We asked editor Clare Menzel to hit the dusty trail with one of Osprey’s women’s specific backpacks. Here are her thoughts.

Osprey makes sturdy backpacks that go as far as you. The Cortez, Colorado-headquartered company released its first pack, the Outlander, in 1979, and has been innovating since then—but not too much, always laser-focused on quality manufacturing and extremely dialed design. And the brand is not resting on its laurels with the Osprey Ariel AG 65, a big-load-carrying women’s specific mountaineering pack, which debuted spring 2017.

Snapshot: Osprey Ariel AG 65

Osprey Ariel AG 65
This backpack is 65 litres of fun
  1. Pros: This is a broad feature, but the fit is prime. This is thanks to the women’s specific construction and load-bearing structure (more on this later), not to mention the moldeable IsoForm5 harness and CM hipbelt, as well as the Anti-Gravity tech, which includes the tensioned frame and lightweight, suspended mesh backpanel.
  2. Cons: The large stretch mesh front pocket panel isn’t pure mesh, like other Osprey packs I’ve used. It’s more durable, but I couldn’t fit nearly as much in. If I stow my helmet there, it’s pretty much full.
  3. Price: $390 Cdn
  4. Who Should Buy: Backpackers carrying between 30 and 60 pounds of weight on multi-day trips.
  5. Who Shouldn’t Buy: Osprey recommends this for almost any trip including a “full-blown expedition,” though I’d say its carrying capacity is a limiting factor. (The Ariel AG also comes in 55 and 75-litre options)
  6. Helpful Hack: If you carry bear spray, use a carabiner to hook it to the stray loop near the right hip, and tuck it into the plastic-coated loop that is there to stow trekking poles. In the event of a bear encounter, it’s really easy to grab, but it won’t jiggle around while you’re climbing. You’ll also want to purchase the rain cover, which comes separate.
  7. Author’s overall rating: 9/10

The Test

Over the course of the summer of 2017, I took this pack on a number of multi-day backpacking trips through Montana’s Glacier National Park. These trips involved long miles on and off trail, some glacier travel, and light mountaineering, and we usually carried our full packs each day, moving from camp to camp. It was hot and there was basically zero precipitation all season.

The Verdict

Yep, Osprey continues to knock it out of the park. What’d you expect? It’s comfortable, sturdy, and dependable. It sat snug on my hips, and we soldiered on and on and on.

About that sweet, sweet women’s specific construction: to design this pack, Osprey’s female product managers actually went out in the field and used it. Right then and there, they tackled issues with fit and function, making notes or adjustments wherever they felt pressure points. Female-led design and female field testing is what it means to do women’s products. We don’t need girly aesthetics or superfluous, special features—we just need products that fit our bodies, which come in endless shapes and sizes. Thankfully, most brands have abandoned “shrink and pink” as a strategy for women’s gear development, and Osprey has long been a leader in this. The Ariel AG is another solid win.

I didn’t take advantage of some the major customizable options, but women can swap out both the harness and hipbelt for different sizes—excellent if you’re short and have broad hips, for example. You can even take it to an Osprey retailer to get the hip belt baked for a custom-molded fit, but it does just fine off the shelf.

The Ariel includes standard features and thoughtful details I expect of any pack, like the hydration sleeve, dual ice-tool loops, dual side mesh pockets, sleeping pad straps, big hipbelt pockets, exterior and interior compression straps, and additional zippered access points to the main compartment. I’m a huge fan of the Anti-Gravity tensioned frame and the lightweight, suspended mesh backpanel, which all works to make your load feel easier to carry.

The nylon materials stand up: I put the pack through a fair bit of abuse this summer, and it’s still kicking, without much sign of wear.

Small gripe: a majorly-hyped feature of this pack is the DayLid, which basically is backpack straps folded into the removable brain, and can be deployed to make the brain into its own day pack. It is very neat, and I used it more than I expected, but I do wish the straps were removable.

Osprey Ariel AG 65: The Deets

  • MSRP: $390 Cdn
  • Boothbay grey, picante red, tidal blue
  • WXS, WS, WM, WL
  • Size-dependent, varying from 4.8 to 5 pounds
  • Fabric
    • Main: 201D Nylon Dobby
    • Accent: 201D High Tenacity Nylon Shadow Box
    • Bottom: 500D Nylon Packcloth