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Any users of Aarn universal balance bags?


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  • #3672565
    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member

    @xnomanx

    I can’t help but feel there are some wild, home-brewed physics theories flying around this discussion from every direction. I’m happy to add to the confusion.

    In my mind, we naturally lean into hills slightly when climbing, pack on or not. So why wouldn’t putting weight on your front only exaggerate this?

    And then there’s personal comfort factor. I rely very little on my hipbelts; I’m comfortable enough with a good deal of the load on my shoulders.

    As for the spine not being meant to support weight, lets talk squatting, deadlifting, farmer carries, etc….A strong back and shoulders can support a heck of a lot of weight just fine, far more than anyone backpacks with. The idea that all of it has to be transferred to the hips has never really resonated with me.

    Point being, we’re all obviously looking for different things in how a pack carries. Seems to me there’s a bit of trying to invent science to justify one’s subjective preferences happening here….

     

     

    #3672572
    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member

    @ngatel

    Locale: Southern California

    Yes, we can do some amazing things with dedicated training. But most of us are just average people.

    Average people in modest physical shape can put on a backpack weighing 30 lb. and hike 70 or more miles in a week on a modest trail without physical injury. Our bodies are not designed to solo Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen and a support team with supplies, although this has been done by elite athletes.

    Almost no average person can strap on a pair of running shoes and run a sub 4-hour marathon or a sub 5-minute mile. Nor can they deadlift 200 lb. But many people have run sub 4 minute miles, ran close to 2 hour marathons, or deadlifted 1,000 lb. These elite performances require full time training and often entail injures, sometimes severe injuries. They surpass what the body is designed or evolved to do.

    One of the most common complaints among weight lifters are lower back injuries (some very serious), which can be mitigated with proper technique and extensive training.

    If I surfed frequently, lifted weights on a regular basis, and engaged in intensive strength training on a regular basis, then hip belt transfer would become less important, because I have surpassed what the body is designed to do.

    But I’m just an average guy who has backpacked for over 50 years without a single injury, other than normal aches and pain.

    #3672577
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    I may be as guilty as the next person of being slightly obscure (or even more so?).

    Thinking a bit more about all this, it seems that we should distinguish between bending the spine (which I think is not good) and flexing the hip joints (which seems OK to me). Mind you, having the spine curved backwards a bit can be very dangerous if you come down hard on a heel: the jolt can really slam your vertebrate. Good body mechanics should have some room for absorbing shock.

    I still say we keep our spine fairly straight, albeit curved forward to handle impact, and bend at the ankles, but some flex or bend at our hips is also possible. Not a lot, as we get the weight in our packs up very high, near our shoulder blades, so we only need a slight tilt to be in balance.


    (Via Alpina, Austria)

    What we do not do is thrust the shoulders forwards to take the weight of the pack. We let the pack ‘ride’ on our backs, not on our hips or on our collar bones.

    Does this help?
    Cheers

    #3672580
    humorless
    BPL Member

    @sleeping

    Locale: The Cascades

    “But most of us are just average people.”

    Hey pal, this is BPL, where all the backpackers are strong, all of our packs are good-looking, and all our gear is above average.

    #3672581
    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member

    @ngatel

    Locale: Southern California

    Does this help?

    Probably. My pack is snug against my back, but the weight is mostly supported by my hips. Does the back “absorb” some of the weight? Perhaps.

    Bottom line, is what I do has worked for a long time, although figuring out how to properly fit an internal pack was a challenge for me. My externals were easy to fit and work well.

    I never gave much thought to pack fit, mostly because I got lucky when I bought my first Kelty, simply on the recommendation of a salesperson. Internals were a different story, and I had to learn a lot. For the most part, I ignore current packs in the marketplace because I have no interest in a new pack. Mine work perfect for my needs.

    #3672609
    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member

    @xnomanx

    I guess that’s ultimately my point Nick….what I do and carry also works for my needs. To try and distill pack philosophy down to a universal  right and wrong when there’s disagreement on what our bodies even do while walking….It just strikes me that this is very subjective and observations about what our bodies do while walking are getting made to fit the premise.

    #3672640
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    I still say we keep our spine fairly straight,
    Except, of course, when we don’t.


    (Scrambling around peaks near Mt Guouogang in the Wild Dogs)

    Oh well, one has to be flexible . . . .
    But that would be difficult country for a front pack.

    Cheers

    #3672641
    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member

    @ngatel

    Locale: Southern California

    I guess that’s ultimately my point Nick….what I do and carry also works for my needs. To try and distill pack philosophy down to a universal  right and wrong when there’s disagreement on what our bodies even do while walking….It just strikes me that this is very subjective and observations about what our bodies do while walking are getting made to fit the premise.

    You and I think alike. As I always say, backpacking is just walking.

    But here on BPL there is a tendency to over analyze just about everything. Even to the point of how our eyes work and what should we be consciously looking at so we don’t trip.

    Reminds me of a good friend. He was interested in backpacking and I took him on several trips. One day on an extremely steep elevation gain (Craig knows the route) we took a break. Being a brilliant engineer, he had not only noticed how my feet strike the ground, but had mentally calculated the length of my stride and how many steps I took per minute. He wanted to know if he should mimic this, since I was twice his age and seemed to handle the walk without much difficulty.

    I had to explain to him that all of this was not intentional at all. My mind and nervous system, like all humans, does all of this automatically. Something that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of year. Purposely changing this would greatly increase the chance of injury. So it is best just to walk and not think or worry about all the little mechanical things.

    An elite athlete on the other hand, may want to analyze every little step of his sport to maximize his skill. A golf swing might be a good example. But the wrong analysis and physical change might cause an injury. Take Bill Bowerman who “scientifically” determined elite runners should lengthen their natural stride and intentionally land on their heels instead of the balls of their feet because of the change in stride. He preached these changes would improve performance. Of course he had to invent a new kind of shoe to do this. A lot of runners suffered injuries because Bowerman persuaded them to change their natural subconscious running stride. But then Bowerman made a lot of money as the co-founder of Nike and when he died 21 years ago he was worth around $400 million.

    I do sometimes chime in on gear choices because, in my opinion, a lot of UL gear is poorly designed with only weight as the primary focus. Why spend hundreds of dollars for gear that doesn’t work as advertised? Better to buy the your second piece of equipment the first time — meaning don’t buy something that doesn’t work well in the first place.

    As far as Aarn backpacks go, I have never used or even seen one, so I can’t be too critical about it. However, it doesn’t solve any problem for me. Thus I have no interest in getting one.  If fact, these packs seem to intuitively create new challenges. Of course, this may not be the case and I would have to buy one to find out. No need to buy one in my case, because the packs I own work perfect for me, which is all that matters.

    Then Roger just posted a picture scrambling up a steep hill. Yes, probably not a good route for a pack with front balance pockets, but that is pretty much a given limitation and Aarn advocates might point out that the overall balance theory makes the pack superior even with some of its limitations.

    One last thing . . . sometimes analysis can be good, especially if someone has a physical limitation that rules out a normal “just walking” approach, such as permanent physical damage other issues that most people do not have.

    At the end of the day, if someone feels an Aarn pack will solve a need, and they have done due diligence and research to come to this conclusion, then by all means buy one. There are a couple of very knowledgeable and experienced hikers contributing to this thread who think these packs are a good solution for certain circumstances.

    #3672777
    Craig B
    BPL Member

    @kurogane

    Intuitively you might think scrambling would pose a problem with a front pack or bag, however I find it trivial with my pack.  On my first trip out with my design I did a decent class 2 scramble for 500-600 feet of elevation gain, and I don’t think I’d have a problem doing class 3.  Class 4 would probably be a little too much though.  I find it actually feels better/safer when your front to back balance is neutral rather than having a big unnatural weight threatening to pull you over backwards.  But again, my design was aimed at things that bug ME about traditional backpacks, and I think I’m probably pickier/more sensitive than most (Unfortunately.  I would LOVE to be able to hike comfortably with a 10 Oz frameless pack with no hip belt!)

    #3672791
    PaulW
    BPL Member

    @peweg8

    Locale: Western Colorado

    Craig, thanks for the photos you posted of your MYOG project. I’m looking forward to reading more about it, especially your front pack and how you’ve attached it to the hip belt.

    #3672872
    Geoff Caplan
    BPL Member

    @geoffcaplan

    Locale: Lake District, Cumbria

    Craig

    Yes – many thanks for the photos. Do please start a MYOG thread with more details! It’s refreshing to see some original thinking.

    Personally I really wouldn’t worry about a patent – I can’t imagine it would pay you. Aarn has worked full-time on his idea for decades and still only has a marginal business. It’s clearly not easy to change people’s backpacking habits, as many of the posts here illustrate. And I doubt he’s made much from licensing either – there have only been a couple of examples of other companies picking up his patents, and they haven’t taken off. I do think his ideas could be simplified and improved, but probably not enough to turn his company into an Osprey!

    It seems you’ve done something original with the front-pocket attachment to the hipbelt. Aarn has two arrangements – in my Mountain Magic he simply velcros it to the belt, and in the larger packs he inserts the pocket stay into a holder bayonet-style.

    And your stay system for the backpack looks interesting too.

    As for scrambling, I do find the front pockets get in the way at times. Even on Class 3 type ground, for example, you may get an easy vertical section, and then the front pockets become an issue. On the larger Aarns, you can unclip the strap that connects the pockets and swing them to the side on the bayonet fixing – hardly ideal but enough to get you past a couple of awkward moves, I guess. My own preference, as I’ve mentioned, is to have a way to quickly convert the front pockets to side pockets. This will get them out the way if any significant scrambling is involved, or if there are a lot of tricky blowdowns on the trail. And also when travelling, shopping, hitching etc where I do find the front pockets become a pain.

    #3673357
    Jon Solomon
    BPL Member

    @areality

    Locale: Lyon/Taipei

    Wow, I’ve been gone for ten days on the trail and things have really heated up here. I think what I’ll do is to try to write up a pictorial description of Aarn’s Natural Balance for a separate thread. 
    Here’s a selfie I took wearing the Aarn Natural Balance with ten days of food and two kilos of photo equipment. I figure the total weight was around 13-14kgs, so something like 30lbs. Notice the upright posture.

    The Aarn puts all of the weight on the hips while allowing unprecedented flexibility in both the shoulders and the hips.

    A bodypack was perfect for the kind of trails I was walking. It wouldn’t be my choice for other trips I do usually in the Pyrenees where I often go off trail or scramble.

    I can honestly say that I can notice a difference after ten days carrying an Aarn bodypack at 30lbs versus a premium backpack at the same weight / same conditions (5 – 8000 feet elevation gain per day on well groomed trail).

    Unfortunately, the Natural Balance is way too big and of course I was goaded by the extra volume into taking extra kit. As I mentioned earlier, however, the suspension on the smaller volume packs in the Aarn line just isn’t the same. The Natural Balance carries best, IMHO, at weights below 15 kg but the volume is enough to reach twice that weight. The compression though just isn’t up to snuff of the version I have. A set of gatekeeper straps from Seek Outside really help, but still aren’t ideal.

    The hip belt on the Aarn Natural Balance is the most comfortable weight-transfer type belt I’ve ever worn. The main points are that it is highly adjustable, it swivels freely, and it is thin but made of two different materials.

    #3673377
    Geoff Caplan
    BPL Member

    @geoffcaplan

    Locale: Lake District, Cumbria

    Jon

    Sadly, your experience with the Natural Balance seems to encapsulate the issue with Aarn. A great concept, and well executed in parts – but many of the products don’t seem to quite work as a whole. It’s the same with my Mountain Magic.

    I had a long chat with one of his distributors a few years back, and I think this frustration with the range is quite widely shared.

    If you’re going to introduce a new concept into a conservative industry you have to really nail the execution, and I’m not convinced he’s achieved this – at least with the products that would interest me. Which is why I’ve been pottering away at my own MYOG version.

    PS – if you’re based in Lyon, have you done the GTA? A great trail to have on your doorstep!

    #3673402
    Stumphges
    BPL Member

    @stumphges

    Hey Jon,

    Thanks for taking the time to report. Please do do a pictorial description thread. That would be very helpful.

    I think the volume issue you mention is a big problem with Aarn packs for ultralight kit. The front pack/backpack volume ratio is skewed toward more traditional gear. For my use, even carrying extra stuff for wife + dog trips, I don’t need 50-60 liters in the back if I’m carrying 12 pounds of food in the front balance packs. Even if I were to do a multi-week trip and carry some food in the rear, the lack of compression would become an issue as the food got eaten up.

    The Featherlight Freedom is the smallest pack with the full hipbelt and fully articulating (shoulder strap and hipbelt articulation) suspension, but it’s 55L in the back and without a compression system, although there are loops on the newest iteration for Seek Outside straps as you’ve done. (Aarn have got the weight down to acceptable levels on the newest version, though, at around 2 pounds 12 ounces, and I reckon there is some weight to trim.)

    The next sizes down, the Mountain Magic 44 and 55, look to have been refined in 2018 with ultralighters in mind. The 44 is 37L in the back and 6L up front, with the option of using bigger front bags. Standard configuration is about 2.5 pounds front+back and with Robic 100, so pretty competitive, weight-wise, with UL packs in that volume range – like Gorilla and Ohm 2.0, and offering the sliding shoulder straps if not the pivoting hipbelt. These volumes are more in the range of usefulness.

    But having used a Black Diamond pack with both pivoting hipbelt and sliding shoulder straps, I don’t doubt that the full Aarn suspension is where it’s at, and this is only available in packs that are kind of too big.

     

    But Geoff, with the articulation not quite so important to you, might not the newer Mountain Magic packs offer more or less what you’re looking for with your MYOG project?

     

    BTW, Jon, what hat are you wearing in the pic? I’ve yet to find a wide-brimmed hat that doesn’t bump into the top of a pack with load-lifters.

    #3673407
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Both my wife and I found the very narrow design of the Aarn packs to be a serious problem in the field. We could never find anything in there: it was always underneath everything else.

    Cheers

    #3673434
    Jon Solomon
    BPL Member

    @areality

    Locale: Lyon/Taipei

    Sadly, your experience with the Natural Balance seems to encapsulate the issue with Aarn. A great concept, and well executed in parts – but many of the products don’t seem to quite work as a whole. It’s the same with my Mountain Magic.

    I had a long chat with one of his distributors a few years back, and I think this frustration with the range is quite widely shared.

    If you’re going to introduce a new concept into a conservative industry you have to really nail the execution, and I’m not convinced he’s achieved this – at least with the products that would interest me. Which is why I’ve been pottering away at my own MYOG version.

    PS – if you’re based in Lyon, have you done the GTA? A great trail to have on your doorstep!

    Geoff, I think that the problem is really one of market and marketing. If Aarn had had the luxury of being in the dominant high consumption market, i.e., North America, he could have developed a sufficient income stream to power R&D, giving him access to cutting edge new materials. One of the things about his pack designs is that they have been hampered by having to work with second-rate materials like generic 70D pack cloth or webbing that doesn’t glide so easily. Had he been in the United States, he could have easily positioned his products as upscale high value-added items and would have had access to both better materials and a much larger consumer pool.

    I think the story of Black Diamond’s use of the U-flow shoulder strap system is really emblematic. BD took the idea from Aarn but only paid royalties on packs sold in Oz and NZ, because Aarn didn’t have a U.S. patent. It’s the story of a big North American commercial company taking a cool innovation from a small company based in a puny peripheral market without the means even to apply for a US patent for their own inventions.

    The new “Pro” series seems designed in large part to address some of those problems. They’re basically made using materials that are standard in higher-end U.S. commercial brands like Osprey. But even that won’t change the basic disadvantage that Aarn faces in terms of market location.

    I’m no expert in marketing but I really think that for Aarn’s ideas to be successful, as I’d like to see them be, he’d have to relocate to the U.S. and position himself as an upscale value-added manufacturer.

    Aarn’s bodypacks are perfect for use on well-traveled groomed trails, which is probably where 90%+ of most hillwalkers, trekkers, and backpackers go.

    Geoff, this is OT: I’ve done half of the GTA. It’s beautiful but bugs the crap out of me during the summer months when I have vacation time. It’s just not geared to usage like mine, which is wild camping carrying all of your kit and food for long multiday trips. I vastly prefer the Pyrenees to the Alps. The Pyrenees are generally much less developed and you can basically camp anywhere.

    I stay away now from the long distance through hike trails like the GR5 and the GTA in the Alps and the GR10 and GR11 in the Pyrenees. They generally miss all of the most interesting terrain, are filled with dayhikers and hut-hikers, and lead people into goal-oriented backpacking (another topic for discussion in a separate thread!).

    In continental Europe, I meet scant few as in zero people my age who do what I do: long distance walking carrying everything I need (food, clothes, shelter, etc) for trips over one week. The overwhelming majority all either do day hikes or stay in huts that are really like mountain hotels. It’s gotten to the point where people think that if you are camping instead of staying in a hut it’s because you don’t have the money, not because of a motivated choice. I love sleeping outside and wouldn’t give that up for a mountain hut even if it were free.

    #3673435
    Jon Solomon
    BPL Member

    @areality

    Locale: Lyon/Taipei

    Aarn’s bodypacks are perfect for use on well-traveled groomed trails, which is probably where 90%+ of most hillwalkers, trekkers, and backpackers go.

    I should add by the way that that kind of usage isn’t the only kind that I engage in. I go on many trips, a majority of trips, where I wouldn’t want a bodypack and would prefer a backpack. Primarily off trail and scrambling issues. But having said that, I’ve worn a bodypack in those situations and did just fine, too.

    I like Geoff’s theoretical idea of being able to pivot and fasten the front balance pockets quickly and easily to the side.

    #3673438
    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member

    @ngatel

    Locale: Southern California

    Both my wife and I found the very narrow design of the Aarn packs to be a serious problem in the field. We could never find anything in there: it was always underneath everything else.

    Maybe that isn’t a fair observation?

    With the front balance pockets, it probably takes time to get used to the best packing system. On the other hand, if a new style pack takes too much time to adapt to, it may not be worth it to the user.

    Internal frame packs are really just cylinders. The height and the circumference determine volume. I prefer smaller circumference packs for off trail scrambling in the deserts of the southwest here. My small McHale is really slender since the circumference is only 32 inches. I don’t like to fill the extension collar either. I would rather use my 36 inch McHale, unless I’m spending a lot of time in slot canyons or dealing with canyons filled with large boulders. I could have bought a 39 inch circumference pack instead, for those rare times I need the capacity of the extension collar, but I would rather have a taller 36 inch than a shorter 39 inch circumference. Taller meaning the extra height available with an extension collar.

    Of course how we pack the layers is important too. I don’t get into my pack much during the day, and what I do need is packed at the top. For example, I rarely need a stove during the day. We don’t do afternoon tea over here. However in winter, I may do an afternoon soup, which changes how I pack.

    About 12 years ago I had two internal frame packs from a popular UL manufacturer here in the states. No problem with the quality of the packs, but I just couldn’t develop a comfortable routine to live out of either pack, and apparently I’m in the minority because both of those packs are still made and still very popular. Thus I won’t criticize them.

    #3673439
    Jon Solomon
    BPL Member

    @areality

    Locale: Lyon/Taipei

    With the Expedition Balance Pockets on the Natural Balance, you can fit everything you conceivably need during the day into the front pockets. I had the Tarptent Aeon Li, glasses, and Katadyn Befree in one, film camera (!), several rolls of slide film, lenses, ditty bag filled with the kitchen sink, snacks, and cell phone in the other. Winter would be different, of course.

    I can’t remember which Aarn pack Roger and his wife were using. The Natural Balance ain’t narrow, though, unless (properly) compressed.

    #3673441
    Geoff Caplan
    BPL Member

    @geoffcaplan

    Locale: Lake District, Cumbria

    Jon – just a quick comment on the GTA, so as not to derail the thread.

    In general I agree about the crowding, but you can work around the problems. I did it in the elbow season so it was quiet and many of the huts were fully or partially closed.

    I wild-camped pretty much all the way, and had no significant trouble. Near open huts I asked permission and was never refused.

    I improvised some variations on the English guidebook to take in what seemed like more scenic or challenging options and that worked out well. The German guidebook gives multiple alternatives for different types of walker.

    I agree that hut-to-hut in August would be a different experience, but late in the season and camping high it was memorable, and at times I’d walk all day without passing a soul.

    #3673442
    Jon Solomon
    BPL Member

    @areality

    Locale: Lyon/Taipei

    Nice to hear that it worked for you, Geoff. Some of the terrain is really spectacular.
    Unfortunately, the Fall semester in French universities starts much earlier than before in order to coordinate with the international (read: anglophone) trend. So my trips during “Indian summer” (isn’t there a better term for that by now?) are limited to a few days stolen away from non-teaching days.

    In the Parc National de la Vanoise which sits opposite Gran Paradiso, there’s simply no choice. You are required to camp exclusively next to the mountain huts. The reason given is to reduce ecological impact but I call BS on that. Honestly, if that were the goal, the best way to achieve it would be to eliminate the hut-hotels altogether. Once the hut-hotels are gone, traffic into the mountains would be a fraction of what it is today.

    #3673825
    Jon Solomon
    BPL Member

    @areality

    Locale: Lyon/Taipei

    Just wanted to get back particularly to Stumphges about a pictorial description of the Aarn Natural Balance. My plans might be delayed a bit. As I was investigating the pack in preparation for a write up, I discovered that a part of the frame where the hip belt is attached had broken. Specifically, a wire the connects from the hip belt to a bolt on the main vertical stay had snapped.

    That wire connects to an aluminium triangle bolted on to the main vertical stay. In the photo below you can see the remaining bit of the snapped wire stuck inside the bolt.

    For illustrative contrast, here is what the other side of the bolt looks like where the wire from the other side of the hip belt attaches. As you can see, since the wire on this side did not snap, it can still be fully removed and reinserted.

    Finally, here’s a photo of the other side of the bolt. The bolt is screwed on to the stay.

    Aarn customer service response was prompt, positive, and generous. It’s a known problem on the old suspension design that has been fixed by the new updated models. Any similar problems on the older suspension are (have been/will be) covered free of charge by the manufacturer.

    The wire must have broken somewhere out in the field during my last trip. The fact that I didn’t notice until I had returned home indicates that it’s not a fatal issue, at least in the short term.

    #3674079
    Stumphges
    BPL Member

    @stumphges

    Here is a catalogue from 2010 showing, on pages 5-7, the design elements included in their range of packs.  “Flexi-flow,” “Multi-flow,” etc. defined and illustrated.

    http://wildside.com.au/aarn/Aarn_2010.pdf

    #3674084
    Stumphges
    BPL Member

    @stumphges

    Hi Jon, No problem with the delay and happy that they’re going to fix your pack.

    I recently bought a 33L Aaarn Natural Exhiliration to audition for my summer man+dog trips, with 6L (combined) Compact Balance pockets. This is the green one recently replaced by a mustard version with suspended backpanel.

    I’m actually a bit stunned by the quality and comfort of the suspension. Back length can be adjusted while the pack is on. Zero weight on the shoulders, despite the load lifters not being at the coveted 45 degree angle. Thick, ridiculously porous 3D “Matrix Mesh” packpanel that also appears very durable compared to the fabrics used by Osprey, et al. for suspended backpanels. Will not barrel. “U-flow” linked and sliding shoulder straps very similar to how Black Diamond later implemented this design in their copy. Pack is absolutely secure and sticks to the back. Front packs loaded to about half the backpack weight produce erect posture without any noticeable distortions or compensations. Hipbelt becomes more competent with the front backs added.

    The U-Flow works very well in freeing shoulder and upper torso movement. However, the hipbelt design is a wing-type design with the wings attached to the perimeter of the pack. Even though the pack body is very narrow, I find the hipbelt restricts my pelvic movement more than I’d like. Overall, the pack allows much better movement than most packs, but not quite enough. Compared to something like the Ohm 2.0, which is very mobile for a pack with a relatively simple (and light) suspension, it offers similar overall freedom of motion, but with a much more “stuck to the back” feel. An Ohm with the hipbelt stabilizer straps locked down is similarly stable, but less mobile.

    Another comparison would be a Black Diamond 32L pack from 2011 that has a pivoting hipbelt and the sliding shoudler straps. That pack allows completely free shoulder and pelvic motion, but the hipbelt is much less capable and does not have the stuck-to-the back feel at all. This is the pack I was looking to replace with the Natural Exhiliration, mostly for the front pocket capacity, but I’ll take the mobility over stability.

    Other downsides include 3 pound weight for the backpack alone. 3.6 with the front pockets, so pretty darn heavy for a pack system with about 40L total capacity (not including side and rear stretch pockets, which are small.)

     

    I’m now looking at replacing this one with a Featherlight Freedom or Peak Aspiration. Both more capacity than I’d like, but these are the smallest packs with the pivoting – or “Multi-Flow” – hipbelts. Might go with the heavier Peak Aspiration, as it is taller and has better compression, so less front pack weight required. Aarn really need to make a 2.5 pound 40L pack with all their suspension elements and good compression. Such a pack could scale up to 46, 52 or 59 liters, depending on balance pockets chosen, for trips of various lengths.

    #3674155
    Jon Solomon
    BPL Member

    @areality

    Locale: Lyon/Taipei

    Interesting. I tried a Mountain Magic once, but only at home, never out on the trail. It wasn’t just the hip belt that prevented me from deciding to keep it. I didn’t like the implementation of the U-Flow shoulder straps. The pack felt more constrictive than a Natural Balance.

    I agree totally that Aarn’s current line has a big hole in it. A 40L pack built with lighter durable materials with all the suspension elements and good compression ready for use with different balance pockets would be nice.

    The closest thing is a Featherlite Freedom Pro. The main bag is 2.79 lbs, so close to your target weight. You could easily rig gatekeeper straps on that pack.

    Aarn claims research shows that the weight penalty incurred by the stay-support balance pockets is more than compensated by the energy saved.

    In actual use, I found that the Balance Pockets properly used on a properly adjusted pack really do create a COG that helps save energy and avert fatigue, especially on relatively flat or downward sloping terrain. This doesn’t really hold true however when you start moving upwards on very steep inclines where the Balance Pockets kind of hang downwards. At least that was my anecdotal experience.

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