When you spend a good majority of your time taking students on backpacking trips in the wilderness—students that are prone to injury, forgetting personal gear such as rain jackets and sleeping bags, or even needing to be evacuated—you end up stuffing your own personal pack with a lot of additional items.
An economy size first-aid kit, a handful of SOL bivy bags, satellite phone, emergency beacon, batteries, extra warm clothes… the list goes on. That’s why this year I upgraded to an Osprey Aether AG 85. I needed more room to stuff all the extra emergency gear. And boy, did it come in handy.
First off, I really like Osprey packs. I also own a Aether 70 and Ariel 65 litre. They’re the most comfortable and cozy packs I’ve ever used. The biggest plus is the pack’s antigravity technology. This is not some type of gimmick. It works! It allows the pack to hug your body, making it feel like you’re carrying less weight than you really are. A lightweight suspended-mesh panel placed on the back portion, from the upper torso to the lumbar area, also allows your back to breathe. And adding to the comfort, the pack features a customized fit with interchangeable harness and hip belt.
The Aether has lots of add-ons: dual upper-side compression straps; lower inside-out compression straps; dual front compression straps; side and front mesh pockets; zipper hip pockets; trekking pole attachment; dual ice-tool loops with bungee tie-offs; large J-zip access to the main front portion of the pack; lower zippered sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider; removable sleeping pad straps; and an internal hydration sleeve.
However, what sets this year’s model apart from the older designs is the removable top lid that can function as a daypack. In past designs, the top lid could be used as a hip-belt. I like the hip belt in my older packs, but I love the new daypack idea. It also has an integrated flap-jacket cover so you can eliminate the top lid to reduce the pack size if you don’t need the full 85-litre volume.
Check out my video review from my latest student backpacking trip: