When I started looking for a new rucksack, I had three primary requirements. I needed firm hip-belts and a supportive back structure due to a previous shoulder injury that made backpacking difficult. I wanted to be able to access the center of the bag without having to unload its guts and I wanted the bag to be both versatile and easily organizable. I would be using it for international travel and road trips so ultralight was less of a priority than reducing the weight on my shoulders. I’d lived with a 35 liter for a few years but now I needed to fit more than my sleeping bag, camping pad, and tent in it.
I landed on the Osprey Ariel 55 and took it out west with me up through Colorado Springs, into the Grand Tetons, and along the coast of Portland. You can see my ‘Tips for Flatlanders Going into the Mountains,’ [here].
The hip belts on the Osprey Ariel 55 are interchangeable, highly adjustable and very firm. They snap right back into place and even provide support without being strapped because of their springy structure. The combination of these extra firm hip belts and the new Osprey Anti-Gravity back suspension had me impressed both in the store and out on the trail. This new suspension style places seamless suspended mesh from the shoulders to the waist and through the hip straps, forcing the bag to ‘hug’ the user rather than simply ‘lean’ on their back, ensuring that the weight is evenly distributed on the back, shoulders, and hips. The mesh itself provides maximum airflow to the user as well.
The Osprey Ariel 55 also has a center-access zipper which I find helpful to quickly access a midlayer puffy jacket or dry socks without having to dump my bag out. The center-access zipper isn’t quite as large or stretchy as I’d like but it does the job.
Designed for versatility, this bag can go anywhere, from through-hiking to European travel, it’s handy and ready for an adventure. The lid even turns into a daypack which was nice on my favorite adventure with the bag: kayaking out through Jackson Lake onto Elk Island and camping for the night. After a few hours of kayaking, we made it to the completely secluded island to watch the sunset behind the Grand Tetons. We woke again the next morning at 4 am to paddle out and watch the sunrise from our kayaks and if you look closely in the picture below, you’ll find my lovely Ariel 55 strapped to the back of this incredible memory.
Quick pro tip: Because I prioritize organization and efficiency so highly, I found it incredibly helpful to put my shirts, undergarments, and pants all in separate plastic baggies. When I needed a dry pair of socks or a thermal shirt to change into, I knew exactly where to go instead of searching elbow-deep into the depths. The plastic baggies did rip quite often. Travel Country sells an Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube that I highly recommend.