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The Inside Scoop on the Osprey Aether & Ariel

Backcountry Edge Gear Specialist Steven "Leon" Lutz and Osprey Product Line Manager Chris Horton discuss the Osprey Aether and Ariel series of backpacks.

The Inside Scoop on the Osprey Aether & Ariel

Steven: I am Steven Leon Lutz, gear specialist with Back Country Edge.


Chris: I am Chris Horton, product guide at Osprey Packs.


Steven: And Chris and I are talking about the Osprey Aether and Ariel series of back packs. Back Country Edge, this is the kind of pack we think of as that classic, Osprey load hauling comfort fit, custom fit back pack.  


Chris: Our company started we are 40 years old now. And the company started out on a custom fit basis.  People come into the shop get measured up and then a couple of weeks later their hand sown piece would be out. And this is kind of taking that legacy to the masses.  It is how do we build the best carrying back pack with the best fit.  And that is really what Aether Ariel is going to give you is the exact fit to your body.


Steven: So maybe let’s start there and talk about the suspension system on the Aether and Ariel.


Chris: Yeah, to really achieve a custom fit you need to have of varying torso sizes, so that Aether and Ariel both come in varying torso sizes, men’s women’s specific fit and shape.  But also we are all built differently, you know? Some of us hit the weight room a little bit more than others. Some of us are tall and lanky. Some of us don’t hit the gym at all, but we really enjoy getting outside. So we really want to make sure we are fitting all sizes. And so to do that you need interchangeable parts. The pack is adjustable. You can move this torso up and down. It is a really good, solid fit of hip belt and harness. Sometimes you need a different size.  So we have interchangeable parts, very easy to basically take the hip belt out and put in a new size, same with the harness, just a couple of clips and the Velcro for that. And this is just velcroed in.  And then connecting the straps.  So what that allows you to do is really connect to the body. You make sure that the harness is wrapping all the way around going at least a couple of inches below your armpits.  The hip belt, we want to make sure you have three to six inches between pads when it is fully cinched. So if you have all those connection points, you are being fully wrapped and contained by the pack. Then you have a great fit.


Steven: And obviously padding throughout. It looks like, again, we have got that ventilated panel so you have got some spacing there as well.

Chris: Yeah, I mean, you have a space mesh padding, very breathable, but, again, the... using a hip belt and padding like of this sort you need something that is fairly stiff, but not too stiff. That is kind of the nice thing about the custom holding belts is as you wear these belts they are using a couple of different types of foam and one of them is like a memory foam. So as you are heating up that foam with you body, it is going to contour to your hips.  And that allows you to have a stiff hip belt but not really rub and create hot spots, because it is custom molded to your body.


Steven: And that can also be molded right on the spot, right? If you were able to take your pack somewhere, have it fit, Osprey has in certain locations the custom fit oven?


Chris: Yeah. There are special fit ovens that you can take a hip belt in. They will wrap it around you and then mold it right away.  So, you know, that is a great, easy way to do it. So you are immediately on trail with a custom fit belt. But if you just want to get out and hike and you are too eager and antsy, don’t worry about it. It will work with your body. 


Steven: I can remember the time that we were out and I was wearing an Aether and two to three days in I was amazed that it was like I had jumped into the over and gotten out.  I got that perfect fit.


Chris: Yeah. You definitely notice. The pack becomes yours. 


Steven: So the Aether and the Ariel is definitely a pack that we kind of reach for when we know a customer is going to be carrying a lot of weight. What is it that makes the Aether so capable?


Chris: I mean it is... it is designed to be your typical back packing pack. But at the same time it actually has been on the cover of Time magazine for going up Everest.  So it is variable use. You can haul tons and tons of gear and besides the custom fit, harness, hip belt, the ventilated back panel, all the things you can see, that is only half of it. The other half is what is inside. We are fairly unique and this is, again, talking about innovation is we kind of innovated how a back panel and suspension works. So what we use is a spring steel frame that connects directly with the hip belt and actually wraps the outside of the pack.  So when it is wrapping the outside of the pack, now you move that kind of coverage. It is going to spread the load instead of one central place to your entire back panel.  So now you are a lot more comfortable and you are putting a lot less pressure on one place. And then we still reinforce that with a kind of a HDPE back panel and that is a very technical term for plastic. But that also has aluminum standing inside.  So you talk about the load hauling. It is kind of a combination of everything you can throw at a pack, a peripheral frame that spreads the weight across, a frame sheet that kind of keeps it flat and continues that spread and then aluminum stay to kind of keep the structure strong.  So if you are going to carry this with 25, 30 pounds, you are going to be comfortable. You are going to carry this with 80 to 90 pounds, you are going to be comfortable. And that is kind of that variability allows somebody to buy this for any dreams they may have even if they are just going to go out for a weekend, or overnight. 


Steven: And there is a ton of organization in the Aethers and the Ariels as well.


Chris: Exactly. I mean, you are out there you want to be able to get to your gear as you need it.  Sometimes right away. So your pockets that are quick access like the hip pockets. On the top pocket is a great place to keep your first aid kit.  And for the rest of the gear you obviously have the main compartment that you see here, but also good stretch mesh pockets for storing jacket or other quick access, a good place to put your water bottle on the side stretch mesh.  And then for those of you... sometimes you are out on trail and you have got something at the bottom of your pack and you can get to it by just kind of unloading this thing real quick. You don’t have to unpack everything else.  You can grab that thing you have at the bottom and get it out.

So the same with the sleeping bag compartment. You have a lower compartment down here specific for the sleeping bag. It is a great place for the weight to be distributed low like that, not very heavy. You want to bring the weight up.  So really just kind of compartmentalizing the pack so it carries well. And also you have access to the gear when you need it.


Steven: And the compression straps everywhere, so, you know, you have got great places to lash gear, but I know there is more to it than just that as well.

Chris: Yeah, I mean, we... you know, we have quite a few straps. We have a little bit of reputation for straps.  And there is a reason for it. These are all strategically here. Carrying weight close to your body is super important. You know, having the side compression and the front compression is there. Also these front compression straps protect the zipper. Zippers are the last thing you ought to blow in the back country and we are pretty paranoid. We don’t want to be stuck somewhere and now our gear is uncarryable and so we can’t get to it. So we wan to make sure any fail safe we can put on there we are going to do it, whether that is heavier duty fabric, heavier duty buckles, reinforcing one weak point with another strength point and so we want to make sure that nothing is going to go wrong and that is where we deal with compression straps.


Steven: But on the side I also like that feature set here where you can run them over top of that stretch pocket or underneath depending on how you are carrying gear.

Chris: Exactly. I mean, if you want to carry a water bottle, you can just slide that in.  But say you are carrying tent poles and you are going to want to cinch that down. And the ability to kind of custom make your bag to what you are carrying and what you want to do, not just as you as a person, but from one trip to another.  That is where this Aether is great. 


Steven: So hearing you talk about the Aether, Ariel and thinking about the way we have spoken to the series with our customers over the year, what really jumps out at me is just how versatile it is. It seems like it can work for a wide range of potential users. 


Chris: I mean that is the thing. You can buy this not knowing if you are ever going to back pack again, you know, because I assure you are going to go and have a great time and then the next trip might get bigger or the next trip might get bigger or you might get into photography or you might get into mountaineering. And this pack is going to be able to handle it all. So, you know, if you want to get outside and you don’t know what the limits are, don’t worry about it. This will take care of it for you.