The Aether AG takes the cake for finishing towards the top of the pack for feature-rich contenders. When testing, we determined that if there was one pack that had it all, this would likely be it. While this competitor is heavier than average, it is only just barely so. Even beyond its features, it has a supportive frame and is certainly on the more comfortable side of packs included in our review. The Aether AG 60 also sports nicely padded and ergonomically designed shoulder straps, as well as a respectable suspension, helping justify its marginally heavier than average 5 pounds 3 ounce weight. While there were packs that could handle mega heavy loads better, the Aether AG 60 held its own to around 50 pounds - something that many options that were significantly lighter often struggled with.
Osprey Aether AG 60 Review
Cons: Slightly on the heavier side, not the best for super heavy loads
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The latest version of this pack is stacked with features, pockets, and a stowable day-pack built into its lid. While not the lightest pack, the Aether isn't overly heavy and still offers a comfortable waist belt and shoulder straps, as well as a suspension system that is more robust than most. The Aether is a pack that will excel at single overnights but still has the suspension for those week-plus long adventures - where you might be starting your trip in the neighborhood of 50 pounds.
New for 2017, the Osprey updated their Aether packs with the AG or "Anti-gravity" suspension. The AG" or anti-gravity suspension makes a sort-of "trampoline style" suspension (or "suspended suspension"). Unlike most other models that use this design, the Aether not only suspends its back panel, but also suspends a portion of its hip belt as well. The result of this design impressed us; despite a fair bit of initial skepticism, our review team agreed it was effective at spreading the weight out evenly across our body, helping to eliminate hot spots. This is a similar design to the Osprey Atmos AG 65, but the back panel isn't quite as suspended. This makes the Atmos a little more breathable and cushier feeling when carrying lighter loads, while the Aether felt more supportive and better overall with loads of around 40 pounds or more.
Overall, the Aether has above average shoulder straps that are ergonomically designed and just plain feel nice. The face fabric Osprey uses is also comfortable and felt pleasant against our skin while wearing a tank top or not wearing a shirt.
The other difference between the Atmos 65's waist belt and the Aether is the AG portion is only in the center of the back panel, unlike the Atmos, where it makes contact against the wearer's skin. The advantage to the Atmos is its cushier feeling; it also offers better ventilation, though we found that the Aether was more supportive overall. Anytime we were carrying more than around 40 pounds, our review team easily favored the Aether, earning it a near perfect 9 out of 10 in the comfort metric. Other top scorers in this metric include the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, Osprey Atmos 65 AG, Gregory Baltoro 65, earning perfect 10 out of 10s, with the Osprey Xenith 75 scoring on par with the Aether.
The Aether has a decent suspension system, though it is not top tier. We found the frame was more robust and supportive than the Osprey Atmos 65, Gregory Paragon 68, or The North Face Banchee but not by a significant amount. Our testing team found little difference in the comfort of these models with loads below around 35 pounds; however, once we climbed above that, the Aether started to stand further apart regarding its ability to comfortably handle the load, earning it a 9 out of 10 overall.
We do think there are models that handle super heavy loads better (50+ pounds). The Aether is noteworthy for loads of a higher mass, particularity if it's only once and a while, but isn't what we would recommend if you plan to go on numerous loads in which you will be carrying 40+ pounds. If you plan on partaking in heavily laden trips in the future, we'd recommend the Osprey Xenith 75, Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, or the Gregory Baltoro 65.
The Aether AG 60 weighs in at 5 lbs 2 oz, which is just slightly heavier than average among other competitors in our review. While it's far away from being heavy, it's certainly not light. Compared to other models we tested, the Aether has a more robust suspension than most. It's certainly packed full of features, but a lot of the other packs in its weight range, like the Osprey Xenith 75, Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, or the Gregory Baltoro 65, are all similar in weight (all 5 lbs to 5 lbs 3 oz), but will carry monster loads better. The Aether remains a comfortable pack that brings a lot to the table, allowing it to make up for tipping the scales.
Features and Ease of Use
The Aether AG 60 is easily one of the most feature-rich packs we tested. Overall, we think the features are (mostly) well-designed to help any user have a more enjoyable time in the backcountry - without too much of a weight penalty.
We liked the Aether's lid, which sports two separate zippered pockets on the top of the pack. Most notable is the third zipper that features a stow-away backpack. This separate pack is attached and tucks away in the Aether's lid. When you want to go for a day hike or a summit push, simply leave the main pack behind and strap the lid on for your part-day adventure. This included pack is an excellent perk and is nice enough to use on short day hikes or on trips where you are going out and not even entertaining the thought of bringing the main pack. If you leave the lid behind entirely, there is a separate flap that covers the main opening of the pack, helping to keep your items dry.
While we think that this little backpack is sweet and well-designed we do wonder that as the Aether just gets heavier and heavier with each update, how many bells-and-whistles does this already featured pack need (and we are hardly minimalists)? One of our review staff's favorite features was the stretchy back beavertail style pocket, which was a great place to stash items that you wanted to keep close by (like a rain jacket) or things we wanted to dry out (socks, damp base layers, rain jacket, etc.). It's also the perfect place for oddly shaped items that don't fit in the main compartment easily, like a fuel bottle or flip-flops.
The dual zippered hip belt pockets are among the better designs in our review. They are slightly larger than normal and are one of the easiest to open and close while hiking. The Aether features one side access zipper, a sleeping bag compartment, and compression straps on the back and sides of the pack. The back compression straps can also be brought all the way across the back to fixed buckles when carrying the pack (when it's mostly empty). We liked the dual directional stretchy water bottle pockets so your bottle could be carried vertically in a traditional fashion or diagonally forward so it's easy to grab. We also appreciated that the straps over the sleeping bag compartment are long enough to buckle over most closed cell foam sleeping pads. Top scorers in this category, along with the Aether, include the Osprey Atmos 65 AG, Osprey Xenith 75, and The North Face Banchee 65.
This pack offers around 4 inches 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, which allowed the Aether to earn an 8 out of 10 for adjustability. Other high scorers for this metric include the Osprey Volt 60, Deuter Aircontact 65+10, and Arc'teryx Bora 63.
The Aether 60 is a solid backpacking pack or occasional mountaineering option. This contender will even work for occasional multi-day ski touring trips. Most folks will find it performs well for around 2-6 days without having to obsess over packing to your fullest potential, while others will find it can last for week long trips. The nice thing is the Aether has a stout enough suspension that it can pretty much handle anything (within reason) that you can fit into its 60-liter capacity. It will work well for people who like to enjoy a little more of the creature comforts while traveling in the backcountry.
At $290, the Aether is towards the more expensive end of the spectrum, but not by much. It does serve up a lot of extra features for its cost, as well as a solid suspension and great overall comfort. It is a little more expensive than the Osprey Atmos ($260), Gregory Paragon ($250) or The North Face Banshee ($240) but not but lots. It remains less pricey than our Editors' Choice winner, the Arc'teryx Bora, $550, the Osprey Xenith, $330, or the Gregory Baltoro, $300.
The Aether is a fully featured pack that has everything most backpackers would want - at a minor weight penalty. Another plus is that the Aether also has the suspension to back it up. While it's not what we'd call the best load hauler, it performed above average, and sports some of the most comfortable shoulder straps, waist belt, and back panel in our entire review.
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Most recent review: May 16, 2017
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