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Aarn Backpack Advice Please - FF or PA

Tuaruin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sanabres.
Santiago-Muxia-Finisterre-Santiago.
Ingles.
Hello

I am new to what looks like a great forum and indeed to the Camino. I am planning to head off on my first in a few weeks. Rather an impulse trip and all pretty last minute but I'm hoping it will prove the elixir I sorely need.

My question relates to Aarn backpacks. I am about to buy one but am struggling to choose between the Featherlite Freedom and the Peak Aspiration with Sports Balance Pockets. I know they are larger than required but I also plan to use the pack for camping trips in future and prefer a slightly larger pack anyway that gives more latitude packing.

I would be really grateful for any advice from anyone that has experience of these packs and if one has any particular merit over the other. They are close to each other in price with the PA about 10% more so cost is probably not a critical factor. Weight seems to be only about 250g between them. I don't imagine anyone will have both but perhaps you may have been able to test them in shops before you bought (I am buying sight unseen), I'd be interested to hear what drew you to one over the other.

Thank you
Richard
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
Welcome to the forum Richard. @Kanga, who is on the Camino at present, uses Aarn backpacks and she will give you a good account when she is online I'm sure. In the meantime, happy planning and Buen Camino.
 

Rick M

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
April ('16,'18, '19)
I do not have an opinion on that pack, but make sure you have time to return it! A pack is like an article of clothing......it has to fit you. A backpack that you just can't get comfortable with will make for a miserable walk. A better idea is checking out a sports store and picking up one that you know fits your frame well.
 

Tuaruin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sanabres.
Santiago-Muxia-Finisterre-Santiago.
Ingles.
Thank you, sound advice but I'm pretty keen to try something new and a bit different that might help ease the strain on a lower back injury I have. I have used several packs over the years and thankfully I seem to be easily pleased as regards fit so I'm not too concerned but I could of course return it in any case.

Thanks for the welcome Wayfarer, I have seen Kanga's name during my research, she seems to rate the packs highly.
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
I have the Featherlite, and I love it. It is a "better mousetrap."
 

RNC

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2015; Via Podiensis (2018)
Hello

I am new to what looks like a great forum and indeed to the Camino. I am planning to head off on my first in a few weeks. Rather an impulse trip and all pretty last minute but I'm hoping it will prove the elixir I sorely need.

My question relates to Aarn backpacks. I am about to buy one but am struggling to choose between the Featherlite Freedom and the Peak Aspiration with Sports Balance Pockets. I know they are larger than required but I also plan to use the pack for camping trips in future and prefer a slightly larger pack anyway that gives more latitude packing.

I would be really grateful for any advice from anyone that has experience of these packs and if one has any particular merit over the other. They are close to each other in price with the PA about 10% more so cost is probably not a critical factor. Weight seems to be only about 250g between them. I don't imagine anyone will have both but perhaps you may have been able to test them in shops before you bought (I am buying sight unseen), I'd be interested to hear what drew you to one over the other.

Thank you
Richard

Hi Richard

My husband and I are huge fans of Aarn packs. We each used the PA (large and small respectively) on the Camino Frances and have balance pockets to add on for other camping trips when we need to carry more gear and food.

I've not used the FF, but think you'd find either pack very good. We found we never used all the space in our PAs on the Camino - so I expect you'd find FF pretty roomy.

Things I particularly like about the PA (apart from the unbelievable fit, lightness and comfort) include:
- the single internal dri-sack fixed inside with Velcro. You know all your gear is always protected and dry - no action required if it rains - no pack cover or poncho required.
- the zipped cover lid. It's not waterproof, but gives you an easy access pocket for items that you want to get to during the day, but would prefer to carry more securely than in the stretch pockets.
- the extra front straps and stretch bands. Not essential, but gives additional options for securing gear outside the pack and tightening the pack load.
- balance pockets. You don't always want/need the extra space (or weight) so the ability to add or subtract pack volume as required is fantastic.

Is there any way you can get to a supplier to try the packs and get them fitted? That's obviously the most important thing.

Feel free to PM me if you'd like to discuss further.

RNC
 
Camino(s) past & future
VDLP (2014)
Le Puy - SJPP (2016)
I bought the Peak Aspiration recently, after also trying on the Featherlite Freedom. It is bigger than strictly needed but, like you, I will use it on other trips where I need to carry food and more gear. I think the FF would be perfect for a warm weather, pared-down packing Camino, and for a big day-pack for hikes at home; the PA will hold more if you need to carry winter gear and / or food and water on long stages, and if you want something for longer hikes at home. As others have said the main thing is to have it fitted to your shape. I've done a couple of training walks with it, but not yet the full Camino road test - I was meant to be starting the Camino Madrid this week but have had to cancel because some health issues have emerged. Hopefully I'll get there again before long!
 
Camino(s) past & future
'03CF, '08VdlP, '12Porto, '14VdlP via Port '15CPI ‘17Levante to Toledo
Hi @Onomad, my Aarn is a Peak Aspiration (I think 55l) and the front pockets are the Balance Pockets - Exp - Reg (15l +2 ). I bought the bigger ones as they convert to an awesome ‘day-pack’ for the plane on the long trip over. I love my Aarn.
It will be fitted to your shape by the supplier and ‘locked’ but you can always self-adjust yourself via the online videos.
I have done 2 caminos with it and about to head off again. Love the movement and it is great for back issues. please PM me (personal message) if you need more info. Are you living in NZ/Aus?
Enjoy.
 

Tuaruin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sanabres.
Santiago-Muxia-Finisterre-Santiago.
Ingles.
Thank you all for the responses. I am in the UK and there is no supplier here so unfortunately there is no chance of trying them on or having a good look at them. Not ideal but I have read only good things about them and the fitting instructions available online are pretty comprehensive. It does though mean that any advice is very helpful in choosing. It's interesting that more seem to have the PA as it was the one I found less info about in my research.

Falcon269: Could I ask what made you go for the FF?

RNC: I quite like the idea of the lid pocket for times one doesn't use the balance pockets. How high does the pack come, does it interfere with a wide brim hat for example?

Cross6011: The FF is listed with a higher capacity than the PA on the website being a little wider and deeper (front to back). It's interesting that you feel that the reverse is true and that the PA gives greater capacity, did the FF feel like a more compact pack? Really bad luck having to cancel, I hope your health issue resolve soon.

Gracethepilgrim: Can I ask what made you go for the PA over other models?

As the two packs are broadly similar, its really useful to hear from those that had the opportunity to see and try on both and what made you go for one over the other. I had been leaning toward the FF as it is a touch lighter and a little cheaper but it's not by much and I had originally preferred the look of the PA (more akin to what I'm used to perhaps). It's turning out to be a tough choice.
 

RNC

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2015; Via Podiensis (2018)
Thank you all for the responses. I am in the UK and there is no supplier here so unfortunately there is no chance of trying them on or having a good look at them. Not ideal but I have read only good things about them and the fitting instructions available online are pretty comprehensive. It does though mean that any advice is very helpful in choosing. It's interesting that more seem to have the PA as it was the one I found less info about in my research.

Falcon269: Could I ask what made you go for the FF?

RNC: I quite like the idea of the lid pocket for times one doesn't use the balance pockets. How high does the pack come, does it interfere with a wide brim hat for example?

Cross6011: The FF is listed with a higher capacity than the PA on the website being a little wider and deeper (front to back). It's interesting that you feel that the reverse is true and that the PA gives greater capacity, did the FF feel like a more compact pack? Really bad luck having to cancel, I hope your health issue resolve soon.

Gracethepilgrim: Can I ask what made you go for the PA over other models?

As the two packs are broadly similar, its really useful to hear from those that had the opportunity to see and try on both and what made you go for one over the other. I had been leaning toward the FF as it is a touch lighter and a little cheaper but it's not by much and I had originally preferred the look of the PA (more akin to what I'm used to perhaps). It's turning out to be a tough choice.[/QUOTE
Thank you all for the responses. I am in the UK and there is no supplier here so unfortunately there is no chance of trying them on or having a good look at them. Not ideal but I have read only good things about them and the fitting instructions available online are pretty comprehensive. It does though mean that any advice is very helpful in choosing. It's interesting that more seem to have the PA as it was the one I found less info about in my research.

Falcon269: Could I ask what made you go for the FF?

RNC: I quite like the idea of the lid pocket for times one doesn't use the balance pockets. How high does the pack come, does it interfere with a wide brim hat for example?

Cross6011: The FF is listed with a higher capacity than the PA on the website being a little wider and deeper (front to back). It's interesting that you feel that the reverse is true and that the PA gives greater capacity, did the FF feel like a more compact pack? Really bad luck having to cancel, I hope your health issue resolve soon.

Gracethepilgrim: Can I ask what made you go for the PA over other models?

As the two packs are broadly similar, its really useful to hear from those that had the opportunity to see and try on both and what made you go for one over the other. I had been leaning toward the FF as it is a touch lighter and a little cheaper but it's not by much and I had originally preferred the look of the PA (more akin to what I'm used to perhaps). It's turning out to be a tough choice.
Richard - no issues with top cover of PA interfering with a hat. Here's a pic (if it works)
 
Camino(s) past & future
'03CF, '08VdlP, '12Porto, '14VdlP via Port '15CPI ‘17Levante to Toledo
Gracethepilgrim: Can I ask what made you go for the PA over other models?

…..
@Onomad - I chose the PA for the size and comfort. Because the PA only has a top opening I wanted a pack with sufficient room so that it’s easy to pack and unpack.
I also need the extra space for travelling. Not all my trips are for caminos.
It is a perfect for a camino and leaves a little extra space for purchases after I finish. I can’t fault it.
If you send me a PM (personal message) I can send you some photos.
 

April Jo

Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2016, Sarria to Santiago.
I haven't used a FF, but I really love my Peak Aspiration. (Can't remember the name of the smaller one I swapped it for.) The size of the PA suited me better, because I'm not a good packer, and wanted enough space to stuff things into, in my rather untidy fashion....

The PA turned out to be completely waterproof.

I had broken my arm just under the shoulder a few months before, and the PA was absolutely fine comfort-wise.

The sports pockets annoyed me because they were too big for me - because I tended to put too much in them, which made them too heavy and unwieldy for my liking, so I will get compact size pockets next time and just use them for water bottles and snacks.

Go well with your decision.
 

Magnara

Maggie Ramsay
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago de Compostela (2005) Via Francigena (2010) Le Puy to St Jean (2014)
Hello

I am new to what looks like a great forum and indeed to the Camino. I am planning to head off on my first in a few weeks. Rather an impulse trip and all pretty last minute but I'm hoping it will prove the elixir I sorely need.

My question relates to Aarn backpacks. I am about to buy one but am struggling to choose between the Featherlite Freedom and the Peak Aspiration with Sports Balance Pockets. I know they are larger than required but I also plan to use the pack for camping trips in future and prefer a slightly larger pack anyway that gives more latitude packing.

I would be really grateful for any advice from anyone that has experience of these packs and if one has any particular merit over the other. They are close to each other in price with the PA about 10% more so cost is probably not a critical factor. Weight seems to be only about 250g between them. I don't imagine anyone will have both but perhaps you may have been able to test them in shops before you bought (I am buying sight unseen), I'd be interested to hear what drew you to one over the other.

Thank you
Richard
It depends a bit on your height. We bought one of each, but my husband who is not very tall (about 5'9") discovered that the larger one was too long between neck and hip, so we both ended up with FF and they have travelled with us about 3,000 km now. We are big fans of these packs, as they are a fabulous design, and watertight, never have leaked water even in torrential rain without needing a cover and completely able to be fitted to your individual spine and everywhere else - bliss. Our FF came with the balance packs which again depends - I don't use them because I am ...ahem... female whereas he finds them great for carrying things and doing what they are supposed to in balancing up the total weight front and back. Hope that helps.
 

Tuaruin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sanabres.
Santiago-Muxia-Finisterre-Santiago.
Ingles.
Thank you for all the advice. I've taken the plunge and am in the process of buying a Peak Aspiration. Next I need to work out what I'll put in it and start looking into my route.
Thanks again.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Flights booked and paid! Flying out of Sydney 5 April 2018
Hi everyone
My friend and I will be heading off in April 2018 for the Camino. I've been trying to find a comfortable pack for almost 12 months now! I've bought two osprey ones the aura 50 and the Kyte 66 (yes the kyte 66 is too big, I learnt this after doing lots of research) The shoulder straps on both bags rub around my neck. I've been into every store in Sydney and tried on just about every pack in every make - still no luck ;) I've tried the Aarn peak aspiration but am disappointed there are no hip pockets or a place for water bladder and no seperate compartments to put camera, snacks etc. Ive tried the balance bags and don't like them. Too bulky. Any advice?
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese.
Gosh, I can see my name was mentioned way back. I have used the Aarn Featherlite plus balance packs on multiple caminos. I have also tried many, many other packs but nothing comes close to the Aarn for comfort when loaded (for me, others may feel differently). I am sorry @Africa that you felt the balance packs were too bulky - did you try the small, medium or large? I use the small size in the sports balance packs with the Featherlite. They do feel odd to start, especially putting the pack on and off, but once you are used to them they are easy and fabulous and part of the reason the Aarn is so comfortable. No need for a water bladder or hip pockets - water bottles, wallet, camera - everything is at hand right there in the front packs. But yes, when the front and back packs are fully loaded it is difficult to get into a small elevator (I've tried!) Still, I don't care how I look as long as I am comfortable walking. I carried 14 kilos (included camping gear) on the Norte with ease using the Aarn - there is no way I could have done that with another pack.

However these packs are expensive and I'd hate someone to spend that much just on my experience and recommendation and be disappointed.

If you do want more information send me a PM, some stores have more experience in fitting them than others, but I don't want to mention any or seem like a commercial for Aarn on the forum (no commercial connection at all).
 

RNC

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2015; Via Podiensis (2018)
Hi everyone
My friend and I will be heading off in April 2018 for the Camino. I've been trying to find a comfortable pack for almost 12 months now! I've bought two osprey ones the aura 50 and the Kyte 66 (yes the kyte 66 is too big, I learnt this after doing lots of research) The shoulder straps on both bags rub around my neck. I've been into every store in Sydney and tried on just about every pack in every make - still no luck ;) I've tried the Aarn peak aspiration but am disappointed there are no hip pockets or a place for water bladder and no seperate compartments to put camera, snacks etc. Ive tried the balance bags and don't like them. Too bulky. Any advice?
Hi Africa

Like Kanga, I don't think you can go past Aarn for sheer comfort. I've tried lots of different packs and once came close to buying an Osprey, but when you try them loaded up with weight, there is no comparison. As one reviewer said, you don't carry an Aarn, you wear it.

I have a small Aarn Peak Aspiration and find it alone is more than sufficient for a Camino. I only use balance pockets for camping when I have a tent and food to carry.

The Aarn's don't generally come with extra compartments, but that's one of their advantages. It keeps them light and allows for a single internal drysack that means they are watertight and don't need a pack cover (extra weight).

In terms of how you carry water, camera and snacks etc. I use a fanny pack or bum bag that I clip on around my waist before I put on my pack. It's secure and has space for wallet, iPhone, passport, credential and small snacks. I also carry snacks in a side pocket of my hiking shorts.

I'm not a fan of bladders and carry a small water bottle in each side pocket of the Aarn. For convenience (to provide access for a small water bottle without having to take off my pack) I've stitched a holder for a small 300ml bottle made with wide elastic and Velcro that I attach to one of my front pack straps. I got the idea from Wildfire. https://www.wildfiresports.com.au/fuelbelt-helium-sprint-palm-holder

The most important thing is to get a pack that is comfortable and feels right for you. You're the one who has to walk with it an awfully long way.

It might seem inconvenient to have to stop to get out food or your camera, but that's a small inconvenience (that can be worked around) compared to the discomfort of a pack that hurts your shoulders, feels heavy or rubs you badly.

RNC
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-18
Any advice?
The smaller and lighter Osprey packs would work better: Exos 48 (or for summer walking on the CF, maybe even the Exos 38). Osprey is coming out with new and revised pack models in a few months, so you may catch some inventory-clearing sale pricing.
 

rohanmce

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
{Sept-Oct 2019/SJPDP-Finisterre}
Hi everyone
My friend and I will be heading off in April 2018 for the Camino. I've been trying to find a comfortable pack for almost 12 months now! I've bought two osprey ones the aura 50 and the Kyte 66 (yes the kyte 66 is too big, I learnt this after doing lots of research) The shoulder straps on both bags rub around my neck. I've been into every store in Sydney and tried on just about every pack in every make - still no luck ;) I've tried the Aarn peak aspiration but am disappointed there are no hip pockets or a place for water bladder and no seperate compartments to put camera, snacks etc. Ive tried the balance bags and don't like them. Too bulky. Any advice?
Hey @Africa - What pack did you end up with?
 
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rohanmce

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
{Sept-Oct 2019/SJPDP-Finisterre}
I bought the Aarn Peak Aspiration. Very comfortable and easy to wear. Fits really well. Definitely recommend it
Thanks @Africa for the quick response. The Peak Aspiration looks great and I'm actively considering it. This is how the rankings are shaping up so far in my mind:
1. Natural Exhilaration (arguably best volume for Camino)
2. Peak Aspiration (superior hip belt system but might be bigger than I really need)
3. No other contenders at this point in time.

If I may ask..
Did you find the Peak Aspiration just right in terms of both body fit and carrying capacity?
Did you use any Balance Pockets?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Flights booked and paid! Flying out of Sydney 5 April 2018
Thanks @Africa for the quick response. The Peak Aspiration looks great and I'm actively considering it. This is how the rankings are shaping up so far in my mind:
1. Natural Exhilaration (arguably best volume for Camino)
2. Peak Aspiration (superior hip belt system but might be bigger than I really need)
3. No other contenders at this point in time.

If I may ask..
Did you find the Peak Aspiration just right in terms of both body fit and carrying capacity?
Did you use any Balance Pockets?
I travelled with a friend and we both had the Peak Aspiration packs. She however, did have the Balance Pockets as she took her big camera. She also had her snacks, water, first aid kit, credential, wallet etc. in there too. I on the other hand just had a bum bag (fanny pack) in front which held my credential, small snacks such as muesli bars, wallet, ,lip balm etc. Things I needed to access easily. The size would depend on the time of year you are going and how many clothes etc. you are taking and whether you are taking a sleeping bag.

I have attached pictures of my friend with her pack and balance pockets and me without the balance pockets. I didn't feel it necessary for the pockets. Remember, just because you have more room in the pack, doesn't mean you have to fill it up. More room makes it easier to find things too.

I tried for almost 18 months to find a pack that fit and felt comfortable. The Aarn pack was the only one that fitted my shoulders and traps without digging in and rubbing. Where do you live? It is always best to go in and try the packs in store.
 

Attachments

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese.
A bit of my experience. Many years ago I bought an Aarn Featherlite Freedom and I have wore it and updated models for years. Over that time every time I have updated my model I have tried on all the other brands that I can find, that are sold in Australia, but nothing comes close, for me, in terms of comfort.

I have a long back length (and it is important you find out your back length, getting it right is critical) so I was most comfortable in the larger size Featherlight, even though the small was plenty big enough in terms of volume.

Several years ago a few of my friends bought Aarn packs, and they both decided on the Peak Aspiration. I've tried it but prefer my Featherlite.

For quite a while I've wanted a pack I could take onboard. My Featherlite is too big, although Emirates have allowed it, as the total weight is under 7kg (I pack the balance packs inside, for the flight). So this year I bought the small Liquid Agility, to which I attached Sports Balance Packs from my Featherlite. It was a leap of faith because it is a completely different pack, with a different hip belt and not nearly so many possible adjustments.

I'm just back from the Via de la Plata with the Liquid Agility, and I'm still in two minds about it. It is primarily designed for skiers and bicyclists, not walkers. For a walker it is over-engineered, with lots of hidden features and pockets, and a place for a helmet (never used by me). It is also dependant on the zip that closes the pack (it opens out flat). This one is rugged, and shows no signs of any problems, but I'm always a bit worried about zips.

But I do have to say that in terms of comfort it worked well. The hip belt was my main concern - it is not padded like the Featherlite or the Peak Aspiration, but a "self form" belt, like the Natural Exhilaration. But it proved to be just as comfortable as the padded belts. The only downside was that it was a little more awkward putting on, with the front packs, than when the front packs are attached to the padded belt of the Featherlite.

I think if I were choosing again, I'd go for the Natural Exhilaration, with the Sports Balance packs. Similar size to the Liquid Agility, but simpler and lighter, and not a zip opening.
 

rohanmce

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
{Sept-Oct 2019/SJPDP-Finisterre}
Thanks @Africa - the photos are a great idea and your friend seems to be carrying the PA without any issue. You are correct in that I don't need to fill it up. Also, I'm a lot taller so I don't expect to have any problems with the size of it.

@Kanga thanks also, and you've just made something 'click' for me. The fact that the balance pockets connect to the hip belt on the Peak Aspiration but are suspended from the shoulder straps on the Natural Exhilaration is making me lean more towards the PA.

I'm 300 km from Sydney and just need to get myself to Kent Street to try on both. It's going to take a few weeks to sort all this out. I'll keep you updated.
 

katie@camino

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF, SJPDP-Finisterre 2016; CPort (Central) from Porto 2017;
CPort (Coastal) from Porto 2018.
I'll be interested to know your process @rohanmce. I bought a FF last year, am about to try it out for the first time on the CP starting this weekend.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese.
@katie@camino send me a PM if you have any problems with it - getting the fittings right can be a challenge the first time. Once they are all set it is heaven.

@rohanmce the balance packs do not "hang" from the shoulder straps on the Natural Exhilaration - they fit into a pocket on the hip belt and clip into the shoulder straps. They are supported on the waist band. Exactly the same for my Liquid Agility. As long as you have the pack properly adjusted and do not take the struts out of the balance pockets the load should go onto your hips. The back length needs to be right - so that the balance pack clip on the shoulder straps can move freely up and down and is sitting half way between the sternum strap (which should be pushed up) and the tensioning shoulder strap buckle (at the bottom).

Oh help - this is so simple in practice but terribly hard to explain! Send me a PM if you want to meet up when you come to Sydney.

I think the most important thing is how it feels on you. I know that both my friends who chose the Peak Aspiration did so because the shape simply felt best, whereas I like the FF.
 

rohanmce

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
{Sept-Oct 2019/SJPDP-Finisterre}
I'll be interested to know your process @rohanmce. I bought a FF last year, am about to try it out for the first time on the CP starting this weekend.
@katie@camino
I'll be interested to know your process @rohanmce. I bought a FF last year, am about to try it out for the first time on the CP starting this weekend.
Thanks Katie - I will provide updates but I'm not sure if my process will be totally objective and/or scientific.
 

rohanmce

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
{Sept-Oct 2019/SJPDP-Finisterre}
@katie@camino send me a PM if you have any problems with it - getting the fittings right can be a challenge the first time. Once they are all set it is heaven.

@rohanmce the balance packs do not "hang" from the shoulder straps on the Natural Exhilaration - they fit into a pocket on the hip belt and clip into the shoulder straps. They are supported on the waist band. Exactly the same for my Liquid Agility. As long as you have the pack properly adjusted and do not take the struts out of the balance pockets the load should go onto your hips. The back length needs to be right - so that the balance pack clip on the shoulder straps can move freely up and down and is sitting half way between the sternum strap (which should be pushed up) and the tensioning shoulder strap buckle (at the bottom).

Oh help - this is so simple in practice but terribly hard to explain! Send me a PM if you want to meet up when you come to Sydney.

I think the most important thing is how it feels on you. I know that both my friends who chose the Peak Aspiration did so because the shape simply felt best, whereas I like the FF.
Thanks @Kanga for the clarification. Also a very generous offer of your time and I may take you up on it. :)
 

katie@camino

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF, SJPDP-Finisterre 2016; CPort (Central) from Porto 2017;
CPort (Coastal) from Porto 2018.
@katie@camino send me a PM if you have any problems with it - getting the fittings right can be a challenge the first time. Once they are all set it is heaven.

@rohanmce the balance packs do not "hang" from the shoulder straps on the Natural Exhilaration - they fit into a pocket on the hip belt and clip into the shoulder straps. They are supported on the waist band. Exactly the same for my Liquid Agility. As long as you have the pack properly adjusted and do not take the struts out of the balance pockets the load should go onto your hips. The back length needs to be right - so that the balance pack clip on the shoulder straps can move freely up and down and is sitting half way between the sternum strap (which should be pushed up) and the tensioning shoulder strap buckle (at the bottom).

Oh help - this is so simple in practice but terribly hard to explain! Send me a PM if you want to meet up when you come to Sydney.

I think the most important thing is how it feels on you. I know that both my friends who chose the Peak Aspiration did so because the shape simply felt best, whereas I like the FF.
@Kanga that is so kind of you, thankyou!
 

tomishy

Member
Camino(s) past & future
April/May 2019
@rohanmce can I ask what aarn pack you ended up buying and was it suitable for your trip? I am leaning toward PA.
 
Camino(s) past & future
'03CF, '08VdlP, '12Porto, '14VdlP via Port '15CPI ‘17Levante to Toledo
Hi @tomishy - I know the question you pose is not for me but as I have/love an Aarn I thought I’d offer my comments to the forum.
I have the Peak Aspiration. I also bought the large Balance Pockets and used them for my first Aarn camino. I found them a little cumbersome to put my pack on (by myself).
I’ve since done other caminos without the pockets. They are actually great for loading up with the ‘daily’ stuff and water. I possibly should have bought smaller ones.
The Aarn pack is the absolute best I have ever used. It is set-up for my structure in the shop and moves independently of my body. It has to be experienced to understand the design. Great for any back/neck issues.
I would never revert to a conventional pack style ever again. The size is irrelevant as weight seems to disappear when wearing. Strange but true ;)
Note that my avatar photo is with my previous pack - a OnePlanet ;). Perhaps I need an updated pic :D
Hope that helps. It’s the Aarn system that is important, not the pack size.
Cheers, Grace
 

tomishy

Member
Camino(s) past & future
April/May 2019
Hi Grace
thank you so much for answering me :) we are off to buy our aarn packs on monday as we live 3hrs drive from where they are sold.
we think we have decided on the peak aspiration with balance pockets. so I am pleased to hear that you love yours.
I will let you know how we go :)
 

katie@camino

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF, SJPDP-Finisterre 2016; CPort (Central) from Porto 2017;
CPort (Coastal) from Porto 2018.
@rohanmce can I ask what aarn pack you ended up buying and was it suitable for your trip? I am leaning toward PA.
Nor did you ask me, but i just love talking Aarn packs!
At the last minute i bought Natural Exhilaration with balance pockets (not sure what size, 12 L possibly?), swapping it for Featherlite Freedom(and seriously last minute - detoured into the city between my flights into and out of Sydney to buy it, posted Featherlite Freedom home from the international terminal). LOVED the NE - i really loved being able to roll it down so the size was adjustable. I carried very little on the CP so the NE was small but then i shopped big at Zara in Santiago and was able to squish 17 new items of clothing into it for the trip home. I'm such a fan. I also really loved the way it moved independently of my body while i was walking - it was very rhythmic, but it's hard to describe. Whichever Aarn pack you get it, you'll love it. Good luck! :)
PS If you do use Balance Pockets be prepared for the stares!
 

Tuaruin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sanabres.
Santiago-Muxia-Finisterre-Santiago.
Ingles.
Hi tomishy

Apologies for the late response, it’s not been a great week. Apologies also for any error/typos etc as this is a bit hastily written but I wanted to get a reply posted.

Regarding the pack, I went with a Peak Aspiration with 12l sports balance pockets and I love it!

From my research, I don’t think there is a great deal in it between the Featherlite Freedom (FF) & Peak Aspiration (PA). I would have been happy with either but had a slight preference for the PA - mainly gut feel on which I felt I liked more. The FF is a touch lighter and comes with balance pockets, the PA is a slightly tougher material, has a lid pocket and slightly different pouch/netting arrangement, but one has to buy the balance pockets separately. As far as I can tell, both share the same load/strap system so would carry in very similar fashion. Neither are really close to being the lightest packs available for their size but the comfort in carrying them counts for an Awful lot in my opinion. When packed and walking, I was actually able to slacken the shoulder straps and remove my arms from them and still have a balanced pack that was stable in use, most os the time I had it set so that the shoulder straps only just contacted my shoulders but with no load on them.

I have a back injury - damaged lower discs - that I am endeavouring to manage for as long as I can before surgery is required. As a result carrying comfort and balance are extremely important to me, my research brought me to Aarn packs and after a great deal of thought I thought I would give them a go. I found a deal on a PA, snapped it up and couldn’t be happier with it, so much so that I have recently added a smaller 22l Marathon Magic pack (found inexpensively on eBay) to use as a day pack and perhaps on a summer Camino. I was pretty interested in a Natural Exhilaration as a smaller version of the PA but it looks to have the same lighter weight strap system as the MM so actually shares more similarity with that pack than the PA. As the Natural Exhilaration is roughly the same price as a PA, I feel the PA offers better value but if I ever come across a used one, I would snap it up.

The Aarn packs take a little getting used to with regard to their setup but it’s not rocket science and once accustomed to it they are very simple to adjust on the move. I loved the front balance pockets and kept any heavy items I could in them, these included 2l of drinks in the outer nets, chargers, batteries and electronics in the right side pocket and maps, food, credential, and lots more oddments in the left pocket; first aid was in the upper right net and I kept a towel in the upper left net pouch. This is just to give an idea of what the balance pockets will hold and how I was using them. They swallow a surprising amount and I probably didn’t have much more in the backpack than I kept in the front pouches which is why I may try using the smaller marathon pack on a Camino.

That said, the Marathon Magic is a recent purchase and as yet untested so while I’m certain I will get good use from it, I’m unsure as yet about multi-day use on a Camino. Although most Caminos are a series of back to back day hikes rather than true multi-day hikes (meaning one can carry a significantly reduced weight each day), one is still carrying weight day after day. The comfort afforded by a pack that, although a bit heavier, is designed to carry greater load, in my opinion, is often overlooked in the quest for lightness. A bit of extra space, assuming one is disciplined enough not to fill it (not an easy thing), can also be a real boon when picking up supplies for the evening and in making packing a simple affair each day.

The PA is a larger pack than required for a Camino and there are lighter packs that will be perfectly comfortable but if you’re already investigating Aarn packs, I imagine you have already done some research and will be aware of the alternatives which are normally better reported on than the lesser known Aarn brand. I can’t yet comment on the smaller NE or MM packs as they have a lighter strap setup for lighter loads and will therefore carry differently but my guess is they would be well suited as a Camino pack.

With above said, I can confirm that for a little added weight and size than is really needed the PA is a fabulous pack that will serve you well. I can thoroughly recommend it and am sure you would be delighted with it. If I can find them, I’ll pm you the mail I had from Aarn and a retailer about my choice.

Best of luck with your decision and with your Camino, enjoy the whole experience!!
 

rohanmce

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
{Sept-Oct 2019/SJPDP-Finisterre}
Hi @tomishy

Sorry for the late reply but it's been a busy week and I wanted to give you a measured response.

Logged on today and I thought 'wow', the answers just above say it all and I've little to add (thanks Katie and Tuaruin).

I purchased the Peak Aspiration which is really larger than required for the Camino but I just could't feel the love for the Natural Exhilaration. Don't get me wrong, my research and head were steering me to the NE but when I tried it on, the hip belt system just didn't seal the deal. Whereas, the flexibility, fit and customization of the PA hip belt system just felt awesome.

I'm 196cm tall and 107kg, so I went with the PA (long), hip belt (large) and Sports pockets (small). This gives me a total carry capacity of over 60 litres, which is too much for the Camino but I can cinch down the load and I'm sure extra space will come in handy elsewhere.
 
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tomishy

Member
Camino(s) past & future
April/May 2019
Just thought I would update on our packs. We bought the Aarn Peak Aspirations with compact balance packs. My 15yo daughter was unsure so she also tried osprey packs on but soon realized the aarn was much more comfortable especially the waist belt. I think we were there about 3hours so we are now all ready for our first camino end of April.
Thank you all for your input :)
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
we are now all ready for our first camino end of April.
After quite a few weeks afraid of my Aarn, I finally started disassembling It at night. It was much more convenient for storing and packing, so don't be afraid to remove the balance pockets at each stop. It will be as fast as unbuckling the waist belt with some practice.:)
 

tomishy

Member
Camino(s) past & future
April/May 2019
After quite a few weeks afraid of my Aarn, I finally started disassembling It at night. It was much more convenient for storing and packing, so don't be afraid to remove the balance pockets at each stop. It will be as fast as unbuckling the waist belt with some practice.:)
that is awesome to know as it does look a bit daunting with all the straps etc. but we are pleased with our purchase :)
 

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