Submitted by: Chris - Gambrills, MD
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Reviewed by: TschaufThe Osprey Ariel 65 for Women Can you really say you look forward to putting on a backpack, especially when the weather is hot, you’re sticky, the pack’s heavy. Yes, we like the idea of backpacking, but lugging the load? I have found a pack that I actually enjoy wearing, so much that I will take it when a much smaller daypack will do! I purchased an Osprey Ariel 65 for women about a year ago, and recently gave it a severe workout, backpacking in Arkansas, New Mexico and the Rockies for a total of 5 weeks in a variety of weather. Here’s a quick rundown of its pros and cons. PROS • Water resistant-Osprey makes pack covers of course, but even in a fairly steady drizzle the contents stayed dry without the cover. For extended periods of rain or heavy downpours, you’ll want the cover. • Pack weight- Osprey considers this a lightweight pack at 4 pounds, 11 ounces for the small. I chose the size to match my stature. At 3800 cubic inches the pack will tote up to 50 pounds of gear easily. • Flexible internal frame- this was the selling point for me. And still is. This is the component that makes this the most comfortable pack I’ve ever worn. Osprey calls it ‘suspension technology’. There are multiple adjustment points, and the frame actually flexes to conform to your body. You can pull the top shoulder straps and the load will curve gently over your back. Tighten the lower straps and it hugs your hips. • Hip belt-this was the other biggie for me. It has a wide, comfortable, hip belt that puts the weight on your hipbones, not on your back. This belt can also be used to form a lumbar (fanny) pack. More on that in the cons. The belt is also adjustable, not just on waist dimensions, but on hip contour as well. When you buy they pack, the belt is heated and then formed on your hips for a better fit. • Plenty of pockets and tie-on spots, although I wouldn’t have minded another small outside pocket or two, with zippers. • Rugged-we were bushwhacking in Arkansas, and the nylon slid right through the brush and brambles. • The mesh against your back lets your back breathe, as well as provides cushion for motion when you’re climbing or scrambling across rocks. • The shoulder straps very wide, padded, comfortable, and of course, adjustable. The contour prevents chafing. • Hydration bladder compatible. • Compression straps both inside and outside to control load shift and weight distribution. CONS • Hip belt and the top compartment can be removed from the pack and used together to form a fanny pack. It was real pain to get them off, and a bigger pain to get them back on, especially the belt. However, I bought the pack for pack, not a fanny, so I’ll never take it off. Problem solved. • The other con is something I really wish Osprey would fix on the next version, because it causes aggravation every time I use the pack. The zipper on the top compartment is on the body side, so it’s not convenient to access when you’re wearing the pack (or have your buddy access). Worse, you have to flip this top compartment open to access the main body of the bag, and if you accidentally left the zipper open on the top piece, everything dumps on the ground. My solution was to only pack items in the top that I will seldom need, but it’s not the most satisfactory solution. Still, I find the comfort enough to outweigh any shortcomings, and would recommend this shape shifter to women backpackers
Q.} I am 6'7'' and an active outdoorsman year-round. Which 20ish degree bag has the most shoulder space and is still rather light?
Submitted by: Chris - Gambrills, MD
A.} To get the best answer for your question, I went to two BACKPACKER staffers who can relate: Jon Dorn and Ben Fullerton, both 6’6”. Here are a few of their three-season picks.