Gear Review: Osprey Aether Backpack
It is easy to argue that on a year-long trip through South America, the one piece of gear that matters the most is your backpack. Sometimes Don and I think, ¨Wow, if a strap broke right now, or heaven forbid, a zipper...we´d be screwed!¨ Then we hoist up our packs, remember for the zillionth time to be grateful for solid, well-made gear, and hop the next micro or camion to a new town in a new country.
The following is Don Eaton´s review of his ever-durable, ever-comfortable Osprey Aether backpack.
The low down on the Aether series pack by Osprey.
I have had many packs over the years, and I have blown through many packs over the years. There always seemed to be one, or many, things wrong with the packs that I used during my times of trekking or travel. Either the fit was not spot on, there were pressure points or "hot spots" during longer hikes, or the way it packed became troublesome. This last summer I knew I had a long trip ahead, so when planning for 10 months in South America, I wanted to make sure I got a pack that would last the trip and beyond. That´s when I met the Aether series from Osprey. Let me share a few of the features that I found most helpful during my last three months of travel.
The first thing I noticed about this pack was it´s durability. I have already spent one month traveling around the U.S. and 2 months traveling around South America, and there is much travel yet to come. During this kind of international travel, my pack gets tossed around during bus rides, thrown into the dirt on multi-day treks, forced to carry a heavier and bulkier load on some days than others, and still, my Osprey pack has held strong.
Comfort is one of the most important aspects of owning a pack. I personally would give the Aether a 5-star comfort rating. I have had many packs over the years and this is the first pack that when fully loaded does not give me pressure points or "hot spots" during long hauls or treks. I even find the shoulder straps to be comfortable on bare skin, and the hip belt molds to a custom fit after several uses (or you can bake the hip belt in the store or at home after purchase for a faster fit). I have been carrying around 35-45 lbs in this pack every day and it consistently feels great and holds strong.
Osprey´s custom fit option is important for anyone purchasing a new pack. I have a medium pack with a medium hip belt and that works for me. But what if you are a bit more slender or wider around the waistline? This is where Osprey has a huge advantage, giving you the option to go bigger or smaller with a removable hipbelt. This is a nice option considering all humans are not built the same. The Aether also comes with the ability to adjust the shoulder straps through the back panel of the pack in order to really dial in your perfect fit.
The Aether is also an intelligently designed pack. For example, a great feature of the pack is its built in daypack. The ¨brain¨ of the pack, or top pocket, can be easily removed and used as a smaller hip pack or daypack for shorter hikes. I have used this option on many day hikes from our campsites when all we needed to bring was water, food, and a camera with us. I have loved having a built in day pack. I honestly had no idea I was going to use it as much as I have.
The pack´s zipper entry to the main compartment is also something to rave about. There are actually three openings into this backpack. You can access the main compartment from the top, open it duffle-style from the front, or get access to your sleeping bag and pad from the bottom. Three acess points means you don´t have to unpack everything just to get to one thing, which is a convenience often overlooked in a pack.
Finally, the mesh pocket on the outside of the pack is great in many ways. I have found it is the perfect size for housing my Chacos and it also is a great place to put wet clothing or your packtowl for quick-drying.
Durability, comfort, and intelligent design are the words that I proudly use to describe the Osprey Aether pack. This is a backpack that I am confident will bring me, and all my gear, home in one piece.