"I am a mountain guide in the Alps working in Austria, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland. I am addicted to Aarn Bodypacks now and make a lot of publicity to my clients of course, but also in mountain-huts and hotels. Best mountain greetings!"
"Skiing the thick snow in the narrow, steep main schute required strong stances with a lot of body extension. The Flow Motion systems of the Flowmo Bodypack allowed me to achieve the aggressive body positions of extreme skiing, which cannot be achieved with other packs. This gave me the confidence and security for a successful descent."
Rhys Vidgen, after first ski descent of main schute, Mt Alarm, Inland Kaikoura range. NZ
"It has been a longstanding problem cross-country skiing with expedition equipment. Sleds are hard to pull uphill and dangerous downhill. Serious backache often occurs even after a few kilometers due to an exaggerated stooped forward posture. Balance Pockets balance the weight front and back allowing us to stand upright and carry all the weight in the pack without back pain. We can leave the sled at home and go ride the hills for a comfortable week of solitary skiing."
Gael Simon, Ressources Orion, Canada
"I was on a river-crossing course today on the Tauranga-Taupo River with my Natural Exhilaration Bodypack and was delighted how it performed. We had to do river crossings and then float down the river head first then feet first and in both positions I felt very supported with my head out of the water. I had a thermos and water bottle in the front pockets and this seemed to stabilize my position in the water.
Others with regular backpacks often seemed to roll a bit from side to side. Nothing was even damp in my pack.
Lesley McKeesick, Taupo, NZ
"Recently used my Aarn Featherlite Freedom on a Search and Rescue exercise. I am training a search dog (Tilly) and this was her first bush field trip/exercise.
This time after a long trail walk, we had to 'bush bash' through thick vegetation to a rendezvous with other search teams. At about 7.30 pm the dog and I began hours sign cutting and tracking through a freezing river gully. We had to continuously track the lost party in and out of the river up the steep gully sides, only to loop round into the freezing water again. When the rest of the search teams had bedded down for the night, we (Dog Team One) continued on, closing in on the lost party.
By nature of the dog’s abilities and speed we cover ground faster than a normal search team. As a result we walk (jog) further, and get fewer breaks, as we try not to break the dogs drive to keep on track. At 11.30pm we decided to call it a night. I looked at one of my support staff and saw he looked really shattered (carrying normal style pack). I however felt good to go. I had none of the usual aches and pains I would have had under my previous pack.
After 6 hours kip we were up breakfasted and good to go. Normally I would have really felt the aches on a cold morning, it was -6C but I still felt very comfortable. We carried on with the search, and by noon had located the remaining lost parties. Dog Team One (Two trainee dogs, two handlers and two support staff), had located all the most vital clues and all the lost parties, in the 24 hours the exercise had been running.
Tilly had performed well and I had learned valuable lessons about tracking by night through thick vegetation, but I would not have been able to absorb the key learning points if I had not been so alert. My load during those 24 hours consisted, of food and water for 36 hours (for the dog and I), tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment, spare clothes, plus long leads, dog harnesses and other search equipment. It was not the heaviest load I have ever carried, but it was substantial. It's fair to say the Featherlite made the going much easier. As I sit here writing this I feel fit to go again (36hrs later). I do not recall being in such a physically good state after such intense load carrying exercise. My shoulders have none of the normal pain, and that alone made the investment in your product a sound choice.
I would like to thank you for an excellent, well-designed, comfortable pack. I may be getting older, but thanks to your product I kept up with people who have nearly a decade on me. I feel more well-known companies charge a lot of money for what I now realise is an inferior load carrying system."
Jim Negus, Taupo, NZ
"I broke my back in a climbing accident a couple of years ago and your Bodypacks play a big part in me being able to enjoy hiking..."
Andreas Nilsson, Halmstad, Sweden
We recently used our packs on a paddling expedition. After an inadvertent swim in a class IV rapid, with my boat stuck in a hole for 15 minutes, everything came out dry!”
Sam Salwei, North Dakota. USA
"The movement aspect of Marathon Magic really appealed to me. I tried one on in the shop and loved it. Got some weird stares as I was 'practice casting'. It's the only truly active pack I've found. Even when fully loaded but it fits like a glove. Several fishing packs have front pockets and a backpack but none of them use any pack design science or match the harness you've developed, and they are cumbersome and uncomfortable to use with weight, especially if wading rivers and in the rough stuff."
Craig Price, Melbourne, Australia
We had the most ghastly weather the first day. Winds so strong they pushed us over - we were the lightest. Others packs kept swinging, mine (the Aarn) sat absolutely with the body - probably because of the Balance Pockets and the X-Flow straps. Love the pack and think it an extremely healthy design because of the balance factor."
Jo Speedy, Wellington, NZ
“It was pretty warm on our Sak River trip in South Africa—-up to 36C one day in the shade. In the open where we were walking of course there wasn't any shade and the temp was 52C. Still, it was dry heat, so reasonably comfortable. The packs were fine, and certainly no warmer to wear than a normal design, despite the front Balance Pockets. The matrix mesh back-pad is really great—much lighter than other packs and it lets the air through nicely."
John Flux, North Island, New Zealand
“The Aarn Bodypack Featherlite Freedom gets an "A" for innovation. I achieved a superb fit with this pack and comfortably carried 30-pound loads over a variety of terrains. Featherlite Freedom has one of the most sophisticated and adjustable suspension systems to be found anywhere, and I had no trouble dialing in a perfect fit. The pack's articulated hipbelt and sliding shoulder straps allowed excellent freedom of movement while the pack "stuck" to my back.”
Will Rietveld. Read the entire backpackinglight.com review of Featherlite Freedom
“The concept behind Aarn packs made intuitive sense to me the first time I heard about them. While I'd never had major problems with pain or discomfort while hiking and backpacking, I'd never had a pack that I really liked. Particularly with a heavy load, I usually found myself cycling through a few different positions as each one became uncomfortable; there was never any single position that didn't pull or push on something harder than was sustainable. So I was excited to try out an Aarn pack on a recent ascent of Mt. St. Helens. St. Helens is a long, steep, full day hike, and requires enough weight (4+ liters of water, layers, camera, etc) to give a good assessment of utility and comfort. On previous ascents I'd used either an Arc'Teryx Bora 40 or an extremely full Mountainsmith lumbar pack. The Bora 40 basically worked fine, though with some shoulder soreness despite a seemingly well functioning hip belt and a very sweaty back at the end of the day. While lumbar packs solve both of those problems, carrying that much weight for a long time would cause quite a bit of discomfort on my hip bones by the end of the day because the full weight was pulling back against them the whole time.
Enter the Aarn Natural Exhilaration. After spending maybe 15 minutes to get the pack adjusted for my torso and loading it up, I immediately noticed how comfortable the pack felt. There was no pressure or weight on my shoulders at all; the Balance Pockets were functioning as advertised. More impressive to me was that the way the weight rested around my waist via the hipbelt was immediately comfortable and distributed the load front and back. Once we got hiking there were some added benefits I hadn't anticipated.
First, it's incredibly nice to be able to access gear without having to take the pack off (or even stop hiking). Anything that's in the Balance Pockets can be easily taken out and put back on the move, and they're big enough for water, snacks, sunglasses, a hat, and anything else you might want on or off during the day. This meant fewer stops and a steadier pace.
Second, before using an Aarn pack I wouldn't have thought to complain about poor balance while using a normal pack or a lumbar pack. Once we got on the long boulder fields of St. Helens though, I noticed a major improvement. I was able to move as though I wasn't wearing a pack at all, confidently walking across the tops of boulders whereas before I would have chosen a more conservative route.
I was tired by the end of the hike, but none of that was due to the pack; I had no shoulder/ hip soreness or hot spots. The pack felt heavier while I was picking it up to put it on that it did once on, something I've never experienced before and more evidence that the balance system distributes weight more efficiently than other packs. While the pack is a bit trickier to size and pack than a normal daypack, it's worth the slight effort in every way. I would recommend these packs to anybody who hikes or backpacks regularly with weight, even if you think your current pack is comfortable.”
Brice Keown, WA, USA
“Background: After 10 years of marriage we had twins. We were farmers I was accustomed to working on the farm. I started carrying one twin on my back and one on my front - perfect balance.
Years later I started tramping with friends. I bought a backpack. I always ended up with things dangling on my front. A large camera bag was best: it held everyone's snacks, camera, water, elastoplasts. Then I found an Aarn pack sitting on the floor of our local outdoor shop that actually had front bags, called Balance Pockets, it was called Load Limo. The pack was huge - 85kg, but it balanced me perfectly. I managed with heavy loads (I often take a tent). I stood upright, and had no back or knee problems.
Age has crept on, the body changes, bones protrude, flesh disintegrates, carrying weight becomes a burden.
Then I bought a Natural Balance. It weighs a kilo less than my old pack. I climbed in the hills around me, crawling in places, I packed it to the limit, I tramped out in heavy rain, it was faultless. I have done some real bush whacking with it, thinking the fine fabric would tear: it did not. This for me is the perfect pack.
The Aarn design is the most intelligent and ingenious pack I have had anything to do with. I would never consider another type of pack. The design has thought carefully about the body and how it reacts to weight bearing. The pockets are in all the right places - maps, cell-phone, water, food - everything in perfect position to reach without having to take the pack off.
I congratulate Aarn. His engineering and design skills are superb. And thankyou for the extra years of freedom this pack will give me.
Having just come back from a 14km. hike in the hills in perfect shape and able to spend the rest of the day at work and still feel OK I am elated.”
Jo Speedy, Hastings, NZ
"Hi. Not something that I usually do, but I just could not let the event pass without comment. An unsolicited recommendation!
I am 59 years old and my wife is 56. In February 2004 we had a serious bike accident where my wife broke her collarbone, her pelvis and a rib. I fortunately suffered more minor injuries. We are both keen trampers and planned to continue but were worried about being able to carry our old packs, which always gave problems mainly on our shoulders. We purchased two of your Natural Balance packs (mine the 75L, my wife's the 70L).
We have just returned from 4 days of tramping round Lake Waikaremoana and what a revelation! Both of us just could not believe that you could spend days with the pack on and have absolutely no issues with the weight. These packs just have no impact on you shoulders. This particular tramp requires a lot of clambering up and down a 'root' based track but the packs were just great to carry. I cannot recommend the packs more highly and regardless of whether you have problems I am sure that you will benefit from using these amazingly designed packs.
Thanks for saving our outdoors life!"
David & Margaret Ivory, North Island, New Zealand
"Thanks for such a wonderful pack! It was a big investment, but I've never been happier with a piece of adventure equipment. The fantastic design and great build quality make it a pleasure to handle and has saved me in some tricky situations.
When scrambling up vertical inclines with a previous pack the awkward and scary sensation of falling backwards down a steep cliff makes me appreciate the Natural balance so much more- I use it for all my treks now- even day walks.
I love the balance pockets to store my water bottles - what a fantastically versatile unit!"
Ben Campbell, Ashford, South Australia
"I have been using a Natural Balance for years. It is still going strong and is without a doubt the best, most comfortable pack I have ever used. I've done lots of backpacking the Sierra here in California and it never fails to get people's attention on the trail. I always tell them, "You are looking at the backpack of the future."
David Nelson, California, USA
"Tested: June 2008, northern Australia, solo walk over 23 days (full pack, no re-supply possible).
Environment: tropical; dry season; slow country=deep gorges, loose rocks, exposed ledges, spinifex/sandstone ridges, screw-pine cluttered valleys, open woodland, vine thickets, speargrass hells
Exposure/time: (from Easiest to Hardest): strolling over horizontal, open, flat ground (1%), walking in woodland, feet mostly visible (25%), rock-hopping along creeks, feet visible (35%), river crossings (1%), high-stepping through over-head-high vegetation, feet not visible (25%), pushing/scraping through distorted spinifex/sandstone labyrinths, feet often not visible (7%), gorge climbing (6%)
Weights: body: 64 kg (141 lbs) skin-out at start: 24 kg (53 lbs) (of which 2 kg clothes/shoes/hat) complete pack at start: 22 kg (46.3 lbs).
Other packs used on previous walks: On earlier walks (over 14/20/21 days) in various parts of the Australian Kimberley, I used a very light (710 g=25 oz) frameless pack, the “Starlite” (Six Moon Designs, recommended for 16 kg/35 lbs loads max; I carried 16-19 kg. During those 3 walks, obsessed with the idea that “light is always better than heavy”, I pushed myself through difficult country (with stays added to the pack on the 3rd trip). I took it for granted that my daily exhaustion, especially during the first 2 walks, merely reflected the hard terrain. I was physically in above-average condition. Trip #4 (2008) changed my mind: I now had an Aarn.
My experience: At first, I felt like a bicycle rider in the seat of a Ferrari. Starting out with the “Natural Balance” crammed and heavy (=1/3 of my body weight), I spent the first 2+ days fiddling with adjustments; numerous possibilities meant that I had to *learn*. I carried most of the dense, heavy stuff in the front Balance Pockets (satphone, camera, GPS, lots of lithium batteries, muesli bars etc). These pockets hold max. 10 L/pair (=22 lbs/pair). The rear pack: it is divided into top and bottom loading sections. The top section contains a removable dryliner with a vertical divider making 2 cylinders; these parallel cylinders keep the cargo close to the body, i.e. prevent weight from bulging out and away from the back (the stressful lever action I knew well from my previous packs). Excellent solution! - with one disadvantage: loading requires *thinking*. The front Balance Pockets: Each contains a bendable alu stay that is seated in the front hip belt. Meaning, the “Balance Pockets”, too, do not weigh on the shoulders at all but only on the hip. Since there are 2 front packs - the center chest gap lets me see my feet while walking. Also, I can use my arms freely. Although the Balance Pockets were packed full, and are designed to lean away from the chest (bendable stays=no sweaty contact with body), I had no problem seeing my feet while on the move.
Day 1-2 (v high grass, deep gorge packed with boulders, river crossing): I am amazed, amazed: I am comfortable, despite the heat and the weight. Still, this highly customizable pack demands more than just 1 or 2 hours of initial learning. The most important of all adjustments to be figured out is the *precise* fitting of the hip belt (since the whole pack rests on this).
Day 3 (steep slopes of loose rocks): I am much impressed by the quality of workmanship and materials: the pack feels and looks tough.
Days 4-5 (ravines, spinifex thickets): After eating 2 kg of food, I have now achieved a comfortable ratio of body vs. carried weight. The pack’s tough materials seem not to suffer even when I scrape through thorny vines and scramble across huge boulders. And the numerous brushes against bushfire-burnt trees leave hardly a mark. Packing has become somewhat easier: Tent, sleeping bag etc. in the bottom section, accessible from below; food and mat are in the top section which still rises high enough to bump a little against the rim of my hat.
Day 6 (open woodland): Hot, hot. I keep a full 500cc water bottle in the front outer stretch pocket of one “Balance Pocket”. I am grateful for the 3D “Matrix Mesh” between my back and the pack: it does let the air ventilate nicely, keeping my shirt almost dry.
Day 7 (gorge): Climbing down along a string of waterfalls, I am doubly cautious: loose rocks, partially hidden; few handholds. A few intense stretches, edging along ledges. By now, I have come to love my pack: it seems to move as part of my torso, rather than swinging or jerking away from me; and I feel no fatigue at all. And yet, on exposed ledges, the bulky front “Balance Pockets” make it impossible to keep kiss-close to the rock face. This awkwardness is mostly compensated for by the astonishing overall balance of the pack – the back part never seems to pull me backwards away from the rock. Still, when I find my chest forced away from the rock face by the bulging front Balance Pockets, I sometimes have to retreat and to look for a safer route. On the other hand: a *conventional* back-only pack might let me press my chest flat against a rock face but would pull me more, by lever action, away from the wall. No, sir, give me my Aarn. (Aarn – a new hipbelt holster allows you let the Pockets swing to the sides easily when you unclip the top straps, for such moves).
Days 8-12 (screw-pines in flooded deep-grass valleys; then waterless rock labyrinths higher up): On some previous trips, this was when fatigue began to overcome me. But now I feel none at all, despite this being the hardest country I have yet walked. My back, hitherto prone to lumbar pain: no pain. Shoulders and neck muscles: loose. I am no spring chicken but I feel like a spring chicken.
Days 7-23: Houston, we have a problem. On one of the front Balance Pockets, the alu stay’s top is working its way out top of the sleeve top. Using a light carabiner, I connect the Balance Pocket’s side plastic ring to the connector strap on the pack’s shoulder strap. All in all, this weird disfunction hardly lessens my delight in the Aarn. (the Balance Pocket frame socket has since been redesigned solving this issue - Aarn)
Day 23: Conclusion: last week, I slipped and fell once – on flat ground. This is an enormous improvement over previous walks under a conventional backpack, where I took bad falls half a dozen times during the first pack-heavy days. I am balanced now. I am not tired. I am walking free. No, the “Natural Balance” is not cheap: at NZ$460 or more (US$320), you’ve got to need it badly. But as an old chap with a bad back who loves long walks in difficult terrain, under a fair load, I couldn’t sing its praise more gladly."
Anchan Braun, Australia