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Pack Big for Backcountry Hikes: Osprey Introduces ‘Plus’ Backpacks for Aether & Ariel

Photo credit: Nathaniel Wilder
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Osprey celebrates the 25th anniversary of its signature backpack with tougher, high-volume models that hold from 60 L up to 100 L of gear. The Aether and Ariel Plus packs are made for multiday journeys — just in time for fall backpacking trips that require packing more gear.

The Aether blazed a trail for backpacking standards, and Osprey has continued to evolve this signature backpack and the women’s-specific Ariel version. The Plus models upgrade the material to high-tenacity nylon and add tech to fine-tune the fit and hold variable loads closer to the body.

Osprey is known for making several sizes to accommodate a range of hikers. The Aether Plus comes in four new volumes in two adjustable sizes, and the Ariel Plus in three new volumes and two adjustable sizes.

See Osprey’s Aether & Ariel Plus Backpacks

Osprey Aether Plus
Photo credit: Nathaniel Wilder

The Aether and Ariel Plus backpacks are made for deep excursions into the backcountry that require more essentials than an average hike. To make long hauls more comfortable, Osprey engineered its Custom-Fit-on-the-Fly fit system to dial the fit and stabilize the load as it changes over the journey.

Below, we’ll run through the small design tweaks that led to an entirely new backpack that still, according to the brand, holds true to the function and aesthetics of the original.

Upgrades to the Aether & Ariel Plus Backpacks

  • High load capacity
  • Lightwire spring steel suspension
  • Custom-Fit-on-the-Fly hip belt and shoulder strap
  • Detachable lid that converts to a daypack (with a fly for use without)
  • Constructed from more durable high-tenacity nylon

Osprey founder Mike Pfotenhauer worked with the design team to streamline the pack’s design by first getting rid of the interchangeable harness and hip belt. Hence the new Custom-Fit-on-the-Fly design, which lets you release and adjust the Velcro-mounted hip belts and shoulder straps. The adjustability is built around the brand’s three pillars of fit — torso length, hip belt, and shoulder straps — to accommodate a variety of body types.

Keeping heavy packs close to the body provides a better center of gravity. This improves with comfort and safety on more technical terrain. The Lightwire spring steel frame helps stiffen the suspension and transfer some of the load to the hip belt. A mesh-covered, breathable back panel uses foam cutouts and air channels to juggle ventilation and adequate contact with the back.

With sustainability being a key element in Osprey’s business model, the brand chose Bluesign-approved materials for the main body and a PFC-free DWR to minimize the environmental impact of the backpacks.

Osprey Aether Plus and Ariel Plus backpacks

Access & Accommodations

At some point, you’ll want to drop some gear at camp and soak in the sights. The Day Lid is a removable pack for just these types of side excursions or day trips. And there’s a DWR rain cover to protect the pack you leave behind.

A theme of the Aether and Ariel features is easy access to your gear. There’s nothing fun about rummaging around for a piece of gear — or worse, having to start unpacking to find it. The packs’ front panel side zips to grab items like the rainfly or a rain jacket when the rain comes. Another dual zip opens the entire front panel to rearrange the load or unpack big items.

On the sides, the dual-access mesh water bottle pocket offers an alternative to traditional top opening pockets, which can be hard to reach with the backpack on. On the Aether and Ariel Plus, an angled opening on the side of the pocket’s bottom gives access to the bottom of the bottle.

Carrying trekking poles and ice axes makes hauling high-volume loads easier and safer, so there are attachments and bungees to secure them to the outside of the pack.



Osprey Aether and Ariel Plus backpack

Osprey Aether & Ariel Plus Specs

  • Removable lid converts to a daypack
  • Integrated FlapJacket cover for lidless use
  • Front panel zippered side pockets for easy access
  • Front panel zip to access the main compartment
  • Dual-access mesh side water bottle pockets
  • Side and front panel compression straps
  • Dual-zip hip belt pockets
  • Trek pole attachments and dual ice axe loops with bungees
  • Zippered sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider
  • Removable sleeping pad straps
  • Internal water reservoir sleeve

Model Sizing

Osprey Aether Plus: 100L, 85L, 70L, and 60L volumes in two sizes: S/M (12-20.5 inches) and L/XL (19.5-23 inches).

Osprey Ariel Plus: 85L, 70L, and 60L volumes in two sizes: XS/S (14-17 inches) and M/L (16-19.5 inches).

Osprey Ariel Plus Backpack
Photo credit: Nathaniel Wilder

This article is sponsored by Osprey. Find out more about the Aether and Ariel family of backpacks here.

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