I grew up in Colorado, close to the Rocky Mountains. In a place this beautiful it was all but inevitable that I would evolve into a mountain-woman. Since I was a kid I spent most of my weekends exploring the Rockies, climbing 4000m peaks, and pushing myself to my limits in the thin air.
Good gear has always been part of my outdoor experience, and until I came to New Zealand I thought I had the perfect backpack. I did not mind the odd little pains because I considered them to be inevitable. My partner picked up on my discomfort and adamantly suggested I try his Aarn backpack. He is quite picky with his gear, so I was willing to give it a try.
We had a long tour coming up, which gave me the chance to put the Guiding Light model to the test. My partner fitted the pack for me since the strap system was an enigma. I had my doubts that a pack with such little padding could be comfortable.
Our trip to Mount Aspiring National Park turned into a huge drama. Instead of crossing several passes as planned, we found ourselves immersed in Matagouri, drenched to the bone, eaten by sandflies, and cut off by pretty angry weather. We had to ask farmers for a place to spend the night before hitchhiking back to Wanaka via Queenstown. The trip was a train wreck to say the least!
In the end, however, I could not have picked a better opportunity to get a real feel for the strengths and limitations of the Guiding Light. Between all the climbing, crawling, the ups and downs, the pack remained comfortable. It didn’t even feel like I was wearing a pack. I was never in any pain in my easily-aggravated places, (my collarbone and hips), and the weight-balance provided by the front pockets took away my tendency to slump forwards.
The Aarn Pack was soon joined by a comfy day pack. They have since proven themselves on multi-day snow-shoeing trips near Lake Tekapo, on backcountry adventures in the alps, and on more casual day-walks. Overall, I would definitely recommend the Aarn pack to anyone. Plan your own adventure and give it a whirl! I have a feeling your body will thank you.
1. It is quite flexible, lacking the rigidity of other packs
2. Low weight
3. You don’t even know you’re wearing a pack once it is adjusted
4. The detachable front pockets make accessing frequently used items incredibly easy.
5. The front pockets bring the pack’s centre of gravity forward, which helps against neck-strain.
6. Aarn Packs seem to have few pockets on the packs themselves
1. Learning how to adjust the straps takes a bit of patience, but Rocky and Dan in the shop can fit you up and teach you the tricks which are easy once you know how.
2. It takes a little while getting used to the look of the front pockets :-)
Review by Brennan Randall
Photography by Dennis Radermacher, www.lightforge.co.nz