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OSPREY ARIEL
TEST SERIES BY AMANDA TIKKANEN
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 05, 2007

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Amanda Tikkanen
EMAIL: amanda AT uberpest DOT com
AGE: 25
LOCATION: LaGrange, Indiana, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.63 m)
WEIGHT: 135 lb (61.20 kg)
TORSO LENGTH 17.5" (44.5 cm)
HIPS 36" (91.5 cm)

I have been hiking and backpacking since the spring of 2000 throughout Michigan and Indiana, covering several hundred miles, always with a dog by my side. Beau has been happily carrying a pack since 2002. Before Beau I hiked with Lucy, who is now retired. I document our adventures and misadventures on my website, www.uberpest.com. My style of backpacking is moving from overnights to long distance hiking, including multi-day trips. Even though I have Beau with me, I'm usually the solo human on the trek, so I like to go as light as possible while still being comfortable.


INITIAL REPORT

Product Information

Osprey Ariel
From mfr website




Manufacturer: Osprey Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: www.ospreypacks.com
MSRP: US $229
Size: Small
Listed Weight: 4lbs 7 oz ( kg)
Measured Weight: 4lbs 8 oz ( kg) on a bathroom scale
Listed Volume: 4400 cubic inches (72 L)
Color: Havasu Blue (light steel blue) and gray

Manufacturer's Warranty:
"Osprey covers defects in materials and craftsmanship for the reasonable lifetime and intended usage of your pack. Should any flaw appear due to defective materials or craftsmanship, we will happily repair or replace the product at no cost to the owner. If we determine the damage to be the result of normal wear and tear, abuse or accident, or exceeding reasonable expectations of the product's lifespan, repairs will be made at a reasonable cost. We proudly stand behind this guarantee--it offers us the chance to see the effects of real user wear on our gear. Please call us for a return authorization and please clean your pack before sending it to us!

"Travel Damage Support for U.S. Customers
Osprey recognizes that, while traveling, your pack will frequently be checked baggage and therefore out of your control. For Osprey customers residing within the United States: if your Osprey pack is damaged by the carrier, we will expertly repair or replace it for an amount not to exceed the reimbursement you receive from the party responsible for the damage. Happy adventuring and always take the High Road! (TM)"

For a full warranty explanation, refer to the manufacturer's website.

Initial Impressions

The Osprey Arial arrived with a hangtag describing the different Osprey pack lines and another describing their 3 different custom hip belts offered. Also included, inside the top lid, is the instruction sheet which details the use of the convertible top pocket (it converts to a lumbar pack when combined with the pack's hip belt), how to access the main bag, various pockets, the benefits of the harness/suspension system, and instructs the user on how to load the pack and adjust the harness.

Features of the pack:

Airscape backpanel
Convertible Top Pocket
Dual Entry Side Pockets
IsoForm CM™ hip belt
IsoForm Harness
Side Carry Loops
Sleeping Bag Compartment
Sleeping Pad Straps
Stretch Front pocket

The pack itself is made of 210 denier ripstop (the gray material), 210 d oxford (the sides of the pack) 420 d oxford (the bottom of the pack), 2-way stretch woven nylon with Lycra (TM) (the side and front pockets), and 500d stretch power mesh (the front pocket). The Airscape backpanel is rubberized foam with tiny nubs covered with a mesh. The suspension is a single framesheet with aluminum stays on each side of the pack.

The main body of the pack is two compartments, a top-loading catchall compartment and a lower panel-loading sleeping back compartment. There is a sewn-in divider between the two compartments, which allows free pass-through via buckles as needed. Inside the top compartment is an internal compression strap which goes overtop of your gear to help secure the load. The top-loading compartment closes via a short spindrift collar. Inside the collar is a tag printed in both English and French outlining the basic Leave No Trace (TM) guidelines.

The pack is hydration compatible and has ports to either side of the harness, which allows the user to route the drinking hose over either shoulder. There is a small piece of elastic on each shoulder strap to secure the bite valve of a hydration bladder.


The outside of the pack sports three horizontal and two vertical compression straps, two straps under the bottom for attaching tents, sleeping pads, etc, and also lash tabs on the top pocket for the same. On the center of the outside there is a stretch pocket big enough for my jacket or possibly snowshoes. In roughly the same location there are several D-rings (really, cord loops) that allow the user to attach Osprey's various "Excessories" such as rain covers or small packs. On each side of the pack is another stretch pocket that fits a standard 1 qt/ 1 L bottle and is accessible both from the top and the side. The side carry loops allow the user to strap tent poles/ski poles/etc. to the sides of the pack with the bottoms in the side pockets and the tops secured under the lid. There are also two ice axe/tool loops on the bottom front of the pack. On the user's right side of the pack are two small female buckles. These, according to the instructions, allow the user to "StraightJacket" the pack when carrying a small load. The zippers slide freely and feature very user-friendly pull-tabs: they are plastic coated cord loops that I can easily fit a finger in to pull. I want to see how these will function with gloves on.

The harness adjusts for varying torso lengths by a hook and loop attachment. The user simply undoes the connection and slides the shoulder harness to the most comfortable length. The hip belt is Osprey's proprietary "IsoForm CM" hip belt. The "CM" stands for "Custom Moldable." The hip belt can be molded to the wearer's hips via a trip through one of Osprey's ovens (this is something only available at an authorized retailer). The shoulder harness is also "IsoForm" but isn't Custom Moldable. "IsoForm" is "dual density spacer mesh foam with all seams away from the body for added comfort". When I try the harness on the shoulder straps dig into my neck. I believe I have the torso length wrong and this is too long for me. I will contact Osprey's Customer Service for further instructions on the fit and update the progress in my Field Report.

Test Plan

I am currently planning a trip for next spring that will take Beau and me 140 miles (224 km) and 10 days on the North Country National Scenic Trail through the Manistee National Forest in Northern Lower Michigan. This fall and winter are my practice times for this trip. I have planned weekly day hikes from 5-10 miles (8-16 km) or more, back-to-back day hikes, and overnight trips as my fall schedule allows. I have little experience with cold weather backpacking, so this winter will definitely be a learning experience for me!

I will use this pack while on weekly day hikes and any overnight trips before the snow comes (depending on when the snow comes, this may be 1-2 trips), daytrips while snowshoeing, and trying to cross-country ski (still haven't gotten the hang of the latter) once the snow gets here. Since I am still learning to overnight in winter temps, there will be at least one overnight trip after the snow comes sometime in late November/early December and at least one more in January or February. Exact dates and locations for any of the trips have yet to be determined. Temperatures expected will range from 60 F (15.6 C) in the warmer months to 10 F (-12.2 C) or colder in the dead of winter. Precipitation expected is fog-like light mist to rain to wet and dry snow.

For the duration of this test my expected winter pack weight will be about 35 lbs (16 kg) including food and water. However, this may vary due to fluctuations in gear once I start tweaking what I'm carrying. I will be carrying the pack fully loaded on day hikes, however, to get used to both the weight of the load and the way the pack carries.

Durability:

· How well does the pack hold up to (at least) weekly use?
· How does it stand up to trail grime?
· How does it stand up to precipitation such as rain, foggy mist, light snow, and damp snow?
· How does it hold up to being picked up by the grab loop and shoulder straps?
· How does it hold up to being used as a seat trailside?
· How does it hold up to being lain on by a dog (an inevitability with Beau around)?
· Does it cushion my falls well when I do a face plant into the snow? Do those happen-too-often-because-I-am-a-klutz falls damage the pack in any way?

Usefulness and comfort:

· How easy to load is this top loading pack?
· Does it hold all the gear I need for a short cold-weather trip?
· Can I easily access gear and food stashed in my pack?
· How easy are the side pockets to access while on my back and off? What about the top pocket?
· Does the zipper on the sleeping bag compartment slide easily? Does all hardware move freely?
· How easy is it to strap things like trekking poles, sleeping pads, my tarp or tent to the outside using the many different lashing options this pack has?
· Can the large outer shove-it pocket hold my snowshoes?
· Does the pack easily hold my 3-season bag? Since the last real obstacle for me doing any serious cold weather outdoor travel is a warmer bag, can this pack hold a second bag for use as an overbag? If so, how?
· How well do the shoulder straps fit my broad shoulders?
· How well does the heat molded hip belt fit me? There are several outfitters I can easily go to for the heat molding, many of which are also on my way to some favorite trails.
· Is the ErgoPull hip belt easy to use?
· How dos the pack fit me while I am wearing winter clothing? Most packs I've used put pressure on my hips while I'm fully clothed, so in the summer I wear as little under the hip belt as possible. Wintertime will not allow me to do this so the hip belt must be comfortable.
· How well does the pack balance while I am moving?
· Is the hydration system easy to use with my Platypus Big Zip Hoser, or is it more of a pain?
· What else can it be used for? Extra insulation for my feet perhaps?
· The lid is convertible for use as a lumbar (fanny) pack. Is it easy to do this? Is the resulting lumbar pack useful for short jaunts away from camp? For short day hikes?

Other: any other issues that may come up during the testing period.

Summary

I will contact Osprey's Customer Service with regards to the torso fit issue and report back in my Feild Report. Otherwise, this pack looks very nice for the type of travel I plan to do over the next few months.

Initial Likes:

Roomy pack interior
Easy to use zippers
Manufacturer's Warranty

Initial Dislikes:

Close fitting shoulder harness
Rough material on shoulder straps


FIELD REPORT

Field Conditions

As mentioned above in my Initial Report, I had some fit issues with the torso of the pack. I contacted Osprey's Customer Service department and was sent a replacement pack with a shorter torso length. This pack fits much better. I should note, however, that this is not normal for returns or replacements. Those are normally handled through an authorized Osprey dealer. Also, the pack I recieved was a larger capacity pack since the pack I originally recieved was on backorder for the duration of the feild testing period. I was originally testing the Ariel 65 but am now testing the Ariel 75.

I took the pack to a local Osprey retailer for fitting (called Custom Molding-TM). It was easy to find an authorized retailer to mold the hipbelt for me since all the authorized retailers are on the manufacturer's website. Many of the authorized retailers are not certified for Custom Molding, but the ones that are are marked as such. The retailers are mostly in metropolitan areas, so customers living in rural areas (such as myself) may have to travel some distance for fitting if the pack is purchased online or if the original retailer doesn't offer Custom Molding. Luckily, where I went was a store I enjoy visiting and was near some trails I like hiking, so I had fun going.

The woman working at the outfitter heated removed the hip belt from my pack and heated it in the special Custom Molding oven for about 10 minutes, then let me wander around the store (mostly looking at gadgets I'd like to play with) for 10-20 minutes while the belt formed to my hips. I was told to walk or stand, but not to sit. There was also a small pad that velcroed to the inside back of the hipbelt to take up the space normally occupied by the pack body. I was encouraged to wear one of the pairs of thin hiking pants in the store instead of the heavier pants I came in with since the belt will--according to the staff at the store-- conform to anything under it, such as, belts, belt loops, and keys clipped to belt loops. The woman fitting my pack also told me to put downward pressure on my hips with my hands to simulate a loaded pack. The belt definitely fit better with the Custom Molding, however it did feel pretty comfortable to begin with.

Since then I have tested the Osprey Ariel pack over the past two months here in Northern Indiana. It has been carried 80-90 miles (129-145 km) . Hikes have been mostly short hikes after work a few times a week, plus three long day hikes of about 30 miles (48 km) total and one short overnight. The trails have been hilly, but not mountainous. Daytime temperatures have been around freezing to 50 F (10 C). Precipitation has been misty rain, but not heavy rain. Unfortunately, the winter so far has been a bit of a blowout with very little snowfall, so I haven't been able to test it while wearing skis or snowshoes yet or test its resistance to snowfall. I have used it while carrying my snowshoes strapped to the back and also while using trekking poles.

My pack weight has been in the 15-30 lb (6.8-13.6 kg) range and has consisted of my sleeping bag in the sleeping bag compartment, water bottles or bladders in the side pockets, my small tent, stove, pot, eating utensils, toiletries, fleece long underwear, water treatment (filter in warmer temps), and other sundries in the main body. The lid easily held my headlamp, map, and compass. I strapped my sleeping pad and Beau's pad to the outside of the pack overtop of the pocket. I kept a large container with the "goodie bag" that comes from hiking with dogs inside the pocket. When I carried my snowshoes they were on the outside of the pack instead of the sleeping pads, and the pads were stuffed in the pocket.

Performance in the Field

As noted in my Initial Report I stated I would make note of several items. This is how the pack is faring so far.

Durability

The pack is holding up well with frequent use. There hasn't been any notable grime accumulated. I haven't exposed it to heavy rain, however it shed the light mist and the 2 or 3 snowflakes with no trouble. It hasn't suffered from being grabbed by the shoulder straps, grab loop, or the occasional mistaken grab by a compression strap. The zippers still slide smoothly. I've sat on it numerous times on the trail, however Beau is yet to decide it makes a comfy place for a nap.

Usefulness and comfort:

The pack is very easy to load. I've never used a pack with two seperate compartments before but I love how easy it is to pack my extra clothes with my sleeping bag. I can get the sleeping bag out and let it loft while I'm doing other things around camp. It makes distributing the load for balance very easy. So far I have been able to load everything I need for a short cold-weather trip in it. I can easily access what I need without reaching deep into blind recesses.

I decided that while my snowshoes do fit in the outer pocket, I'm hesitant to put them there due to the mesh appearing delicate. I don't want the cleats on the snowshoes to tear this mesh. I instead strap the shoes to the outside. When I do this the pack pulls back quite a bit, which is expected due to the weight distribution, however I haven't figured out a better way to put the shoes on the pack at this time.

This pack did hold my two synthetic 3-season bags, but I had to put one bag in the lower compartment and another in the top, or drop the divider. I didn't like the first option since it took out room for other gear, so I nixed my attempts at rigging a cold weather system and bought one outright. I bought a 4-season bag which fits in the lower compartment with room to spare, plus leaves plenty of room for some long underwear and other gear. I have used the pack as extra insulation for my feet while sleeping by putting my feet inside the pack with the back panel on the ground. It has helped somewhat with my cold feet. I have to unbuckle the divider between the two compartments to do this.

The pack fits very well, even under bulky winter clothing. All of the fit adjustments are easy to make and I sometimes tweak the fit while hiking to adjust the ride for that day. I haven't noticed any rubbing or pressure points. The load carries well and so far hasn't affected my balance or encumbered my movement. Even with the heavier range of loads I haven't noticed any sagging of the frame or pinching.

The zippers run smoothly and, due to their large size, I can grab them with gloved hands or run a finger through the loops while wearing liners or barehanded.

I have used the lid as a fanny pack, however it's time consuming. To use the lid as a fanny pack I have to take the lid off the pack which requires unthreading two straps from sliders. I then have to remove the hip belt from the main pack, undoing 4 straps in the process, then slide those 4 straps into sliders on the lid. The main pack is left without a hip belt while the fanny pack conversion is in use. In order to use the pack again I have to reverse the process. It would be nice to have a lid that pops off for some quick side trips then reattaches quickly for the rest of the trip. The lid is also slightly uncomfortable when fully loaded since it puffs up and pushes into my lower back. I'm not sure how likely I am to continue using it in the future.

Another note on the pack is that when I wear my hair in a chignon (end of a ponytail pulled into the pony tail elastic) my hair pushes into the lid of the pack limiting how much I can look up or to the side. I note this because not only is it annoying, but this a pack designed for women-- I think many of its users may have long hair and could have a similar problem.

Summary

So far the Osprey Ariel is a comfortable, easy to use pack. At this point in the test my hits and misses are:

Hits:

Comfort
Spacious interior
Excellent customer service

Misses:
Lack of headroom

Continued Testing

I have two overnight backpack trips scheduled for the Long Term testing period. I will continue to wear the pack while on my regular dayhikes. Hopefully the snow gods will take pity and I can test the pack's usefulness while traversing snowy terrain.

I will also test the whistle on the sternum strap to see how well it works as a signalling device. Since I haven't yet used the pack with my Hoser I will see how well the two play nice or if they have to be separated.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

This pack was tested in Michigan, Indiana, and on a 3-day hike in Southern Ohio. Trails were flat to very hilly. Temperatures were 70-100 F (21-39 C) and, since there is a drought going on, it got rained on for a few minutes exactly once in the Long-Term test period. It was exposed to fallen brush, thick, uncleared trails, and dirt.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Durability hasn't been an issue for me with this pack. I've dropped it, sat on it, thrown it into the back of my Jeep, into a friend's pickup bed, had it sat on or laid on by Beau the dog, dragged it through heavy brush, over, under, and around fallen trees, and still it collected little more than some various patches of trail grime which wiped off easily with a damp rag. There are no worn spots or tears in the fabric and all the zippers, buckles, and draw cords continue to function properly. It's held up well to rain. One day of the three day hike I did with this pack had about a half inch of rain (1 cm) fall in about an hour. Since the rain moved in quickly I didn't have my packcover on the pack. Nothing in the pack got wet, though the body of the pack itself was damp. Once the rain let up the pack dried in just a few hours of hiking in the sun.

I used the outer shove-it pocket to store my rain gear and a fleece jacket for easy access. The side pockets were handy for my 1-L bottles, however once the pack was loaded completely the pockets were very tight and it was difficult for me to get the water bottles out while it was sitting on the ground, and I wasn't able to get them out at all while the pack was on my back.

The various straps were useful for clip-in points for my camp shoes, dog dishes for Beau, as well as for lashing on a foam sleeping pad. The daisy chains on the top were great for a clothesline. On my three-day trip I forgot a safety pin to attach my socks to the pack, so I tucked my rinsed out socks through two loops and let them dry while I was hiking. Because the loops were on top it allowed the socks to get a lot of sunshine and dry quickly.

The Straight Jacket feature was nice for dayhikes--it definitely compressed the load and kept it close to my center of gravity. That said, when I had the pack fully loaded it appeared to be very wide and bulky, though it never felt that way when I wore it, so it's possible that was just some sort of optical illusion for me.

The little whistle on the sternum strap was a nice little detail. It emits a loud, shrill little toot when I blow very hard on it, and is pea-less, so there's no annoying rattling while I'm walking down the trail. I never got into any situation where I needed the emergency signal of a whistle, but it was comforting to have it ready and accessible.

As mentioned in my previous report, I had issues with the lid of the pack hitting the back of my head as I looked up when I was wearing my hair pulled up off my neck. I have since learned to adjust the lid in such a way that the entire lid was behind the frame of the suspension so it didn't hit my head no matter how I moved. Below are two pictures, one of my head impacting the lid and one where I have free range to look up.

Head hitting lid Head not hitting lid

On the whole I like the suspension of this pack. The suspension shifts the weight to my hips quite well for loads up to 35 lbs (kg). The hip belt doesn't seem to cinch down properly. When I pull the straps on the belt to tighten it, I have about 1" (2 cm) of webbing on either side of the front buckle. I asked Osprey's Customer Service about this, and was assured that as long as the straps weren't "bottoming out" I'd be fine. It still feels like it just doesn't fit right. The AirScape backpanel did move air well while I was hiking. When I was very hot and sweaty I felt a slight breeze moving up my back. I wasn't very fond of the mesh rubbing on my bare skin, however, and suggest the manufacturer use a smoother mesh for the backpanel and shoulder straps.

The harness adjusts easily by me first sliding my hand between two sides of hook-and-loop fastener to separate the shoulder straps from the back panel, then sliding the shoulder straps either up or down to where I want them.

There was one thing I didn't notice during the field Testing phase that has come up during the Long Term testing phase. The narrow set of the shoulder harness lets the shoulder straps rub against my neck. I didn't notice this previously, probably because I was wearing a jacket under the straps. Now that it's warmer out and I'm wearing the pack with a light T-shirt or only a sports bra, I notice the rubbing. I've tried adjusting the harness up and down, loosening the sternum strap, loosening or tightening load lifters, but nothing seems to help the fit. I believe this is due to the shape of the straps--they have a bit of a "dog leg" or bend made to, apparantly, fit the shoulder better than a straight or moderately curved strap. Below I've included a picture of how the shoulder harness fits my neck. Perhaps this would work well on someone else, but for me, with the shape of my shoulders it's just not cutting it .

Shoulder harness rubbing neck

CONTINUED USE

While I like how the pack loads and also how the harness adjusts easily without any tools, I don't forsee myself using this pack in the future, however, due to the shoulder harness not fitting me well.

Hits
Easily adjusted torso length
Emergency whistle on sternum strap
Easy access to loads


Misses
Difficulty achieving comfortable fit

SUMMARY

The Osprey Ariel Women's pack is a full-featured, easy to use pack.

I would like to thank Osprey and Backpack Gear Test for the opportunity to test the Osprey Ariel Women's Pack.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.


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