User Review: Osprey Aether 70
Design: Front/top loading
Size: 4,300 cubic inches
Number of Pockets: Don't know, haven't counted
Max. Load Carried: 45 pounds
Height of Owner: 5'11"
Price Paid: $240
I was originally going to buy a Gregory Baltoro, but noticed the weight difference between it and the Osprey and went with the Osprey Aether 70. I have used it for a multi-day section hike on the AT in Georgia and also on several shorter hikes in North Carolina and North Florida.
What I like about the pack, in addition to its 4.5 pound weight, is there are "just enough" pockets and storage places. It is neither an empty shell, like a Catalyst, nor a maze of pockets, like a Whitney. I prefer to dispense with the partition between the sleeping bag and the main compartments, so I can shove tent and/or poles down to the bottom of the pack to optimize space above. The side pockets are perfect for Nalgene 48 oz bottles - more than adequate for carrying water for meals. I personally don't like putting a hydration bladder inside my pack, because it takes up premium space and there's a spillage risk. I put mine on the outside/rear of the pack, and use the hydration sleeve inside for dirty clothes or other segregation items.
I agree with the other reviewer that the pocket on the back is inconvenient to find a use for. Maybe to carry camp flip-flops? I clip my Crocs with a light carabiner.
Interestingly, I did not initially like the hipbelt. I followed Osprey's advice and got an XL based on my midriff bulge. As I used the pack, it seemed to loosen up a bit, to the point that I did not feel like the load was being supported by my hips, but by my shoulders instead. I did not feel "confident" that way. So, I got a Large belt as a replacement, and I now feel the load transfer to my hips, in the same way as the (stiffer) Gregory belts.
In closing let me make three points: First, if I had it to do over again, I'd still get the Aether 70 for weight and features. Second, I like mine so much I got my wife an Ariel 65; and it fits her like it was custom-made for her. Third, if I was doing a thru-hike, like the length of the AT, I would probably opt for an Aether 85, for that extra space for food and clothing at the start of each 5 day section, between re-stocking points.