Any users of Aarn universal balance bags?
Sep 1, 2020 at 8:03 am #3674175
“Constrictive” describes the Natural Exhiliration pretty well, which surprised me. But I think for the majority of users it would carry wonderfully. I’m just fixated on the freedom of motion thing.
Just took another look at the Featherlight Freedom Pro and am a little confused about its purpose in their line. The gray, 70d “dyneema gridstop” Pro version is listed on aarnpacks.com as 1.27 kg (without WP liners), and the green, 100d Robic version is listed at 1.29 kg, so less than an ounce difference. Otherwise, the two packs appear identical. Although gray is my favorite color for stuff to wear in the woods, Aarn’s green/gray schemes are not at all bad. 100d Robic sounds a bit thin, but GG had been selling scads of Gorillas of 70d Robic and that pack has a decent/good reputation for durability.Sep 1, 2020 at 8:34 am #3674179
I remember that the U-flow straps formed an X that crosses the chest. Is that correct?
The Featherlite Freedom should just be smaller.Sep 1, 2020 at 8:54 am #3674184
X-Flow is the use of straps crossing the chest with a sliding bit linking them. U-Flow is the connection of the shoulder straps into one continuous strap that slides through a channel at the base of the pack. The Natural Exhiliration does not have X-Flow. U-Flow is unequivocally good, in my opinion, and I don’t think it necessarily adds a lot of weight. Aarn just runs nylon webbing through a channel, whereas Black Diamond linked the shoulder straps with a steel cable that routes through a plastic tube. The BD system runs with less friction, and would probably be even better with UHMWPE cord in a tube of the same material. (Although there is the problem of UHMWPE creep, so maybe not a good idea.)Sep 1, 2020 at 9:11 am #3674188
On the website currently, the X-Flow is mentioned as an option on the Mountain Magic but I remember that when I ordered it to try out at home several years ago it came with straps that cross the chest. I didn’t like it, but didn’t give it any chance to prove itself in actual use.
I can’t seen any value in having less friction on the U Flow straps than what exists on the older model Natural Balance. For all intents and purposes it is friction free.
It sounds like all of the components could be made with lighter materials but at much greater cost.Sep 1, 2020 at 9:19 am #3674189
Interesting. I would have thought the Aarn system would eventually start to fray, either the webbing or the fabric forming the channel that the webbing slides through. Good to hear that’s not the case.
What is your face-value opinion of the new suspended mesh backpanels that have replaced the “matrix mesh” material on the older packs? From the pics, it looks like Aarn have managed to spring the mesh closer to the pack body than Osprey does, and just like with the thicker matrix mesh, the owner has the ability to tighten or loosen the suspension.Sep 1, 2020 at 9:28 am #3674192
I think that the channel for the U Flow webbing on the Natural Balance is reinforced. It’s not just pack cloth since it holds a definite shape. I can’t really check now cuz my pack is boxed up and ready to ship to NZ for service.
How can you see anything clearly with the pics on Aarn’s website? ;-D
Kudos to you.
The matrix mesh on the older suspension is unlike what I’ve seen from other manufacturers. It is quite open and formed in a 3D pattern that is at least 1-2cm thick. But it collapses under any pressure and doesn’t really provide any meaningful ventilation I could detect. Sure, it’s better than slick pack fabric, but that’s not saying much.
I’m skeptical about suspended mesh backpanels in general. They work, sort of, but nothing promotes airflow like having a simple curved out void like the Seek Outside packs have when used with the crossbar stay.Sep 1, 2020 at 9:39 am #3674197
I have similar thoughts about suspended mesh, in general, and agree that the Flight One design is much better. The Sierra Designs Flight Capacitor does it a tab better still, to my eyes, with the body touching the packbody only at the hipbelt and some foam pads that the shoulder blades rest against.
But I’m happy to get your feedback on the matrix mesh. The material itself is very cool in appearance and good to know that its not so cool in operation.
Regarding the photo forensics, I’ve been scouring the various aussie and kiwi retailer websites for additional pics;) I think that Aarn could easily double their business with more pics, diagrams and information on their site.Sep 1, 2020 at 9:51 am #3674198
A quick observation about the effect of mass transferred to hipbelts in two places instead of just in the back: I noticed that the Aarn belt on the pack I have tends to want to slide down my butt, just like any other belt. But as soon as I put the front balance bags on, the pack was much better anchored to my pelvis.
Any pack I’ve ever tried, if I grab the bottom of the packbag and pull gently downward, the thing will slide down the butt; some packs more, some packs less. Same thing happens with my pants, or with any belt: pull down on the back and the thing slides and sags down; pull down in the front and it slides down the crotch; ditto for one side or the other. But pull down on both the front and back of the belt and there is very little sliding because the belt tightens and clamps down on the outside of the hips. Same thing with downward force applied to both sides of a belt – the front and back tighten into pelvis as the belt circumference effectively decreases.
I’m sure Sam Farrington has something to say about this phenomena, as he’s built a pack with the weight transferred to both sides, rather than the back, of the belt. Richard Sellers’ patented design also has the weight transferred to the sides of the belt, but by a carbon-fiber wing assembly attached to the frame via a joint with many degrees of freedom. Richard posted some pictures of his pack here a couple years ago here and it appears to be the most ergonomic pack ever built.
Aarn do something similar with their biggest packs like the Load Limo – two aluminum tubes attach to the sides of the hipbelt, resulting in force applied to the belt in four cardinal locations. I’ve always been very curious how those tubes are attached to the bag, for they must have some freedom to rotate and sway.Sep 1, 2020 at 10:05 am #3674201
The belt on the Natural Balance is the best I’ve ever tried. It’s thin, micro-adjustable at multiple points, rides on the hips, places all the weight on the hips without any sag, and swivels just the right amount. My use included Expedition Balance pockets in the front.Sep 1, 2020 at 10:55 am #3674207
Sounds great, thanks Jon. How does the belt do without front bags?Sep 1, 2020 at 10:55 am #3674208
BTW, here is the patented design I mentioned earlier: https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/9a/39/b8/d41c60d86ccf01/US20160309884A1.pdfSep 1, 2020 at 11:12 am #3674212
I don’t know how the belt does without front bags cuz I’ve never used it that way in the backcountry. My experience is limited to trying it out after the end of a trip when I stow the Balance pockets in the main packbag for travel. Seemed fine then, but that’s not saying much.
Sellers’ idea looks overbuilt to me.
I know nothing about US patents. If Sellers can apply for one for his innovative hip belt, why couldn’t Aarn Tate apply for one for his U Flow straps?Sep 1, 2020 at 4:34 pm #3674311
Any pack I’ve ever tried, if I grab the bottom of the packbag and pull gently downward, the thing will slide down the butt,
And I have rather narrow hip bones, which makes it very difficult.
CheersSep 1, 2020 at 5:15 pm #3674322Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Lake District, Cumbria
Just to continue our little side chat:
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.
I heartily agree. With the density of livestock, the huge huts and the unrestrained ski development the idea that LNT overnight camping will destroy the environment is just hypocrisy. I think it’s more to do with driving business into their hut-hotels.
But there’s a way around it, it you’re devious.
Camping is forbidden, but bivouacking is allowed. And the distinction is a pretty grey area. I use a stealthy tarp, so if I camp high I can always claim I’m bivying! Plus picking a discreet spot, pitching after dusk and striking before dawn, you’re pretty safe anyway. I’m obsessive about LNT so don’t feel guilty, and so far I’ve always got away with it…Sep 1, 2020 at 5:28 pm #3674325
Camping is forbidden, but bivouacking is allowed
In France ‘Camping’ means motor homes, caravans, big tent next to a car, etc. There are Camping Grounds for that.
‘Bivouac’ means a little tent pitched late in the afternoon and removed the next morning. What we do is not ‘camping’ in France: it is bivouacing. It is quite legal.
CheersSep 2, 2020 at 7:24 am #3674420
The terminological distinction in French is correct: camping is a term used for caravan cars etc; wild camping is covered by the term bivouac (noun) and its verbal form, bivouaquer. However, in the Parc National de la Vanoise, even an overnight “bivouac” (wild camping) is prohibited. It is exclusively allowed only at mountain huts (refuges), requires payment of a fee, and can only be done in special designated zones around the hut. One is also incidentally (not purposefully) treated as a second-class citizen, as people just assume that if you’re wild camping it’s because you can’t afford the cost of the hut. In the Vanoise I never saw any people my age camping in tents outside the refuge. Only young people. All the people my age pay to stay and eat in the huts. Me, I actually prefer sleeping outside and don’t want to be in a hut. Being outside is one of the main attractions of backpacking for me.Sep 2, 2020 at 9:25 am #3674440JacobBPL Member
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.
REI was selling the U-flow system back in 2006 before black diamond. https://www.rei.com/product/718344/rei-co-op-ul-45-pack
BPL thread on it https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/4967/
REI tried it with all their resources and it didn’t catch on. Black Diamond tried it with all their resources and has since stopped talking about it.
I think the advantages of an active suspension over standard suspension may not be noticeable to most hikers. Both REI and Black Diamond in the end tried to market it towards runners/ fast packers, who today seem to prefer tight-fitting vest harnesses; pretty much the opposite of active suspensions.
Also anyone can submit their own patents to the U.S. patent office; nothing has stopped Aarn from getting a U.S. Patent. He probably didn’t want to because patents are assets that come with liabilities. Look up ‘patent sharks’. I bet due to exo-skeleton development there has been a ton of backpack related patents awarded to DoD contractors over the past 30 years; not something a small company would survive getting sued over.Sep 2, 2020 at 10:34 am #3674460
I still have that REI UL 45 pack. The compression straps are internal, too. Use it as a guest pack for visitors, etc.
On Aarn’s larger packs the difference from the U Flow system is VERY noticeable.Sep 2, 2020 at 1:51 pm #3674486Erica RBPL Member
Unsubscribe…Sep 9, 2020 at 3:38 pm #3675428Craig BBPL Member
OK, Here’s the write-up on my MYOG front/back pack as promised:Nov 30, 2020 at 8:20 pm #3686568
Ultralight backpacker here, I’ve used several popular ultralight packs, been through everything in the book including old school external metal frame packs. There is NOTHING like an Aarn pack, imitations that simply clip pockets onto the shoulder straps are missing the point. It’s a system. I can raise my arm and the shoulder strap raises with it-unaffected by the weight, in fact I have mine adjusted such that the shoulder straps are weightless, I can have 30+ lbs in the pack and lift the shoulder straps with my pinky. The weight is balanced via lever motion from front to back while all the weight is transferred to my hip belt, I feel nothing above the waist. Conventional packs no matter how well they are designed create a lever between your hips and where the shoulder straps cross that pulls on the shoulder/neck musculature. I have multiple torn muscles in my neck form years of wrestling and jiujitsu. I can’t hike with a normal pack for more than an hour without being in pain, real pain. Because of the Aarn pack I am able to hike as normal because have no weight on my neck/shoulders. I will never carry a normal pack again and I’m not a gram weenie anymore because the weight isn’t an issue, it’s carried properly.Nov 30, 2020 at 8:21 pm #3686569Nov 30, 2020 at 8:44 pm #3686576
I feel nothing above the waist
I have days like that too.Nov 30, 2020 at 10:47 pm #3686611Dec 1, 2020 at 8:18 am #3686657
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