is very good quality. Each component has been carefully considered and you can tell these packs are designed for thru-hiking, by experienced thru-hikers. You can tell they’ve been tested on over 10,000 miles before manufacturing at scale because the placement of each component is spot on.
What’s the best bits?
The shoulder strap pockets are a brilliant design. I don’t even need to look when putting my phone or snacks in them, you can even fit a 600ml water bottle or waterproof layer in them should you want. The bottom pocket and trash hole have changed the way I pack my food for the day and I really missed it when I switched to my ULA Circuit on the PCT.
Any wear and tear?
As this is an ultralight pack, don’t expect it to last as long as your Ospreys made of ripstop nylon, but even after 600 miles I’ve had no issues with components failing or with fabrics delaminating. My HMG’s Y strap failed on me after just 60 miles and after 200 miles the seam sealing already started to show signs of wear and leaking as well as some delamination of the DCF. The Atom+ has been with me on the Welsh 3,000s, 200 miles on the PCT and countless overnighters in Snowdonia National Park, The Lake District and Scotland through all seasons and the Y strap is still as good as new and there are no signs of delamination on the VX21. I have noticed the X pattern in the VX21 become more prominent over time though.
One thing I did get replaced prior to the PCT was the removable hip belt pockets where the elastic cords which attach them to the hip belt were showing some minor wear and tear. Atom Packs have since upgraded all their pockets to a non-stretch cord which I’ve not seen any wear on yet. The bottom pocket is completely hole-free and the rest of the pack is still going strong. It will definitely last a thru-hike or two.
How does it carry?
I’ve had the Atom+ completely maxed out on some winter overnighters and yes, it’s definitely important to know how to pack it properly to maximise comfort when under heavy loads. The back panel, while providing significant comfort is still quite thin to save weight, but the carbon fibre frame distributes the weight very well and I don’t see the need for load lifters. The hip belt is of ample size and the spacer mesh provides enough breathability. When maxed out and packed properly it closes very neatly in the roll-top enclosure and the Y strap holds very well when loaded with tents, food or even a 6-pack of beer. Overall, it’s not quite as comfy as my ULA circuit, but as standard, this pack is less than half the weight, which says a lot.
How waterproof is it?
You’ll definitely be wanting to purchase a DCF Pack Liner from Atom Packs at the time of your purchase which is made specifically to the shape and size of your pack, or go super cheap and grab some heavy-duty rubble sacks from Amazon. Not being seam-sealed while VX21 is highly waterproof, water can still get through the seams of the pack, but along with the DCF pack liner, I’ve always kept my insulated jackets and down quilts completely dry even in torrential downpours and they’re super light.
Value for money
While the Atom+ is expensive, it’s not as expensive as other packs in its class with those specs out there on the market and what you get for your hard-earned cash is a robust, light-weight pack with good design features and attention to detail.
Hip belt top tip!
I’ve found the removable hip belt quite tricky to reinsert due to the super-strong velcro inside the lumbar support. Rest a credit card on each side of the velcro when inserting and remove when in the right place and your hip belt will be dead-centre.
Who’s the Atom+ for?
The Atom+ ultralight backpack from Atom Packs is for those who want the weight savings and design of a UL DCF pack at a lower price. They’re looking for versatility and options where they might not have decided what’s working yet, or they want to transform their pack for day hikes or shorter trips. Hikers with a custom Atom+ will want to hike fast and in style, while also making a statement with custom options and unique colour combinations.
What’s the verdict, Russ?
Without being biased in any way, my custom Atom+ is still my favorite pack, while it wasn’t quite large enough for my early-season start of the PCT during a global pandemic, it would’ve been had this not been the situation. And while it’s not quite as comfy as my ULA Circuit under heavy loads, it rides incredibly for such a tiny, lightweight sack. Atom Packs do of course make The Mo which is solid under load. The lead time is 8 weeks as of January 2021, but stomach the wait and you’ll end up with a pack that you’ll be impressed with forever. It will take you across a country at a reasonable price while also turning heads on the trail. Many thanks to Atom Packs for providing me with my very own custom Atom+!
- Durability 80% 80%
- Comfort 80% 80%
- Capability 90% 90%
- Value for money 80% 80%
- Very lightweight
- Good weight to durability ratio
- Great features and specs for thru-hiking
- Very comfortable
- Lead time
£290.00 / From £245 at atompacks.co.uk
From 640g (22oz) as standard
Torso length range:
15″ to 23″
Hip belt range:
30″ to 38″
VX21, Robic Extreema, Bullet Mesh, Spacer Mesh
1 year (manufacturing defects)
Features – Customisations marked with “+”
- Removable hipbelt
- Carbon fibre frame
- Dual shoulder pockets
- Bottom pocket w/ trash hole
- Bullet mesh front pocket
- Robic Extreema side pockets
- Front shock cord
- Sternum strap
- Back panel foam sleeve
- Ice axe loop
- Z side shock cord w/ lineloc +
- Y-strap +
- Dual removable hip belt pockets +