Osprey Aether 70 - a full load pack!

Author: [ trailpeak ]   Contact Author: trailpeakWed Mar 27 14:45:44 UTC 2013

Gord Parker, Alberta Editor (curently with Parks Canada on back-country Wolverine research expeditions, this pack received in winter and recently tested on back-country ski expeditions).

I was lucky enough to be the one to get the new Osprey Aether 70 pack for review and it's going to get a lot of user besides my initial winter back-country ski trips.

I don't know where to start on why I like this pack so much. I have to admit it's my first big Osprey pack, so I'm not sure how many of the features that impress me are 'old hat' to Osprey customers undoubtedly returning. once again though, I'm reminded why good equipment truly is a worthwhile investment. No more no-name crap for me.

Zipper pulls (I know! I'll start at the end of the alphabet). A small thing that can cause big frustration. This pack had great big loops to grab on with mittens. I got this pack in the early middle of the winter season, so it's only testing has been in winter conditions. For that matter the zippers too even are great, seeming to flow well in weird angles and all temps (usually the temps are affecting me mentally, so maybe all zippers work the same, but these do work well).

Tool loops and pockets. I had an Ice Ax and a camera tripod and an avvy probe, shovel and snow saw all fastened to the outside loops and all could be taken out without messing about with everything else.

Hip strap pockets - most of the big brands have these now, a great idea for sure. Osprey's hip pockets fit my GPS well and held it where I could both get at it easily and gave the unit a good view of the sky. Some fabrics and angles seem to attenuate GPS sensitivity, but in this pack, my Garmin had great signal strength every time I looked at it.

I'm looking forward to summer trips where I can test the 'Airscape' back mesh (my back gets really sweaty, ick), and it seems like it will breathe better than most. There is also a pouch for a hydration bladder and I've got a couple that will fit. One is coincidentally an Osprey 3L (100 oz for our southern friends) with the stiff backing and it does slip like butter, but my generic one also dropped in without trouble.

Stiffening - since we're at the back/pack interface, it deserves a mention. Osprey has some wizzy spring rigid rods forming the frame that give a good mix of spring and rigidity making for a happy back. There is tech jargon for this technology which the Osprey site itself is happy to explain, but I think all the big pack reviewers at trailpeak are agreeing with me here. When I was a kid.... frames were big, and usually dug into you somewhere (as I was walking uphill in both directions), this I can say without exaggeration is the most comfortable pack I've ever worn.

Top and Bottom and Front entry points into the main pack body is very cool (not to mention handy!), but the Aether has taken it a step further with an adjustable fabric divider that definitely keeps things from shifting around. Granted, things in my pack mostly shift around as I'm rummaging around for things, so this pretty much guarantees they are where I expect them to be.

Waist cinch - the engineers among us will especially appreciate this... they have a system to get your waist strap *tight*. A virtual pulley giving a 2X mechanical advantage on the straps. One of my old packs in particular was really annoying, it had crappy buckles that were hard to cinch up tight.

I thought for a while the multitude of straps, cross straps, and other cinch points were overkill but getting everything in and tightened down well really reduced back strain and stress. As you turn, the pack goes with you and doesn't float or swish around. A great, solid but comfortable 'system'.

Osprey for sure seems to have some better ideas when it comes to packs (move over Ford). I don't know much about the company really, but I get a good vibe off of the pack and from their website. Read their "Pack Tech" section of the www. I thought I knew what I was doing but I came away with several hints and ideas for more efficient use of packs in general. To find negatives on a pack that is light years ahead of where packs were just a few years ago would be getting silly, but as with any pack, make sure you try first to ensure fit.

There was one minor thing that I didn’t completely agree with and it may well be due to trying to do things the way I've always done them rather than the way the designers envisioned it. I'm used to hanging my sleeping bag and mat off the bottom of the pack. The lower load straps are more on the bottom of the outside face of the pack, moving the load outwards. It just may take some getting used to and maybe it is just as comfortable, time will tell. I did notice it is better for standing the pack on the ground, so maybe it’s a good tradeoff.

For the typical application of 99.9% of the hikers out there, you will find the Aether 70 (or likely the whole series) will give you all the comfort and options you need for this journey and all those for along time to come.

Gord Parker, Alberta Editor, Trailpeak.com

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