The Osprey Aether 70 has been my go-to pack for a number of years now, and for the entire time I’ve owned it I wish I had never bought it. That’s not to say it’s a bad pack but there are a few features on this pack that are either poorly designed or essentially missing entirely that make me hate this pack.
Let’s start with the good. LIke all Ospreay packs the Aether is backed by Osprey’s “All Mighty Guarantee,” a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty that will replace or repair any pack for any reasons, even if the damage is a direct result of neglect or abuse. While a lifetime warranty is pretty standard on this kind of equipment, not too many companies will repair or replace a product for free if its been neglected or abused; many warranties only cover manufacturer and material defects. Additionally the Aether comes in 3 packs sizes, 60L, 70L, and 85L, and each size comes in 4 different harness sizes, essentially ensuring that each person will have a pack that fits them just right, no matter how big or small they are. The one thing I will caution you about here are the waist belts. Like so many other waist belts, the ones on the Aether are meant to be a pretty “one size fits all” belt, which is fine if you have a bigger waist, but if you have a smaller waist you may find that there simply isn’t enough adjustment room in the belt to get it tight. I also like the simple, no-frills design of the Aether. My biggest pet peeve with packs is when they have too many pockets, and when that is the case I always end up taking along way more stuff than I need just to fill the pockets. The Aether is one of the few packs I’ve owned that I would consider perfect in the pocket department. In has a very generously sized pocket in the lid that fits all of my small essentials, one large, main compartment with a divider for a sleeping bag compartment, 2 water bottle pockets, one stretch mesh pocket on the front, 2 zip pockets on the waist belt, and a pocket in between the pack and padding for a hydration bladder. I find that with this pocket setup I have enough room for everything and enough pockets to keep it all organised, but not so many pockets that i feel overwhelmed by them and don’t use them. The Aether also has ample compression straps to keep your gear tight, lashing points on the lid, 2 excellent bedroll straps that will easily accommodate a good sized tent, dual ice axe loops, a spot to lash trekking poles to, and the lid can even be removed entirely and be used as a lumbar pack with the included waist straps stored on the underside of the lid.
While the Aether definitely has a lot of good things about it, I feel that the small things I don’t like about it far outweigh the good. The 2 things I dislike about this pack the most are the water bottle pockets (honestly they don’t even deserve to be called pockets) and the front stretch mesh pocket. My biggest beef with the water bottle pockets is how tight they are once the main bag is filled with gear. They are pretty hard to get a 750 mL Camelbak bottle into, and once you do it make it almost completely inaccessible with the pack on. If you do manage to get a bottle out of it, good luck getting it back in. While the pockets do have a way to put bottles in that point them towards you, I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting large bottles in that way because it’s just not a very secure way to hold them. This not enough room once the pack is filled problem is also shared by the front stretch mesh pocket. On a good day I can get my rain gear in there with the pack empty, but once it’s full, good luck. You’d be hard pressed to get any appreciable amount of gear in that pocket, let alone stuff like lots of wet clothes or a good sized tent rain fly. This kind of problem is certainly not unique to Osprey or the Aether and it is a problem that affects essentially every pack I own. I also hate the ice axe loops. To be honest I wish manufacturers would stop putting them on altogether or at least make them bigger or removable. What I’d really like out of them is for them to be bigger so you could strap a real axe to your pack. As is they sit unused for me and just a hair too small for a real axe to fit.
All in all the Aether is a great pack that I’m sure most people would love. There’s lots of sizing options to make sure everyone will have a pack that fits and its got enough features to keep it competitive with similarly priced bags. Its no-questions-asked warranty is also a huge plus. Despite all of the good things about it, there are just enough things I dislike about it that will keep me from loving it.