Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My New Osprey Aether Pack

My original backpack, a Kelty, disappeared years ago when I loaned it to someone.  It was an external frame, and I had owned it for over 20 years, but the guy I loaned it to was not responsible.  After that, I've had my Millet "60+10" backpack for about seven years now.  I bought it in a rush when I was suddenly about to go backpacking again for the first time in years, up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  It has been a pretty good pack with a lot of good and useful features, but it never was totally comfortable on me.  I always felt as if it was leaning back too far, and the sleeping bag compartment was too small - although I was not compressing my sleeping bag properly, too.  So I decided that it was time for a new pack, and after a lot of reading, I settled on an Osprey Aether 85.  My buddy Hawkeye has one and swears by it, and when I tried his on before a trip a couple of years ago - fitted to his body and loaded with gear - it felt more comfortable than mine did.

I got a great deal at REI a few weeks ago.  I had a 20% discount on any one item, a $48 merchandise rebate from my purchases last year - membership has its privileges - and a $50 Christmas REI gift card.  So the pack only cost me about half price.
I took the pack on my Laurel Forks trip a couple of weeks ago for its maiden voyage, and really liked it!  For one thing, I could get my sleeping bag in the separate sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the pack.
The body of the pack has lots of room.  My Millet has 70 liters of total space, and this one has 85 liters.  Will I need all of that space for a typical trip?  Well, given the starting weight of my pack and its basic gear, I sure hope not!  But it is there if I need it for a longer trip or for bulky cold weather clothing, and if I don't need it, I can cinch the pack down with compression strips.  The thing that looks a bit like a diaper is the removable panel that separates off the sleeping bag compartment.
At the top of the pack is a separate compartment that goes over the main pack.  It is quite large.  My Millet has this feature, too, and I found it quite useful.  You put stuff in there that you may need to get to in a hurry - first aid kit, toilet kit, trail mix, water filter, and such.  As a bonus, the top compartment can detach and become a small fanny pack for a day hike from a base camp.
The back of the pack has a "J zipper" that allows easy access to the middle of the pack to reach something buried down into it without taking everything else out.
Here's another great feature - the space for the hydration bladder is on the outside of the pack!  Say you want to refill your Camelbak at a stream - you just remove it, add filtered water, and slip it back in.  With most packs, you have to mostly unpack it to get the Camelbak out and back in.
On each side of the pack, near the hip belt, is a stretchy open pocket, perfect for a one liter bottle, or whatever else will fit - a shirt balled up, for example.
And on the back of the pack is a large stretchy pocket.  What could go in here?  Well, a rain jacket or fleece for when you stop for a break.  Water shoes.  A topo map.  Whatever will fit, assuming you want quick access to it - no need to rummage through your pack.
Finally, here is a great feature - a small zipper pocket on each side of the hip belt.  There are perfect for small items that you need easy access to.  Some things that I can think of are: extra batteries.  A knife or multi-tool.  Insect repellent.  Lip gloss. Sun screen.  A snack bar.
This pack has so many great features!  You can tell that a lot of really smart people designed it.  I cannot wait for my next trip with it, and hopefully for many more.  Based on my one trip so far with the Aether, only one night long, it is going to be pretty comfortable - if carrying 40+ pounds on one's back can be considered comfortable!


  1. That is really nice and it sure can hold a lot of stuff.

  2. I really like this pack. Now, I need to figure out how not to put some much stuff in it.