Osprey Aether Plus 85 Review | The Pack That Does It All

When you’re moving deep into the mountains on a long and technical hiking trip, trusting that your hiking backpack will continue to stay comfortable and durable while taking a heavy beating is paramount. Luckily, Osprey has shown their prowess time and time again and you’ll find no less in the Osprey Aether Plus 85 technical backpack.

For many, the Osprey Aether Plus 85 will be overkill. But if you’ve clicked on this review, I’m guessing you’re in need of a heavy-duty hiking pack that can comfortably fit a large and heavy load and that is exactly where the Aether Plus 85 excels.

Packed to the brim with handy features and supporting a suspension system that is superior to any others we’ve tested, the Osprey Aether Plus 85 is the best backpack for heavy hauling through harsh terrain. But of course, nothing is perfect and there are a few things to note about this hiking backpack.

In this post, you’ll find my honest review of the Osprey Aether Plus 85 technical hiking backpack including why I chose this pack, similar alternative options, what I would change and my experience thus far.

Adjusting straps on my Osprey Aether Plus 85L hiking backpack with tripod in side pocket

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My Honest Review Of The Osprey Aether Plus 85 Backpack

Quick Info

Price: $600
Material: Main and bottom: bluesign-approved 210D high-tenacity nylon, Accent: bluesign approved 210D high-tenacity nylon honeycomb contrast – PFC-free DWR
Weight: S/M: 2.76 kg, L/XL: 2.88 kg
Volume: S/M: 83 litres, L/XL: 85 litres
Load Range: 18 – 32 kg
Sustainability: Bluesign-approved fabric, PCF-free DWR
Size: S/M, L/XL
Alternative Options: Men’s: Aether Plus 60, Aether Plus 70, Aether Plus 100 | Women’s: Ariel Plus 60, Ariel Plus 70, Ariel Plus 85

Osprey Aether 85L Hiking Backpack, a perfect pack for camping in the mountains

Positives:

  • Superior support with a heavy load
  • Super customisable
  • Loads of organisational compartments
  • Extremely durable
  • Lifetime warranty with Osprey’s Almighty Guarantee repair

Negatives:

  • The removable day pack is handy but very uncomfortable
  • A few minor build quality issues
  • No recycled materials used

The Osprey Aether Plus 85 hiking backpack is a men’s specific pack designed to assist you on technical expeditions where a large load is necessary. This burly pack consists of multiple compartments, a removable top lid that converts to a day pack and a suspension system that can comfortably support up to 32 kg.

Large enough to fit the essentials and more for a full week of trekking, the Aether Plus 85 backpack focuses on customisation and organisation so you can find the perfect fit for ultimate ongoing comfort.

There is very little that I can complain about regarding the Aether Plus backpacks and even if you’re unsure whether the 85 will be too much, I would highly recommend any of the Aether Plus range if you’re searching for a durable and supportive backpack with loads of storage options.

Who Is The Aether Plus 85 Hiking Backpack For?

Hiking across the final traverse on the Western Arthurs wearing my Osprey Aether 85 Plus Backpacking pack

The Osprey Aether Plus 85 hiking backpack is designed for multi-day hikes and adventurers carrying a large load – whether that be mountaineering equipment, camera gear or the remainder of your kid’s gear.

The additional external storage options for the Aether Plus allow for increased organisation for hikers that continuously need to grab equipment from their bags on the fly.

Basically, if you’re looking for a backpack that tops the charts in durability and superior support with a heavy load – and having an ultra-light pack isn’t a priority – then the Osprey Aether 85 Plus is for you!

What Is The Difference Between The Aether, Aether Plus and Aether Pro?

The men’s Osprey Aether and women’s Ariel range are split into three categories – the Aether/Ariel, Aether Plus/Ariel Plus and the Aether Pro/Ariel Pro. The major difference between the three is the storage capabilities. 

The Aether/Ariel has minimal external storage options and the top lid doesn’t convert to a day pack – though these can still carry the same weight as their equivalent Plus counterparts. The Aether Plus/Ariel Plus has two extra external front pockets, a top lid that converts into a day pack and offers higher volume options. 

The Aether Pro/Ariel Pro is designed for big alpine expeditions where less is more – this pack has no external pockets aside from the single entry at the top and is extremely lightweight in comparison to its load range. 

Weight And Load Capacity

Osprey Aether 85L backpacking pack with heavy load on the Western Arthurs Traverse in Tasmania

The Osprey Aether Plus is certainly not winning any medals for the lightest design, weighing in at 2.8 kg. This is predominantly due to its highly durable nylon construction and the state-of-the-art suspension system that can hold up to 32 kg comfortably.

But this is where the Aether Plus 85 truly excels above similar backpacks. The load range is one of the highest we’ve found in comparison to the weight of the pack. The closest alternative is the Mammut Trion 75, but this backpack is slightly more expensive, doesn’t come in an 85 L option and weighs the same with 10 L less volume.

On a recent hike where I traversed the Western Arthur Range, my Osprey Aether Plus was filled with 7 days worth of food, all necessary camping equipment plus my camera gear and a hefty tripod. I felt no pain or discomfort while crossing the rugged terrain and had room to spare within my backpack.

Size

For the majority of hikers, an 85-litre backpack is overkill. However, if you’re a photographer who can’t go anywhere without at least two lenses or a mid-winter adventurer with the need for extra gear, this is a great size.

I was worried that it would be too big to use for overnight hikes but the build of the backpack and the very useful compression straps allows for comfort no matter how full. On the contrary, I was also concerned that 85 litres wouldn’t be enough for week-long expeditions and was tossing up whether to purchase the 100-litre pack instead – but again, I think I have found the sweet spot for my intended use and found I still had room to spare on my last 7-day hike on the Western Arthurs Traverse.

Comfort

Walking in comfort in my Osprey 85L hiking backpack

When you first try on the Aether Plus backpack in a store, the comfort of the Airscape suspension – especially the large foam lumbar support – can be questionable compared to the Anti-Gravity suspension found on the older Aether/Ariel backpacks and currently on the Atmos/Aura packs.

But don’t let that deter you. Once the backpack is properly packed and you’ve adjusted the fit perfectly, you’ll experience the superior support and comfort that this hiking pack is capable of.

A friend of mine was unsure whether to purchase the Ariel Plus 75 due to the lumbar support feeling uncomfortable when she tried it on in a store, however, I convinced her to buy it and she absolutely loved it on our Western Arthur Traverse 7-day hike – which was her first time using it.

Fit

Hiking alongside Pandani in Mt Field National Park while wearing my Osprey Aether 85L Plus hiking pack

In recent years, Osprey has designed a custom-fit-on-the-fly harness system that allows you to easily adjust the torso length, hip belt and shoulder straps to fit your body shape. With incremental adjustments that can be altered at any time, you’re able to fine-tune the Aether Plus pack to suit each situation.

In addition to the extensive adjustment options, the Aether comes in two sizes – S/M and L/XL – in order to accommodate further. I found it fast and easy to set my backpack up to fit me perfectly and love the fact I can alter it as I go if I feel the need.

Support

With the Osprey Aether Plus 85 backpack, you’ll honestly feel support like never before. The difference I felt carrying a heavy load in this pack compared to my previous Blackwolf backpack was astronomical. And in my opinion, this was strongly due to the hip belt design.

The Lightwire peripheral frame transfers the load to the ErgoPull hip belt, which effectively pulls the weight close to your body. But unlike many other designs, where the weight falls beneath the waist and causes your shoulders to ache, the hip belt and backpanel excel in keeping the weight firmly centred above your hips.

Suspension

Osprey Aether 85L Plus Backpacking Pack on The Needles Hike Tasmania

The Osprey Aether Plus 85 hiking backpack is equipped with the Airscape suspension design. This design involves a lightweight injection-moulded 3D foam backpanel with ventilated airflow channels and a mesh-covered foam lumbar support.

Basically, this means that the backpanel is designed to keep the pack’s weight close to the body for increased stability and support. At the same time, the ventilated airflow channels allow for better ventilation.

Ventilation

The Airscape backpanel found on the Aether Plus is constructed with ventilated airflow channels (large cut-outs in the foam for air to move through) and a mesh covering to increase airflow between your back and the pack.

There’s no denying that you sacrifice a little airflow when comparing the Airscape with the Anti-Gravity suspension system. However, the ventilation of the Aether Plus is still superior to many others in its league and frankly, it’s a small price to pay for a supportive backpack.

Osprey Aether Plus Build Quality and Durability

Looking back over Lake Oberon and Mt Orion on a moody misty morning

One of the driving factors behind always choosing Osprey is their amazing warranty and repair commitment. Osprey’s Almighty Guarantee allows you to get free lifetime repairs on their packs and if they can’t repair it, they will replace it.

I wish I could say that I haven’t had to use their free repairs but unfortunately, I have. Since purchasing this backpack almost a year ago, I’ve had to return it due to the seam on one of the side mesh pockets beginning to unravel and recently one of the buckles snapped in half.

However, the hole in the mesh pocket was very small and an easy fix, I had it back within two weeks after sending it from Tasmania. And the buckle that snapped held the top lid to the pack and was mostly my fault as I wrenched it in the opposite direction thinking it was the load lifter straps.

Aside from these small issues, I can find no fault in the overall durability of the backpack and I’ve certainly put it to the ultimate test. I’ve dragged it through some of the harshest environments you can find in Tasmania and it’s excelled in every circumstance.

Organisation

The Osprey Aether Plus 85 hiking backpack offers excellent organisation with plenty of compartments and storage options. This is where it shines above the regular Aether range with the addition of two external zippered pockets. Altogether, the Osprey Aether has:

  • A spacious main compartment with three entry points – the main entry from the top, a J-shaped zipper at the front and a zippered sleeping bag compartment at the base that can be opened up
  • Two zippered pockets on the top lid
  • One small zippered pocket next to the opening at the top of the pack
  • Two dual-entry side mesh pockets
  • Dual zippered hip belt pockets
  • Two external zippered pockets on the front panel
  • Front panel mesh stash pocket
  • Zippered sleeping bag compartment with removable divider

The additional storage pockets are super helpful for me, as I need to keep my camera gear safe and away from any dirty gear. It’s also extremely handy to be able to change camera lenses on the fly without having to open my backpack completely. The front zippered pockets are large enough to fit an EF 70-200 F2.8 zoom lens in its durable case for extra protection – and for those that aren’t familiar with camera gear, this lens is roughly 300mm x 120mm and weighs 1.6 kg.

Features

Compression Straps

One issue I was worried about before buying the 85-litre Aether Plus was whether it would compress enough to be comfortably worn at only half capacity. And I am glad to say it does. 

The Osprey Aether Plus is designed with dual upper and lower compression straps plus dual front panel straps with StraightJacket compression. This means you can completely compress the pack to ensure the load is still close to your body, adding to its already excellent comfort levels.

Hydration

Walking in comfort in my Osprey 85L hiking backpack

The Aether Plus range is equipped with an internal hydration reservoir sleeve that can fit a 3-litre bladder and two large dual-entry side mesh pockets for water bottles. What I like most about the hydration reservoir design is the fact you can choose whether you want the hose on the left or right – which isn’t the case for most backpacks.

Rain Cover

Walking down a staircase made from logs on Frenchmans Cap Tasmania

The Osprey Aether Plus backpack has an included rain cover that is constructed with PFC-free DWR and bluesign-approved materials. The rain cover can be found at the bottom of the pack in its own zippered pocket – which I prefer over the previous design where it was stored inside one of the top lid pockets, restricting valuable storage capacity.

Hiking Pole Attachment

In the current Aether backpacks, the stow-on-the-go hiking pole attachment has been discontinued. However, it’s still apparent in the Aether Plus range and allows you to quickly secure your poles underneath your arm while moving.

Personally, I find the attachment to be quite uncomfortable and rather store the poles in the ice axe loops on the front of the pack – which does require me to remove my pack but it’s not a big deal in my opinion.

Ice Tool Attachment

You’ll find dual ice tool attachments with bungee tie-offs at the front of the Aether Plus backpacks located on either side. Aside from their intended use, these are super handy to attach your hiking poles if you’d rather not have them tucked under your arm. 

Removable Day Pack

Another feature that differs from the regular Aether range is the top lid which converts into a DayLid day pack. This is a cool feature and many buy the Aether Plus specifically for this feature, however, I wouldn’t choose the Aether Plus solely on this component.

The day pack is as you would expect, rather uncomfortable and unable to carry any load. I had one camera lens, a water bottle and two rain jackets in the pack for a side trip and my shoulders began to hurt midway through.

That said, this feature would not deter me from buying the Aether Plus and instead, makes no difference either way.

Is The Osprey Aether Plus 85 Sustainable?

Hiking the western arthurs with Ospreys best backpacking pack on the Aether 85 Plus

Although I would have much preferred a backpack made from recycled material, a small consolation is the fact that the materials used to make the Aether Plus 85 are bluesign-approved.

Plus, Osprey’s Almighty Guarantee ensures your pack will be repaired until there’s no other option than to replace it, which assists in the war on waste – as does the high-quality durable design. While they’ve still got a ways to go, Osprey is working really hard to meet their sustainability goals which you can read about in their sustainability report.

Value

The Osprey Aether Plus hiking backpacks are certainly not the cheapest option out there, however, if durability and support are your main focuses then the higher price tag is well worth it.

I expect to have this backpack for years to come (Candace has had her Osprey Ariel AG 65 for over 5 years now and it’s still going strong) which I believe is far more cost-effective than needing to replace a product every couple of years.

My Experience With The Osprey Aether Plus 85

Why I Chose The Aether Plus 85

Osprey Aether 85 Plus fit perfectly while hiking The Needles in cold Tasmanian conditions

I chose the Aether Plus 85 for many reasons, but the main factors were Osprey’s unwavering reputation for high-quality hiking backpacks and the need to carry large loads. In my search, I struggled to find many other backpacks that rivalled the suspension quality and feature-rich design of the Aether Plus range.

The reason for choosing such a large volume pack was due to the copious amounts of camera gear I like to take on our expeditions, plus we often hike during winter when extra gear is necessary.

Read this post next if you’re searching for more information on how to choose the best hiking backpack.

How It Performs

The Osprey Aether 85 Plus technical backpack has proven to be worth every penny spent. The support for a heavy load is unwavering and the abundance of pockets makes organisation a breeze.

Aside from a little sweat on long and hot days, the backpack stays comfortable throughout long hikes and holds up to a beating from the elements.

That said, there have been a few little niggles that have been listed above in the build quality. I hope that the buckle will be the last issue and will continue to update this post as I pursue more adventures.

Where Do I Take My Osprey Aether Plus 85 Backpack?

Hiking in rough terrain on the Western Arthurs Traverse with my Osprey Aether 85 Plus Backpack

My Aether 85 Plus backpack goes on every adventure with me, from overnight hikes to multi-day treks to overseas escapades. While Ideally I would also own the Aether 65 for overnight hikes, there’s really no need for two backpacks as the compression straps do wonders in keeping a half-filled pack close to your body.

Final Thoughts

Other than a few minor issues, I am extremely happy with the Osprey Aether 85 Plus hiking backpack and would recommend it to any adventurer who is looking for a sturdy pack to handle a heavy load.

In the future, I would like to see this backpack made with recycled material and more durable buckles, but in the meantime, I’ll continue to take my Aether Plus pack everywhere I go.

Have you tested the Osprey Aether Plus 85 backpack? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with the pack in the comments below. And as always, please feel free to ask us any questions you may have regarding this hiking pack.

Happy Hiking 🙂