"It doesn't even feel like I am wearing a pack!"


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Designer for Paddy Pallin, Australia. I developed the first tunnel tents in the southern hemisphere, refined their frame pack designs, and developed the first radially baffled down sleeping bags.

Freelance designer for: Antartic Products, NZ. Anatomically shaped soft packs, 1975; Fairydown, NZ. First 4-season tunnel tents, Altimate, Altimate II and IV, 1979-1983; Macpac, NZ. Licence agreement to use my backpack designs, 1982.

1984 to 1999
Vango (Scotland) Ltd, UK. Tunnel tents introduced. Features introduced that have been adopted throughout the industry, eg, web end tensioners, pole tensioners, door/vent combinations. Patented tension band system, side impact pole systems, backpack frame and harness systems including patented biradial frame system. 1992, 1993, product of the year awards, COLA, for tents. 1995, nomination for European product of the year award for the Vango Extreme tent. 1991 Paramo UK. Preliminary design of outdoor shell garment range using Nikwax Biological Analogy System.

Paramo UK. Preliminary design of outdoor shell garment range using Nikwax Biological Analogy System.

Natural Balance, USA. Worked in a company to make my backpack designs. Ultimately, the company was unsuccessful but it served to develop designs and refine market concepts.

Leisure Products, Japan. Worked on backpacks and travel accessories.

Leeds Metropolitan University, Department of Leisure and Sports Sciences. I collaborated in pioneering research by Ray Lloyd into effect of load placement on posture, stability, fit and comfort and physiological parameters including heart rate, O2 consumption, tidal volume, gait patterns, pain and discomfort in different parts of the body. Research results demonstrated that a naturally balanced load carrying system significantly reduced forward lean, energy expenditure, fatigue and discomfort.

1997 -1999
Craghoppers, UK. Developed a range of backpacks for the UK market around my core principles of natural balance, posture, movement and shaping. Introduced on the market late 1998 to much acclaim. In the first 18 months these models were on the market, they received 6 best buys in the UK outdoor magazine test reports and many recommendations.

Designed stage set for S-Club TV, London Weekend Television.

Design Council Millenium Award for Craghoppers rucksacks—one of six British products displayed in the Millenium Dome, representing the best of “British” creativity and innovation.

2001 +
As a freelance designer, I had been unable to get an outside company to licence my Balance Pack designs in their completeness. This is because the designs were so fundamentally different that they made the current pack offerings of any company obsolete. No company could take the risk of such a big step forward and embrace a load carrying system which looked fundamentally different, even if it was far superior. 

When I returned to NZ with my partner Devi, we set up a company to the design and manufacture products under our own label, incorporating and integrating all the biomechanical core principles that I had worked on for many years. In February 2002, we were a finalist in the DuPont Brand New Award for my ultra-lite Natural Balance Balance Pack. The prize was a free booth at the ISPO trade show in Munich. Our presence at the show, especially in the prestigious Brand New Award Hall, launched the brand and attracted several distributors for Europe.

The transition from a simple freelance design business to a successful international brand involving product development, manufacturing, marketing and distribution has been challenging. Without the wonderful support, enthusiasm and organising skills of my partner, Devi, it would not have been possible.

Introduced our inaugural range of 6 packs including Peak Aspiration, Effortless Rhythm, Essential Rapport (now called Load Limo) and Natural Balance. Compact, Sport, Expedition and Dry Balance Pockets were an integrated part of the range. Key features included U-Flow, Auto-mould shoulder straps , Hip-Surround Load Distribution and Dri-liners.

Introduced 2 new models Liquid Agility and Featherlite Freedom. Liquid Agility incorporated a simplified U-Flow system ideal for daypacks. Featherlite Freedom was a smaller and simpler version of the award winning Natural Balance.

Curved Load Transfer Tubes were introduced on our largest models to create the Multi-Flow hipbelt movement system. The hips could rotate and rock, you could bend forward, and you could twist your hips relative to your shoulders. At the same time weight the hip surround load transfer system was not compromised: some of the pack weight was transferred forwards to the front of the hipbelt even during dynamic movement.

Introduced 2 new models Natural Exhilaration and Marathon Magic. Our models were refocused into 2 distinct ranges, Stronglites and Ultralites. Natural Exhilaration added a tough top-opening fully waterproof daypack to the Stronglite range. Marathon Magic added a fluid performance daypack to the Ultralite range.

Developed with Marcel Hagener, a top NZ adventure racer, the key was to have a pack which moulded to your back like a limpet, no matter how tightly it was stuffed, and whether your back was straight when running or curved when cycling; which allowed amazing freedom of movement, and which enabled you to access energy bars with one hand when cycling. To achieve these requirements we developed the Omni-Flow movement system, interlinking the front shoulder and chest straps into continuous loop on each side of the body, and connecting them by an ingenious Conus clip.

Introduced Guiding Light, a mid-volume Stronglite model, filling the volume gap between Peak Aspiration and Effortless Rhythm. This was a result of collaboration with NZ climbing guide Milo Gilmour and incorporated an innovative rope door behind the head to access and stow a climbing rope without taking the pack off. Balance Gear Racks were also introduced as a way to take the weight of climbing hardware off your shoulders and put it onto the front of your hips when climbing without the Balance Pockets. We also introduced 2 tent models, Pacer 1 and Pacer 2, lightweight 4 season tents designed to use trekking Poles as part of their main support structure, to reduce weight and increase wind capability.
  • Robert Jarvis wins the Atacama Desert Crossing race using Marathon Magic.
  • Sam Salwei and Jason Magness from Yoga Slackers snow kite across the state of North Dakota, USA in the "To Cross the Moon" expedition.  Aarn Balance Packs allowed gear access at speed with the kites flying. This achievement would have been far more difficult with conventional packs.  

Mountain Magic introduced. This provided a fully waterproof top opening ultralite Balance Pack, large enough for lightweight 3-4 day trips. It utilised the successful Omni-flow movement system developed for the Marathon Magics, large volume Balance Pockets and a mid-volume pack body making a naturally balanced load easy to achieve.

Dri-liners were also introduced on Sport and Expedition Balance Pockets. From the request of professional photographer, Rebecca Thompson, who found that our Balance Pocket system solved a long term problem of hers hiking with camera gear, we developed our first multi-compartment Balance Pockets.

Professional Photo Balance Pockets introduced. These allowed photographers using large bodied professional SLRs to experience the proven advantages of our Photo Balance Pocket system.
  • Professors Ray Lloyd and Carlton Cooke publish a new paper comparing Balance Packs and backpacks showing that our movement systems as well as our counter balance systems are an important component of the superior load carrying efficiency of our balance packs compared to backpacks. 
Liquid Agility redesigned to be far more versatile, optimising it for snow sports and cycling as well as walking and travel . Perimeter wire frames introduced on Featherlite Freedom, Effortless Rhythm, Load Limo, and Balance Pockets, reducing weights, increasing strength and improving back shaping.
New On-Adjust backlength adjustment buckle designed and introduced. This buckle allows users to lengthen or shorten the backlength without taking the pack off.

Balance Bags developed to fit on any brand of pack. Posture Perfect Balance Bags provide an excellent carry-on solution for travellers using any brand of backpack, and represent the first real design solution to back related back injury in school children.  Universal  Balance Bags allow you to see your feet as you walk in rough country providing a counter balance system for owners of other brands of packs. Balance Bags quickly attach to your pack after you have put it on and are instantly removable before taking the pack off.

Won the Outdoor Gold Award at the Outdoor show in Friedrichschafen, Germany, for outstanding ​pack design with the new Natural Balance pack. 

Mid to large volume packs: Alloy perimeter frames introduced to reduce weight and improve stiffness.  All frame, movement and Balance Pocket connection systems refined for increased simplicity and durability.
Camera Balance Bags introduced for photographers which can be used with any brand of pack. 2 climbers summit Everest on seperate expeditions using our Balance Packs. ​

  1. Introduce new Minilite range of small daypacks. ​
  2. Introduce large hybrid travel/ trek pack, Earth Glider, with a class leading weight/ durability/ volume ratio and a highly water resistant internal liner. ​
  3. Introduce the new Quadro hipbelt buckle:
    • Spreads the load over a large area of the tummy, substantially increasing tummy comfort and improving digestion.
    • High strength, yet slim and light-weight.
    • Easy to tighten and loosen the hipbelt.
    • Fast and simple center lift release.
    • Short length allows longer adjustment range and allows S size hipbelts to fit smaller waists.
    • Can be set up with a 2:1 or 1:1 tensioning web system on the hipbelt. We use 2:1 tensioning on our  large packs carrying heavier loads, and 1:1 on our daypacks.
    • Simplifies our hipbelts: 1 buckle replaces 4 loops, 4 connecting webs and previous center buckle.
    • Center slots for attaching new Roo Pouches (small hipbelt pockets) to our daypacks when balance pockets not used.

      AARN BUCKLE DESIGNS — Made by Woojin Plastic

      1986  UK Frame systems for backpacks; frameless anatomically shaped packs; first U flow linked  shoulder strap system.
      1989  UK Tension band system for tents  UK 8925555.8
      1994  USA Counter balance pockets with frames for backpacks US 5497922
      1995  UK Side impact pole system for tents
      1995  UK Internal frame systems for backpacks
      1996  NZ Counterbalance pockets NZ 272203
      1996  NZ Improvements in relation to backpacks—Frame NZ 286765
      1998  UK, Germany, France, Italy, USA, Japan; Lace tensioning system
      1999  UK Flow-motion system interlinked shoulder strap system for backpacks
      2000  UK (provisional); ‘intensegrity’ construction system for dome tent
      2002  NZ Improved shoulder harness system for backpacks NZ 506106
      2002  NZ Improvement in backpacks—Flow Motion hipbelt NZ 523148
      2003  NZ  Anatomically shaped hipbelt for backpacks NZ 520476
      2003  NZ A Waterproof Backpack NZ 520477
      2004  NZ Improved Flow Motion System for Packs
      2005  NZ, Australia, Germany. Free shoulder movement harness system for packs NZ 536593
      2007  NZ, USA. Improved counter balance system for backpacks NZ 556509
      2009  NZ Improvements to tents using trekking poles as support NZ 566266
      2013  NZ Universal Balance Bags to fit any brand of backpack or child carrier (granted)
      2017  NZ Trekking poles with adjustable handle angle (granted)

      Our recreational Interests
      Tramping, camping, general mountaineering, kayaking (river and ocean), skiing (cross-country and downhill), cycling, skating (ice and in-line), sailing, kiting, sculpturing, painting, drawing, dancing, singing, ethnic music, personal development and development of spirit.

      Hazel Meehan

      Mickey & Michelle

      The Yogaslackers