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Aarn Backpack Advice Please - FF or PA

Discussion in 'Equipment Questions' started by Onomad, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. Onomad

    Onomad New Member

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    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 likes this.
  2. wayfarer

    wayfarer Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    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.
     
  3. Rick M

    Rick M Active Member

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    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.
     
  4. Onomad

    Onomad New Member

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    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.
     
    wayfarer likes this.
  5. falcon269

    falcon269 sidra; no commercial interests

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    I have the Featherlite, and I love it. It is a "better mousetrap."
     
  6. RNC

    RNC New Member

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    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
     
    JennyH94 likes this.
  7. cross6011

    cross6011 New Member Donating Member

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    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!
     
  8. gracethepilgrim

    gracethepilgrim Active Member Donating Member

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    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.
     
  9. Onomad

    Onomad New Member

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    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.
     
  10. RNC

    RNC New Member

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    Richard - no issues with top cover of PA interfering with a hat. Here's a pic (if it works)
     
  11. gracethepilgrim

    gracethepilgrim Active Member Donating Member

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    @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.
     
  12. April Jo

    April Jo Member Donating Member

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    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.
     
  13. Magnara

    Magnara Maggie Ramsay

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    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.
     
  14. Onomad

    Onomad New Member

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    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.
     
    falcon269 likes this.
  15. Africa

    Africa New Member

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    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?
     
  16. Kanga

    Kanga Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    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).
     
  17. RNC

    RNC New Member

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    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
     
  18. Kitsambler

    Kitsambler Jakobsweg Junkie

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    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.
     

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