Reviewed: Osprey's New Ariel Pro Backpack

by Margaret Hedderman

For those of you unafraid to customize your backpack with a pair of scissors – trimming those extra straps, organizational shelves, and the most unflattering fanny pack - Osprey has designed the backpack for you. The new Aether Pro and Ariel Pro is a stripped down version of its venerable series, making it an (almost) ultralight backpack capable of carrying a guide’s worth of gear.

The Aether/Ariel Pro is one of three ultralight/lightweight backpacks Osprey is debuting this Spring. To cut over a pound off the original’s weight, Osprey stripped this backpack down to the bare essentials – removing the two access zippers on the front and bottom, the mesh stretch pockets, and, yes, the fanny pack accessory. They’ve also upgraded the main fabric with a durable, lightweight NanoFly 210D nylon. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the Aether/Ariel’s customizable and moldable suspension system, making this backpack carry like a Tesla.

The original Ariel has been my backpack of choice since my Te Araroa thru-hike several years ago. I’ve put that pack through every abomination you can imagine and the only thing that could stop it was an angry marmot. (But thanks to Osprey’s All-Mighty Guarantee, it was quickly replaced with an identical one.)

As you might imagine, I was none too keen when Osprey tinkered with my favorite pack, replacing it with the over-accessorized Ariel AG last summer. That’s why I was stoked to play with the new Ariel Pro on a three-day backpacking trip in Arizona’s Paria Canyon.


The author testing a Osprey Ariel Pro sample backpack - the retail version is offered in a different color than pictured above.


Backpacking in Paria Canyon requires walking through the river for the majority of the hike.

This thirty-eight mile canyon stretches across the state line from southern Utah to Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. Once your shuttle drops you off at the White House trailhead, bailing is not an option. Your gear has got to be up to snuff. Though we waded through the Paria River for nearly three-days straight, the Ariel Pro was the last piece of gear I had to worry about.

It carries every bit as well as the original, even when scrambling over boulders or schwacking through reeds. I would even go so far as to say the streamlined design helped prevent it from snagging on brush and branches. If you want to simplify the Ariel even further, the floating lid and two side pockets are removable. Either way, the Ariel Pro is a beautiful backpack - especially with those bright turquoise accents.

In terms of usability, the Ariel Pro requires a level of organization that many beginning backpackers might not find user-friendly. Other than the main compartment, there are only three other pockets – the top-lid and two giant pouches on the sides that have replaced the standard hip-belt pockets. One is zippered while the other features a drawstring opening. Presumably this is to make a water bottle more accessible, but for me it sits at just the right angle for my elbow to hit as I walk. Instead, I used the two side pockets to carry an extra layer plus all my snacks for the day.

So, those are the positives. Let’s take a look at the negatives. First, how much does mesh weigh, really? As suspected, I missed the stretchy pockets on the front and sides. Usually I carry my wet water filter on the outside of my pack, but without the mesh pocket I had to hang it (and some other damp items) from the compression straps like a merry peddler off to market. Second and not necessarily a negative, the Ariel Pro only comes in a 65L size, which makes it easy to decide what to buy. Third, well, I don’t have a third. The Ariel Pro is a pretty sweet backpack.

Osprey seems to be marketing this to mountaineers and guides, but the Aether/Ariel Pro is a bomber choice for anyone who seeks extended wilderness adventures and needs a comfortable and reliable backpack to do the job. 

STATS

Load Range: 35-60 lb 

Weight (Women's size small): 3.73 lb

Dimensions (Women's size small): 32.68H X 16.14W X 14.17D IN.