$199 - $139
At a glance
Pluses: Spacious balanced pack system with on the go access
Minuses: Ventilation issues
900g + 572g, 26-litres + 24-litres
Features: This pack is made out of a sturdy 210D ripstop nylon. It’s a no-frills, zip-opening pack with an extra zipped front pocket and two side stretch pockets. The Velcro adjustable back length allows 10cm of movement, and the hip belt has a dual-adjust system, allowing fine-tuning around the waist. A hydration reservoir pocket, hook and tube exit allows bladder use, and the pack includes a tuck-away rain cover and walking pole attachment loops. The Universal Balance Bags (12l each) extend the pack capacity to 50l. Each bag includes two front mesh pockets, and a zipped main pocket, with an integrated internal waterproof liner.
Fit: The pack was easy to get comfortable and the adjustment options should suit most body shapes. The dual-adjust hip belt allows fine-tweaking on the top and bottom of the belt – it works well, once you’re used to it.
Comfort: Loaded with around 8kg, the pack was extraordinarily comfortable, and the balance perfect. On a 20km day, I never felt the urge to dump the pack during breaks, and my shoulders, back and hips didn’t complain. The balance bags look awkward, but the weight is directed to the hips by an aluminium stay and I barely noticed their presence.
In use: The tramping world seems divided into those who’ve tried and converted to Aarn packs, and those who make fun of the ‘breast bags’. I experienced both during my testing, but after experiencing the versatility and convenience of the balance pockets, I’m a firm convert and staunch defender of the bags. Walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, I could fit my day’s food into one, a camera lens into the other and could access both on the go with ease. I felt a noticeable improvement in balance on the uneven terrain and scree slopes when compared to a traditional backpack. My back stayed clammy due to average ventilation, but the balance bags hang away from the chest, so no problems there. With weight in the balance bags, the pack is a bit awkward to handle when you’re not wearing it.
Value: A well priced and versatile package.
Verdict: Superbly balanced and comfortable pack system – try it to discover what the fuss is all about.