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Osprey has consistently been a leader and best-seller in the outdoor community. Their backpacks are top-rated and some of the most well-known packs around. If you are tuned into the backpacking scene, you are probably familiar with their Aether/Ariel packs. The Aether and the women’s-specific Ariel were released almost 25 years ago. Osprey created their perfect design for a pack, and it continues to set the standard for what a pack can do and how much it weighs. These packs are designed to manage heavy loads while still being comfortable and stylish.
The all-new Aether | Ariel Series has gone through a quarter century of relentless evolution and innovation to last a lifetime of trips. In 2021, Osprey’s Aether/Ariel 55 was awarded the Backpacker Editors’ Choice Gold Award.
How did Osprey top their original, near-perfect design? The announcement in July stated the new model would be expansive of the best-selling original to include an innovative back panel design and a new customizable fit system. The new pack would be made with sustainable fabrics and construction, a growing concern for many in the outdoor community. And honestly, this might just be the perfect pack!
“The Spring 2021 Aether/Ariel represents a significant upgrade in our custom fit program,” says Erik Hamerschlag, Sr. Product Manager at Osprey. The new pack boasts impressive adjustment systems not only in the back frame but on virtually every part of the pack. The Airscape™ Suspension features an injection-molded foam backpanel that maintains a comfortable and breathable surface with flexibility for dynamic movement and improved customer satisfaction.
Other adjustable components of the pack are the all-new Custom Fit-on-the-Fly™ Hipbelt, a custom shoulder strap and adjustable torso length that lets you fine-tune it for your specific body. This degree of customization offers the possibility of an elevated hiking experience. With a comfortable pack, you can do more than you thought possible.
Osprey has always been a progressive and transparent company, concerned about sustainability in production. This new pack is in line with their vision. The pack features bluesign®-approved body fabrics and PFC-free DWR. And by injecting the molding in the Airscape Suspension, it nearly eliminates plastic waste from production. This model is not only the most comfortable and advanced but also the most sustainable.
Osprey knows your memories shouldn’t be sullied by awkward gear that just doesn’t fit. That’s why they developed Aether™ I Ariel to be the most customizable and calibrated backpacking pack for a lifetime of comfort and convenience.
Aether Plus (men’s) / Ariel Plus (women’s)
The updated Aether/Ariel Plus pack has a highly proficient suspension and selection of larger volume sets, increasing the carrying capacity to support heavier loads. This feature, along with other features like a smaller DayLid daypack, Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment, and durable nylon fabric, makes life on the trail much easier. You can now try new or longer treks that you were uncomfortable doing before.
The new pack retains some of the previous features, but many have never been seen before. Some features remain, such as the rain cover made with PFC-free DWR and bluesign®-approved materials, zip access to the main compartment, a floating top lid with lash points, mesh side pockets to store water bottles or other frequently used items, and sleeping pad straps. In addition, it has many features that are new or updated. The Aether/Ariel Plus offers dual upper/lower side compression straps, ice axe loops with bungee tie-offs, a zippered sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider, an internal hydration reservoir sleeve, and of course, a 3.5mm (4.0mm on Aether/Ariel Plus 85L, 100L) Lightwire suspension. By combining the old with the new, Osprey created something never done before.
The all-new Aether/Ariel is available now at REI.com. Buy online at REI.com and have it fitted in the store.
As all backpackers know, getting the right fit for your pack is the most important part of choosing your gear. If you find yourself with a pack that is too big or too small, the weight of your load will not fall on your body correctly, and it will be an extremely uncomfortable experience. In both the women and men’s models, the pack offers a customizable, perfect-fitting pack that can carry more than ever. The customizable hipbelt and shoulder strap allow the user to create the perfect fit for their body. The Aether/Ariel Plus comes in various sizes, including customizable options to make your pack fit like a glove.
Osprey offers the option of purchasing your pack online, and picking it up at a store where a professional helps with all the adjustments. Having an expert fit your pack ensures you have the most comfortable, ready-to-go backpack for your trek.
Product Review by Andrew Skurka
Andrew Skurka is a professional backpacker and the author of a highly referenced book, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, Second Edition: Tools and Techniques to Hit the Trail, published by National Geographic. He came in 73rd in the Boston Marathon and completed six 100-mile races, including the Leadville 100, Run Rabbit Run 100, Bighorn 100, and Vulcano Ultra Trail 100k, all of which he finished in the top 3. He has completed many long-distance hikes, the most notable being the Alaska-Yukon Expedition (6 months, 4,700 miles), the Great Western Loop (7 months, 6,875 miles), and the Sea-to-Sea Route (11 months, 7,775 miles). It’s safe to say, Andrew Skurka is a rather impressive guy, and he knows his stuff.
In 2019, Skurka reviewed the Osprey Aether Pro 70 after hiking for more than 50 days with it. Skurka used the pack not only for hiking and backpacking but also on elk hunting trips and other outdoor adventures, reporting that it is very versatile.
All in all, Skurka has great reviews of the pack, saying it most appeals to backpackers who exceed the need for a lighter-weight pack. In his eyes, the Osprey Aether Pro 70 is unmatched when it comes to volume compared to the weight of the pack itself. He compared it to other packs that match and may exceed the volume and load-carrying capacity of the Aether Pro, including the Deuter Aircontact 65 + 10, Gregory Denali 75, and Mystery Ranch Glacier. But none of them rival the sub-four-pound weight of the Aether. He notes that the most direct comparison to the Aether Pro is found in the backpack-hunting industry, where the packs meet similar volume and load demands. However, these packs cost more.
The only criticism Skurka has of the Aether Pro is the lack of external storage space. He believes that the hipbelt and side pockets are underwhelming because there is not enough space to offer quick access to essential items like water, a camera, phone, map, and sunscreen. Though it lacks the proper external storage, he notes that what it does have is easily accessible.
Skurka’s review is for the Aether Pro model. The update released in 2020 offers more external storage along with countless other updates. We look forward to hearing what Skurka has to say about the new model!