Review: Osprey Aether Pro 70
I’ve always liked the process of searching for the right gear. 8 years ago, I was in the market for a 60-70 liter backpack to use for overnight trips, carrying photography equipment and more edged tools than I ever had time to review!
Friends of mine recommended that I look at what Osprey had to offer. The 70 liters Aether was a nice backpack with a lot of compartments and storage options, but I didn’t like the colors available and I was concerned about the sturdiness of the fabrics.
Knowing I usually make my own path in our eastern France mountains and forests, I wanted a tough fabric able to deal with rocks, dead branches, brambles etc. Long story short, I ended up with the Fjallräven Kajka 65 liters and never looked back…
Last year, while sweating on a trail with my 20+kg loaded Kajka, I started thinking about saving weight, trying another backpack and maybe an Ultra Light (UL) model. The quest began again.
My budget was in the 300-400 Euros range and though many options were available, I have to say I didn’t find the UL packs very attractive. Some models even looked like they were built with recycled USPS envelopes.
As I was about to give up on my search, I checked the current Osprey options to evaluate the weight difference between my Kajka 65 and the current Aether model. This is how the new Aether Pro 70 (AP70) caught my eye.
Online exclusive model or not, I tried my best to check one out in person but it seems Osprey isn’t very proud of that pack… None of the 3 Osprey dealers I visited were aware of this model. One of them tried his best to have a sample but it never happened!
350 euros and 3 days later I found out the packs are way better than the communication at Osprey. When I first handled the AP70, I thought something was missing, the pack was so light it was suspicious! 1.9kg vs the 3.2kg of my Swedish pack, not a lot on paper but the weight difference is very significant.
The color scheme was also way nicer than the online pictures suggests. The main light grey fabric used is the Nanofly 210D Nylon+200D Ultra High Molecular Weight PolyEthylene!
To simplify, this is kind of an outer space ripstop: it’s very light and quite thin so is almost see through, but tough as nails, quite waterproof and abrasion resistant. No need to mention that this may not be the cheapest material one can find on a backpack.
Storage wise, the AP70 isn’t as fancy as the fabric’s name. It is kind of a classic top-loader but you have 5 different storage compartments:
The main compartment accessible by the top of the bag only.
It goes without saying that the packing science is important here if you don’t want to dig in your pack to reach a specific item. Small compressions bags are your best friends. This main compartment features a compression strap as well as a cinch cord to protect your load from the elements.
The water bladder compartment inside the main one.
This pocket is as large and deep as the internal back panel of the AP70, large and deep enough to hold my 3 liter Camelback Omega bladder. The bladder sits high thanks to a loop featuring a quick detachment clip. I’ve been using this compartment to store my bladder as well as a large (9-11 inches) camp knife. Of course, if you don’t need a bladder, you can use the pocket to separate items.
The top detachable lid.
Quite roomy and featuring a plastic hook to attach essentials such as keys. I like to use this hook to attach a medium Magpul Daka pouch for my keys, wallet and phone. I like this configuration to protect my essentials even more.
The left side hip belt pocket.
This pocket is removable and features a zip for complete closure. I tend to carry energy bars, tissues, Swiss Army Knife etc. in this pouch.
The right side hip belt pocket.
Also removable, this one doesn’t close but features a shock cord system to secure items like a thermos, bottle etc. I usually tend to carry my map or additional camera lenses on this side.
An AP70 owner can also take advantage of the red compression straps to attach gear or apparel outside the pack. Like most alpine type backpacks, this model features 2 removable axe loops, 2 removable foam type sleeping pad straps and the well known Stow-On-The-Go trekking poles attachment device on the left shoulder strap.
Last but not least, if you’re in need for more storage or for an additional day pack when using the AP70 for travels, Osprey made it compatible with their Daylite and Daylite Plus packs – a very smart feature.
Designed with alpine expeditions and long distance hikes in mind, Osprey’s R&D department had to create a light, durable and comfortable harness system.
The AP70 is equipped with a peripheral tubular aluminium frame with a central stay composed of 2 aluminium rods firmly stitched on the inner side of back panel.
This frame associated with the proprietary AirScape back panel makes the AP70 a very comfortable heavy hauler. Of course this system won’t prevent your back from getting wet, especially during summer hikes but the foam ridges of the AirScape tends to ventilate quite well.
The waist belt is nicely designed, thick enough, rigid enough and the foam is even heat-moldable if one needs to customize the pack even more.
The shoulders straps are 60mm to 70mm wide which is more than enough to transfer a heavy weight without digging in your body. The sternum strap are adjustable and feature a whistle in the buckle.
OK, it’s already sounding good on paper but how does the AP70 behave on your back?
The pack was tested multiple times with a 22kg test load and I was very impressed on how stable it was. It wasn’t a walk in a park, but, in the end, the Osprey was more comfortable than I thought it would be.
I usually won’t go more than 18kg fully loaded with camera equipment, water and superfluous items (yes, I confess) so the pack is even more stable and comfortable on my shoulders.
I hope I’m not becoming a mystical pack addict but I didn’t had the feeling I was carrying a load but the load was a part of me. I’m not sure it makes sense but let’s make it simple: it’s good, very good.
This is the result of 2 factors. On one hand, as stated earlier, a single main compartment is forcing you to work on your packing science to ensure heavy items are placed well.
On the other hand, the AP70 features 4 compression straps: two horizontal ones on the front of the pack and 2 “M” shaped on each side of the pack. These straps are essentials to ensure weight distribution and to avoid heavy items sinking to the bottom of the pack.
The toughness of the fabric was a concern at first and, after a year of use, I just cannot imagine how it could fail on me. Even after his rock and bramble baptism, I’m not able to find any significant sign of wear. This thing is not your common backpack for sure.
What I wasn’t expecting to like about such a big pack is its modularity. Removing both waist pockets and top lid, leads to a 300 gram reduction of weight. Going from 1.9kg to 1.6kg may appear symbolic, but the gain in agility in harsh terrain is very impressive.
Once the lid is removed, the top of the pack can be closed by the FlapJacket secured by 2 small buckles. I have used this setup this winter on a snowy hike and the FlapJacket was sufficient to protect my load from the elements.
In order to protect the load even more, I wish the cinch cord closure was replaced by a roll top closure system – more suitable for a mountaineering/expedition pack.
What I don’t like about the AP70 is mostly related to the waist pockets. They are quite roomy but I’ve found them difficult to access on the go, especially the left zippered one.
The right one is unfortunately not deep enough to secure a thermos bottle or a 0.8L Klean Kanteen sport bottle. I had mine jump out of the pocket once and it ran 40 meters down the trail. That day I was fortunate enough to find my bottle but I learnt my lesson about securing larger items in that right hip pocket.
When it comes to removing the side pockets, you have to work on the attaching points: one is a classic small buckle but the others are aluminium toggles stuck on the side of the aluminium frame and on a loop at the bottom of the pack.
Construction wise, it’s strong, lightweight and yet very clever but those toggles are very hard to remove, at least on my pack. As a side note, I wish there were another color option for this pack, maybe something a little bit darker to blend even more in a forest environment.
To sum up, the Aether Pro 70 is a non-exuberant but yet very impressive backpack. Osprey have obviously cut some corners regarding accessorization to stick to the UL concept but no sacrifice was made regarding the build construction and overall toughness.
More than a lightweight alpine pack or an expedition pack, I’ve found the AP70 to be a very polyvalent backpack, way more than I initially thought. Dressing the pack up or down, usage is almost unlimited, hiking, mountaineering, multi-day trekking, exploration type activities, traveling, you name it.
At 350 Euros MSRP, the Osprey Aether Pro 70 can be considered as an expensive backpack but I think it’s a fair offer if you keep in mind its overall quality, high-end materials and the fact it is built to endure the hardest treatments and conditions.