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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Gear Closet: Osprey Aether AG 60 Backpack Review

When designing an updated version of its award-winning Aether 60 backpack, Osprey could have simply added a few new colors, changed some minor details, and addressed a few design issues here and there and called it a day. But instead, it redesigned the pack almost completely, and added its now famous Anti-Gravity suspension system, in a sense creating a whole new product. So how does it match-up to previous generations? Quite simply, this just might be the best backpack you've ever owned.

The list of features on the new Aether AG 60 pack is long enough that I could spend all day just trying to cover everything that this bag brings to the table. But, there are three areas where it truly stands out, and those are definitely worth mentioning. As already alluded to above, the Aether now comes with Osprey's patented Anti-Gravity suspension system, hence the addition of the "AG" to the name.

If you haven't tried AG yet, let me tell you that it is a game-changer. The suspension is made from a single panel of lightweight mesh that extends completely around the upper torso and reaching down into the lumbar area of the back. This panel works in conjunction with a set of super-comfortable shoulder straps, and a moldable hipbelt, to help keep the weight in the bag well balanced and properly dispersed, making it far more comfortable to wear a heavy pack than it has been in the past. The result is less fatigue and soreness out on the trail and at the campsite.

The second significant upgrade to the Aether is a new harness that is designed to allow users to dial in just the right fit. The new shoulder straps and hipbelt play a significant role here as well, providing a level of customizability that hasn't been seen before. In fact, the components are completely interchangeable, which makes it easy to find the proper fit that works for your body style. This again, helps hikers and backpackers to carry heavier loads without becoming overly fatigued.


Finally, the third impressive new component of the Aether AG is its built-in summit pack that also serves as a lid. Dubbed the "DayLid," this part of the backpack is completely removable, allowing users to carry their heavy loads to Base Camp using the main bag, but then switching over to the smaller, surprisingly functional, daypack when they go peak bagging. The DayLid has 16-liters of capacity, several pockets for organizational purposes, and a razor sharp focus on providing a perfect, no-frills day bag that you can use in a variety of environments. This is an incredibly handy feature, and it is nice to see how much thought and attention that Osprey put into creating it.

In terms of its more basic features, the Aether AG 60 has 60-liters of volume for carrying capacity, although large models with 70 and 85 liter are available as well. It includes stow-on-the go trekking pole attachments, as well as dual ice tool lops and removable sleeping pad straps. An internal reservoir sleeve provides hydration while on the trail and zippered pocket on the hipbelt offer quick and easy access to snacks, a smartphone, or other small items. Two front compression straps allow adjustments to the way the load is carried without ever having to take the pack off, while dual-access side stretch mesh pockets are a good place to store water bottles.

One of my favorite new features is the zipper that runs the length of the left side, granting access to the main compartment without having to go through the lid. This makes it a lot easier to sift through your belongings and find the things you need without ever having to remove everything else. This is something I've had in other packs in the past, and truly came to appreciate, so it is nice to see it incorporated here as well.

In terms of durability, the Aether AG is once again top-notch, and at the level you would expect from Osprey. That said, it is also backed by a lifetime guarantee, with the company happily repairing or replacing it as long as you own the bag. I can say, after using this a couple times on recent trips, it has withstood the trail, survived airports and airplanes, and managed well around the campsite. My Aether AG 60 still looks practically brand new, other than a bit of dirt here and there.

As I already mentioned, this very well could be the best backpack I've ever used, and the best on the market today. It isn't without its issues however, not the least of which is weight. All versions of the pack, including the small-sized model, are pushing 5.1 pounds (2.3 kg). That's quite a bit of weight before you've ever put anything into the bag, making it not a great choice for anyone who is counting every ounce. All of that bulk is the direct result of all of the other features that this bag brings to the table, including the suspension system and durable fabrics. If you're not a member of the ultralight crowd, and you don't mind a bit of extra weight on your adventures, chances are you're going to come away raving about how good this backpack truly is. But, if you do like to go fast and light, you'll certainly want to look elsewhere.

The Aether AG 60 also packs a pretty hefty price tag as well. It carries an MSRP of $290, which is definitely on the high end of the spectrum for a pack of this size. Again, you're shelling out for all of the amenities that come along with a full-featured backpack from one of the top brands in the industry, and if you can afford it, the pack is easily worth every penny. It just isn't necessarily in the budget for the average backpacker however, making it a bit out of reach for the mainstream crowd.

All of that said, if you don't mind the extra weight or the price tag, this backpack is a real treat. It is the result of Osprey constantly refining its ideas and staying focused on its core audience. The result is a pack that simply can't be beat in terms of comfort, carry, and all around features. It is so good, you'll want to take it with you on every trip, even if you don't need this much capacity. Give it a try, I think you'll come away extremely happy.

Buy now at REI.com.

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