I previewed the Osprey Aether 70 pack back in November before I set off for the summit of Aconcagua. I’m happy say that I made it to the top, thanks in no small part to this pack. Carrying everything to the top without it would not have been fun at all.
One of my favorite features of this pack is the shape of the straps, which Osprey calls the IsoForm4™ Harness. Now, everyone knows that shoulder straps are essential. If you attempt to use a pack with just the hip belt, sooner or later it will pull you over backwards, at which point you will explode, then die. The great thing about these IsoForm4™ straps is that they’re shaped so that you can actually use your arms while wearing the pack. And the pack won’t topple or kill you. Not even a little!
Want to give someone a hug? Go right ahead. Want to use your trekking poles? You can do that without armpit/shoulder pain. Want to fight off a bear? Hope you have a huge gun and a clean pair of shorts.
Aconcagua’s base camp is attractively known as Plaza de Mulas, or “The Mule Place.” There are certainly a lot of mules, but we were not warned that it is also The Mouse Place. A mouse got into our mess tent the night before we made our push for the summit and gnawed my buddy’s Osprey Aether 85 strap. Luckily, our guides, Uli and Luco of Fernando Grajales Expeditions, quickly performed some pack strap surgery, and all was well. My buddy’s repaired pack went all the way up without further issue.
Another of my favorite features on this pack is that it has a lot of thoughtfully-placed compression straps, on the sides as well as the front. I cannot abide a shifting pack, and the nature of our Aconcagua expedition required us to have different loads in our pack from day to day, so it had to adapt constantly. The Aether 70 handled this very well.
My buddy’s Aether 85 would have handled it well too if its owner cared about his pack being all sloppy. Seriously, dude, how can you stand your pack shifting around like that? It drives me nuts. The guy’s walking around with the bestselling backpack series on the market strapped to him and he uses it like a burlap sack. He’s my buddy though, and he puts up with me being a grumpy jerk, so that’s life on the mountain, I guess.
As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, taken just before we started up the mountain for the 5 day trip to the summit, I used the compression straps to hold my inflatable sleeping pad. Due to Aconcagua’s cold temperatures, not to mention my lazy, feeble body, I brought along a two-part sleeping pad system consisting of a cheap closed-cell foam pad from Walmart and my Thermarest inflatable. This worked great for sleeping, but the Osprey’s bedroll straps weren’t designed to accommodate them both at once. Even so, it worked out fine.
As you can see, I also used these straps to attach my high-visibility high-comfort low-weight camp shoes via a carabiner. Laugh all you want, but shuffling around camp in Crocs and socks is a real treat after a long day of double plastic boots. Believe it. I wasn’t the only one, either. Most of the base camp staff, not to mention our head guide, all rock Crocs.
Aconcagua’s cold temps kept me from using the hydration bladder compartment on this pack, which is a shame because I require water to live. It would just have turned into a block of ice, though, so I made extensive use of the Aether 70’s side pockets stuffed with Nalgenes. The pockets are easy to get to with the pack on, even with my ungainly orangutan-like arms.
I also love the hip belt on this pack, which is easy to tighten thanks to the straps, which pull away from the body to tighten. This made it easy for me to get the hip belt tight enough, which can be a struggle for me due to my love handles and mom hips. Osprey’s IsoForm4™ system to the rescue once again!
All things considered, this pack made a very hard expedition easier to complete, which is the purpose of any piece of gear, I think. Thanks a million, Osprey!