I'm in an odd position in that I camp year round so the larger pack was what I was looking for. After some research and playing at the local shops I settled on the Aether 70 or Xenith 75 series from Osprey as my best bets. There were two reasons: One, my primary gear is set up for kayaking which has lots of space but is not exactly heavy. It just doesn't compress. IE: Takes up lots of space. The second being that I do camp in winter so as the sleeping bag and tent get smaller/lighter (budget allowing) I can put more winter apparel in. That was the plan at any rate.

The day before I went in to spring for it an Aether 85 came up on Craigslist literally 2 miles from my home. It was the '12 model so it has the inside reservoir and lacked the nifty pockets on the waist belt but otherwise is pretty much the same pack. After being told it was dirty from his 5 winter hikes I was still curious. When I got there it looked like it was cleaner than some still sitting in the shops with the tags on it! $100 later I had a nice new pack that was larger than I intended.

Even with the extra size and being a backpacking newbie I knew not to fill it completely. I ended up doing so anyhow as my partners 32 liter pack borrowed from her son barely held her oversized old sleeping bag and clothes. Yep, 85 liters worth of pretty much the entire camp was strapped to my back for a 7.5 mile in and 9.5 mile out pretty much vertical hike. My first backpacking trip... Yeah, gotta start with the rough ones, right?

I can only say that the pack, 50+lbs and all, performed well beyond my expectations! No sore spots, no rubbing, no odd balances, etc. It did everything I asked it to and when I needed to add a few things she couldn't carry it swallowed them with room to spare. As the upgrades come I will still use this pack without hesitation. Yes it's a little heavier than a smaller bag but not likely by much. The compression straps on the outside easily make it smaller when it's not full so it would act like a smaller bag.

Maybe I'm unique in that I'm not counting grams or springing $750 for an item 3 ounces less than the $75 item, but it works for me. The only thing that I keep in mind is I'd much rather have a larger bag and NOT need the space than find myself having to leave things that I would use because I can't carry them in a smaller bag. I've learned the hard way over the years not to rely on others to portage their own items as I inevitably end up as the pack-mule. <sigh>

That said, as soon as the other upgrades are made an Aether 70 is definitely on the buy list if not the 60 for summer use.

Edited by AdventureMyk (06/16/14 01:08 PM)