Aarn backpack review

When I was 18 I was given my first hiking pack for my birthday, I loved it and used it to death. There are possum teeth marks, there’s random stains, so many fantastic memories, and thousands of kilometers behind us.

Clare with her old Mountain Designs pack - Overland Track Tasmania

Clare with her old Mountain Designs pack – Overland Track Tasmania

On a work hike on a small part of the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia, I met this couple who swore by the Osprey Atmos, it was a light weight, full sized pack. So I bought one. When it arrived I was super excited and we headed off to The Overland Track in Tasmania. Within the first 2 hours I was crying in pain. It was horrible!

When we arrived home I promptly sold it and started researching another. I can’t live without a pack!

I went to the lightweight camping store (Backpacking Light) just off Little Bourke St in Melbourne and tried on a couple of different ones, finally settling on an Aarn pack.

Aarn backpack

I was pretty nervous about the hike, as I wasn’t sure how the pack was going to go, but from the very first day I knew I was in love.

The many straps and clips shouldn’t deter you. The waist straps itself is genius! Firstly, it has two straps going through the buckle, so that it can be tightened to fit perfectly! Then a further 3 buckles across the chest, to secure the balance pockets in the front.

The balance pockets help to even out your center of gravity, causing your posture to be correct and to walk upright, instead of leaning forward that I have become so accustomed to whilst hiking. They also have mini dry bags, which meant my phone and head torch could live safely in there. I wasn’t sure how these pockets would work out for me, but it turned out that they worked like a charm! I had a drink bottle in each one, then anything I would have put in a top or front pocket went in there, my scroggin, muesli bars, spoon etc. everything was very easy to find.

The main backpack is divided into two, but open across the bottom. I though this would be difficult to pack, but once I’d slipped my sleeping bag across the bottom, then everything seemed to fit so well. This was also a dry bag, which meant I didn’t have to use a pack liner.

It is a great pack! Cost a little more than I’d expected, or wanted to pay but it was worth it!


Clare Reilly is an Outdoor Educator, experienced multiday walker, guide and gear junkie.  She just happens to be our eldest daughter who is taking time out to start her family.  She writes over at The Life of Clare about living simply, food and life. 


  1. Andy says

    Hi guys…I think you have the name wrong in the title of this article…..isn’t it supposed to be AARN……not Aaron…..
    Pedantic I know….

  2. Peter Blandford says

    Hi, I would show my age if I told you that the “H” frame pack I bought as a teenager in Tassie was. Step up from the old “A” frame packs. Well my wife and I took up bushwalking again a few years ago and struggled around the bush with the packs we bought…….until we found White Mountain packs in Preston. Gary will happily fit your existing pack properly, so that it fits your torso correctly. Last year I purchased one of their packs, which included personal fitting and comfortably carried just over 30 kg on an 11 day Tassie hike.
    Regards, Peter

    • Frank says

      Thanks for the heads up Peter.
      I had an A frame in the Scouts in the 70’s (or was it late 60’s???)
      The packs look interesting, good to see such detailed information on the site.
      This is the link to White Mountain™ precision backpacks,if anyone is interested.

      What was the 11 dayer you did in Tassie?

    • Chris says

      I can vouch for the White Mountain gear… I bought one in 1997 from a store in Qld when they were barely heard of (still not well known). It was the “Antarctica” model and while it weighed a tonne it served on countless walks until starting to fray around the zips only a few years ago (on the OP bandwagon now). Looked completely different to the ones shown in the link though (of course!).

      Have previously tried out the Aarn model reviewed above and it was very comfortable! But for whatever reason (call it prejudice) I just couldn’t bring myself to make the leap to something completely different… Above all was worried about the effect on the front pockets of pushing through scrub etc.

  3. Simone says

    We’ve had our Aarn packs for 2.5 years and still love them just as much today as we did on our first walk with them. We’ve taken them on lots of overnight walks and longer walks such as the Overland Track and Wilson’s Prom circuit. They are also handy for carrying some of our kids gear to keep their loads light.

    The waist belt carries most of the load on the hips so that I can barely feel the straps on my shoulders. The front balance pockets are one of the best features as everything I need while walking during the day is easily accessible so I don’t need to take my pack off at all. Just eat, drink, sunscreen, check map, etc. without missing more than a step. At the beginning I found all the straps fiddly, but now I appreciate just how much adjusting them increases my comfort, especially when I am carrying a heavier load than normal (ie. 6L water for an overnighter this weekend)

  4. Andrew says

    Just returned from the first serious outing with my new Effortless Rhythm – Southern Ranges, over PB, and out to Melaleuca via the Ironbounds.

    Even had a swim with the pack coming down New River Lagoon and kept all the contents of the pack dry with the integral dry bags.

    I’m a convert!

    • Frank says

      Good stuff Andrew.
      Sounds like a terrific trip.
      Clare loves hers, Sue is in the market for one for herself…..

      • says

        Great to hear Sue is up for a change and joining the lightweight movement :) As you know I was an old schooler myself up until tackling the AAWT. Since then I’ve been using the Granite Gear A.C Blaze pack which has a women’s specific harness and weighing in at 1.3kg and I love it! I can pee without taking my pack off!

  5. says

    Hi clare, I have felt your pain with the wrong backpack in the past. I love hiking and the great outdoors and the best way to see it is with the correct gear. I brought a mountain Design backpack in 2003 and did alot of hiking with it and covered 90% of Victorias hiking walks and two of tassies best walls Overland and southcoast track which were probably the hardest hikes I had ever done. Every time I finished these walks I asked myself about the gear I was using. The backpack which I have been using just wasnt enjoyable anymore and had a break from hiking.
    Then I discovered light weight gear from backpacker light in Melbourne
    And looked into the aarn pack and I have never looked back. Now I know how you feel with a comfortable pack I went from carrying 25 to 30 kgs mountain design pack for a 6 day hike to 15 kgs aarnpack for 7 days with the aarn and ultra light gear and food, these days I travel light. Good luck with your hiking adventures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *