Contributing Gear Editor

The Ariel 55 in the wild. Photo courtesy of Osprey.

The Inertia

If you’ve spent a significant amount of time backpacking, you likely have a love-hate relationship with your pack. Perhaps your most essential piece of gear, the backpack, of course, transports everything you need during your time on the trail. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time out there and have worn my fair share of bad, and good, packs — Osprey’s Ariel 55 falls into the latter category.

The Nuts & Bolts

Created specifically for women to offer a fine-tuned fit, the Ariel 55 is designed to accommodate a variety of body shapes and sizes. The pack features a custom “Fit-on-the-Fly Hipbelt” and shoulder strap, so it can easily be adjusted as you travel. Constructed from high-quality bluesign approved nylon and PFC-free DWR, the pack sports an injection-molded, die-cut foam AirScapeTM backpanel that creates a breathable, close-to-body fit. Additionally, the close-to-body fit and carry system allows the pack to work well with heavier loads and stay snug on more technical trails. 

With the Ariel 55, Osprey thought of everything. The pack includes a rain cover, a large, front-panel, zip-access main compartment, a floating top lid with lash points, a fabric reinforced shove-it pocket, and dual-access mesh side water bottle pockets. As far as adjustability, it also has dual upper/lower compression straps and dual front-panel compression straps. Not to mention places for gear, like dual-zippered hipbelt pockets, dual ice axe loops with bungee tie-offs, a zippered sleeping bag compartment with removable divider, an internal hydration reservoir sleeve, and anchor loops for attaching a day pack.

Putting the Ariel 55 to the test in Iceland. Photo: Rebecca Parsons

My Take

I recently went on a 12-day trip through the highlands of Iceland and brought the Ariel 55 along for the ride. Admittedly, I didn’t try it out ahead of time and was nervous about taking a new pack on such a lengthy trip. I’ve worn Osprey packs in the past and the brand’s reputation is impeccable. But it was a gamble nonetheless. 

When I first tried on the pack, I thought I’d ordered the wrong size. I’m 5’7”, 125 pounds and ordered the S/M. But after some adjusting, I was able to get it fitted and found it was the perfect size for my lean frame.

There’s a lot to love about Osprey’s Ariel 55. I’m a big fan of the multitude of pockets, quick-stash zippered sections, and the variety of straps. The weather in Iceland is mercurial so I constantly found myself stripping and adding layers, so it was nice to have places to easily stash things. I stored essentials like chapstick and gloves in the hipbelt compartments and snacks and other important items in the floating top lid. 

I drink a lot of water, so I brought a hydration bladder which I stored in the specialized compartment and two water bottles that I stashed in the outer water bottle holders. I put regular water in the bladder and water with electrolytes in the bottles, so the combination of hydration sources and storage spaces worked well for me.

I like to wear my pack as snug as possible around the hips, so I really appreciated the on-the-go adjustment system, which I loosened when taking off the pack and cinched as tight as possible when on the trail. The shoulder straps were also adjustable, but I found that one of them refused to sit flat which created some discomfort – perhaps it was user error but it was one of my only qualms with the pack.

Twelve days is a long time on the trail and the Ariel 55 proved its worth through sunny days, rainstorms, and everything in between. I foresee many more adventures in our future.

Get the Ariel 55 at Backcountry or REI.


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