Rating: 4 / 5
First, know I only review a backpack after I’ve used the heck out of it. We’ve carried my pack (2006 Aether 60) and my wife’s pack (2006 Ariel 65) eight-weeks hiking through Europe’s Alps, and on countless hikes and climbs throughout California; we’ve used them with loads ranging from only a few pounds up to forty pounds of gear, through rain and snow both at sea level and at 15,000 feet. We know the pro’s/con’s of these packs.
Summary: Aether 60 is a good pack, but not best-in-class because it lacks a zippered access at the bottom forcing you to inconveniently remove everything from the pack just to reach an item at the bottom, and it becomes somewhat uncomfortable when loaded up. I’m slightly overweight at 6’ tall and 210 pounds and found the hip belt wasn’t as comfortable as many claim. When loaded with more than about 25lbs (admittedly above the “recommended carry range” for this pack) the hip belt has less cushion than optimal (cuts into the hips somewhat) and tends to slide down over the hips, even though the pack was custom-fitted and belt heat-molded at time-of-purchase. Somewhat more expensive packs (compare to Gregory products, for example) have hip belts more comfortable for bulkier body types like mine, but those suspensions also increase pack weight. Hikers with leaner body types, with a more well-defined hip outline may find the Aether hip belt to be very comfortable. While the Aether 60 has no fatal flaws, hikers should also evaluate competitor products, or within the Osprey line consider the Aether 70 because it does have a zippered main bag access at the bottom, and comes with a detachable Top Pocket/Lumber Pack. Also, if you’re seeking a pack to carry everything for a multi-week trip, you’ll need the extra storage of the Aether 70, or something even larger. We found both the Aether 60 & Ariel 65 too small for a backpacking trip through Europe, and I should note we did not carry any tent or sleeping gear.
• I did NOT have the problem noted by another reviewer: “At the bottom of the pack where the seam joins together there is a piece of plastic for support. This piece of plastic presses against you and makes for a very uncomfortable ride.”
• Another reviewer complained about the Aether’s non-removable “sewn-in-hip belt.” This is incorrect because the Aether 60 has a removable hip belt, which I have in fact removed and replaced already on my pack with a large sized belt.
• The deep elastic side pockets + side carry loops on the Aether are very handy, securely holding even large items such as 22” (collapsed) camera tripods or a pair of 28” (collapsed) hiking poles.
• This pack’s camel pocket is a perfect match to the Camelbak products and we found the Stoaway/ UnBottle 100 oz to be a perfect companion to the Aether 60/Aether 70.
• It is true as many of written that the Aether series is exceptional not only for lightness but for flexibility in holding its shape as a day-pack, not flopping around when under-loaded with as little as a few pounds.
• We did buy the Airporter LZ, thought the product somewhat overpriced, but it did work well as a cover to protect our packs when checked as luggage during air travel.