Soon after we arrived in New Zealand we laid eyes on the first hiker using an Aarn bodypack. We did not dare to ask him, Graeme/Graham he was called, if it wasn’t very awkward and uncomfortable walking with those pockets in the front of the body. How could he manage all the scrambling without stumbling over his own feet.? We decided we did not like the looks of it, and we were quite sceptical about Aarn for a long time. But Graeme/Graham quickly outran us in the forest, in fact, every hiker we ever met using an Aarn pack outran us all the time. First we thought they were all just fitter, quicker and stronger than we were, until we walked with Marylène for a long time. Of course she is fit, strong and a fast walker, but every evening we noticed something about her: how she was not (dead) tired at the end of the day, how she had gone on for hours and hours without complaining about her pack once, how her back and shoulders seemed fine after a long day of hiking. We became intrigued. Therefore we decided to try these funky Aarn packs for ourselves and see if we too would look like that at the end of the day. We walked nearly 1000km through Australia with them and now we never want to buy another normal backpack again.
Model: Peak Aspiration with Sports (PJ)/Compact balance pockets (Eef)
Volume (approx.): S:40L L:47L
Weight max/min: S:1,68kg/1,6kg L: 1,78kg/1,7kg
500D Codura nylon
210D, 40D ripstop nylon
The Aarn Bodypack is a very technical pack with a wide amount of options and features on it. We will not go into the technical details and descriptions here, as they would make for a very, very long post and are already very well described on Aarn’s website. Here we will explain how the packs worked for us and why we enjoyed using them a lot. So for more information on the bodypack construction, adjustment, U-, V-, W- and X-flow features please visit aarnpacks.com.
The first thing we noticed about the pack was how many adjustments you are able to make; everything from the backlenght to the width and angle of the hipbelts, it was incredible how much you can fiddle with it in order to create a perfect fit. Seeing that we received our packs in the mail the day before setting off for the Bibbulmun Track it’s fair to say we had not perfected our packs before the hike began. According to Aarn this should take one to two days, however, for us it took about one week until we had it all figured out. Once we had gotten it right it felt like the pack had been custom made from a mould of our bodies, never had either of us felt such comfort.
Aarn states that the Peak Aspiration is “perfect for those wanting a mid sized pack….able to carry heavy weights with ease”. This we tested numerous times, at one point I was carrying 22-23kg, a weight I had experienced carrying while on Te Araroa after a big resupply. However, with the Peak Aspiration comfortably hugging me in all the right places I never felt like I was actually carrying such a heavy load, a great relief as my previous experience with this amount of weight was nearly killing my back and shoulders. 20+kg is a significant weight to carry over a long period of time and it will slow you down drastically, but with the Aarn Peak Aspiration I kept on walking for hours on end until we reached the days campsite, rarely taking the pack off my back. At the end of the day my back, neck, shoulders or hips were in any pain, it literally felt as if I had been walking with a light day pack on my back. Eef and I would often say at the end of the day that had it not been getting dark we could’ve kept going for several hours more. With the bodypacks we rarely had any upper body fatigue and would rarely stop for breaks during the day due to aches and pains from the pack.
Features and Waterproofness
The most revolutionary feature that Aarn has produced is by far the balance pockets. These pockets appear at first glance strange to the experienced hiker – they must be quite awkward to walk with, especially while bush bashing through dense forests. In fact they are exactly the opposite, the pockets never obstruct your view and while bush bashing they actually provide protection from branches etc. The absolute best feature regarding the balance pockets is found within its name, balance. It is through the usage of the pockets that perfect weight distribution is achieved, resulting in almost perfect balance and stability. I used the Sport pockets which are 6L volume each while Eef used the Compact balance pockets with a volume of 3L per balance pocket.
The pack and the Sport balance pockets come with drybags in order to improve the waterproofness of the pack. We walked through some pretty heavy rain with these packs and never experienced water seeping through, not even the pocket in the top lid got wet on the inside.
The heavy duty 500D Codura nylon, 210D and 40D ripstop nylon can take a proper beating. Our Aarn Stronglite packs have survived everything the Bibbulmun Track threw at them. However, it is even more impressive to mention that the Aarn Ultralite packs, such as their Featherlite Freedom that our friends used, survived all the hardships of the 3000+km Te Araroa Trail. We didn’t see a single Aarn product knuckle under when going got rough and this is truly impressive!
Aarn has revolutionized the common backpack from something you carry on your back into something that you wear and that moves with you. The combination of almost perfect weight distribution, balance and comfort might force the backpacking community to rethink how we portray a backpack. Nonetheless, it will be very difficult to overlook Aarn products and we will definitely never purchase a regular backpack again.