Osprey Aether 65 Backpack Review (2021 Model)

Osprey Aether 65 Backpack Review
The Osprey Aether 65 is a multi-day expedition-style backpack with an adjustable torso length frame, adjustable length shoulder straps, and an adjustable length hip belt length so you can dial in a custom fit without having to swap out components or heat them in an oven at a store. It’s loaded with features and external attachment points that make it easy to use for a wide variety of trips from wilderness backpacking to mountaineering. While the Aether 65 is still an internal frame backpack, it handles heavy loads with the ease and comfort of an external frame backpack. If you need to go heavy, but prefer the organizational features of an internal frame backpack, the new Osprey Aether 65 and Osprey Aether 55 will scratch your itch.

Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Internal frame backpack
  • Access: Top and front panel-loading
  • Volume: 65L
  • Weight: 4 lbs 14.7 oz
  • Gender: Men’s (Women’s model is the Ariel 65)
  • Adjustable torso length: Yes
  • Adjustable length hip belt: Yes
  • Adjustable length shoulder straps: Yes
  • Raincover: Included
  • Hydration compatible: Yes, internal sleeve
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Ventilated: No
  • Torso Range: 17-23 inches
  • Hipbelt Range: 28-55 inches
  • Max recommended load: 60 lbs (we agree)
  • Materials: 420d Nylon Packcloth
  • For complete specs, visit Osprey.com

Backpack Suspension and Fit

The new Osprey Aether 65 does not have Osprey’s popular ventilated AG (Anti-gravity suspension) of the previous model but has a streamlined back panel that’s more similar to the current Osprey Aether Pro. But the biggest difference between the new model and the older models (including the Aether Pro) is that the torso length, shoulder strap length, and hip belt lengths are all user-adjustable, so you don’t have to pay for replacement straps or take the hip belt to a store so they can heat it up in one of those retailer-based Osprey ovens to get it to fit you. This totally takes the hassle factor fact out of getting a custom fit, which is important if you need to carry heavier loads.

Adjustable torso length

The Aether 65 lets you adjust the torso length, which is the distance between the hip belt and the shoulder straps. The shoulder strap yoke moves up or down the pack’s back panel to increase or decrease the height of the shoulder pads.

The torso length is controlled by two webbing straps and buckles adjacent to the lumbar pad
The torso length is controlled by two webbing straps and buckles adjacent to the lumbar pad

The height is controlled by two webbing straps and buckles located just above the hip belt. You loosen/lengthen the straps to raise the shoulder strap yoke or tighten/shorten them to reduce the torso length. The pack is available in two sizes: the small/medium has a torso range of 16″-20″, while the medium/large has a torso range of 19″-23″. If you find yourself in between the two sizes, it’s usually best to size up.

Adjustable hip belt length

The Aether 65 gives you the ability to adjust the length of the hip belt to perfectly match your waist dimensions.  The hip belt can be adjusted by 6″ on each side and any excess length folds behind the lumbar pad out of the way at the back of the hip belt.

The hip belt pockets can be repositioned along the hip belt with velcro.
The hip belt pockets can be repositioned along the hip belt with velcro.

The pack’s hip belt pockets are attached to the hip belt with a rip-and-stack connector so they can be repositioned along the hip belt within reach of your hands. Despite this, I still found them a little farther back on the hipbelt that I would have liked, but the hipbelt pockets are so large on the Aether 65, that they’re still easy to access.

Adjustable Shoulder Straps

The Aether 65 also comes with adjustable length shoulder straps that let move where the shoulder strap padding sits along the length of the shoulder straps. The padding is basically a foam tube, which slides along the length of the shoulder strap and velcros-in place.

The foam padding in the shoulder strap can be moved up or down to fit your chest dimensions and comfort needs.
The foam padding in the shoulder strap can be moved up or down to fit your chest dimensions and comfort needs.

Once again, you have about 6″ of vertical adjustment, which is nice because you can eliminate hot spots on your collar bone or chafing along the side of your torso and underarms.

Similar to an External Frame Backpack

The thing I find fascinating about the Aether 65 is its similarity to an external frame backpack. In order to make the adjustable hip belt and shoulder strap system work on this pack, Osprey has decoupled the pack’s frame and harness from the pack bag which holds all your stuff, so you can adjust the connection between the two.

The design of the Aether 65 is quite similar to external frame backpacks which helps explain why is can carry monster loads with ease,
The design of the Aether 65 is somewhat similar to external frame backpacks which helps explain why it can carry monster loads with ease.

This is similar to the way that external frame packs are made and helps explain why you can haul such monster loads with the Aether 65. When you load up the pack, it towers above your head, like an old-school backboard, and doesn’t carry anything like a typical back-hugging and slouchy internal frame backpack. The load to hip transfer is simply phenomenal because the ballon perimeter frame has multiple reinforced cross pieces to stiffen it up and the pack back is relatively shallow so it rides close to your hips.

The Aether’s packbag is fairly shallow and holds loads quite close to your hips for optimal load transfer
The Aether’s packbag is fairly shallow and holds loads quite close to your hips for optimal load transfer

Backpack Organization and Storage

The Aether 65 is a panel loading backpack with front zipper access so you can easily get to items buried deep inside the main compartment. This is a pretty standard feature on high volume packs. There’s also access from the top, under a floating lid, and at the base of the pack through the optional sleeping bag pocket.

The Aether 65 has a front zippered panel that provides access to the main compartment
The Aether 65 has a front zippered panel that provides access to the main compartment

The top lid pocket is floating so you can use it to sandwich items against the top of the pack like pads or rope. It has two external pockets, including one to hold an included rain cover. Both of the pockets are huge and great for storing hats, gloves, and navigation equipment.

It was surprisingly difficult to fit a 10L cold weather sleeping bag into the sleeping bag pocket.
It was surprisingly difficult to fit a 10L cold weather sleeping bag into the sleeping bag pocket.

There’s also a sleeping bag zipper at the base of the pack also with an open interior shelf. I was a little disappointed at the size of the compartment however and had difficulty in fitting a compressed 10L cold weather sleeping bag into it. You can always pack it up higher in the main compartment though.

Side water bottle pockets have front openings for ease of access
Side water bottle pockets have front openings for ease of access

The pack has two side water bottle pockets that have front openings that you can access when the pack is worn. I don’t particularly like these pockets because items can fall out, although there are exterior gear loops you could use to biner a Nalgene to them if you wanted. There’s also an internal hydration sleeve, naturally, but that might be difficult to refill without unpacking the pack during the day.

Large hip belt pockets are good for carry electronics and PPE
Large hip belt pockets are good for carrying electronics and PPE

The hipbelt has two quite large zippered pockets with solid faces. I wish Osprey would put these on all of their backpacks because they’re large enough to hold a phone, camera, GPS, etc. The pack also comes with a stretch mesh pocket in the front of the pack, although it can be hard to access if you’ve strapped bulky gear over it using the front compression straps.

A rain cover is included with the pack
A rain cover is included with the pack

External Attachment Points

The Aether 65 has a plethora of external attachment points for attaching bulk gear to the outside of the backpack. Chief among these are horizontal compression straps across the front of the pack for attaching bulky objects like tents or sleeping pads. Despite their location, I found that these items did not exert much of a backward pull on the Aether 65. In fact, they were barely noticeable, load-wise, which was a pleasant surprise. The Aether 65 does have load lifter straps, but I haven’t found they are necessary to use to counter heavier items attached to the pack front.

Front compressions straps are convenient for carrying bulky gear like sleeping pads, tents, or snowshoes
Front compressions straps are convenient for carrying bulky gear like sleeping pads, tents, or snowshoes

There are also sleeping pad straps located over the sleeping bag pocket if you want to carry a pad or tent there. These are removable if not needed.

The Aether 65 comes with two ice ax loops and shaft holders, which is a welcome touch. But the two side compression straps are awkwardly angled, rather than horizontal, making it difficult to hold long bulky items against the side of the pack. One thing that is noticeably absent, is Osprey’s trekking pole Stow-and-Go side attachment system, although you can use some of the other attachment points on the pack to hold them if required.

S-shaped shoulder straps fit all physiques
S-shaped shoulder straps fit all physiques

Comparable Multi-day Backpacks

Make and Model Price Weight Volume Access Pockets
Osprey Aether 65 $280 4 lbs 14 oz 55L, 65L Top, front 8 exterior
REI Traverse 70 $249 4 lb. 14 oz. 35, 70L, 85L Top, front 11 exterior
Gregory Baltoro 75 $330 4 lb. 15.4 oz. 65, 75, 85L Top, front 10 exterior
Osprey Aether AG 70 $310 5 lb. 3.4 oz. 60, 70, 85L Top, front 7 exterior
Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 $230 4 lb. 9oz. 60L Top, front 11 exterior
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 $220 4 lbs. 6 oz 75L Top, front 7 exterior
Osprey Atmos AG 65 $270 4 lb. 9 oz. 50, 65L Top 8 exterior

Recommendation

The Osprey Aether 65 is really an amazing backpack in terms of fit and its ability to carry heavy and bulky loads with ease. While it’s not for everyone, a sizable portion of the backpacking population still needs backpacks that are capable of carrying a week’s worth of food and gear into wilderness areas where resupply is not available or to haul bulky basecamp gear for family camping trips. But the thing that really sets this apart from comparable packs is the fit and the fact that you can customize it by yourself without having to remove or replace the pack’s components. That’s a real innovation that many backpackers will appreciate.

Disclosure: Osprey provided the author with a sample pack.

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Last updated: 2021-01-12 13:54:40

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