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Aether 70 vs ULA Catalyst
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Rick Adams
(rickadams100) - M
Aether 70 vs ULA Catalyst on 07/11/2013 16:42:48 MDT Print View

Anybody have an opinion about either of these two packs with a 35lb load not including weight of the pack. My experience is that an Aether 60 is ok below 30, not so much above. I'm looking for maximum weight transfer to the belt, and the belt maintaining structural integrity.

I don't care about weight of the pack too much as everything that goes in it is pretty light.

Thought about a MR....way too $$.

I can pack lighter, but almost always end up carrying someone else's stuff. Last year had a scouts loaded pack resting on the top of my pack and head, makes a nice sun shade albeit a bit heavy. Became less fun after a few miles.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Aether 70 vs ULA Catalyst on 07/11/2013 17:16:12 MDT Print View

i haven't use a Catalyst, but I loaded up with 55lbs in an Aether and it was comfortable. As much as 55lbs can feel.

The Mystery Ranch Trance is comparable.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
ULA Catalyst on 07/11/2013 18:17:54 MDT Print View

Funny..I just posted this review:

Overall, I like it quite a bit as an all around workhorse-type pack.

Have not used the other packs in question.

Edited by PaulMags on 07/11/2013 18:18:30 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
ULA Catalyst on 07/11/2013 18:28:16 MDT Print View

I've had the ULA Catalyst at close to 30# out the door, then added stuff from young hikers with a church group (jr. hi. and high school boys); I don't really know what the final weight was, and it varied each day, but I had no issues with the Catalyst. The Catalyst has been a great pack for me, and the only upgrade I can think of is a McHale pack, which my wife is getting me for my birthday! Yeah, she loves me!

Sorry, but no experience with the Aether.

(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
ULA Catalyst on 07/11/2013 19:42:36 MDT Print View

I've had 30+ in my 2009 Catalyst. No problem.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Re: Aether 70 vs ULA Catalyst on 07/11/2013 20:23:40 MDT Print View

I find it very hard to believe that an aether 60 only works for you below 30 lbs. That is a fine load carrying pack and I'm with David U on that.I found I ran out of bag space more than weight capasity. The aether may not be fitted or adjusted properly or it may not work for your build. If the 60 does not work for you I would not even consider going to the 70. I would try the catalyst and a lot of others and make sure they are fitted and adjusted properly

Jeff Jeff
(TwoFortyJeff) - F
Re: Aether 70 vs ULA Catalyst on 07/11/2013 23:01:35 MDT Print View

I own both. I never put more than 35 in the Catalyst, but it was fine at that weight. Note that the single stay version didn't do so well, but I swapped it for the double stay (which I think is now the only option) and it does much better.

The Aether 70 is good for as much stuff as you can put in it. I use it with loads in the 50 pound range and it does fine.

Rick Adams
(rickadams100) - M
Thanks on 07/12/2013 10:39:52 MDT Print View

Thanks for the input.

The aether 60 is long gone and probably was a fitting problem to some degree. I have one shoulder that sits 3 inches higher than the other ( and it's the bad one), so fitting always seems to be a compromise. I have a 2013 Aether 70 that actually is much more comfortable but at some point the bad shoulder ends up with weight I don't want there. It is the best non-Aarn pack I've used to date.

So, I'm always looking for a better solution. MR claims that their pack (g5000) is stout enough that i could have virtually zero on the bad shoulder, but if they are wrong it's a $300 haircut to resell it, and, it is REALLY heavy. It's also made in the USA, which I prefer. But so is ULA.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Neither on 07/12/2013 11:54:09 MDT Print View

Given your shoulders, it sounds like a custom pack may be needed. It would be expensive, but probably worth it over the years.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Neither on 07/12/2013 22:46:16 MDT Print View

Why would the OP require a custom pack. The Aether can't be had with custom fabrics, but it has an adjustable torso, swappable shoulder harness, and swappable belt. Virtually custom fit.

I thought money was a potential issue for the OP?

Edited by FamilyGuy on 07/13/2013 09:23:56 MDT.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Packs for big loads on 07/13/2013 08:17:42 MDT Print View

My Lowe alpine (discontinued long ago) was the best load carrying pack I found. It was 7.5 lbs empty though. The secret was a pack bag that was tall, narrow, and slim for its capacity. It was also critical that the pack bag curved forward over the tops of the shoulders rather than being straight. The big medium stiff belt provided better wrap around than stiff belts and this, in combination with the width, eliminated hot spots on the hip bones with big loads. The lumbar pad was also a key component - it was the piece that kept the hipbelt from sliding down in the back with heavy loads.

The adjustable shoulder strap packs are nice with big loads because you can adjust the torso length to take weight off your shoulders even when the frame sags a little under big loads. This is nicer than just loosening the shoulder straps because it keeps the pack closer to your back so it isn't wobbly. You can do some of this with the load lifter straps on non-adjustable packs, but not all of it.

For uneven shoulders, I recommend a Kelty external frame pack. The shoulder straps can be adjusted for height independently. The Kelty will weigh less than internal frame packs capable of carrying huge loads. Ie: "Only" 5.5 pounds. The external frame packs work well on trails, but not so food for scrambling up rocky areas that are the equivalent to walking up stairs 2 at a time - due to their higher center of gravity. The Kelty worked much better than its competition in terms of hip belt comfort, frame squeak, and durability. The scout shops have a few models, and Bass pro shop stocks them in my area.

Edited by JohnG10 on 07/13/2013 08:18:41 MDT.

Rick Adams
(rickadams100) - M
Mchale on 07/13/2013 09:41:20 MDT Print View

I have a hard time justifying a mchale outside of the cool factor. And a MR, except for the "custom fit", seems like it covers all the bases,and, is cool to me.

It would take 5 minutes with a razor blade to make the the aether shoulders independently adjustable and i think a couple of well placed carbon arrow shafts could alter the load lifter function for the good. With my mountain bike, every detail of suspension adjustment is recorded, maybe the same approach and would be good for a pack too.

If I could actually hike more instead of thinking about hiking I'd just suck down some painkillers and call it good.

Thanks for all your insights