I'm back in New Zealand and I've a few months to do lots of exploring, including going tramping. Some of my Aussie friends seem somewhat offended by me using the Kiwi word for going for a long walk in the wilderness with a backpack on, but since I'm in their country, why not use the right lingo? I'm yet to lower myself to saying "jandals" though!!
My ten day walk on the AAWT made me decide it was time to update my backpack to something a bit more comfortable when carting close to 20kg on my back. The weight of my bag at the start of that trip, with 10 days of food, 3 litres of water, and full camping gear, weighed just over 17kg, and I really noticed the strain on my back and shoulders using my 44L Osprey Talon.
I'd been contemplating purchasing an Aarn pack for some time, and I was even more motivated after meeting a number of other walkers with them.
The Aarn packs are unique. They are specifically engineered to allow the wearer to stand more upright when walking, with the weight of the gear more evenly distributed around the pelvis by the use of balance pockets at the front. This means that there is very little strain on the neck and shoulders, and the more upright posture means less lower back and hip pain. The outcome for the wearer is that the pack seems to weigh much less when wearing it, so you can do more distance in comfort.
Back in New Zealand I loaded all my camping gear in a bag and schlepped over to Small Planet in Queenstown to try on a few of their Aarn packs. My method of buying a new pack is to always try it out with the actual gear I'll be packing in to it. Not only to check it out for weight and comfort, but to see how the pack works with storing the gear itself. Although I had done a lot of the research online, nothing compares with trying out the packs in person. In fact the pack I had my eye on ended up not being what I wanted as it had no external pockets on the main pack at all, and I didn't like how the front pockets attached to the waist belt.
In the end, I purchased the Peak Aspiration with Sport Balance Pockets. The main pack is 44L and the pockets add another 12L. It has integrated waterproof liners in all the bags, and the side straps allow me to carry skis should I decide to go ski touring this winter.
And then I loaded it up with four days worth of food and camping gear, and went tramping.