Sean McCoy wearing the Osprey UNLTD pack on a hike in Colorado
(Photo/Mary Murphy)

Osprey UNLTD Is the Luxury SUV of Backpacks

At $700, the Osprey UNLTD packs in a heap of features and technology. But who should buy it, and why?

Regarding backpacks, I tend to be a bit of a minimalist. I like a big, open sack with a light but strong frame and a couple of organizational features.

So in looking at Osprey’s UNLTD, I’m coming from the perspective of a hopeful skeptic. I like the idea of a truly dialed backpacking pack, but am dubious about all the bells and whistles. Would this wildly complicated backpack enhance my experience on the trail?

After testing the pack on a few outings, I have split feelings about it. For some, this pack will be a godsend. For others, it’s simply overkill, with features that you won’t use that add too much weight. Read on to learn more.

In short: The Osprey UNLTD is one of the most technologically advanced backpacks ever made. It has an incredibly comfortable 3D-printed back panel that results in bespoke fitting. And it has many organizational and comfort features. But these come with a heavy weight and a very hefty price tag that force the UNLTD into the realm of a niche product.

Osprey UNLTD Backpack Features

Sean McCoy wearing the Osprey UNLTD pack on a hike in Colorado
A profile view of the AutoLift System on the straps of the Osprey UNLTD; (photo/Mary Murphy)

The UNLTD is packed with more technology than any backpack I’ve used. And with a sky-high price tag, it should. I like to compare it with a luxury SUV. It’s heavy, cushy, and comes with industry-topping creature comforts. I know it’s an odd way to look at a backpack, but it feels fitting.

Let’s start with the star of the show, the 3D-printed lumbar support. Osprey officially calls it the “3D-printed Fitscape lumbar support with Carbon DLS technology.” This honeycomb of 3D-printed material has both visual and tactile appeal.

When wearing the pack, it sits across your lumbar on the user’s lower back. It provides an extremely airy contact point that is both pliable and supportive. Even with quite a decent load, it feels really nice.

Moving up the back, you get Osprey’s Antigravity Mesh back panel, in this case, called Airscape. This supports the pack away from the user’s back while allowing airflow. I tested the pack in some very hot conditions at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and noted that my back stayed dry and cool even while hauling lots of gear for sandboarding up the tall dunes.

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The author testing the pack’s breathability and function in the Sand Dunes; (photo/Sarah Poinski-McCoy)

This comes as little surprise. Osprey’s AntiGravity packs have led the market on comfort for several years, and this is their Cadillac of packs. But still, it’s nice to see it works.

Osprey UNLTD Review: All the Bells and Whistles

Sean McCoy wearing the Osprey UNLTD pack on a hike in Colorado

So up to this point, I’d say the pack is excellent. It carries well, feels good with a modest load, and adjusts very easily thanks to the unique AutoLift System that automatically adjusts harness length and back support, doing away with sometimes confusing load lifters.

It should also do this for a very long time. The pack uses very durable PFC-free fabrics with TPU anti-abrasion panels to resist abrasion and wear.

And this is where I feel a bit of criticism creeping in. We’re about to dive into a lot more features. The UNLTD has everything. It leaves no stone unturned. An abbreviated list of included gizmos includes the following:

  • A top lid with water-resistant coated zippers that converts into a lumbar pack
  • Dual-access side panels and laminated zip flaps, a compression system, and removable sleeping pad straps
  • A compression divider that separates sleeping bag storage
  • Twin front pockets and large hip belt pockets
  • Externally accessed reservoir sleeve with injection-molded hydration hose routers
  • Variable-woven ski loops and tuck-away axe loops
  • Stow-On-The-Go trekking pole attachment

To be clear, these are all nice things. They all do their job and allow for very nice gear organization on the trail.

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But they come with one big penalty: weight. The Osprey UNLTD 64 tips the scales at 5 pounds, 7 ounces for a size Small-Medium. That’s a solid pound heavier than Osprey’s own Atmos AG 65, which also costs $350 less.

And for a slightly apples-to-oranges comparison, the UNLTD is 3.6 pounds heavier than the Granite Gear Crown2 60, which retails for just $200. Admittedly, that’s an ultralight pack. But if you’re out there searching for backpacks, it’s worth noting for context.

Conclusion

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The detachable top lid pack with multiple zipper compartments.

With the UNLTD, Osprey swung for the technological fences. It created a backpack that packs in more features and gizmos than any backpack I’ve previously used. And it tests the boundaries of what brands can do in backpack design. For those who really want the ultimate in terms of organization, utility, and comfort, this is as close as you’ll get.

And thus, the luxury SUV comparison. If you really want the luxe of the luxe backpack, this is it. And much like a luxury SUV, it’ll take more gas to get it up the mountain and more dollars to put it in your garage.

The UNLTD is expensive, heavy, and overkill. Don’t get me wrong. It’s extremely nice. But for most folks, Osprey’s less expensive Atmos AG 65, or other, lighter, less expensive models will do nearly the same thing and leave a lot of money in the bank.

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Sean McCoy
By

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.