The recent call for owner reviews of packs spurred me to submit my very
first OR. So please, be gentle.
Owner Review: Osprey Aether 60 Pack
Name: Ken Bennett
Height: 6 feet 2 inches (190 cm)
Weight: 220 lbs (100 kg)
Email: bennettk at wfu dot edu
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
I have been backpacking for twelve years, all of it in the Southern
Appalachians. I am fortunate to live within a two-hour drive of the Mt.
Rogers National Recreation Area, and I try to hike in that area at least
once a month year-round. I have completed several hundred miles of the
Appalachian Trail in two-day to two-week sections, and along with my family
have set a goal of completing the entire trail over the next decade or so.
Like many backpackers, I started out carrying far too much gear, but over
the years I have pared down my pack weight to a more reasonable level.
Manufacturer: Osprey Packs
Year of Manufacture: 2003
Listed Weight: 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) (Large)
Weight as Delivered: 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) (Large)
Capacity 3900 cubic inches (64 liters) (Large)
Location(s) where test was conducted:
I used this pack along the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia and
Southwestern Virginia on several hikes in a variety of weather conditions,
on trips ranging from overnight to more than a week. The trail here is often
rugged and steep, with the highest elevations in the 4000-6000 foot
(1200-1800 meter) range. Weather conditions ranged from early summer, with
highs near 60 degrees F (15 degrees C) and lows near freezing, to a recent
winter trip with highs in the low 20s F (-6 C) and lows near 0 F (-18 C).
The Osprey Aether 60 in size Large provides almost 4000 cubic inches (64
liters) of capacity in a 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) package. The pack is available
in 3 sizes to accommodate different torso lengths; a women¹s version called
the Ariel 60 is also available in several sizes. I have a long torso at 22
inches, and the large Aether 60 fits perfectly.
The suspension consists of a narrow but well-padded hip belt, a very well
designed shoulder harness, a padded back panel, and two thin composite rods
that support the load. The hip belt is sewn in place, but the shoulder
harness can be moved up and down using a large hook-and-loop patch inside
the back panel, allowing for several inches of travel to fine-tune the fit.
Different harness sizes are available for a custom fit. The hip belt uses a
standard plastic quick-release buckle, but it has an unusual tightening
system, which Osprey calls the ErgoPull. The free end of the hip belt
doubles back on itself, and the tightening cams are located on the sides of
the belt. This provides some additional leverage when tightening the belt,
but it takes a little getting used to.
The shoulder harness is shaped to fit around the neck, and has a
non-removable sternum strap with a neat built-in clip for a water bladder
hose. There are two load-lifter straps that connect the shoulder harness to
the top of the composite rods on each side of the pack. Load lifters are
designed to control the angle of the pack and help shift weight from the
shoulder harness to the hip belt. When they are correctly implemented,
lifters allow the user to loosen the shoulder harness and bring the pack
back closer to the body, placing more weight on the hips. The load lifters
on the Aether 60 are anchored high enough on the pack body to work properly.
I have tried many different lightweight packs, and the Aether 60 is the
first one that has truly usable load lifters.
The composite rods run along the outside edge of the pack, and while they
are similar to aluminum stays in other packs, they are lighter and more
flexible. Some users of earlier models of the Aether 60 reported problems
with the rods ripping out under load, but this appears to have been fixed.
My 2003 model has reinforcements around the rod pockets top and bottom.
The entire suspension system weighs 9 ounces, according to Osprey. Verifying
this would require destroying the pack, so I am unable to do so.
The pack bag is long and narrow, with one opening at the top (there is no
separate sleeping bag compartment nor any other access to the inside of the
pack.) There is a large floating lid pocket, large enough to carry my rain
shell, hat, gloves, a large first aid kit, maps, and snacks. Inside the
pack, there is a top strap designed to compress the top of the load and pull
the pack away from your head. The top of the pack closes with a small flap
and a drawstring; note that there is not an extension collar on this pack.
When I use the internal top compression strap, there is enough room left
inside the top of the pack for my camp shoes or a water bladder before
closing the drawstring top. The internal construction appears to be very
high quality. My pack is made of dark blue and black fabric, and the
interior is very dark.
There is one small mesh pockets on each side of the pack. Each pocket will
hold a 1-liter Nalgene bottle, but a lot of the bottle sticks out above the
top of the pocket. These pockets have two openings: one at the top, and one
at the front (the point closest to the wearer). Osprey claims that you can
use this front opening for access to a small water bottle, but when I tried
that, it poked me in the back. I worry that smaller items are going to fall
out of the pocket through this opening.
There is a large mesh pocket on the front of the pack. I carry my toilet
articles, a large silnylon tarp, groundsheet, and other small items in this
pocket. It is also large enough for camp shoes (Waldies) or even a solo
tent. Below this pocket are two removable sleeping pad straps designed to
carry a small sleeping pad horizontally. I don¹t like to carry a pad this
way, and removed them.
Osprey has designed an unusual way to compress their packs. Instead of the
more common compression straps on the side of the pack, Osprey uses two
large fabric panels with compression straps across the front of the pack.
This makes it very easy to strap on a sleeping pad or a small tent. The
straps will easily carry a very large closed-cell foam pad, including my
extra-large Ridgerest pad. The quick-release buckles make it easy to remove
the pad for use as a chair when taking a break, or to gain access to the
front mesh pocket. Osprey has added another unusual feature, providing fixed
buckles near the frame of the pack that accept the compression panel
buckles. Using these buckles, it is possible to greatly compress a smaller
load, although I haven¹t found the need to do this yet.
Using the Pack
The Aether 60 is similar in design and use to my other internal-frame packs,
and it didn¹t take long to fine-tune the size and fit. Osprey offers
detailed instructions on pack sizing and fitting on their web site, as well
as on a hang-tag sold with the pack.
The hip belt is made of fairly soft foam, and I was worried that it wouldn¹t
carry the load well. However, the hip belt has been very supportive with
loads up into the 35-40 pound range (16-18 kg.) Loads over 40 pounds (18 kg)
caused the hip belt to twist and sag, reducing carrying comfort.
The composite rods run along the outside edge of the pack body, and can be
pulled in tightly at the hip belt and at the top with the load lifters. As
this pack doesn¹t have a stiff framesheet or aluminum stays, I was concerned
with the comfort and load support of this very lightweight suspension
system. These concerns were groundless: this pack is one of the most
comfortable I have ever worn. From lightweight summer loads of 15-25 pounds
(7-12 kg), to a winter weekend load of almost 40 pounds (18 kg), the Aether
60 carries the load well. I am able to fit it snugly into the curve of my
back, and fine-tune the fit while hiking using the suspension components.
Things I like:
1. Weight and size. At 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg), the Aether 60 is not an
ultralight pack. However, I have found that the extra pound or so of pack
weight provides two major advantages over a frameless ultralight rucksack:
1. A frame that can comfortably carry up to 40 pounds, compared to 20 pounds
or so for a frameless ruck.
2. A larger capacity of 3900 cubic inches (64 liters); many ultralight
rucksacks are less than 3000 cubic inches (50 liters).
While my base weight for summer hiking is in the range of 15-20 pounds (7-9
kg), adding in 3-5 days of food and two liters of water often puts me near
35 pounds (16 kg) at the start. The Aether 60¹s extra capacity makes it much
more comfortable after a resupply, and allows me to use it year-round in the
2. Hip belt. After I got used to the ErgoPull system, I found that it really
makes a difference in the comfort of the hip belt. It¹s easier to make fine
adjustments, and to really crank down on it when necessary.
3. Big top pocket. I can stuff a lot of gear in the lid pocket for easy
access. I have found this particularly important on a pack that doesn¹t have
easy access to the inside.
4. Big front pocket. The large mesh front pocket also holds a lot of useful
5. Load lifters. I really like load lifters they make a pack much more
comfortable to wear and use for long periods of time. Most lightweight packs
have lifters, but they are designed in such a way that they don¹t really
function properly. The lifters on the Aether 60 work well.
Things I dislike
1. Tiny side pockets. There is plenty of room on the side of the Aether 60
for large mesh pockets. I would like to have pockets that can easily swallow
a 1-liter Nalgene bottle with no chance that it will fall out. I may see if
I can have someone modify my pack to add larger side pockets.
2. No internal pocket for water bladder. The side pockets are too small for
bottles, and there¹s no place for a bladder. This is annoying, especially
since the larger Aether packs appear to have a built-in bladder pocket
inside the lid pocket.
3. Sternum strap can't be removed. I don¹t use the sternum strap, and I
can¹t remove it without cutting the plastic connector on the shoulder strap,
so it flops around.
4. Minor sewing issue. The elastic tape coming off the external pockets on
the first trip, and now two of the three pockets show this defect. It¹s a
minor sewing problem, but it¹s still something that I have to fix.
This is my fourth internal-frame pack, and it¹s by far my favorite
combination of weight and carrying capacity. It¹s large enough to carry a
big load out of a trail town after resupply, or for a winter weekend hike,
while being small enough for lightweight summer trips. It carries the load
well, has enough pockets to stay organized, and is comfortable even after
long days on the trail.