Osprey Ariel 65 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Outstanding support under heavy loads, well-cushioned hip belt and shoulder straps, highly adjustable, durable materials
Cons: Heavy, too tight side pockets, rigid and not suited for scrambling
Compare to Similar Products
Osprey Ariel 65
|Price||Check Price at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$255 List||Check Price at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$209.95 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Check Price at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
|Pros||Outstanding support under heavy loads, well-cushioned hip belt and shoulder straps, highly adjustable, durable materials||Comfortable, lightweight, supportive suspension, simple design, large pockets||Comfortable and supportive, fully-featured with pockets and access points, adjustable torso and hip belt||Comfortable, lightweight, good set of features, large stow pockets||Comfortable, plush padding, highly adjustable, good number of pockets, easy-to-remove top lid|
|Cons||Heavy, too tight side pockets, rigid and not suited for scrambling||Non-ventilated back panel, less organizational features||Mesh pockets lack durability||Simple suspension, lacks support||Large, spring loaded waist band is hard to get into, suspension can feel bulky, expensive, hip belt can sag uncomfortably on some users|
|Bottom Line||The beast you want for substantial loads, this pack is highly comfortable and incredibly adjustable to many body types||A durable bag with all the right pockets and suspension that will keep your back, hips, and shoulders comfortable all day||A comfortable and supportive suspension, a comprehensive feature set, and adjustability all in a lightweight package||The Octal 55 is lightweight, well-featured, and provides for tons of storage space||This pack has stood the test year after year with its robust feature set, comfortable straps, and a strong yet light suspension featuring an incredibly ventilated back panel|
|Rating Categories||Osprey Ariel 65||Circuit||Gregory Maven 65L||Gregory Octal 55||Osprey Aura AG 65|
|Comfort And Suspension (45%)|
|Organizational Systems (20%)|
|Specs||Osprey Ariel 65||Circuit||Gregory Maven 65L||Gregory Octal 55||Osprey Aura AG 65|
|Measured Weight (pounds)||4.8 lbs||2.7 lbs||3.4 lbs||2.6 lbs||4.7 lbs|
|Volumes Available (liters)||55, 65||68||45, 55, 65||45, 55||50, 65|
|Organization: Compartments||Lid with two pockets, front pocket, side pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment||Side pockets, front pocket, hip belt pockets, main compartment||Lid with two pockets, front pocket, side pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment||Lid, front pocket, side pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment||Lid, front pocket, side pockets, dual front pockets, hip belt pockets, main compartment|
|Access||Top, front, bottom||Top||Top, side, bottom||Top||Top, side, bottom|
|Rain Cover Included||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Women's Specific Features||Women's specific fit||S-Curve Shoulder Straps||Women's specific fit||Women's specific fit||Women's specific fit|
|Sleeping bag Compartment||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Bear Can Compatible||Yes - Vertical||Yes - Vertical||Yes - Vertical and Horizontal||Yes - Vertical, tight fit||Yes - Vertical|
|Main Materials||420HD nylon packcloth||500 Cordura||Nylon||Nylon||Nylon|
|Sizes Available||XS/SM, M/L||S, M, L, XL, Kids||XS/S, S/M||XS, S, M||XS, S, M|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Osprey came out with the Ariel and Aether (the men's version) line of packs over 20 years ago and has continually tweaked and changed its suspension, design, and features. We put the newest version through the wringer again to see how they did this round. Color us impressed. This classic has been rejuvenated with some of the best and most functional adjustability in the shoulder straps, hip belt, and torso length. Osprey moved away from their Anti-Gravity (AG) suspension and seems to have gone back to more of a traditional internal frame suspension which performs exceedingly well even under considerable loads. The pack is one of the heaviest in the category but shouldn't be discounted because of its ability to make pack weights over 40 pounds feel noticeably lighter than its more dainty colleagues can.
Comfort and Suspension
The Osprey Ariel carries exactly as a traditional pack should. It has the engineering needed to comfortably carry heavy loads but isn't over-engineered to the point of complexity. It's a classic and an icon and even after something like 20 years, still has a place in the backpacking world for many years to come.
The hip belt is formed into a rounded shape and angled to fit women's hips but it isn't so heavily shaped that you have to pry it open to get it on. The dense foam may take some getting used to if you are not regularly carrying a heavy backpack. That is not unique to the Ariel but rather is just a fact with any pack loaded down with a lot of weight. The hip belt connects to the frame at multiple points which helps give it a leg up on load transfer and stabilization compared to packs whose frame only transfers the load to the back center of the hip belt or to two points on the sides.
Allowing this heavy-duty pack to be suited for smaller-framed women are the narrower shoulder straps that are padded and supportive enough to withstand the load of the pack but are small enough to fit the contours of a person whose shoulders are less broad than many men's. There is a sleeve of soft, smooth, cushy material surrounding the shoulder straps where they contact your back and wrap around to the front of your shoulders. This ends with a soft stretchy band so even if the remaining padding on the shoulder strap is contacting your skin, there isn't a bulky seam when it changes fabric. Additionally, the shoulder straps are securely connected to the rigid frame, minimizing any shifting of the load as you bend and climb over difficult terrain.
The pack suspension, like in most packs designed to carry heavy loads, is the style that keeps the weight close to your back but therefore, can't offer as much ventilation. Some breathability is achieved with the foam cut-outs and mesh cover that hold half-inch air channels away from your back. This does make a difference versus packs that entirely contact your back but don't expect to feel a breeze blowing through on a hot day. We comfortably carried loads from 25 up to over 45 pounds during our testing.
The one complaint our testers have about the comfort and suspension is the limited range of motion. A rigid frame that can carry heavy loads is always going to move less with your body than a lightweight pack that can afford to be flexible since it doesn't have to support so much weight. When hiking most trails, this was not an issue, but upon scrambling up a steep slope of loose dirt and rocks that required hands on the ground, the pack frame inhibited our ability to lift our head and look up the slope.
This classic pack comes with a classic feature set. You get all the standard pockets plus a few extras. The main body of the bag is highly accessible with the wide j-shaped zipper and large sleeping bag compartment in addition to the standard top access. The removable two-pocket lid includes a rain cover and even has a couple of attachment points for strapping additional gear on top.
In addition to pockets and access points, the Ariel has a lot of straps. This can be helpful for bulky loads that can't fit fully inside but all the webbing can seem to get in the way if you are looking for a more simple pack set up. A few of the straps are removable but most are permanently attached, or as permanent as something that can be cut off with scissors can be.
Now let's talk about our least favorite pockets. The back stuff pocket is not made of a stretchy material and when the pack is fully loaded, offers limited storage space. Throughout our years testing packs we have come to love the on-the-fly storage of large stretchy back pockets but the lack of space here is made up for in the large lid. The only big issue we have with the organizational options on the Ariel is the function of the side pockets. Like many backpacking packs, they are made of a stretchy mesh and have access from the top and the front. However, the way they were designed is such that, when the pack is loaded, only the thinnest items can be stored vertically. We were completely unable to fit even a thin SmartWater bottle vertically. The horizontal access for water bottle storage works fine but has the same issue as with any horizontal water bottle storage pockets; your elbows tend to hit them when your arms swing.
When we first picked up the empty Ariel 65, we went digging around looking for what was inside weighing it down. After testing so many packs that weight pounds less than this model, we were certain there had to be a water bottle in there somewhere. At 4.8 pounds in a size medium/large, the Ariel is a heavy pack by modern standards.
If you hike fast and light, carry an ultralight tent and sleeping bag, and don't spend time winter backpacking, this is probably not the right pack for you. But hear us on this, for those who want to be able to carry loads over 40 pounds regularly, your 45 pounds is going to feel lighter and better on your body in the Ariel than even 35 pounds in most lighter weight packs. The dense foam hip belt and back panel, and rigid plastic frame with aluminum stays are what makes this model so heavy but they are also what make it a workhorse that is ready to haul a ton of gear in comfort.
Osprey has eliminated the interchangeable hip belt and shoulder harness that you used to have to purchase to fit at the time you bought the pack and replaced them with some of the most easily adjusted, well-padded, and comprehensive fit modifications of any pack we have tested scoring the Ariel top marks for adjustability.
The Ariel's hip belt is easy to adjust and even the padding extends. Unlike other hip belt adjustments on the market, there is no tight velcro sleeve to shove your fingers into, giving them a less than gentle exfoliation. Simple grab either side of the padding and rip it apart. You can even fine-tune the angle of the hip belt by adjusting how you attach the padding back together.
Women with broad shoulders and full chests rejoice! The length of the padding in the shoulder straps is extendable by four full inches. Very few packs on the market have this ability to lengthen the padding of the shoulder straps which makes a huge difference in comfort; shorter women sometimes find that shoulder straps are too long, preventing them from tightening a pack down enough and women who need a little more length in the shoulder straps typically have to make do with thin webbing digging in under their arms. The Ariel's unique extendable shoulder strap padding gives this model a much more versatile fit. It is also easy to lengthen and shorten by just ripping apart the velcro.
Because the adjustment is not encased in a sleeve, if the velcro begins to wear out, there is nothing else keeping the padding in place. This is a durability concern for folks who are planning to share the pack with someone else and will be regularly adjusting the velcro attachment, exposing it to more dirt and wear.
The pack is sold in two sizes and each torso length has four inches of adjustment. It is fairly easy to adjust with two hands but you may need to pry the buckles out from behind the back panel the first time. Overall, there is so much adjustability and each adjustment is so easy to move. This is one of our favorite aspects of Osprey's re-design of the Ariel.
The price of the Osprey Ariel aligns with many of the other models in our test and we believe its value is determined primarily by the end use of the user. For women who are planning to keep their pack weights under 35 pounds most of the time, there are multiple less expensive packs that still offer plenty of comfort. In that case, the Ariel may not be worth the price. But, for women who work outdoors carrying heavy loads, do a lot of winter backpacking, or travel on extended trips without resupply, the Ariel more than proves its worth. Put up against other models in the price range, this pack has the most comfort and stability.
Through our testing, we have come to believe that the Ariel is the backpack for heavy loads. It's a beast that is built to carry over 40 pounds with comfort and ease. Its frame is strong and the load transfer to the hips is one of the best we have seen. Another feature that sets this model above others is its simple yet innovative adjustability offering easy-to-use hip belt padding, torso length, and even shoulder strap padding adjustability. If you need a pack that can withstand whatever you load into it you will probably be willing to overlook the 4.8-pound weight of the pack itself. But, for those who don't plan to carry enough equipment to require a hefty pack like the Ariel, there are lighter and less expensive options available that will offer just as much comfort for the more trifling loads.
— Elizabeth Paashaus