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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Lower straps are a little short, top lid pocket isn't as easy to access as other models, slightly on the heavy side for what it offers
The Osprey Aether 70 is the big brother to the Osprey Aether 60 liter version. These two packs remain some of the most popular backpacking packs of the past decade and for a good reason. The near identical 60 liter version is a former OutdoorGearLab award winner; while it didn't win an award this year, it remains a capable, comfortable, and versatile pack. The 70 liter version is virtually identical, but you have 10 additional liters to work with and the pack is two ounces heavier.
RELATED: Our complete review of backpacking backpacks
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Our testers loved this pack's super ergonomically designed shoulder straps and waist belt and determined that it was one of the most comfortable packs in our review. The 70 liter Aether was comparable to even the highest scoring packs in this category (the Osprey Atmos 65 AG, Osprey Xenith 75, Gregory Baltoro 65, and Arc'teryx Altra 65) and outperformed most of the other packs in the review.
This pack's waist belt has been molded by heat; while a seemingly cool feature, it is not one that is necessary. One of our testers who has molded many a hip belt felt that while the hip belt is an overall sweet feature, the "heat moldable part" was gimmicky and didn't do anything that wearing and breaking the pack in (over 2-3 days) wouldn't do equally or better.
At 4 pounds 13 ounces, this pack is rather average in the weight category and is two ounces heaver than the otherwise identical 4 lb 11 oz Osprey Aether 60. While the 70 isn't as light as The North Face Banchee 65 or the REI Flash 65 (both 3 lbs 10 ozs), it is a more durable pack overall that can manage heavier loads (>45lbs) on a higher performance scale. It also weighs the same as the Arc'teryx Altra 65 and performs very nearly as well.
This model's suspension system is quite robust and will easily carry loads up to 50-55 lbs. The total weight that we felt comfortable carrying in this pack equated to more than our award winner, the Osprey Atmos 65 AG; for heavier loads, we would take the Aether 70 over the Atmos 65. The Aether performed better than the similarly designed North Face Banchee or REI Flash 65. With 40 lbs or less, it carried as well as any pack in our review. With heavier loads (45-50 lbs or more), it carried weight better than most options and was comparable to the Arc'teryx Altra 65, though it wasn't quite as nice as the Osprey Zenith 75 or Gregory Baltoro 65 when fully weighted down with a heavy load.
Features and Ease of Use
This pack is a fully featured backpacking pack that has many of the features that most backpackers look for in a pack. Our testers appreciated the stretchy mesh beaver-tail-style pocket on the back that was a perfect place for drying out wet clothes, was a sweet place to carry flip flops or camp shoes, and was a nice place to quickly ditch a rain jacket. Another feature that nearly all of our testing team commented on was the large zipped hip belt pockets. These were among the biggest in the review (but weren't too big) and were perfect for a smartphone, camera, or snack collection. This contender features okay (but not amazing) access via a zippered back panel that is shaped like an upside down "L". Nearly all of our testers thought this was a completely acceptable amount of access, but if you wanted more, that there were several options out there that would suit your needs better.
We loved the back compression straps that are featured in addition to the more traditional side compression straps; these straps really helped bring the load in tighter against our back and helped the pack carry loads better when tightened. They also doubled as sweet lash points. The zippered lid pocket is easier to get into than some packs that feature the same design (with the zipper on the side rather than the top), but we didn't find that it was easy to actually search for items in the "brain pocket" as say, the Baltoro 65 or Arc'teryx Altra. Both of these packs feature zippers on the top of the lid. Our only gripe with with the 70 liter model is that the sleeping bag compartment external straps could have been a little longer.
The two stretchy mesh water bottle pockets featured on either side of the pack is another small, but useful feature. The pockets easily fit most traditional one liter Nalgenes (or similar size bottles) in a very secure vertical orientation. Even cooler, the pocket has another set of holes that allow the water bottle to also be oriented forward so you can (fairly) easily access your bottles without taking your pack off.
Fit and Adjustability
This pack offers around 4" of vertical height adjustment, using a design where the shoulder straps are attached to a velcro flap that can be slid up or down on the inside of the back panel. This simple design has been copied by several other pack manufacturers and for good reason; it's easy to fine tune and it's simple, lightweight and reliable; we have never felt the pack's shoulder straps slip or slide out of place at any time.
The Aether series of packs fit most people extremely well; along with their high level of performance, this is one of the biggest reasons that they are so popular. It is worth taking note that this pack, like the Osprey Zenith or Osprey Atmos 65 AG (our Editors' Choice award winner), is one of the few packs that we tested that was intended for users with torso measurements between 19.5 and 21 inches. Osprey advises that users could go with either a medium or large, but we found it more comfortable to size up to a large (rather than stay with the medium). After speaking to several shop employees, users, and experienced pack fitters, we would estimate that well over 80% of the in between size folks are happier with the longer torso length. Though it may not make a huge difference with lighter loads (>40 lbs), we found that it was necessary and way more comfortable for those heavily laden trips.
This competitor is a fantastic backpacking pack that will do almost everything extremely well. The 60 liter version would also be a good option for almost any type of backpacking or trekking trip and will even perform well for more basic mountaineering objectives or multi-day ski touring adventures; this is due to its relatively slim design that has a slightly more flexible frame, which allows the pack to smoothly move with your body.
This pack retails for $260; while this is slightly more than average among packs in our review, this pack offers the best cost to comfort ratio of any model in our review, remaining a great value. While this pack is slightly more than the The North Face Banchee 65 ($240) or the REI Flash 65 ($200), we think the features are worth the cost.
The Bottom Line
While not quite an award winner, the 70 liter Aether is a fantastic all-around backpacking pack for folks who frequently take trips of up to a week or more and might want to occasionally use their pack for climbing or skiing. This pack is a great backpacking pack for the majority of people out there and is less expensive, lighter, and in line with many backpacker's needs, than say the Baltoro 65 or Xenith, which are slightly overkill for some.
Osprey Aether 60
Osprey Aether 85
Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir
— Ian Nicholson
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: May 12, 2016
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