Pick A Pack: Osprey Ariel 55
The Osprey Ariel 55 is the first backpacking pack that I’ve owned. My review may seem tilted since this is the only backpacking pack I’ve used. That being said, I see no reason to try another - it has worked out wonderfully for backpacking trips. And if it helps, I tried on a dozen other bags before deciding on this big red beast, so that's something!
The pack holds a large amount of gear with the 55 liter capacity and carries it very well. The pack has the right amount of pockets and stashes for organizing a bit. It also has several external gear attachment points so you can add attachments to the outside of the pack, from sleeping pads to mugs to trekking poles.
The bag comes in three different sizes (55, 65, and 75 liter), with the 55 liter being the smallest. I’ve never wished the bag was bigger, since it tends to get fairly heavy when it’s packed to the limits. I am a 5’6” female and the small fits me just right. It’s also available in an extra small or medium size. The harness is adjustable so you can get the fit just right. You can also customize it with an entirely different sized harness if needed. I got lucky and had an Osprey expert help me out at a special event, and he got the bag dialed in just right for my body. It’s quite comfortable, even when it’s packed to the limit.
So let’s get into the details - the pack is made by Osprey, so it comes with a great quality of construction and a warranty. That warranty is great to have, considering that these bags are definitely not the cheapest. When I consider hauling around double digit weight on my back, I’m willing to spend a little extra to be sure I’m getting a high quality, warranty covered, and comfortable, properly fitted bag. It’s available in Wheat Brown, Deep Blue Sea, or my color - Vermilion Red.
This pack is a top loading style, with a floating top lid. The lid raises higher allowing you to stuff things underneath (like a stuffed panda, or you know, a bear can or sleeping pad). The lid pack can also be removed and used as a lumbar pack (I’ve never done this). While it is a drawstring style top loader, there is also a “J” shaped zipper on the front of the pack allowing for quick and easy access to items packed lower. This is maybe my favorite feature on the pack. There is another zipper on the bottom for a sleeping bag compartment, with a removable divider inside to keep items separate inside the bag.
If you opt to use a hydration bladder, it fits externally just behind the harness. I have done this once, and it worked out quite well. Alternatively, the mesh pockets on the sides are huge and swallow two large 40 ounce bottles. Also, a rain cover is included with the pack.
The organization - This pack has a lot of straps on the outside, which can seem overwhelming, but they are rather smartly designed and laid out. There are stow and go loops for your trekking poles, as well as attachment points on the back of the bag. There are two removable straps on the very bottom which adjust to hold a sleeping pad or tent roll. The dual side compression straps adjust to compress the pack or to attach something like tent poles quite easily. There are two compression straps (called StraightJacket by Osprey) which help compress and stabilize things, but also allow for more stuff to be strapped to the outside! The pack has one large mesh pocket on the front of the bag which stretches to hold a jacket quite nicely - it also has a strap to close it securely.
The suspension - It’s excellent. It’s adjustable for torso height, which is amazing if you're like me and fall right between two sizes. Being able to dial in a perfect torso and hip belt fit is just amazing. The harness on the Ariel is specific for a women’s fit, which means the straps are nicely curved for a smooth and comfortable ride. The hip belt is a mold-able foam which also allows for a dialed in fit. The hip pockets are nice and roomy for snacks and quick access to small items. There are stiffeners inside the hip belts to aid in the support. There is also a sternum strap with the standard Osprey whistle, and two nice load lifter straps. The back panel is the Osprey AirScape design, a very breathable style.
Note: I do not have the "Anti Gravity" version. I tried that newer version when shopping for this pack, and did not prefer the "grabby" straps. This version, with regular straps, is what I preferred.
The list of details is long with a pack of this size with so much thought put into the design. This pack has become my faithful “big pack”. It holds a lot of weight very comfortably. It is an easy pack to fill, and easier to wear. There are plenty of storage options and quick access to the internal compartment, which makes it easy to get to things on the trail. It has been on a few backpacking trips now and I look forward to quite a few more!
What I Love:
Excellent hip belt support, and they are soft and comfortable!
Adjustable for fit in the straps, hip belt, and torso size. So smart!
So many quick attachment points with straps, loops, etc!
What I Don't Love:
The bag can get heavy because it really holds a lot and adjusts to hold more than you think it will. This is the reason that I stuck with the 55 liter. It helps me to try to stay light. It can handle up to 60 pounds from what I’ve read, but I’ve never gotten it over 40.
Osprey has updated this pack since this review was written. I have the pack mentioned and pictured in this blog. The new version features the "Anti-Gravity" harness system, which mine does not have. I prefer the style that I have, so I'll be keeping this pack for quite a lot longer! Due to this update, the link above will take you to the newer pack, which is what Osprey has available now.
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