Osprey Aether AG 70 Backpack Review

Osprey Aether AG 70 Backpack Review

The Osprey Aether AG 70 Backpack is designed for multi-day loads that demand capacity, support, and versatility while maximizing comfort. This internal frame backpack has adjustable torso length, is available in a variety of sizes, and is customizable if the off-the-shelf sizes aren’t appropriate. Its suspension system is one of the most comfortable ones I’ve used, handling higher loads easily. Compression straps keep the load tightly centered to the body, and a well-designed lid that converts to a daypack encourages excursions away from camp. While this pack will not appeal to the ultralight backpacker, its outstanding performance under higher weights will satisfy most other users.

Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Internal frame backpack
  • Adjustable Torso Length
  • Rain Cover: None
  • Hydration: bladder can be stored between shoulder straps and pack body or in internal sleeve
  • Trekking Pole Holder: yes
  • Bear Canister Compatible: yes, vertical or horizontal
  • • Top Lid: removable lid converts to day pack (12 ounces for medium), cover allows use without lid
  • Materials: 210D nylon (body), 500D nylon (bottom)
  • Size/Volume/Weight/Torso/Hip Belt
    • Small: 67L capacity, 5.162 pounds, torso range 16”-19”, hip belt range 29”-31”
    • Medium: 70L capacity, 5.168 pounds (as measured)/5.214 pounds (per manufacturer), torso range 18”-21”, hip belt range 30”-34”
    • Large: torso range 73L capacity, 5.266 pounds, 20”-23”, hip belt range 33”-37”
    • Extra Large: 76L capacity, 5.319 pounds, torso range 22”-25”, hip belt range 36”-60”

Osprey Aether AG 70 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Outstanding Suspension System

The Osprey Aether AG 70 is a flagship pack for extended expeditions, designed for those who need a backpack capable of carrying the weight required for longer trips, rugged enough for dependability deep in the backcountry, and comfortable enough to lighten the load.

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Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Aether AG 70 pack features Osprey’s AG suspension system, designed to maximize load transfer and breathability of their packs. The heart of the system is a wire tensioned frame that transfers the load to the hip belt without the large flat metal stays of a traditional internal frame. The tension in the AG suspension and mesh back panel keeps a ventilated space between pack and body as well as cushioning the load. The continuous mesh that is integrated into the pack body and hip belt gives a wraparound feel and allows the pack to stay balanced comfortably, avoiding the feel of a shifting load.

The Anti-Gravity suspension system uses mesh to improve ventilation between the wearer and the pack.
The Anti-Gravity suspension system uses mesh to improve ventilation between the wearer and the pack.

Part of the comfort of the Aether AG 70 is its superb ventilation. All the mesh materials are very breathable, and the non-mesh parts in contact with the wearer’s body are kept to a minimum. The tension inherent in the frame and panel design creates airspace along the back. This leads to better thermal regulation as I hike and also helps with skin health and chafing prevention by keeping sweat from pooling.

If the Aether AG 70 does fit you out of the box, there are replacement shoulder straps and hip belt available replaceable for multiple body styles which can be custom ordered from Osprey to dial in a custom fit.

The hip belt’s design creates an air gap for improved ventilation and a stable feel to the pack.
The hip belt’s design creates an air gap for improved ventilation and a stable feel to the pack.

Hipbelt

The hip belt wings are made of a padded mesh material. The large weave of the mesh maintains ventilation. The attachment points have a little bit of tension; as the wings are spread, the mesh panel of the suspension flexes outward from the body of the pack. This feature also makes the hip belt naturally circle the waist. There’s a definite “hugging” feel as soon as I put the pack on, and it creates lumbar support from the flex of the mesh. The hip belt assembly is heat-moldable for a custom fit. Mine felt properly fit off the shelf, so I didn’t need to do any molding, but it can be done at an outdoor store or with a heat gun.

Shoulder Straps

The shoulder straps feature the same wide mesh as the hipbelt and have sufficient foam padding to be cushiony. The torso height is adjustable with a hook and loop system and markers on the adjustment allow for repeatable placement. The straps come straight over the shoulders and then curve outward under the armpits.

The torso length is adjustable with a hook and loop fastening.
The torso length is adjustable with a hook and loop fastening.

The load lifters are the beefiest ones I’ve used. The attachment to the pack body is a thick, semi-rigid strap that slides into a pocket on the shoulder straps. A webbing adjustment on the outside of the load lifter pocket controls how tight the straps are. The advantage of this system is that the buckle is not directly on the body of the pack, so it is easier to reach. The thickness of the attachment point provides enough resistance to make it easy to loosen the buckle even under heavy load.

The sternum strap is height adjustable by sliding it up and down. It takes some force to move the strap up and down, but it holds securely when it is in place. The buckle for the sternum strap has an integrated whistle. One minor gripe is that the adjustment is opposite every other Osprey pack I have, with the fixed buckle on the left and the adjustable part on the right. The magnet attachment for the tube of my hydration bladder doesn’t fit on the left part, so I had to re-route that over the right shoulder. This old dog doesn’t learn the new trick of using his right hand to adjust the sternum tension or get a drink very easily!

The load lifter uses a sturdy strap that brings the adjustment buckle away from the body of the pack.
The load lifter uses a sturdy strap that brings the adjustment buckle away from the body of the pack.

There are two elastic loops on each shoulder strap. These can be used to hold a hydration tube, install a strap pocket, or clip small items like a Garmin InReach Mini or a notepad.

The pack also has a carry strap attached where the load lifter straps join the body. It’s a thin tubular mesh that has been flattened, and the rounded edges don’t cut into your hand even when moving a hefty load.

Water bottles can be pulled out from the side of the pocket for ease of access
Water bottles can be pulled out from the side of the pocket for ease of access

Backpack Storage and Organization

The lid of the pack has two pockets. The smaller zipper opens a flat pocket that is good for storing maps, plastic storage bags, or similar items. Inside this pocket is a fob with a clip to securely hold keys. The larger zipper opens into a bigger pocket, where I try to keep the items that I’m likely to need along the trail, such as trowel and journal.

The drawstring closure on the top of the pack body operates easily with one hand.
The drawstring closure on the top of the pack body operates easily with one hand.

The way the lid attaches to the pack tends to sandwich the free end of the adjustment strap between the tensioned part and the pack body, making them hard to change. Changing the volume of the pack body is one of the regular fundamental tweaks of a pack, as it varies as food reduces, the clothing carried vs. worn changes, and group gear is redistributed, and a pet peeve of mine is a floppy lid on a backpack. I reversed the buckles and had a much easier time adjusting it afterward: fold the free end perpendicular to the strap and feed the fold through both slots in the buckle.

The main body of the Aether 70 pack has three openings.

  1. The top has a large drawstring closure, and the closure mechanism is easily operated with one hand: pull the cords to tighten, pull the fob on the closure to release.
  2. An upside-down J-shaped zipper opens the central part of the body behind the front panel pocket.
  3. An upside-down U-shaped zipper opens the sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the body.
The middle of the pack body is accessible through a J-shaped zipper.
The middle of the pack body is accessible through a J-shaped zipper.

The sleeping bag compartment is separated from the main body by a divider panel that can be unfastened from the back of the pack. I think this panel would be better if it were either completely removable, unfastened from the front of the pack, or had a small clip that would keep it rolled or folded up when not in use. When it’s unfastened, its natural hanging position drapes down over the top of the lower access zipper to the pack. The divider does not block longer items like tent poles from lying vertically along the full length of the pack even when fastened.

On the front panel of the pack, a large stretch mesh pocket gives a good storage area for the fastest-access items or drying area for wet jackets, clothes, and rain flies. The two side pockets (my usual water bottle storage) on the bottom half of the pack are the same stretch mesh as the front panel, and they can hold items inserted from the top or the side. Zipper closure hip belt pockets on either wing of the hip belt make great storage for the items I want to be able to access without taking off the pack or asking a hiking partner to retrieve.

External Attachment Points

Several attachment points round out the pack’s storage and organization capabilities. Two ice ax loops are just above the sleeping bag compartment, and they line up with the bungee attachments at the top of the storage flap for proper stowage. The loops can be tucked into the flap above to keep them from snagging when not in use. Loops for securing trekking poles are on the left shoulder strap and left base of the pack, an arrangement that allows them to be stowed and deployed while walking.

The Aether AG 70 has lots of attachment points to clip on bulky hard to pack gear
The Aether AG 70 has lots of attachment points to clip on bulky hard to pack gear

Small attachment loops, perfect for clipping a carabiner, are on the face of pack, on either side of the front panel at the top and bottom. A loop is on the backside of each side pocket, a curious location for anything that might hang but useful as a tie point or for retaining straps for water bottles.

Two sleeping pad straps are at the base of the pack, stretching across the sleeping bag compartment opening. These are easily removable and fit a folding foam pad very well. Four tie loops on the lid allow attaching items to the top of the pack.

Trekking poles may be stowed “on the go” so you don’t have tostop and take off the backpack
Trekking poles may be stowed “on the go” so you don’t have tostop and take off the backpack

There are multiple compression straps to reduce the volume of the pack: two on the face, a diagonal one high on each side, and a Z strap setup low on the side. The Z strap can be routed either over or under the side pocket. Off the shelf, one is typically routed over the pocket and one under the pocket (I usually route both underneath the pocket).

Versatility

Osprey puts a lot of thought into making their products versatile. A nice example of that is the lid of the Aether AG 70, which is removable to make a day pack that is useful as a summit bag or excursions from camp. The day pack is nicely featured in its own right as well, featuring a hydration sleeve, sternum strap, and ice ax loop complete with bungee attachment. It’s a great little feature on an extended trip for a water run or day hike.

The lid of the pack converts to a day pack.
The lid of the pack converts to a day pack. You can also remove it from the pack to drop the pack weight to 4 lbs 7 oz, in which case a speed lid covers the top drawstring opening.

The downside of the convertible day pack lid is that it adds weight—about 12 ounces. If you’d like to travel in a more minimal mode, the lid can be left off entirely, making the pack weight for the medium about 4 pounds, 7 ounces. A cover attached to the pack allows it to be used without the lid.

Another example of the Aether AG 70’s versatility is the hydration bladder options. The bladder can be held in a sleeve within the main compartment of the pack or slid between the shoulder straps and the pack body.

Performance

I had a very positive feel from this pack the moment I put it on. The weight rides very nicely on the hips and the frame does a great job of transferring load via the load lifters. The way the slight tension in the mesh back panel creates a bit of pressure against the back feels supportive. I especially like the wraparound feel of the pack; it moves with me extremely well even over rough terrain. The overall feel of the pack under load is that it is snug and secure. The design of the pack keeps it well ventilated, making this an extremely comfortable pack.

The front storage panel is handy for stowing rain gear or other items that may be quickly needed, or wet items for drying.
The front storage panel is handy for stowing rain gear or other items that may be quickly needed, or wet items for drying.

Its volume is also more than adequate for a full week trip. The numerous organization options keep me from rummaging too much for gear. A BearVault BV500 fits both vertically and horizontally within the body of the pack. I got the green color, and occasionally the darker fabric made it harder to locate an item because of the lower contrast. However, I like the green tones in the outdoors, and it doesn’t show trail dirt readily.

Osprey packs have a reputation for toughness and durable construction, and the Aether AG 70 is no exception. The pack material is substantial, and the seams are all solid. The stress points such as the bottom shoulder strap and load lifter attachments are substantial and reinforced. The bottom of the pack is even more heavily reinforced with heavy-duty nylon. Zippers operate smoothly with no snags, and their stitching is durable.

Straps on the front of the sleeping bag compartment can hold larger gear such as a sleeping pad. Note that the ice ax loop can be stowed in its own pocket when not in use.
Straps on the front of the sleeping bag compartment can hold larger gear such as a sleeping pad. Note that the ice ax loop can be stowed in its own pocket when not in use.

Little touches

A lot of little details go into the design that contribute to its usability and comfort. The top of the frame is bent to provide a “scoop” at top of the pack that gives a little bit of extra headspace, keeping me from feeling like the pack is pushing my head forward. The one-handed operation of the drawstring closure is a great feature. The main zipper pulls have a rubberized spreader to form a ring, which is very convenient when wearing gloves. Elastic on the lid keeps its contents firmly held. The loops at the end of the shoulder strap adjustments are easy to hook with a finger to shift the weight a bit. Buckles and ice ax loops can be tucked away in little pockets to keep them from snagging. Such thoughtfulness of design is evident throughout.

Comparable Backpacks

Make and ModelPriceWeightVolumeAccessPockets
REI Traverse 702494 lb. 14 oz.35, 70L, 85LTop, front11 exterior
Gregory Baltoro 753304 lb. 15.4 oz.65, 75, 85LTop, front10 exterior
Osprey Aether AG 703105 lb. 3.4 oz.60, 70, 85LTop, front7 exterior
Deuter Futura Vario 50+102304 lb. 9oz.60LTop, front11 exterior
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+102204 lbs. 6 oz75LTop, front7 exterior
Osprey Atmos AG 652704 lb. 9 oz.50, 65LTop8 exterior

Recommendation

The Osprey Aether AG 70 is a flagship pack for extended expeditions, designed for those who need a backpack capable of carrying the weight required for longer trips, rugged enough for dependability deep in the backcountry, and comfortable enough to lighten the load. I have this pack both backcountry and car camping situations and I am thoroughly impressed with its weight carrying ability. The pack ventilates well, and I was very pleased with the way it kept the load from shifting as I moved through a variety of terrain. The Anti-Gravity Suspension system is a best-in-class feature that deserves serious consideration for backpackers. I am extremely pleased with this pack, and I highly recommend the Osprey Aether AG 70 for anyone needing to handle a large load.

Disclosure: The author purchased this backpack.

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

About the author

Carl Nelson developed his interest in the outdoors on childhood family road trips that included many National Parks. He was introduced to backpacking through Boy Scouts in the 1980s. He refined his interest and skills in college as a trip leader for the Vanderbilt University Outdoor Recreation program, culminating in leading a week-long backpack in the Grand Canyon three times. He is an Eagle Scout and Assistant Scoutmaster, frequently serving as the adult advisor for his troop’s outdoor activities. His backpacking experience ranges from his home state of Tennessee to the Appalachians, the Rockies, the Cascades, Philmont Scout Ranch, and China. Carl is an avid photographer and reader, a self-proclaimed gear nerd, and an unabashed lover of maps.

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16 comments

  1. I think this review would benefit from a better discussion of when this pack is appropriate. It is easy to dismiss ‘ultralight’ backpackers, but compared with a large number of 2.5# packs that can carry weights of 30# leads well, when do you think it is justified to bring an extra 3# of pack? My guesses are very heavy packs, awkward loads where you can’t pack your bag well, etc.

    • M B., the difficulty from a review perspective with doing that is how quickly it would overshadow the actual review, because the thought process for another can vary greatly from mine. For example, I’ve reached an age where my comfort level on longer trips is greatly dependent upon not chafing on the points of my hips and having load lifters that transfer weight to the hips well. Therefore, I frequently choose a heavier pack with more padding and beefier load lifters to better meet those needs; a couple more pounds are worth not having raw hips to me. That’s not the criteria for everyone, and discussing those in sufficient depth within the context of a review detracts from the review’s ability to convey information to the reader about the product… which is why they are reading the review in the first place. Thus the review tends to focus on facts about the gear, my experiences with it, and how it performs in the expected/intended use, so the reader can make their own determination about whether it fits their needs.

      An article on criteria for when UL gear or “normal” weight gear is appropriate sounds like it would serve the community–thanks for the suggestion! For me, it’s about understanding what the tradeoff is for the reduction in weight of a particular piece of gear, and understanding my personal “hierarchy of needs” as a hiker: skills, comfort, durability, safety, etc.

      • The comments and exchange between author and reader on a review as important are the original article itself. It’s why we like this format so much.

      • It’s always a problem for me torso range and hip belt range to accommodate my dimensions

      • Thanks for the thoughtful response. As you said, personal preference and hiking style is a pretty big deal and as long as people are enjoying themselves, hyoh.

        Some people like super comfy sleep systems, warmer bags, burlier or more vented backs, some people like to bake bread on trail. . . others don’t want to carry more than 10# at any time. Whatever works for you. Still, insight into the authors goals/uses makes reviews a lot more useful in my opinion.

      • Stuart, that’s always a consideration. The proper fit of backpack and shoes are the two most critical contributors to a happy hike!

        M.B., I love how the UL movement has really changed the backpacking gear movement, where now most of us consider what the value to us is of the increased weight! Reviews are, by their very nature, dependent on personal impression. You’re right that knowing the goals of the reviewer is a great guide to how well the review aligns with the way you’d be using the gear, and what the expectations of the reviewer are! There’s no right gear or right way for everyone to backpack.

    • Isn’t carrying the weight of any item be it pack, tent, etc.up to whose back the weight is on to determine whether it is appropriate?

      There are plenty of trips, most actually where I carry overbuilt items for the actual task at hand.. And I have a good time.

      Some ride a crotch rocket even though the speed limit is 55, Some drive a Escalade even though a Subaru would be better on gas and easier to park.

      Just saying…..

      • Anthony, I know exactly what you mean. I occasionally have ridiculous gear for a weekend trip, simply because in the role with my Scout troop I’m the safety net for other peoples’ children. Extra stoves/fuel canisters/mess kits/snacks/water bottles, hard copies of emergency contact information, tarps, larger size group gear items, and so on… my pack is routinely 10-15 pounds heavier when I go on those trips than when I am on my own.

        The bonus of that is that when I’m on my own, my pack feels so much lighter!

  2. I have owned this pack for almost one year and absolutely love it. I have used it for many multi day backpacking trips in the Adirondacks and it is as good as it gets. It can carry everything I need to enjoy my adventures.
    It is a heavier and a more rugged pack than UL packs. I do have a Gossamer Gear pack, which I like, but find myself not using it as much as my Osprey Aether 70.

  3. This looks like an 2018 model of the Aether AG 70 same one I have newer model is different

  4. I have several Osprey packs and while they are all heavy for their class they carry lighter than other packs in their class. Comfort beats UL any day.

    • Greg, I like the way you put that about Osprey being heavy but carrying lighter. A lighter pack that leaves me feeling beat up at the end of the day has much less value to me than one that keeps me healthy and happy.

  5. I have an older Osprey pack that I got from some New England based blogger who has a current post on Osprey packs. The pack is extremely comfortable but too heavy for my solo hikes. However, when my family does group hikes in Big Bend, that pack gets put to use. On a group hike, it’s possible to spread out the load and I just limit the total weight carried by each pack so that pack weight doesn’t come into play. One family member is first in line for that Osprey. I also use it as my motorcycling in the desert pack because of its comfort.

  6. The full framed Ospreys do carry great. I had 2, a USA made 1990s era Zenith that I carried all over the West, primarily in Wyoming and Montana.

    I had some spectacular times with that pack.

    I have a Crescent 85 liter that I used here in the North East that I would still be using but it got cruddy with mold.

    They both made a load feel lighter on the back. Great packs.

    Thanks for the review.

  7. Great write up wish I found it sooner explained a lot. I haven’t made a decision yet on the size yet I know I’m a medium in the pack but I’m not sure what liter I need 70 or 85, I found some details on how many liters the lid is only what it converts to a Daypack, 16L but I’m wondering how many liters is the pack with out the lid/brain Aether 70 AG in medium?

  8. I got this pack after first getting the Aether 60 and realizing that it wasn’t quite big enough in volume. When I returned to REI to check out the 70, the nice folks had me try on a medium and it fit much better. I’m 6′-2″ and weigh 180. The Large (Aether 60) hip belt was pulled all the way in on my 34″ waist and the shoulder strap height was as low as it would go…the medium (Aether 70) fit much better. Looking forward to hitting the trail with it. With the extra room in the 70, I’ll probably leave the daypack/lid at home.

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