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The Osprey Ariel 55L Backpack Review – Plus New Ariel AG Updates

osprey womens ariel 55 pack review

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If you have a slightly longer packing list, or require a lot of specific gear, you can still backpack in comfort. The Osprey Ariel 55L is a great bag for packing up your bulky items such as heavy boots and larger cameras.

Kathryn Murphy is an archaeology student and travel addict from Canada who highly recommends the Osprey Ariel 55L. 

She has used this backpack to travel on group trips and solo trips, as well as for fun trips and archaeological digs for school. It holds her archaeology gear comfortably and provides plenty of space when she’s country hopping.

Read on to find out why the Osprey Ariel 55 has been perfect for Kathryn’s variety of adventures. 

Osprey Ariel 55 Quick Review

  • TOP PICK FOR: Travelers with a longer packing list or bulky gear, especially those who need the weight off their shoulders.

PROS

  • Very comfortable weight distribution
  • Enough room for bulky gear
  • Osprey’s All-Mighty Lifetime Warranty
  • Top lid converts to small daypack

CONS

  • Large number of straps
  • Too big to carry on when full
  • Water bottle pockets can be bothersome

Why I Chose the Osprey Ariel 55L

kathryn murphy and her osprey ariel 55
Kathryn Murphy and her Osprey Ariel 55

When it came to choosing a backpack, I needed one that was:

  • comfortable to carry
  • easy to pack
  • big enough to carry my clothes for the vacation parts of my trips, as well as the gear I need for the archaeological digs (rubber boots, hiking boots, rain gear, trowel, extra clothes for digging)

Luckily for me, the staff member at the local camping, hiking and travel shop was a fellow archaeology student, so he knew what kind of gear I would be taking with me.

I only looked at women’s bags, since I wanted to make sure the bag would fit my shape. I also have some shoulder problems, so I wanted to make sure that the bag would sit properly on my hips, so they would carry most of the weight.

The Ariel felt amazing even before it was adjusted for me.

Update: Osprey Ariel AG 55L Features

Since Kathryn’s original review was published, the Osprey Ariel 55L was updated to the Osprey Ariel AG 55L, which has Osprey’s Anti-Gravity (AG) Technology. According to the REI reps, this feature makes the bag slightly heavier but with a much more comfortable feel.

HPL would like to point out some of the key features of this updated bag below:

  • Lightweight suspended-mesh panel extends from the upper torso through the lumbar area to wrap your back in breathable comfort
  • Heat-moldable hipbelt and harness provide outstanding fit and comfort for heavy loads and long miles; they are interchangeable to provide a custom fit (others sold separately)
  • Removable top-lid converts to DayLid daypack (U.S. and Canada stock only)
  • Integrated FlapJacket cover for lidless use
  • Large J-zip access to the main compartment on the front panel; Side panel zip access to main compartment as well
  • Internal sleeve accommodates hydration reservoir (sold separately)
  • 3 sets of independently adjustable compression straps stabilize your load
  • Zippered hipbelt pockets
  • Dual-access, stretch-mesh side pockets; large stretch-mesh pocket on the front panel
  • Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment; dual ice-tool loops with bungee tie-offs; removable sleeping pad straps
  • Zippered sleeping bag compartment with removable divider

Sizing:

XS: 49 liters, 14-17 inch torso, 24-28 inch waist/hips
S: 52 liters, 16-19 inch torso, 27-31 inch waist/hips
M: 55 liters, 18-21 inch torso, 30-34 inch waist/hips

Please note that women’s size XS packs come with a Small harness and hip belt.

Osprey Ariel AG 55 with converted daypack
Osprey Ariel AG 55 with converted Daypack

Osprey Ariel Pros and Cons

I love that the bag has several access points (top, bottom, and side), so it is easy to both pack my gear at home, and to unpack, or access items, on the road. 

The biggest downside is probably the number of straps on the bag. They can get caught in airport conveyor belts, but I eliminate the problem when I travel by rolling up the straps so they aren’t loose, and by placing my backpack in the huge plastic bags provided at the airport. 

I’ve found that European airports do not usually provide these bags, so I stick an extra in one of the side pockets on my backpack for the flight home.

  • Another option is to purchase a backpack cover or duffel made to protect a backpack while in transit.

Backpack Testing Period

kathryn murphy on an archaeological dig
Kathryn Murphy on an archaeological dig.

The Osprey Ariel 55L has been my companion on three adventures so far:

  • 3.5 weeks in Scotland and England
  • 6.5 weeks around England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland
  • 3 weeks in Scotland and England in the heat of summer

I am actually on my second Ariel 55 bag. While flying from Edinburgh to Belfast during the second trip, my bag got caught somewhere on the miles of conveyor belts in the airport; I picked it up on the luggage carousel to find 3 small holes melted into the fabric on the bottom. 

Luckily, Osprey has a fantastic All-Mighty Lifetime Warranty

Once I was home, my bag was shipped to Osprey, where they decided they couldn’t fix the holes. Osprey sent me a voucher to cover the cost of a replacement bag, no questions asked.

Backpack Size

When full, the bag is typically too big to be used as carry-on. I travel with another small backpack for carry-on and to use as a daypack while I’m touring around, so I always check my Ariel. 

Editor’s note: The newer Ariel AG 55 comes equipped with a removable top lid that converts to a daypack, making the need to pack an extra day bag obsolete.

For packing, size has been just perfect for me. I have no problem fitting all of my archaeology gear, and the rest of my clothes for my travels. I also use two of Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Compression Sacs while I’m traveling, which helps save a lot of space.

Backpack Fit and Comfort

Osprey Ariel AG 55 front and back view

I find this bag fits very well. Before I left the store, a staff member helped me adjust the torso length, and made sure I knew how to adjust the straps, so the bag fit me properly. 

With these adjustments, the Osprey Ariel 55L is very comfortable, and I am able to carry it for extended periods without any problems.

It is vital that my pack sits mainly on my hips (a common mistake of first-time backpackers) and lets them carry the majority of the weight, as I have some shoulder problems. The Ariel fits this bill amazingly.

So far I’ve carried it with anywhere from 25 to 45 pounds in it, and I have had no problems.

There is an option to have the hip belt heated and custom molded to your shape. I haven’t done this yet since it wouldn’t last very long if the straps get squished while traveling. 

If I do decide I want the custom molding, I have the option to return to the store where I purchased the bag and have it done. If you are planning to hike or a long trek, this would be a great option for additional comfort.

How to Pack the Osprey Ariel

The Ariel 55 provides plenty of room for a lot of gear, but packing it properly is still essential for comfort during trekking and easy access at your destinations.

We always recommend using packing cubes and following backpack packing best practices. Utilizing packing organizers that fit your style of travel makes packing and finding your gear SO much easier.

The Ariel offers a variety of pockets and access points for built-in organization opportunities. The sleeping bag compartment, for example, provides access to the middle of the bag, and it also makes for a great place to carry dirty shoes when a sleeping bag is not being packed! 

Note: The Ariel 55 lacks the front-loading J-style access point found in the 65L and 75L versions.

The lid is removable and converts into a daypack, which makes it a great spot to store your frequent use items. Note: this feature is only available in the U.S. and Canada stock. 

This video shows off some of this pack’s best features so you can decide where your own essentials might fit best in the Osprey Ariel 55.

Highly Recommended

I would definitely recommend this backpack to fellow travelers, especially if you have shoulder or upper back issues and need your bag to be carried mainly on your hips. The Osprey warranty is unparalleled, and you simply can’t go wrong with this brand.


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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Charlie says

    I’m so happy to hear about your good experience with an Osprey bag as I’ve just bought the Osprey Sojourn for my upcoming trip. Good to know they have a lifetime warranty too!

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