Aarn Featherlite Freedom PRO Pack Review

Field test and review

I was first introduced to Aarn packs in 2016 when searching for a new pack for overnight hikes. I’d seen these unusual packs a few times on the trail and was keen to try out the Aarn Featherlite Freedom for myself (check out my review here). For me this pack changed the way I hike. It increased the enjoyment of being of the trail, 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.

One thing that took a bit of adjustment was the fact the Featherlite Freedom had no internal hydration pocket as I’d become accustomed to hiking with a hydration bladder. I also found the balance packs could sometimes get in the way during rock scrambles and I sometimes struggled to see my feet on technical terrain. I also found the hip belt hurt my hips after a few days on the trail. It just never sat right. My wife has one also but she never had any issues, so I always put it down to my lack of hips. That being said, I’ve used this pack regularly over the past seven years on overnight and multi-day hikes. It’s a great pack. I just put up with a bit of pain

The Featherlite Freedom PRO
The Featherlite Freedom PRO

The Featherlite Freedom PRO

Recently Aarn was kind enough to send me a Featherlite Freedom PRO to put through its paces. I’ve now field tested this lightweight pack on day hikes and a couple of overnighters. When selecting the right size (by measuring my torso and hips), I was surprised to see the Freedom PRO only comes in small and medium, while its predecessor was available small through large. I guess the label on the pack doesn’t count for much as long as it fits, which it does.

Aarn Balance pockets
Aarn Slimline Compact Balance Pockets

Balance pockets

Rather than providing a single design for the front balance pockets, Aarn now offers a range of pockets to better suit your needs. Theres’s compact, multi, sport, expedition, fishing and photo which is a great solution for outdoor photographers on the go.

I decided on the compact (slimline) ones even though they’re typically used on the smaller Aarn packs. The reason I grabbed these ones is they offer greater agility and freedom while making the most of the balance system. I enjoy hiking on technical terrain and rock scrambling, so wanted something smaller that didn’t get in my way. They make a huge difference (compared to the pockets on my other Aarn pack) and don’t increase the challenge on rock faces or challenging terrain.

I tested the pack without the balance pockets and even without them, it sits firmly in position and didn’t seem to impact my posture. I should note, I only had 10kg on board at the time

Aarn Compact Pockets
Designed to give you more agility and freedom

Wondering how the balance pockets work? Here’s a quick rundown.

Aarn Packs’ Balance Pockets are two, frame-supported, removable bag-like pockets that attach to the front of your Aarn pack to improve comfort and efficiency. By transferring weight to your hips and allowing you to see your feet, Balance Pockets reduce fatigue and make hikes easier. You can keep them permanently attached or use them as a separate daypack. Read more about them here.Aarn Featherlite

Aarn Featherlite Freedom PRO pelvic-form hip belt
Aarn Featherlite Freedom PRO pelvic-form hip belt

The hip belt

As discussed earlier, the hip belt on my first Aarn wasn’t the most enjoyable feature of my  Featherlite Freedom pack. So, I was excited to see Aarn now have small, medium, large and extra-large options. I was in between sizes so went for the extra-large. The hip belt is vastly improved and is super comfortable. No pain yet, but I’ve only worn the pack on day hikes and overnighters so far with about 12kg of weight, so I’ll have to report back if this changes after multiple days on the trail. I love the way the hip belt hugs your hips and have flexible adjustment so you can get the fit just right

Aarn’s pelvic-form hip belt offers a comfortable, customised fit. These hip belts adjust in both length and angle to perfectly match your unique pelvic shape. For even finer control, you can adjust the upper hip belt tension to hug your waist and hips comfortably. Finally, the multi-flow cord lets you dial-in how much weight rests on the front of the hip belt for optimal load distribution. This intricate system, with its central pivot and interconnected stabilisers, provides exceptional comfort and stability on the trail.

Aarn's pelvic-form hip belt offers a comfortable, customised fit
A comfortable, customised fit

Aarn’s innovative U-Flow system, which took a moment to get used to, keeps you agile and comfortable on the trail. This patented design connects the shoulder harness and hip belt on each side using a cord that runs through a U-shaped tube with a pivoting hip connection. It might feel unusual at first, but this system is designed to reduces fatigue and boosts performance under load. The secret lies in its freedom of movement. With the U-Flow system, you can twist, rock, stretch, and bend naturally, even with a heavy pack on your back. It really does allow you to move effortlessly for days.

Bio-Fit harness by Aarn
Bio-Fit harness by Aarn

The harness

The Bio-Fit harness by Aarn isn’t your average backpack shoulder system. It’s designed for maximum comfort and freedom of movement, all while keeping your pack stable and your collarbone pain free. According to Aarn, Flow-Thrustabilisers are the secret weapon. They allow you to tighten the top stabilisers for a snug fit without compromising the natural shape of the shoulder straps. This means no pinching or binding, even when you’re on the move. On-the-go adjustability is key. Coloured webbing on the back panel lets you fine-tune the torso length while wearing the pack, ensuring that coveted “just right” feeling. I didn’t bother trying to make many adjustments on my day hikes but found the overnighters provided a better opportunity to get the fit, just right. With minor adjustments, depending on the load, I could keep the pack sitting where it needed to be

Featherlite Freedom PRO offers on-the-go adjustability
Featherlite Freedom PRO offers on-the-go adjustability

A double layer of foam with rolled edges provides extra padding over your collarbones, eliminating those dreaded pressure points. As mentioned previously, this harness works seamlessly with Aarn’s U-Flow technology for an even more dynamic connection between your shoulders and hips, enhancing comfort and agility. I found the harness gave me greater freedom of movement without sacrificing comfort or stability. Most importantly, I could hardly feel any pressure on my chest, collarbone or shoulders.

Shock-absorbing 3D mesh suspended back panel
Shock-absorbing 3D mesh suspended back panel

Frame system

The Featherlite Freedom Pro boasts a super strong, yet surprisingly lightweight Flow Frame system. This innovative frame features an hourglass shape that keeps the pack nice and slim, even when it’s overflowing with gear.  But it’s not just about looks – the frame brings the load close to your back for efficient carry, while maintaining a crucial air gap for ventilation. That means no sweaty back or gear pressed uncomfortably against you.

Speaking of comfort, the Freedom Pro features a suspended back panel made from lightweight, shock-absorbing 3D mesh. Not only does this allow for incredible breathability, but you can also adjust the tension to create the perfect air gap between your back and the pack. It’s like having a custom-fit air conditioning system built right into your pack.

Roll top closure with water-resistant dri-liner
Roll top closure with water-resistant dri-liner

The pack itself

The Freedom Pro is a single compartment pack with roll top closure made from Dyneema, a strong, lightweight, and water-resistant material. Inside the pack, you’ll find a water-resistant dri-liner to help keep your gear dry. The medium pack weighs only around 1210 grams which is notably less than my other Aarn pack (1910 grams with balance pockets).

Dyneema is a brand name for ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), is known as the “world’s strongest fiber”. Incredibly strong yet lightweight, Dyneema is ideal for applications needing both.  You’ll find it in bulletproof vests, ultralight backpacks, ultralight tents, and even racing yacht sails.

The Freedom Pro transfers weight to your hips
The Freedom Pro transfers weight to your hips

The design of the pack focuses on transferring weight to your hips, resulting in a more comfortable carry, especially for longer hikes but you do need to load up the balance pockets to evenly distribute the weight.

Despite being lightweight, the pack offers a capacity of 50 litres (small) or 55 litres (medium) which is enough to carry a week’s worth of ultralight gear. Compared to the original Freedom (18kg limit), the Pro version has a slightly lower weight limit of 15kg. This is a trade-off for the lighter weight of the Dyneema material. I haven’t found that to be an issue with the gear I have.

Featherlite Freedom PRO stretch side pockets
Featherlite Freedom PRO stretch side pockets

Like its predecessor, the Freedom Pro doesn’t have any hydration pockets but does have a hydration exit and attachment loop. This didn’t really bother me as it did with my other pack as I’ve now transitioned to aluminium bottles that sit neatly into the stretch side pockets. The Aarn pack has a larger front pocket and two smaller side pockets with a stretch top. I did find these pockets a little on the small size (height wise) and would have preferred they came a little further up the pack. I can’t see any reason they shouldn’t. That’s really my only suggestion for improvement, so that’s not bad.

transferring weight to your hips
Keeping your body happy on the trail

Final thoughts

I used to think all backpacks were created equal – a necessary burden on any hike. But then I discovered Aarn Backpacks, and let me tell you, it’s been a game-changer.

These packs are all about keeping your body happy on the trail. They achieve this by distributing the weight across your core and hips, taking a huge load off your shoulders. Ahhhh, no more hunching with a sore lower back or feeling pulled backwards due to the load. I enjoy the feeling of a more natural posture and effortless movement. I’s nice to be able to hike for days without feeling like I’m constantly battling my pack.

Aarn Packs truly let me move freely. Whether it’s scrambling over rocks or navigating uneven terrain, my body feels light and unrestricted. It’s like the pack becomes an extension of me, not a burden weighing me down. I really am enjoying the Featherlite Freedom PRO.

If you’re looking for a backpack that lets you enjoy the trail, not just endure it, then the Aarn Featherlite Freedom PRO is definitely worth checking out. If you want more info about the pack, principles, balance system, or science behind it, , check out Aarn’s websiteAarn Featherlite.

Buy direct from Aarn PacksAarn Featherlite ($499 at time of review)

Aarn Packs - Naturally Balanced
Aarn Packs – Naturally Balanced

Features

  • New stronger Flow Frame with reduced weight
  • Bio-Fit Shoulder Harness
  • Single compartment pack with roll top closure and water-resistant Dri-liner included
  • Stretch front & side pockets
  • 12 accessory attachment points
  • Hydration exit and attachment loop*(V.5)
  • XL hip belt available to purchase additionally here.
  • Length and angle micro-adjustable to allow a perfect match to your pelvic size and shape
  • Dual-adjust hipbelt tensioning allows fine-tuning of the hipbelt shape
  • Hipbelt moves with you with U Flow pivot and interlinked side stabilisers
  • Aarn Balance Pockets: Recommended to turn your Aarn Pack into a full Aarn Packs Balance System.

Tech Specs

  • Dimensions: W 39cm x D 23cm x H 55cm (S) / 65cm (M)
  • Litres: 50 in the main body (S)  |  55 in the main body (M)
  • Max Load: 15kg
  • Pack Weight: 1138g (S) +liner  |  1210g (M) + liner
  • Colour: Grey

Aarn Freedom Pro
The Aarn Featherlite Freedom PRO is worth checking out

 

Field tested – 14/03/2024

Field Tested by Darren Edwards > www.trailhiking.com.au

My reviews are based on my own on-trail field tests and I provide an unbiased account of the gear I use. Often, reviewers won’t take gear into the field but search online for existing reviews and collate them to form a conclusion. If you’re a retailer or manufacturer, I’d love to field-test your gear. If you are keen to hear how your gear performs, please get in touch.

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