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Field Test – Aarn Featherlite Freedom Pack

A few years ago I came across my first Aarn pack whilst hiking in Wilsons Prom, Victoria. To be completely honest my first reaction was ‘what is this guy carrying’. It looked like he was being consumed by his pack and I thought that could not be comfortable at all.

I had been using another brand of overnight pack for a number of years. Every time I pack hiked I would return with sore shoulders, a sore lower back and bruises on my hips. I just thought this was normal and what you would expect when carrying a heavy load for hours on end.

I could not have been more wrong. On a visit to Backpacking Light in Melbourne’s CBD I was convinced to try on an Aarn pack. The pack was correctly fitted and a load added. I spent the next half hour walking around the store with the load on my back. It felt so amazingly balanced and light. To my astonishment I was soon to learn that the pack had been loaded with 18kg of weight. To me it felt like 10kg. I was sold.

Aarn packs are well known for their front Balance pockets which are intended to offset the weight in the pack. This makes carrying the load over varied terrain a lot more comfortable. The Front Balance pockets are removable and can also be used as a day pack once connected together using the provided harness. I find this to be extremely useful as it allows you to leave your main pack at your campsite and head out to explore with a pack large enough to carry water and all of your essential gear. The only issue I have ever found with the Balance pockets is that they can impede your ability to rock scramble, which I love to do.

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The Aarn Featherlite Freedom (57L + 12L) weighs in at 1920 grams which includes a tape sealed waterproof liner. The waterproof liner which has a central divider passing through it connecting the front and the back of the pack. The divider is intended to ensure that the load is spread evenly within the pack. When hiking in inclement weather I tend to also use an external rain cover. The reason for this is that it allows me to store my (dry) pack in my tent.

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One thing that I was initially disappointed in was the fact that the pack has no hydration pocket or hose access through the outer wall. What I do is carry a 2ltr bladder in each of the Balance pockets along with all my snacks for the day and emergency equipment. It is so good having all of this right in front of you rather than dropping your pack to access thinks you need regularly.

The internal side of the hip belt consists of a fine matrix mesh (used here and in the shoulder straps) providing some padding however the padding is minimal which in my view allows the hip belt to fit. The back length can be adjusted ensuring that the pack fits your torso well. The shoulder pads area also made of matrix mesh and once fitted properly work well in reducing the pressure on the shoulders.

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The hip belt is also adjustable to dial in the fit around the hips, it is possible to buy 3 different size hip belts but more importantly once you have chosen the appropriate hip belt you can then adjust the location of the belt on the back panel to ensure a perfect fit. It is important to have the correct hip belt fitted to you as the newer versions have an internal ribbing that can sometimes sit right on your hip bone. Thankfully I have the older hip belt which does not include the ribbing.

For me this pack has changed the way I hike. It has increased the enjoyment of being of the trail, has reduced the strain on my shoulders and back and in my opinion provides an ideal choice for someone looking for a framed pack to carry loads on overnight or multi-day hikes. Its simplicity in the design, with its single bag construction combined with two outside mesh pockets makes it, for me, easy to pack and organise. There are clearly options for reducing the weight of the pack, but I find it so comfortable no matter what the load and as a consequence I feel no need to lighten it.

Ultimately the choice of pack comes down to fit, comfort and whether it meets the users requirements, for me when I put the Featherlite Freedom on, it fits, it is comfortable and I barely notice it being there.

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Buy direct from Backpacking Light for $469 including balance pockets


Features

The pack and Balance Pockets are 100% waterproof !

  • Sport Balance Pockets standard
  • 2 Backlengths with On A Torso adjust, 12cm range
  • U, Multi & Flexi Flow
  • 3 Waterproof Dri-liners
  • Custom-Fit frame, 1 vertical stay
  • True-fit shoulder straps, Flow-thru Stabilisers
  • Pelvic-Form Hipbelt (M)
  • Stretch side & front pockets
  • Attachments for ice axes, trekking poles (front and rear), carritools / ice clippers

Tech Specs

Volume Bodypack / + liners
S 50L +12 L 1820 grams
L 57L + 12L 1910 grams

Dimensions S pack (cm) Height: 55 Width: 37 Depth (front-back): 25

Dimensions L pack (cm) Height: 65 Width: 37 Depth (front-back): 25

Key Fabrics 500D codura nylon, 210D, 70 X 100D & 40D ripstop nylon

Colour Green/ grey

Options

  • Pelvic Form Hipbelt S, L
  • Other Pivoting Balance Pockets
  • Balance Gear Racks
  • Lasso-loc straps
  • Ski Straps
  • Snowboard Straps

 

 

12 thoughts on “Aarn Featherlite Freedom Pack

  1. I think this is a wait and see thing. I’m not sure if like so much stuff in front of me to be honest, although it would be nice not to have my hat rubbing on my pack all the time. Sends me mental!

  2. This is an amazing pack. I’ve been using it for the last year replacing a regular pack. The difference is incredible. No more sore shoulders. Able to look around easily. Able to easily get snack etc

  3. Had one for just over a year and still playing with all the adjustments…love the concept, general fit and convenience of having all the readily need bits and water in the pockets, just not totally sold because of some fit problems, but I think a trip back to Backpackinglight might be the next step. And as noted not great for rock scrambling and not great for bush bashing because of the extra width.

    1. Great points. Is highly recommend heading back to Backpacking Light. They are experts in fitting these packs. I have never had to adjust mine since.

  4. I’ve recently purchased this pack and have had a few trial walks with it loaded up to 16kg (20% of my body weight and the maximum load I intend to carry on a planned long walk). It wasn’t set up correctly by the shop assistant (nameless Sydney retailer….) and it’s taken me a while to sort this out as best I can. It probably still isn’t right. A few questions I have as I work it out….
    1. I’m not totally convinced about the central divider inside the dry bag. Have you found this essential or do you just work around it and put up with it? I can’t see how it really helps.
    2. I’ve found the metal (aluminium)? stiffener tends to swivel around when I pick up the pack via one shoulder strap to swing it onto my back. I then have to pull on the other strap when the pack is in place to get it “straight” against my spine. In my opinion it would help if the stiffener were held in place at its midpoint… by being fixed to the pack via a loop or sleeve. I’ve solved this somewhat by straightening the curvature of the stiffener a bit but the idea is that its supposed to match the curve of your spine….
    3. I find the various belt clips a bit “light-on” and wonder if they will last the distance. Admittedly I’ve found only one reference on the web about this being a problem.
    4. How did it go in VERY heavy rain??

    Thanks
    Ross

    1. Hey Ross, thanks for your message and questions.
      1. I really find the divider useful as it keeps everything in its place in the pack. I put all my gear in stuff sacks and simply place it on one side of the divider or the other. The other thing you will find is that this pack is light due to the fact it doesn’t have a lot of reinforcement beading sewn into the main body of the pack. This divider acts as an internal brace to help the pack hold its shape. Without it you may find that the pack bulges in all directions.
      2. I have never noticed this and have used my pack extensively. Maybe take it back to the retailer as it seems like a defect to me.
      3. I don’t really use the clips to hang anything off as all of gear goes in the pack or front balance pockets. I have not heard of them breaking though if this is your concern.
      4. Heavy rain is a great topic. My pack has always remained waterproof internally but I do find that to have the exterior of the pack wet is not always ideal for a few reasons. 1, the extra water adds unnecessary weight to the pack. 2, depending on which tent I am using I will sometimes stow my pack inside my tent at night. Having a wet pack next to your bed is not ideal. For these reasons I have a pack cover off one of my other packs and always use this to cover the AArn if it looks like rain.

  5. Thanks for the reply. I feel better about the divider now 🙂 I’ve done a few trial pack-ups and I guess it will sort itself out. The rain performance interests me as the pack is made of water resistant fabric and has a removable roll-top dry bag inside, but I’ll carry the stuff that must keep dry at all costs (sleeping bag, sleep sheet and a few spare clothes) in another plastic or dry bag inside the main dry bag as well until I’m convinced it’s not needed…….. and it is a VERY comfortable pack if anyone is reading this and thinking about getting one. The inventor calls it a “body pack” as opposed to a “back pack” and to me it’s like wearing a large overcoat where the weight is more distributed rather than being aware of a weight on your back and pressure on your shoulders from a more conventional pack. Seeing your feet is a non-issue. I can look straight down at my feet between the front balance bags if I want too, but when walking I am looking at the track a step or two ahead anyway.

  6. Hi Ross. Thought I’d just mention that I’ve never had to keep gear in other plastic bags as the internal waterproof liners do an excellent job. It’s more about the wetness of the external layer that causes me to use a pack cover