Review time! Today's review is the Osprey Aether 70, a pack made by Osprey who are an American company with manufacturer taking place in Vietnam.
RRP - £160
Weight - 2.24kg
Osprey description - "Lightweight and comfortable Aether 70 is a versatile pack with adequate space and organization for weekend or weeklong trips lasting 3 to 7 days"
This pack is also under the backpacking/mountaineering category.
Straight away you can see the toughness of the pack, when holding it the fabric feels strong and there is a lot of stitching keeping it all together, as I mentioned in my previous review, I love strong and well made kit and this bag straight away filled me with confidence. In the shop I managed to have it weighted up with a few bits of kit just to get a feel of the pack when loaded and it felt like part of me! The range of sizing options allow for this pack to be fiddled and jiggled till it's just right. This is a very large pack for me as my normal pack is a 52 litre and a bit more streamlined.
Overall the initial impression of the pack is that it's well made, a thought through design and should be able to handle 3 days camping with ease due to its size.
The reason I bought this pack was for a trip to Scotland to supervise a couple of Gold DofE teams in the Cairngorms so some really good testing conditions!
As I said before this pack is big so getting my kit in for a 2 night/3 day expedition was easy - sleeping bag and sleeping mat fit together snugly at the bottom of the pack with clothes/food/stove/gas fitting in comfortably above them - even managed to sneak in a luxury inflatable pillow! This bag has a special hip belt which allows for the pads to be molded to a person, unfortunately the store in which I bought this bag doesn't have the correct machine but even without the custom molding the bag is super comfy on your back, after adjusting the back and getting the Osprey bladder in to the bag I was ready to take on some serious walking!
The first day of walking is always the hardest especially when you're carrying a not-so-technical tent and emergency group kit for a 3 day expedition - this pack really helped me focus on the map work and keeping hydrated due to the comfort and weight distribution. I find some big bags can cause problems in windy conditions due to the added surface area of you as an object but the Osprey has 3 tightening straps which help bring the pack in and bring that surface area down, I found that on some of the more exposed part of the walk the bag would catch the wind a bit but I think it's fair to say you'd expect this from most 70+ litre packs.
Once we arrived at our wild campsite - a beautiful lake located up around 1,000 metres - we got around to setting up the tent, getting the bed ready and sorting some food! This pack has a feature known as J-panel access - basically on the front of the bag there is a zip which allows for access as if the bag were a holdall as opposed to reaching into the unknown and hoping to grab what you're looking for - this feature was really useful as I may have not packed in the most efficient order meaning food was not near the top! I had some worries about the position of the zip, if this was to break then the pack could easily become quite redundant - I think Osprey have thought about this as the zip used is a very tough weather resistant one, so the weight and durability factor was taken into account.
Day two was a very gentle day walking down from 1,000m up to around 700m and following a stunning river towards the next camp which was around 15 miles away by the Corrour bothy. The pack was a tad lighter due to dinner and breakfast being eaten and a little less water in the bladder because of the proximity of the river. Once again the rucksack felt really nice on the shoulders even though they were a little sore - I think the pack caused some of the soreness, maybe due to rubbing but also because my mat had decided to break and cold Scottish ground doesn't do wonders for the back, neck and shoulder area. We continued on to the night 2 camp after seeing both groups and catching up with them. Once again the J-panel access feature was useful and the pack was handling being thrown around the Scottish wilderness quite well, no damage was showing up which I was impressed by as there had been a few overly casual pack throwing incidents.
Day 3 was the final day of walking and what we had been waiting for finally arrived... Scottish rain! We didn't get walking till around 11am as we had to wait for the group to pass through before we continued pass them and out of the mountains through the Charlemagne Gap. Me being the super mountain man I am didn't realise that there's a waterproof liner located somewhere within the pack - luckily I always bag up all my equipment within dry bags so this didn't cause too much of an issue - I would have liked to be made more aware of this sort of feature as it could have cost me a few night's sleep on a longer expedition. After a 12 mile walk in the rain (felt like many more miles!) we got back to the minibus and went off to find a bunkhouse!
A few extra little points which I really like about this bag; there's a small message on the inside about the ethics of the outdoors and reminds people to leave no trace when out camping in wilderness, plenty of straps and cords to get the bag really tight together and bring down the surface area and the guarantee is lifelong for defects and damage - there's something very nice about a company with that much confidence in their own product!
Very well made
Custom molded hip belt*
*Although I didn't have access to the machine which heats up the heat belt I'm sure this could only be a positive as it brings the pack closer in to your body and allows for a better distribution of weight on your hips.
**Didn't really mention these in the review but each zip has a good sized loop attached which helps when the fingers are a little numb!
Sore shoulders on day 2 may have been caused by the pack but it's hard to say.
This is a really well made pack produced by one of my favorite rucksack manufacturers with a lifelong guarantee and a solid build quality. I'm very glad I brought this pack and it's still going strong around 11 months after purchase - as with most products of this quality the real test will be how long it lasts and I'll mention it in the blog if anything goes wrong! Really impressed with how the rucksack performed and I'm going to try and take it on a longer expedition to push the weight distribution and see how much kit it can take! If and when this happens I'll put up another post with any more findings and feelings towards the Aether.
Solid pack and super comfy! I'd definitely recommend purchasing this pack to a friend.