By Matthew Dieumegard-Thornton
I have been using Osprey packs for a number of years, from climbing in Scotland through to expeditions in Nepal.
As I am sponsored by Osprey for my 2012 Everest expedition, I was given the Osprey Aether 70 pack to test out on Mera Peak and Baruntse in November 2011. It is a backpacking/expedition rucksack that has previously been used on Everest.
First impressions of the pack were good, as it boasted features that are appropriate for expeditions and long trips, where comfort from heavy loads is a main consideration.
The first feature of the bag worth mentioning is the customisable hip belt. The rucksack can be taken into any Osprey dealer and the hip belt can be heated and fitted to you, giving a more personal and customisable fit. I haven’t had the need to do this since the bag fitted well out of the box, but it’s a worthwhile consideration if load-carrying is going to be important, such as climbers looking to attempt Aconcagua, which is notorious for large carries at high altitude.
While there may be better bags for purely the ascent of an expedition, the reason the Osprey Aether 70 excels is because it is great on long walk-ins. On Baruntse, I had a 17-day walk-in, going through a variety of terrains.
For this type of walking, the bag has a great ventilated back support and, most importantly, a customisable back length to get the perfect fit. The fit of the bag is extremely important when carrying heavy loads, so having features such as a customisable hip belt and customisable back length help make heavy loads much more comfortable.
Expeditions naturally demand versatility from a bag, as well as good durability, and the Osprey Aether 70 coped with both the ascent phases of the expedition and the trekking phase, and this is the reason why the bag would appeal to a wide range of people, involved in a wide range of activities.
The main strengths of the bag are its ability to be stripped down and to be customised completely for the user. The features, such as tool attachment points (ice axes and crampons) and direct access through the front reinforced reversed zip, make the bag functional for a multitude of activities.
Finally, the Osprey Ariel rucksack is the women’s version of the Aether, meaning women can get a personal fit with a rucksack that fits much better than a rucksack simply designed as unisex.
You could say the weight of the bag is a weakness. There are lighter bags available, but for the versatility required on expeditions and long treks with a big load to carry, the extra weight is easily justifiable.
The only main weakness I identified while using the Osprey Aether 70 continuously for 35 days was the width of the hip belt when using a climbing harness. The hip belt often has a tendency to override the gear loops, which makes accessing gear tricky.
However, the width of the hip belt adds to the comfort when carrying loads, so a compromise is needed between comfort and functionality. In essence, when using this pack with a climbing harness, you just need to be careful about how you rack your gear.
The Osprey Aether 70 excels in a multitude of activities where heavy loads and an adaptable system are required. I used the pack on a 35-day expedition and during that time, it was almost faultless.
Find out more: http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/product/mens/aether_70_1
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