Osprey Aether 55 and Ariel 55: The Cadillac of Backpacks

Osprey Packs released updated Aether and Ariel backpacks in October that give them a significant upgrade. We packed them to the brim to see how much these new models can handle.

These packs are bestsellers for good reason – they’re the big dogs in the Osprey range. The Ether and Ariel have a capacity of 55L and 65L, but the Plus versions can each be expanded to a massive 85L. We tested the new Ether 55 and Ariel 55 during a two day backpacking trip (they were intentionally overloaded for this test).

The Ether 55 and Ariel 55 carried heavier loads with exceptional stability. Rigid frames combine with thick and luxurious foam to create a suspension system that is incredibly stable under load while still providing comfort and ventilation.

New this year, Osprey has also equipped these packs with the option of customizing each touchpoint and offering all the functions a backpacker could ever want. But these packs weigh about 5 pounds.

In summary: These new packages are packed with features. Their packing support, adjustability and stability are amazing. But they are by no means “light”.

The nuts and bolts: Osprey Aether 55 and Ariel 55

A relatively stiff Lightwire frame, a rigid frame plate and a visually breathtaking AirScape back made of punched foam form the skeleton of Aether and Ariel. (Compared to the current Aether and Ariel AG packs offered by Osprey, the main fabric has been upgraded to denier. The packs are made entirely from Bluesign-approved materials and weigh less. If you choose the Aether or Ariel AG packs Pack are familiar, some features are similar.)

In addition, every part of the pack that touches the body is adjustable in several dimensions. The length of the upper body can be adjusted using the belt ladder fasteners, while the shoulder straps and the hip belt are adjustable in length. The user can also adjust the height of the hip belt and clearly adjust its angle. Check out the extensive customization options in the video below.

As a bonus, Osprey opted for Bluesign-approved nylon and PFC-free DWR to construct the Ether and Ariel 55. A 420 denier fabric covers the main body (with 210 denier on the accent panels) and the same 420 denier fabric covers the bottom, where packages carry most of their wear and tear.

With a capacity of 52 to 58 l (depending on the package size), Aether and Ariel are large packages. And they are equipped with all the functions a backpacker could want:

  • Main compartment: top loading design with floating lid and front panel with zipper
  • Additional features: Front “Shove-it” pocket, 2 bottle pockets made of stretch mesh, 2 hip belt pockets with zip
  • Compression straps: 4 on the sides, 2 on the front
  • Lower sleeping bag compartment with zipper, internal, removable partition and sleeping bag straps
  • Internal hydration bladder cuff
  • Loops: External anchor loops for attaching the Osprey Daylite packs, double ice ax loops with bungee cable ties
  • Weight: 4.78-4.96 pounds
  • Price: $ 260

But all with one caveat: the large volume and long feature list deny the ultra-light status of the Aether 55 and Ariel 55. Our L / XL Aether has a verified weight of 5 pounds, while our XS / S Ariel has a verified weight of 5 pounds 4 pounds is 13 ounces.

The Ariel 55 and the Ether 55: Trail Tested

Although my backpacking trip only lasted 2 days, I intentionally overloaded the backpacks with additional test equipment. It hit the scales at 35 pounds (the recommended range of the pack is 30 to 60 pounds fully expanded).

The immediate feeling was that the Aether 55 could easily carry much more than the 35 pounds I was carrying. The AirScape chassis also excellently directed most of the load onto the hip belt and mesh-lined lumbar pad and was extremely stable.

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The disadvantage of carrying capacity and stability was the lack of mobility of the upper body; The relatively stiff circumferential wire and the frame plate made rotary movements difficult. On the positive side, however, my shoulders received almost no vertical load. And there was only one indication of frontal printing after properly adjusting the package to my measurements.

I felt that there were enough outside pockets and space to meet all of my needs when hiking long distances. Levels, guidebooks, maps, snacks, tools, a phone, a satellite messenger – everything had a place outside of the backpack, so access to the main part was unnecessary. At least my hiking companion was able to achieve everything I needed that kept time-consuming breaks at bay.

I very much prefer top loading packs and I felt that this made it easier to compress and distribute the load in the Osprey pack. But when I got to camp the zippered front panel was the way to go to make it easy to unload and organize.

The front panel allowed us to get the tent out, split up between us and equip the gear without laying other gadgets on the wet ground or digging endlessly through the backpacks from above. (Speaking of rain, these backpacks come with a rain cover at no additional cost.)

Ether 55 and Ariel 55 on trackOsprey Ariel 55 pack


The Ether 55 and Ariel 55 are carrying monsters. I felt they were perfectly capable of hitting the suggested 60 pound limit. This load capacity has the slight disadvantage of limited mobility.

Note: The waist belt might be a bit small for the high end of the range, but for loads in the 45+ pound range, I believe the suspension will stay stable and comfortable.

For aggressive trails or alpine trips that require boulder hopping, frequent river crossings, or terrain near Class IV, more flexible suspension is advisable.

For backpacking destinations that don’t require scrambling, the Osprey Aether 55 and Ariel 55 are great for heavier loads and longer travel plans. The weight of the backpacks makes them suitable for backpackers who are comfortable with carrying a variety of loads.

Not sure where your adventure will take you (and not particularly interested in extra ounces)? This pack is perfect.

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