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March 2016 Issue
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Aarn Guiding Light

Aarn Guiding Light

Price:

$385

Our Rating:

The Guiding Light is an adjustable back-length multiday pack oriented towards above the snowline use. Tipping the scales at 1750g (57-litre) and 1920g (65-litre) it’s a respectable weight for a large-capacity pack.

Aarn packs are founded around the concept of the ‘Body Pack’ as opposed to the conventional backpack. The load is distributed among a low-profile main compartment and a pair of Balance Pockets ($145 and available in different styles). Holding six litres each, the Balance Pockets attach to the waist belt and shoulder straps and make a convenient place to put compact but heavy items such as water bottles, food, fuel and cameras. They’re big enough that with careful packing you could probably avoid having to burrow into the main pack at all during the day.

In tandem with a thoughtful harness design, this system serves to provide a comfortable pack. Immediately, I found myself walking more upright, with less strain on the front of my shoulders. Really rough bouldery terrain, with a decent load, seemed less tiring to traverse as I worked less to stabilise myself. Notably, the lower part of the shoulder straps ‘float’ under the pack, freeing the shoulders and making lifting your arms easy. Removable waterproof liners for the main sack and Balance Pockets keep gear dry.

Aside from its novel Body Pack approach, the most salient features are the rope door, situated above the shoulder straps; and the tool quivers on the main pack. The former is a zip-closed panel allowing access to the top of the pack – ideal for deploying rope from; an esoteric use perhaps, but it also allows passage for a hydration hose and access in general. The quiver provides storage for snow anchors, walking poles or skis and ice tools, and it works very well, except in regard to ice tools which I think would be better served with a dedicated attachment point. A snow shovel sleeve would also be useful.