Readers of this newsletter know that I absolutely love the Aarn Featherlite Freedom backpack. Aarn introduced a pro version of this backpack in Dyneema fabric in 2020. This is lighter (by 1 lb) and I was keen on getting that version. I did not find it in stock at aarn-usa.com (it is still not in stock). A reader of this newsletter (thanks, Ashwin) found that the pro version is available at Backpacking Light, an Australia based online retailer. He ordered it first and I couldn’t resist it for a long time, so I ended up buying this pack in August 2021 and used it for my Iceberg lake hike.
At that time, only the 12L balance pockets pro were available for sale, so I bought them. The person who recommended the website ended up with the 18L pack.
Here are a couple of photos that Raja shot of me from the back.
Ashwin was kind enough to send a photo to share in this post. Ashwin has the 18L pro balance pockets.
Some brief points after my first outing with this pack, I will have a detailed review later this year, once I hike many more miles with this pack.
I did not like the belt buckle in the non pro version. The pro version follows a standard clip-on model and I really like this.
The hip belt feels more comfortable than the old version. They are the same size but something about this belt sits comfortably. I wonder if the material was changed or it is just that I know how to use this pack better. I was able to quickly get the soft portion of the hip belt over my Iliac Crest.
If I overtightened the old pack, my quads and IT band would start cramping almost immediately. I did not feel it this time. It could be because this was only a one night trip and I was not carrying a lot of weight in the front.
The water proof liner seems to be “better” and lighter. I would never take the liners off when hiking the Sierra Nevada, but if you are hiking in a dry region, these can come off and save some weight.
The chest straps seem to have been improved as well.
The flow frame / support frame in the back seems to have been improved. At times, with the old pack, they tended to poke me on the back if the pack was not setup perfectly, but I did not feel it this time. Again, I need more miles on this pack to judge clearly.
In short, Aarn has taken a fantastic pack and made it better in a lot of ways. At this point, I highly recommend you get the pro version instead of the non-pro version. Unfortunately, the pro packs are in short supply and not available in the US, so you have to import it from down under.