I had a great experience with one of Osprey’s smaller men’s packs, the Kestrel 38 on my Kilimanjaro trip in 2010, so it only made sense to try to get my hands on a larger sized Osprey pack for my Aconcagua trip coming up in December. Aconcagua is considered by some to be the logical next step in mountaineering for those who have finished Kilimanjaro and feel they have what it takes to be more uncomfortable for a longer period of time, and I am just such a person!
At least, I think I have what it takes. I say this as I’m sitting in my warm apartment on my soft city butt in my fancy chair. We’ll see how the chips fall when I’m sniffing my tentmate’s farts and it’s negative oh-my-god degrees in my sleeping bag.
Kidding aside, it is a large step, and requires a lot more gear. I now own crampons and double plastic boots, for instance, but there are many other differences as well. Like, I will be required to carry all my own gear the entire time. No porters on this trip. Can you imagine? The nerve! Don’t they know who I think I am?
Here’s the Aether 70, looking mighty fine.
AddOn Compatible? You bet!
So, let’s talk about some of the Aether 70’s features. Does it like moonlit dinners? Long walks on the beach? Listening to soft jazz with someone special? Hard to tell. I didn’t have any soft jazz, but one of Flo Rida’s songs happened to be playing from my computer speakers as I began this article, and the pack didn’t seem to mind.
On the Osprey site, the pack’s feature list starts with some loops that make it AddOn compatible, which means you can attach lesser packs to the Aether 70 much as a lamprey eel might attach itself to a lake trout.
You can also attach a crampon case, which makes a lot of sense. No one wants crampons poking them in the back, or the side, or anywhere really, unless you’re into some… weird stuff. Which, hey, if you are, it’s cool I guess. This is the Internet, after all.
Convertible Top is actually a Lumbar Pack
I’m not sure, but I think the term “Lumbar Pack” is an attempt to rebrand the fanny pack. Mind you, I have no problem with fanny packs. I wear one regularly so I can carry my cell phone on bike rides. You know, in case Outside or perhaps Bicycling calls to say they want me to write for them. So far they haven’t, but it could happen any day.
Anyway, yes you really can detach the top of the Aether 70, and yes it really does have its own hip belt, and yes, anyone who sees you doing this will say “Hey, nice fanny pack.” Unless they’re British, where “fanny” means something entirely different, at least according to my arrest report.
The detachment of the top is a little bit of a process, because there are three points where the strap has to be fed through little rings. The front side clips off with plastic buckles in seconds. I assume this is a feature to keep idiots like myself from unclipping the top of their pack in the dark, thus leaving it trailside and causing other climbers to remark later in the day, “Hey, someone left a fanny pack here.”
And here’s some extra info from the owner’s manual:
All kidding aside, It’s pretty cool to be able to carry a few necessary items when walking around camp, and, as Osprey points out, having backup buckles should your main ones get damaged is really sweet.
The Aether accepts up to a 3l bladder, which, coincidentally I just happen to have. Two things I really like about the Aether’s hydration capability are that there is a little nylon loop with a buckle to hold your bladder up, and there are openings on both sides of the pack to allow your hydration tube through. You can pick which shoulder you’d rather drink water over, which is nice.
Of course, I’m not saying you have to drink water.
Hey, some trips are better than others. Probably better stick to water on this one, though.
Another one of the Kestrel’s features I liked a lot was the Nalgene-friendly mesh pocket just over my right love handle. It was a convenient spot to reach when I drank my water bladder dry or when my tube froze up on summit day. Also nice for poking trash into. Osprey has realized that it’s tough to use a pocket that is squished flat by a strap, but that compression is also important.
Hey, remember that scene in Empire Strikes Back when Luke guts a tonton with his lightsaber, pulls its guts out, and then climbs inside to keep from freezing to death on Hoth? Well, you can do pretty much that exact thing to the Aether 70. It’s probably not big enough to climb inside unless you are a child, and likely wouldn’t provide as much warmth as a tonton, but it is nice to be able to get to packed items without having to unpack everything.
The J-Panel also has a pocket on it similar to the one on the Kestrel. On the last trip I used that pocket to hold my journal and pencils. In the photo my crampon holder bag is stuffed in there, but this time I think it might end up having the very same duty.
Who wants to read my extremely detailed diary? Anyone? Hello? Aw, come on, guys it’s really interesting, I swear. Where are you going?
Tool and Sleeping Pad attachment
I’m really impressed with Osprey’s forethought when it comes to designing little features on this pack and others. Lots of packs have loops for your ice axe, but not all have clipped straps for your sleeping pad.
Even fewer, in my experience, have loops to stow your trekking poles but the Aether does. I liked the trekking pole loops on the Kestrel, which appear to be the same on the Aether. They allow you to have your poles handy, but stowed out of the way which was nice. I don’t want to be tied down to walking with or without them, so it’s cool to be able to grab them or stow them as needed.
Also, it makes me feel a little bit like I’m wearing a sword in my belt. Kind of like a samurai, except a lot less bad ass.
Wrap It Up, B!
That’s about it for my preliminary review of the Aether 70. Obviously, I am super excited to go on this trip, and I think the Aether is going to help me haul all my crap nicely. Now all I have to do is stay off the beer until I leave so I’m not carrying 20 extra pounds of myself.
Thanks to the folks at Osprey for providing this pack for review.