Year after year, we have reviewed the newest model of the Osprey Ariel, and this year we chose to test the Ariel 65 to compare it to the Aura AG. Unsurprisingly, this newest model of the Ariel comes stacked with features and adjustments. The Ariel 65 is one of the heavier packs we tested, due to its rigid back panel and well-padded suspension system. Though this model is durable, has lots of features, and is a tried and true model, its scores are lower due to its complex, bulky design. With the implementation of the Anti-Gravity Suspension system, the Ariel does feel incredibly comfortable on the back, especially when carrying large loads. The pack is durable and will be able to endure the longest of journeys.
Osprey Ariel AG 65 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Comes with hydration system, adjustable, good for heavy loads, burly construction
Cons: Too many straps, complicated pockets, heavy, extra-large water bottle pockets
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Osprey Ariel is a longstanding favorite in the world of backpacking packs and continues to hold its own, even as new technologies develop around it. The Ariel is a more traditional backpacking pack, with lots of cushion, support, and excessive straps, pockets, and buckles on the outside. Some will appreciate this feature set, while others may think its a bit too much.
The Ariel is designed with a heavily padded hip belt shoulder straps which contributes to high marks in comfort. An Airscape back panel creates airflow allowing for all-day comfort. Only during sweltering days (90+ Fahrenheit) was the limited airflow noticeable. For a full summer of high heat backpacking, consider the Editors' Choice award-winning Osprey Aura AG, which has the best design for breathability. Unlike the Aura AG, with an airflow design intended to separate your back and the pack with significant space, the Ariel has a slight curve that creates space for ventilation, but the pack still rests against your back. With that being said, the Ariel, with the mesh panel and lighter weight padding, has a better ventilation design than others with chunky padding with channels for ventilation.
Where the Ariel excels is with heavy weight loads. With pack load weight ranging from 20-45+ pounds, the comfort was not compromised. The Ariel feels more comfortable with more weight, much like the Deuter AirContact Lite, which is our Top Pick for Heavy Loads. Like the Arcteryx Bora AR 61, it has plenty of adjustment points for continuous comfort. Customizable features, such as the heat moldable ISOform hip belt, offer a personalized fit.
The Ariel is one of the heavier packs in this review. Weighed at home with our scale, the Ariel comes in at 5.31 pounds. That is over a pound heavier than our Editors' Choice Award Winner, the Osprey Aura AG 65. Both the Gregory Deva and the Lowe Alpine Manaslu weigh in at over five pounds as well. This gives the Ariel a lower score since that's five extra pounds you have to carry around, in addition to all your gear! Some features that likely contribute to the weight of the Ariel are more durable zippers, bulky buckles on the hip belt, thick padding, and heavier weight material.
Total Volume = 65 L
Main Bag = 47 L
Pockets = 9 L
Lid = 9 L
A LightWire perimeter frame distributes the weight efficiently, and a single center stay retains the shape and rigidity of the Airscape back panel. The panel is comprised of molded foam covered in mesh. It is designed to offer airflow between the pack and your back while remaining close to the body for added stability. The two main suspension components work together to maintain all-day comfort, day after day. Whether you are carrying a light load or a heavy load, using this pack for a weekend trip or a long-distance hike, the Ariel sustains a high level of comfort, stability, and support. The suspension system of the Ariel compares more closely to that of the Deuter AirContact Lite 60+10 than the Osprey Aura AG 65 in the back panel sits directly on the back, rather than the floating mesh of the Aura.
Ease of Use
The Ariel is fairly easy to use, though more complicated than a lot of the other packs we tested. There are hundreds of adjustment options, zipper access points, pockets, and straps. The vast number of features and options are what make this pack hard to get the hang of. Most of the straps are intended to compress your gear down, eliminating looseness and empty space. Once the pack is filled with gear, it takes some analyzing to see where to make adjustments, which straps to tighten, and if there is a need to reconfigure the contents. Although we recognize the value in these features, they compromise the overall ease of use. All of the fitting straps - the hip belt, shoulder straps, sternum strap, etc. - adjust easily, without resistance in the buckles, but it is worth taking the time to assure that all of the many straps are properly fitted. Overall, we found the Osprey Aura AG to be a bit more intuitive and easy to use. A similarly complex pack with lots of compression and adjustment options is the Lowe Alpine Manaslu. This metric is a bit subjective, and it's up to you to decide how much adjustment and compression you are looking for in a pack.
Four enclosed compartments and three stretch mesh unenclosed pockets make up the organizational layout of the Ariel. Where this pack shines is with its access into each of these compartments, making organization even easier. In the main compartment, there is an option to separate the sleeping bag with a layer of material that compresses over the top. This has become fairly standard in most packs, such as the Deuter Aircontact Lite 60+10 SL and the Osprey Aura AG 65. The stretch mesh pockets are amazing - the large front one can accommodate a lot of layers or gear including a camera, rain jacket, lunch, and a book. The side stretch pockets are deeper than past models; water bottles swim in all the excess space, but with two access points, they are retrievable with the pack on or off. We also liked the size of the water bottle pockets on The North Face Banchee due to their size and shape. The removable lid adds to additional organization options, so you can easily take the essentials and leave the main pack for town trips and side hikes on layover days.
Due to the technical features and the sturdier design in zippers and materials, we found this backpack to be best suited for 3-10+ day trips. It is suitable for a weekend trip but excels during long outings where more weight is carried; stability is compromised with too light of a load. The multiple access points and incredible suspension make this one of the best options for weeklong or longer backpacking adventures. For the woman seeking comfort for loads exceeding 30-40+ pounds, the Ariel is capable. The elaborate number of straps complicate this pack for fast and light hiking but offer the ability to constantly adjust on trips in varying conditions where versatility is important. If you are still developing a preferred backpacking style, the many options on the Ariel may be valuable to your growing demands in comfort and adjustability. A removable lid that doubles as a lumbar daypack make the Ariel well suited for backpacking trips that offer layover days, side trips, or trips into town.
Though not as expensive as the Arc'teryx Bora, the Ariel still falls at the upper end of the price range of the packs in our fleet. At $310, it is more than the award-winning Aura AG and is close in price to the Gregory Deva 60. It offers similar features for organization and durability as the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic but is significantly heavier and more complicated in design than both the Ozonic and the Aura AG. It is a great value for the women that can make use of its multiple adjustment options, spaciousness, and excellent support with heavy pack loads.
The Osprey Ariel 55 is a durable women's pack that offers comfort, stability, and support with heavy pack loads. The adjustability accommodates a range of gear and trip lengths, extending upwards of ten days. It is a great women's specific backpacking pack featuring a detachable lid for use as a daypack and is built to endure the elements as well as your adventures. While slightly heavier and slightly more expensive than the other packs in our review, we think the Ariel is sturdy, carries well, and is a great value.
— Jane Jackson