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FR: Aarn Peak Aspiration Pack - Pat McNeilly

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  • Pat McNeilly
    Hi Heather, Below is the text for my FR for the Aarn Peak Aspiration pack.  The html is in the Tests folder at:
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 3, 2011
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      Hi Heather,

      Below is the text for my FR for the Aarn Peak Aspiration pack.  The html is in the Tests folder at:

      http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/FR%20-%20Aarn%20Peak%20Aspiration%20Pack%20-%20McNeilly/

      Thanks in advance for the edits, hopefully they are few.

      Pat

      FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
       
      I have used the AARN Peak Aspiration Pack on five local day hikes in central Maryland or in the Michaux State Forest in southern Pennsylvania.   I also used the pack on one weekend trip along the Appalachian Trail in central Virginia.  The outings were all on maintained trails and ranged anywhere from 3 to 10 miles (5 to 16 km) per day and were at elevations of 300 to 4000 ft (91 to 1219 m).   The temperatures on these outing ranged from 18F to 50F (-8 to 10 C).  I did encounter light to moderate rain and snow on some of these trips, as well as some very windy conditions [20 to 35 mph (32 to 56 kph)], particularly on my weekend outing in Virginia.
       
      PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
       
      <<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "Cold Mt. Virginia">>After using this pack for the last few months, I can say that I really like this pack.  I have used it both with and without the front balance pockets attached.  I find this to be a very functional pack.  It has been a great size for winter day hikes where I might carry extra gear.  The pack also cinches down to quite a small size, so that if I am carrying a smaller load, everything is secured.   One thing that is important to me is that when I cinch the load down, other parts of the pack don't flop around.  That makes for a less frustrating hike.  The pack worked out well on my weekend trip, especially with the balance pockets attached.  The balance pockets add lots of room, so I had plenty of space for all my gear.  I like the roll top closure which helps to compress the pack and also to seal thing up and keep water out.   I haven't had any problems with water getting into the pack, so the
      liner seems to work.

      The pack is very comfortable and I believe the load transfer is excellent and I don't have any weight riding on my shoulders.  There have been times while carrying a full pack that I have that sensation of "Oh yeah, I'm wearing a pack."   The hip belt is probably the most comfortable that I have ever worn.  I have played around with the adjustment (which is very easy), so that it fits really well and hasn't given me any troubles on the trail.  I found it rather amazing that when I attached the balance pockets and fully loaded the pack, I could slip my arms completely out of the shoulder straps and carry the load using the hip belt alone.  Alright, I might not want to hike like that but I really didn't find it uncomfortable.  I have found that I can get a very good range of motion while wearing the pack.  The bottom of the shoulder strap doesn't attach directly to the pack but rather runs continuously through a channel on the front of the pack. 
      I can feel the strap move around as I raise one arm up then the other (like when climbing a ladder).  It doesn't feel restrictive at all.

      Packing the balance pockets does take a little thought.  The idea is to carry denser and heavier items (e.g., water) in the front balance pockets.  The balance pockets will easily hold 1 L water bottles but other items may not fit well into the pockets.  I did find that isobutane fuel canisters fit really well into the pockets and I tended to carry my fuel and stove in the balance pockets.  One thing that I found important to remember is that they are called balance pockets for a reason, they balance things out.  As items get used up during a trip, the weight needs to be replaced to keep things in balance.  Water isn't too much of a problem but when food or fuel is used up, other items might need to be shifted from the main pack to the balance pockets.  I didn't find this a big problem but if the items I wanted to move didn't fit well into the balance pockets, I had to try less heavy items instead.   For example, I wanted to pack my
      self-inflating pad into one balance pocket but it wouldn't fit, so I ended up putting clothing in the pocket instead.

      <<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "View of feet">>The balance pockets tend to flop around if they are full and the pack is on the ground.  This can create a situation where I seem to never be sure which pocket is which.  Not really a problem but I have ended up unzipping pockets unnecessarily, I guess more than I would like.  I had a little concern initially that the balance pockets would get in the way with my arms when using trekking poles but I have not had any problems with that at all.  I also was wondering if I would be able to see my feet as I walked down the trail and have not had any problems in that regard since the two pockets are separated when the pack is worn.  I have had a couple occasions where my thighs would bump up against the balance pocket when taking a big step up.  That hasn't caused any problem but is something that doesn't typically happen with a conventional pack.  The mesh pockets on the balance pockets come in very handy. 
      I usually keep a water bottle in one of them and keep it secure using the cinch straps on the balance pocket.  The right balance pocket has a small mesh pocket on the back which is really handy for a camera or other small items.  Seeing items in the mesh pockets (both those on the front and behind) can sometimes be a little difficult.  Since these mesh pockets don't close, I have had to keep an eye out that something doesn't fall out but nothing has so far.

      <<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "Daypack configuration">>One feature that deserves some mention is the ability to use the balance pockets as a daypack.  I converted the balance pockets while using them on my weekend trip in Virginia to do a separate day hike.  I didn't have any problems converting the pockets to the daypack configuration.  Since this configuration doesn't have any kind of hip belt and the fact that the balance pockets have metal stays, I was concerned how comfortable this setup would be.  I actually thought it worked out quite well.  When used as a daypack, the metal stays are closer together at the top than they are at the bottom.  This means that there isn't a metal rod poking me in the lower back (a good thing).  The shoulder straps are narrow and didn't slip or cause me any problems other problems.  The only disadvantage to the daypack configuration is that there are two smaller pockets rather than a single larger one.  I was
      able to carry all that I needed, so I was pleased.

      Although the pack has really good qualities, there are a few things that can be annoying.  First, there are lots of cords on the pack for securing items to the pack and compressing the load.  They perform those tasks very well.  However, some of the cords are very long (and probably could be shortened) and have a tendency to tangle with the other cords.  This is not a major issue but can be a bit bothersome.  The bottom of the hip belt is not attached directly to the body of the pack, which allows a greater freedom of movement when bending forward.  Since it isn't attached at the bottom, it can sometimes flip over and can make donning the pack a little more difficult.  The belt usually falls back into place but I have had it remain upside down when I went to reach for the buckle.   Lastly, when the balance pockets are attached, it can be a little difficult to buckle and tighten the hip belt.  I found that it was easiest to grab the two sides of
      the buckle and support the weight of the balance pockets when performing this action.


       
      SUMMARY
       
      The Aarn Peak Aspiration pack is a top loading pack which can be fitted with front pockets to balance weight both front and back.  The pack is very comfortable and allows for a good range of motion.  The pack accommodates both large and small loads, although loading the pack effectively can require some careful thought.

      Things I like:

      1. Very comfortable
      2. Good range of motion while wearing
      3. Loads compress well

      Things I don't like:

      1. Loading needs different planning
      2. Balance pockets flop around
      3. Hip belt gets in way when donning pack

      This concludes my Field Report, please check back later for more information in the Long-Term Report.

      I would like to thank Aarn Design Ltd. and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this pack





      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Heather
      Pat, Nice report, I only have a few things I d like to read about in the report. Durability: Any damage? How is the wear and tear , esp. when altering
      Message 2 of 3 , Apr 8, 2011
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        Pat,

        Nice report, I only have a few things I'd like to read about in the report.

        Durability: Any damage? How is the 'wear and tear', esp. when altering configurations?

        You mention changing the way you pack and moving weight around as supplies dwindle; did you find that everything you normally use fits or did you need new gear? Does it fit as much as a normal pack?

        But I have no edits per se, it looks fine and you really answer questions about comfort and ease of use.

        thanks,
        heather
      • Pat
        Hi Heather, Thanks. Those are fair questions. I will see if I can address them prior to my upload. Pat
        Message 3 of 3 , Apr 8, 2011
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          Hi Heather,

          Thanks. Those are fair questions. I will see if I can address them prior to my upload.

          Pat

          --- In backpackgeartesters@yahoogroups.com, "Heather" <alekto@...> wrote:
          >
          >
          > Pat,
          >
          > Nice report, I only have a few things I'd like to read about in the report.
          >
          > Durability: Any damage? How is the 'wear and tear', esp. when altering configurations?
          >
          > You mention changing the way you pack and moving weight around as supplies dwindle; did you find that everything you normally use fits or did you need new gear? Does it fit as much as a normal pack?
          >
          > But I have no edits per se, it looks fine and you really answer questions about comfort and ease of use.
          >
          > thanks,
          > heather
          >
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