Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Super comfortable, good suspension, good price.
Cons: Some people thought it needed more pockets.
Best Uses: Backpacking, mountaineering, trekking, multi-day ski touring, some Alpine climbing.
The Osprey Aether 60 is our Best Buy winner in the backpack category. It is one of the highest rated packs, one of the lightest, and also one of the least expensive. Only the Gregory Baltoro 65 and Arc'teryx Altra 65 scored higher. The Altra is a better pack for heavier loads but it is also $145 more expensive. The Baltoro 65 is also more comfortable with bigger loads but heavier. For lighter loads of 35 pounds or less it is hard to tell much difference in comfort between the Altra, Baltoro and Aether. So if you like to go fast and light like we do, then the Aether is certainly the best value in backpacks.
There are two other sizes of this pack, the Osprey Aether 70 and the Osprey Aether 85.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Aether is one of the lighter packs we tested but doesn't give up much in the way of waist belt and shoulder strap comfort. It is nearly the top scorer for its suspension. It has great features like a stretchy back "Kangaroo" pocket, slick easy-to-grab water bottle pockets, Osprey's famous sraight jacket compression straps and well designed articulated shoulder straps.
We like the shape and articulation of the shoulder straps and the foam that Osprey uses. The waist belt is comfortable and supportive without being too bulky. While many frameless or minimalist frame packs maybe lighter, the Aether 60 is one of the lighter fully featured packs on the market and was on the lighter side of our review. It is hardly an "ultra light" pack but you can save anywhere from a few pounds to a few ounces without giving up much in the way of comfort by going with this pack. We thought the compression system on the Aether 60 was pretty cool. Unlike traditional packs where the compression straps simply crunch the sides, the Aether 60 compresses from the back, evenly flattening the whole pack. These compression straps can come all the way across the pack to shrink it up small enough to be a suitable summit or daypack. We liked the dual directional stretch water bottle pockets as well. The stretch pocket on the back was a nice place to dry wet clothing or just another handy pocket for sunblock or other small items.
A nice additional feature is fact the the lid is removable and can be used as a fanny pack for small day hikes. We also liked how easy it was to adjust the height of the shoulder straps. There is a big Velcro pad that slides up and down and in hundreds of days of testing we never once saw it slip. It does give you the ability to fine tune down to the millimeter the fit on your back.
The shoulder straps and waist belt are as comfortable as the Baltoro 65 and the Altra 65 but its suspension was just a little step down in supportiveness. This was hard to notice under 40 pounds but once we increased the pack weight above that we noticed a much bigger difference. We did think it was far more comfortable than the REI Flash 65 or the Gregory Z65.
We didn't like the lower straps on the Aether; they are a little too short and didn't fit most sleeping pads. We did like the position of the two straps over the sleeping bag compartment but the straps aren't long. If Osprey is going to bother to put them there they should be at least three to six inches longer. This pack is slightly more fully featured than older models of the same pack, but older models were nearly a pound lighter. Most of our testers thought it had plenty of pockets but it doesn't have as many as other models we tested like the Deuter Aircontact 65+10 or the Gregory Baltoro 65 or 75. We also didn't like the "gear loops" they are too far back to be designed for climbing. That seems like a silly place to put a water bottle when they already have two nice water bottle pockets. We also question the durability of the nylon it doesn't seem very beefy. When looking at fellow guides who use their Aether more than 50 days a year, it didn't seem to hold up quite as well as the Baltoro. It is about as durable as the Arc'teryx Altra.
The Aether's waist belt is heat moldable but we don't think this is necessary. One of our testers has molded many of these hip belts and felt that while the hip belt was well designed and comfortable, the "heat moldable part" was "gimmicky" and didn't do anything that wearing and breaking in the pack wouldn't do better.
The Aether 60 is truly a jack of all trades and will be a good pack on almost any type of trip from backpacking to multi-day ski touring. It excels at backpacking, mountaineering and trekking because of its volume, comfortable straps and supportive and streamlined suspension. It is a relatively slim design with a slightly more flexible frame that allows it to move with your body better than many packs we tested. This makes the Aether a good option for ski touring and Alpine climbing. The Aether 60 will take most people out for two to five days but if folks know how to pack it could easily last them to seven or more days. The Aether 60 will excel for climbers and backpackers who can keep their load to under 40 pounds most of the time.
Other Versions & Accessories
Osprey Aether 70, $290.
Osprey Aether 85, $310.
Looking for a women's pack? Check out the Osprey Ariel 65, for $290.
Osprey UL Raincover $30
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: February 10, 2014
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