by: Dave D’Abate
Now in its 3rd generation and updated for 2010, Osprey’s Aether series backpack offers a lightweight custom fit for every outdoor enthusiast. After owning a 2nd generation Aether 60 for four years now, I was pretty excited to test the new Aether and see the differences in the 2010 line. The awesome folks at Osprey sent me a Magma colored Aether 85 to put through its paces this summer.
The Aether series is the Men’s counterpart to the Women’s Ariel pack designed for activities ranging from a short weekend trip to longer expedition treks. The Aether is one of the lightest backpacks on the market offering a custom-molded fit. The IsoForm™ harness comes in 3 sizes, S, M, and L and the IsoForm™ CM hipbelt comes in S, M, L, and XL. Anyone not already familiar with Osprey should know about the custom molding available from Certified Osprey Dealers that allows for the most comfortable fit you’ll find in a backpack.
Upon seeing the new Aether, three things immediately jumped out at me. First, the most notable inclusion is the J-Panel front access zipper to allow for getting to your packed gear quickly. Second is the thinner, but strong LightWire™ alloy frame to save on weight with added flexibility and stability that moves with you. Third is the wide-mouth sleeping bag opening, which has been on the previous generation’s 70 and 85 models but was missing from the 60. It’s great to see this feature is now included on all three 2010 Aether models.
A few other welcome additions also show themselves in the revision. Osprey’s Stow on the Go™ trekking pole attachment is a great, fast solution that lets you store your poles without having to stop and remove your pack in the times when trekking poles aren’t needed or you just need to give your arms a rest. Another feature added is Osprey’s InsideOut™ Compression system straps that can be routed internally or externally over the side stretch woven pockets to secure your gear. Another new feature is the inclusion of bungee tool tie-offs for a more secure carrying of ice axes and other equipment.
Of course all the other great features you see in an Osprey pack have returned, like the Straightjacket Compression system to secure your load when the backpack isn’t stuffed full, the previously mentioned stretch woven side pockets that can accommodate nearly any sized water bottle, hydration bladder compatibility with left and right side routing holes, and the ability to remove the top pocket and use it as a lumbar pack with its built-in hipbelt.
It is very easy to say Osprey makes very feature-built packs for any and all activities and with such a wide range across their 2010 line of packs, they have something to offer everyone. I know I’m going to have a great time using the new Aether 85 this spring!
I have been hiking around with the Aether 85 quite a bit lately and even more so starting my fourth summer guiding backpacking treks in New Mexico. After taking the Aether out on two separate five day hikes over rough and varied terrain, the pack has a solid fit when carrying around 65 pounds and scrambling over loose scree fields or climbing the slopes of various peaks. The harness fits great and the custom molded hip belt really makes the difference in comfort during those long days on the trail.
One great thing I’ve noticed that I really like is whenever I get to camp and put the pack down, I really only use the J-Panel opening to get my gear. After the initial loading before departure, I rarely unclip the top pocket and instead lay the Aether down for easier access to whatever I may need. Going up and down a wide range of elevations over the course of a few days changes what you might need from your pack at any given time. Whether you’re chilling at 10,000 feet and you need to grab your down puffy, the sky opens up and your rain suit is a must, or you just need to dig in to your favorite lunch on the trail, the J-Panel opening makes accessing your equipment much easier.
I also really like how the side stretch-woven pockets seem a little bit larger in this 3rd generation Aether. A lot of bottle companies seem to be going with slimmer and taller bottles lately but these pockets can still easily hold the full liter Nalgenes that have been popular among backpackers for many years. The integrated hydration sleeve and dual openings on each side allow you to put any kind of water reservoir inside, including Osprey’s own Hydraform™ Reservoir. I haven’t found myself using the Stow on the Go™ trekking pole holders very much but they did come in handy when you start going from rocky trail to scrambling and need your hands free quickly. In this case, the Stow on the Go™ system works perfectly as the easiest and fastest solution I’ve seen.
So far, I am absolutely loving the new Aether 85. The only downside to using a larger pack is you’re more likely to pack more than you need into it and you end up carrying quite a bit of unnecessary weight but having that extra room when you pack smart is invaluable. I’m going to be using this pack over the summer guiding backpacking treks and just hiking around in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
The Osprey Aether 85 is an outstanding pack that sets the bar in quality and features for the price. As with any feature-built pack, the extra zippers and tool ties add a bit more weight to the design but the trade off is absolutely worth every ounce. The Aether, along with all of Osprey’s packs have a very durable construction that shows almost no abrasion or wear after a solid three months of daily use on the trails of New Mexico. In addition to the pack’s bomb-proof design and construction, should any ailment befall your beloved backpack, Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee ensures that any of their packs will truly last you a lifetime! Apart from the normal wear and tear disclaimer, they state,
“Osprey will repair for any reason, free of charge, any damage or defect in our product – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, we will happily replace it. We proudly stand behind this guarantee, so much so that it bears the signature of company founder and head designer, Mike Pfotenhauer.”
A great guarantee from an even greater company, the likes of both are hard to find in today’s outdoor industry. It’s an awesome thing to see Osprey, a company that started out small and unknown just 36 years later has caught mainstream popularity for delivering a quality product at an outstanding price. Over the course of the summer guiding, I saw many participants with different sizes of this exact pack and it was a great sight to see, not to mention fun for them to see they had chosen the same backpack as someone who does this for a living. The Aether’s 85 liter size is aimed at Guiding or Mountaineering and I know that this pack has become my new favorite for both activities. I simply have yet to see another backpack that can compare in comfort, design, the right balance of features while still remaining lightweight, and the lifetime guarantee. If you’re an avid backpacker or an outdoor enthusiast that gets out on the trail every week or once a month and you’re looking for the best backpack around, you need look no further than Osprey’s third generation Aether Series backpack available in a 60, 70, and 85 liter size.
Men’s Aether 85 – $289 – ospreypacks.com