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Bushwalking gear and paraphernalia. Electronic gadget topics (inc. GPS, PLB, chargers) belong in the 'Techno Babble' sub-forum.

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TIP: The online Bushwalk Inventory System can help bushwalkers with a variety of bushwalk planning tasks, including: Manage which items they take bushwalking so that they do not forget anything they might need, plan meals for their walks, and automatically compile food/fuel shopping lists (lists of consumables) required to make and cook the meals for each walk. It is particularly useful for planning for groups who share food or other items, but is also useful for individual walkers.
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Help me choose an Aarn pack

Fri 10 Jul, 2020 9:28 am

Hi all

I'm sure there are many posts about Aarn packs (sorry to add to the chorus), but I've got a few to choose from and I'd love some assistance.

I'm booked in to do Overland in December (if the universe agrees it will be so) and don't have a pack yet. I've done a fair bit of research and think I'd like an Aarn. Below are the ones I'm looking at:

FEATHERLITE FREEDOM - M - 55L +12L (Sports balance pockets)

MOUNTAIN MAGIC 55L + 12L (Sports balance pockets)

NATURAL BALANCE - Short - 63L + 15L (Expedition balance pockets)

I'm not sure that I'll necessarily need the larger one (Natural Balance) but it's on sale (the 2018 version) so is significantly cheaper than the others. I'm a "small" backlength, so I do worry a little that the larger one won't be so nice for me (even if I'm getting the short backlength and correct hip belt). It's also an older version.

The Mountain Magic is also on sale right now and is cheaper than the Natural Balance, but the pack doesn't come with a waterproof liner. The others do. For OT, I would have thought this would be necessary. At the price it's going for, I could purchase one and still probably come out better off financially.

That leaves the featherlite freedom, which is the most expensive, but seems to be the best fit for what I want. Good size, waterproof liners included, lightweight. Perhaps it's better to spend the extra bit of money to (hopefully) get a better fit/pack.

I'm going with another person who will potentially carry the tent, so I don't need to include that. I do have a list and am being pretty luxurious with my planning (as in, I can still lose weight in a variety of places). My current base weight is 9.43kg.

Also, unfortunately I can't have it fitted as I don't live near a store that stocks them. I did see someone mention in another thread that one of the Melbourne stores will do a fitting via skype, so I might look into that.

Edited to add: I just spoke to someone from Backpacking Light (where I was looking to purchase from anyway), who talked me through options and we ended up with either the Featherlite Freedom, or the Peak Aspiration (both 55L) with the Sports pocket. They mentioned they have the new "Pro" Dyneema Sport Balance pockets in stock and suggested they might be good. If I go with the Peak Aspiration, I'll have to buy pockets either way, so are the new ones worth it for another $40?

Any advice appreciated!

Re: Help me choose an Aarn pack

Mon 13 Jul, 2020 11:52 am

So I ended up getting the new "pro" pockets. Will see how they go when they arrive and provide an update (in case anyone is interested). Next step is figuring out my pack weight.

Re: Help me choose an Aarn pack

Mon 13 Jul, 2020 1:51 pm

Sorry, I missed your earlier post. Aarn tragic here - between us, hubby and I own 7 Aarn packs (I have 3).

My newest Aarn pack is a Peak Aspiration (S) with the older Sports balance pockets. I used it on our last OLT track trip and was quite happy with it once we got the back length issue sorted.

It's a nice pack. The ability to take off the top lid is really handy, coz you can stick all those important little "fiddly" things you might need during the night in there and put it next to your mat. I kept my phone, head torch and medication in there (amongst other things).

I would be interested to hear how you find the pack and the "Pro" pockets.

Re: Help me choose an Aarn pack

Mon 13 Jul, 2020 5:22 pm

Congrats on your new pack. I didn't know they were doing 'pro' pockets.
I still haven't quite 'mastered' my Aarn pack, but will get there eventually. I am sure a week on the OLT will allow you to get it all dialed in- I have only done overnighters with mine so far

Re: Help me choose an Aarn pack

Mon 13 Jul, 2020 7:54 pm

I dig the theory but think I'd get annoyed with front pockets..?

Re: Help me choose an Aarn pack

Mon 13 Jul, 2020 8:16 pm

There might be a period of adaptation but I reckon you'd get used to them fairly quickly. The ergonomics beats a conventional pack hands down.

The best thing about the front pockets is being able to put stuff in there that you might need to access without diving into your pack. Works particularly well if the weather is bad.
For example, I carried map, compass, snacks, cup, gas bottle, stove, beanie, neck warmer, sunglasses, sunscreen, knife and water bottle in my front pockets amongst other things.

Re: Help me choose an Aarn pack

Mon 13 Jul, 2020 9:19 pm

Neo wrote:I dig the theory but think I'd get annoyed with front pockets..?

Neo, that is a concise way of stating an idea, but I think you are raising a false dichotomy. If the theory is good but the practice is wrong, then Aarn could not possibly have been selling their products for almost two decades.

Can I tell you about a bloke I met on a walking trip last year. He had some serious and long-lasting injuries but despite those was able to be out on a two-week walk. His physical condition meant that he became focused on buying ultra-light equipment. He decided that the Aarn backpack he'd been using for quite a while could be replaced by something that weighed relatively almost nothing. He had no problem with fact that the replacement would wear out much more rapidly than the Aarn, because he had the money to replace the replacement when required. But he was adamant that the Aarn pockets had to be able to be fitted to that replacement backpack. Which involved a somewhat complicated re-design of the components, and yet more expense.

My apologies for the long explication, but I think this reinforces how significant the Aarn combination of backpack and front pockets is. I suppose I have to add that my connection with Aarn is simply as a very satisfied user and in no way as having any role in the company.

Re: Help me choose an Aarn pack

Mon 13 Jul, 2020 9:40 pm

I wouldn't know for sure unless I tried every option!
I go for a narrow upright pack and hip pockets.
Reducing weight and bulk when afforded.

Re: Help me choose an Aarn pack

Thu 16 Jul, 2020 7:29 pm

Neo, your concerns are valid. They were (still are?) my own also.

I didn't mind the compact pockets on my Aarn pack, they were not bulky at all, loved their size for my own body size/shape. Only issue with them is not being big enough to weight appropriately to utilise the whole Aarn underpinning concept of pack balance. Also, doesn't create sufficient packing space for Winter trips.
The Sport Short pockets though. Hmmm. Not sure about them. I could weight them heavily enough that my hipbelt didn't bruise my hips, but they gave me the shizzits a bit putting the pack on and off - this was exacerbated by the last time I had the Aarn out I needed my rain gear on and off a bit and I really got irritated with what a process it was each time. I may grow to love the Sport pockets on trips when the pack doesn't need to come on and off 50 billion times though. Perhaps :shock: :lol:
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