Hi I tried on the lightest Aarn, it is orange and has these front balancing pockets, not other sidepockets, it is not waterproof, so would need a poncho for the rain. It is unbelievably comfortable, but I am really attached to organising my gear into lots of pockets, so it is easy for me to find things in a hurry. i bought a 34 ltre Deuter Woman's pack which was really comfortable for me. The best pockets are available in the Vaude, but I found the straps a bit minimal and the back collapsed after 1500 km of wear, so the mesh sits on the back, rather than there being a hollow. Hope this helps.
Have a look at a website of a company called backpackinglight in Melbourne. Regards, Gitti
I walked the Frances with my Aarn, and absolutely loved it. I also met a pilgrim who had walked 200km with an Aarn, and she greeted me like a long-lost sister because of our packs. I didn't use the front pockets - didn't need to. In terms of waterproofing, the internal sack is fantastic, and the outer dries really quickly if you do get wet. I do like having everything tucked away, so didn't miss having extra pockets. I guess that's really what you prefer. But as to durability, flexibility and comfort - sensational.
best wishes with your search.
Thanks for all the comments. I like the Aarn concept of walking more upright, by using the front attached balance pockets to distribute the load. But, with loads <7-8kg it seems this is not necessary and thus the balancing factor is lost. I guess one could carry heavier things like water in the pockets (even with lighter total loads) and that might help. It is encouraging to learn that others have had good results using the pack alone. Many thanks. The search goes on.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
My Featherlite Freedom (large size for torsos over 20.5") arrived. It weighs 4.0 pounds as advertised, a bit more than my 3.1 pound GoLite Pursuit. I packed it with my Camino gear, and there is room to spare at a total weight of 18.6 pounds before water (well below 10% of body weight). The compression system keeps it tight and firm, and there will be room for fruit, eggs, bread and cheese without crushing them. I have watched the videos on adjusting the system, so will bend the frame to body proportions, and then do some walking. The initial fit is quite comfortable, and it is easy to get into. The front pouches do not contact the body, and you can see your feet. The divided-halfway-up back compartment is keeping stuff sacks separate and balanced during top loading. Everything is water tight, so no waterproof stuff sacks will be required. Carrying Hydration in the front is recommended, so I will switch from my 1.5L bladder to two .75L bottles, one in each pouch, sacrificing my beloved bite valve. The Altus poncho covers everything.
I Have used an Aarn Natural Balance on my last 2 Caminos (one from Le Puy - Santiago and the other Troyes / Vezealy / Camino del Norte to Santiago). I use the pack without the balance pockets - because I don't want the hassle of hanging things (other than my camera) in front of me. However, I also use this pack in combination with Pacer Poles, and this, in my opinion, makes me walk quite upright. I have found that I walk very differently using this combination than I do with a pack without poles. My walking Companion from Le Puy used the smaller pack - the featherlite freedom wIth the pockets and found it comfortable. We both found them to be waterproof because of the lining. I use the larger pack (and I am not starting a debate about pack sizes here!) because I like the freedom of being able to carry EVERYTHING inside the pack at all times - including any food that I buy. Because this pack is so roomy I found that last time I was able to carry things like punnets of strawberries inside the pack until I was ready to stop for lunch, and they didn't turn into jam! cheers, Janet
After two days of use, I can say that it is extremely comfortable. I still have to remember where I put stuff, but the theory behind it is correct. I have the medium sized front packs. When I know more, I will post again. It has plenty of room, too much for 10 kg, but it doesn´t flop when half full.
The Aarn really is a better design concept. The front pockets have an aluminum bar that transfers the weight to the belt, so the shoulder strap is not carried by the neck/shoulders; all the weight is on the belt. I have the medium size pockets, and they are very roomy (and rarely full). The back is large, never full, even with sleeping bag (very small), clothes, and food. Even when it is not full, the back pack does not bounce around because it has compression elastic line over it.
It is easy to put on, and is very balanced even before fastening the waist belt, chest strap, and front pockets together. Unlike my conventional packs, it does not pull backward when just hanging on my shoulders. It feels like a heavy vest!
It is a bit too big for a Camino (if you are packing light), but the empty weight is only a few ounces more than my GoLite packs with internal frames, and bread and fruit never get crushed.
My L/XL Altus poncho is a bit tight because of the front pockets, but it fit OK for the few minutes of rain. The back pack and pockets are VERY waterproof, but it did not rain enough to prove it.
Trekking pole arm swing is not obstructed by anything on the pack, and my walking posture was much more upright than with a conventional pack.
I doubt I will use a conventional pack again except for day hikes. I will be tossing in a tent, sleeping mat, cooking items, and stove for some camping, so I will see how it does with a higher weight. More after I do that.
I can echo what Falcon says. I bought an Aarn Peak Aspiration with the Sports Balancing Pockets for what will be my first Camino and it is very balanced, carries like a 'heavy vest' and is really waterproof. The balancing pockets make for my camera, dictaphone, cell phone, water bottles, etc. to be in easy reach. All in all a good feel for now. Anita
Now THIS is a guarantee. They contacted me, and voluntarily fixed a problem I have not had yet. No lawsuits, no deception, no coverup:
Dear Aarn Bodypack Owner,
Thank you for your purchase of an Aarn Bodypack. We have recently learned of several instances of the waterproof liners in our packs failing to perform as intended. Aarn Design has worked with the factory to build replacement liners with an improved design. In our tests these replacement liners have performed superbly.
On Monday we mailed you a replacement liner for your pack. Please contact us if you have not received the replacement liner by June 1st or if you have any questions about how to swap out the liner in your pack. There is no need to return the old liner; it can be used as a stuff sack.
Aarn Design and Aarn USA are committed to providing a quality product. We apologize if you experienced any discomfort or inconvenience due to a leaking liner.
Reading Falcon´s mail I am now wondering if I also have such a faulty liner? Don´t know, did not have to put this to the test on my camino and by choice quite cut off from my normal emails but will check it out when back in SA.
Just for further information to people interested in the Aarn packs: I am having just joy from this Peak Aspiration of mine and the balancing front pockets are extremely convenient. Anita
Huge excitement! My husband bought me an Aarn pack for my birthday to use on my next camino in 2011, all going well. I decided on the Aarn Liquid Agility. It is a 26 litre supercomfy compact pack with front balance pockets which hold 3 litres each plus have space for a 500 ml waterbottle each.
I had expected the front pockets to be a bit of a nuisance, but they are superb, not in the way at all and the pack feels like a vest as the weight is distributed right around you. In effect I only carry 3 kg on my back and 3 kg on my front, including water. One walks totally upright this way, no pressure on shoulders. I will no longer have a waist pouch and waterbottle hanging off my waist belt. I am stoked.