Osprey Aether Plus 85 Rucksack Review

osprey-aether-plus-85-rucksack-review

Over the last few months Stu has been testing a huge equipment load hauler and his Osprey Aether Plus 85 Rucksack Review is now ready to see the light of day. We really hope you find it useful.

First Impressions

The first thing to get out there straight away is that the Osprey Aether Plus 85 is huge! Then again, if you are in the market for an 85 litre pack you will expect that. The next thing to mention is features. There is a lot going on here with straps, pockets and attachment points. One of my first criteria for a rucksack is that it must look simple and uncomplicated. In my experience most adjusters, sliders and straps become redundant once the required fit is obtained.

For this reason the Osprey Aether Plus 85 immediately looked like the sort of pack I would avoid. I was actually quite worried how this Osprey Aether Plus 85 rucksack review would turn out! However, Osprey have a very strong reputation for quality packs and so I decided they wouldn’t do something without good reason. I began examining the pack in detail and fortunately it began to make sense. Very good sense indeed.

Features

Osprey claim the Aether Plus 85 will provide “uncompromising comfort, ventilation and stability for your multi-day adventures.” So how does the pack expect to achieve this? This is the benchmark against which my Osprey Aether Plus 85 rucksack review was undertaken.

The pack is made from hard-wearing 420D High Tenacity Bluesign Nylon. This has stood up well to being bashed around against rocks and prodded with walking-poles. This fabric is designed and manufactured to the highest environmental standards. Its durability reinforces Osprey’s pledge that the longer a pack stays useable, the fewer new packs are needed. This brings an associated lesser environmental impact from manufacture.

The Main Pack

The lid consists of two compartments. One is large enough to take multiple OS maps and whatever kit you need to keep handy. The other is smaller and contains a useful key-clip.

The interior of the Osprey Aether Plus 85 can be divided into two compartments or used as a single huge space. The internal divider flap is supported by two locking sliders rather than traditional clips. This halves the plastic used for this feature. There is also an internal hydration sleeve with a covered flap for the hose.

The J-front panel access zip allows you to open the front of the pack. This makes it easy to get to those items packed lower down without having to unpack everything. Very useful if you’re carrying everything for a multi-day trek.

The front panel has two large side-by-side zipped compartments. They are big enough to fit most water bottles or a pair of sandals. Finally, there is a front flap with stretch-panel sides. This can accommodate a climbing helmet, a pair of crampons or a spare jacket.

The base compartment of the Osprey Aether Plus 85 is accessible through a chunky double zip. This is perfect for stowing items like your sleeping bag separately with the internal divider in place. As a touch of design genius, the sleeping-mat straps hold items like a mat or tent against the front of the pack and not across the base. This means that every time you put the pack down you don’t crush your mat. The pack also remains stable and upright when stood on the ground. To round off the front features, two compression flaps and two compression straps keep your kit secure and stable. This stays true whatever you are carrying and however full the pack is.

The sides of the Osprey Aether Plus 85 have two extremely large stretch mesh pockets for carrying drinks bottles, tent poles, spare trekking poles or wet clothing. The mesh is reinforced by zig-zag compression straps. Further straps provide compression for the top section of the pack. All the zips have large looped zip-pulls. Perfect for use with gloved hands.

External Fixings

There are twin ice-axe loops, or trekking-pole loops depending on use. These have simple chunky elasticated holders to secure them. Osprey’s “Stow-on-the-Go” trekking pole attachment system allows easy on the go pole storage. It works really well. Finally, there’s a rain cover zipped up in the base which attaches to loops around the pack. This provides weatherproof protection when needed.

The large amount of straps, which initially seemed so confusing, make perfect sense. Even with the pack half empty the straps provide effective compression to keep the contents secure and stable. So far the promise of “uncompromising stability” has been met.

The Lid

To increase the versatility of the Osprey Aether 85 the lid is detachable. Undo two clips at the top of the pack and the lid comes away. When you unzip the secret compartment the lid opens up into a large daypack complete with shoulder straps. This is properly designed too. The lid pockets become front pockets and the lining of the lid opens out into 16 litres of space. Inside it has a hanger and sleeve for a hydration pack and channels on the shoulder straps to hold the hose securely. This is perfect for trips away from your base where you don’t want to carry all of your gear with you. And never fear! When you take the lid off the main pack, another secret compartment holds a flap-cover that unrolls and clips over the opening of the rucksack while the real lid is being used elsewhere.

The Harness

In many ways the harness is the most crucial part of a rucksack. Osprey are extremely good at providing a comfortable fit. But, a pack this size must be able to comfortably carry significant weight over a number of days. Osprey’s AG AntiGravity 3D system is truly brilliant. The harness is fully-adjustable over the length of the torso by means of two easily-accessible locking sliders. There is a clear gauge to make sure both sides are equal.

The Airscape backpanel is supremely comfortable and allows ventilation to reduce sweating. Shoulder strap adjustment is by standard straps over the top. The sternum strap has a whistle integrated. The pre-curved IsoForm hipbelt moulds to your body. This provides secure load-bearing and weight-transfer to your hips and legs. There is a large zipped utility pocket on each side of the belt. Large velcro patches either side mean you can customise the fit perfectly. This is crucial when the hipbelt carries most of the weight of the pack.

In Use

There is a saying that whatever the size of your pack, you will fill it. The sheer size of the Osprey Aether Plus 85 had me very excited when planning a trip. I definitely had the space to take some extra luxuries with me. Fully-loaded I found the pack weighed around 20kg. Rather more than I would normally aim for.

The Magic Rucksack

How do you lose 20 kg of weight without losing any kit? Osprey have the answer! Lifting the Osprey Aether Plus 85 onto my back was a bit of a struggle. Once the pack was fitted and the harness adjusted there was a miracle. The pack still weighed 20kg but it seemed like half of the weight had vanished. Osprey’s Anti-Gravity harness system transferred the weight extremely effectively. Most of the weight was above my core. I felt extremely balanced and secure, even climbing steep hills and on rocky terrain. This made for greatly increased confidence when negotiating potentially serious ground and added much to the enjoyment of the trip.

The Stow-on-the-Go system worked exactly as advertised. I could easily stow my poles and negotiate awkward rocky steps. Afterwards I could be on my way quickly when the terrain eased. The hip belt pockets carried a good supply of boiled sweets and chocolate. Thanks to the large zip-pulls even gloved hands had no difficulty opening and accessing them. 

Once at camp it was easy to get out my tent and put it up without scattering gear everywhere. The J-zip front opening of made quick access to my gear easy. At a rest stop during the day it was easy to get to my cooking gear and water to make a hot drink. The only problem I had was remembering what kit I had stowed in which part of the pack!

When half full the compression straps kept everything secure so there was no annoying bouncing going on. This has been a problem I have encountered in the past with some packs. With a lighter pack the Anti-Gravity harness system meant that it felt like I was carrying very little weight at all.

Other Details

The Aether Plus 85 is available in both black and a colour called axo green. It is available in 2 back lengths although, given the adjustability, it will actually suit a very broad range of users. It weighs 2.7kgs.

Summary

My Osprey Aether Plus 85 Rucksack review shows this pack to be more than up to its intended uses. It is a pack that can carry a heavy load in perfect stable comfort. The design means it is extremely versatile and can match whatever combinations of kit you choose to pack. It can hold the contents securely however full or empty it is. The quality of construction is outstanding. All the seams are securely stitched. The main seams are covered and reinforced where necessary. The sliders and buckles all work smoothly. The zips are large and hard-wearing with large easy-to-pull loops.

The Osprey Aether Plus 85 is also covered by Osprey’s brilliant “All Mighty Guarantee”. This means Osprey will repair any manufacturing defects free of charge. They will also endeavour to repair any wear-and-tear damage at a reasonable cost.

At a retail price of £270.00, this is not a cheap rucksack. However, for your money you get a large yet versatile pack covering many different uses. This could mean fewer packs to buy. Osprey’s build-quality and guarantee mean that this pack should last far longer than you will remember the price. Also, with Osprey’s impeccable environmental credentials you are also helping to reduce the strain on the environments that you love.

Full details on the Aether Plus 85 are available on the Osprey website here. Please also read our report about Osprey’s drive for sustainable rucksack production here.