" I'm a long time customer (since 1995) and enthusiastic fan of your pack designs, every since I took an Aarn Natural Balance to Europe in 1995. Wearing that pack (with the "Balance Buddies" as they were called at the time) I have climbed in the Dolomites in Italy, hiked in the French and Swiss Alps, and scrambled and climbed all over mountains near my present home in Seattle, WA. I've worn your pack on every conceivable kind of trip, from long hikes over flat ground to "light and fast: alpine climbs going straight up, AND, having formerly worked in the outdoor industry, I've had the opportunity to fit and wear almost every kind of pack design there is. To this day, nothing compares to my good 'ol Aarn Natural Balance pack. I wanted to send this note to personally thank you for the enjoyment I've had over the years thanks to your groundbreaking design. Very few packs are equally well suited for hostel-hopping around Europe and summiting Mt. Rainier. Yours is. And, after 15 years, it's still holding up pretty well, all things considered. Anyway, I wanted to say thank you. If I was still in the outdoor retail industry, I'd still be selling your packs. There is nothing to compare to them, (as you know!!) It's a shame that they're still so hard to find, here in the US, but I'm glad you're still making them. Best of luck to you, and thanks again for doing what you're doing." Eric Fredrickson
, Seattle, WA, USA
" Background: After 10 years of marriage we had twins. We were farmers I was accustomed to working on the farm. I started carrying one twin on my back and one on my front - perfect balance.
Years later I started tramping with friends. I bought a backpack. I always ended up with things dangling on my front. A large camera bag was best: it held everyone's snacks, camera, water, elastoplasts. Then I found an Aarn pack sitting on the floor of our local outdoor shop that actually had front bags, called Balance Pockets, it was called Load Limo. The pack was huge - 85kg, but it balanced me perfectly. I managed with heavy loads (I often take a tent). I stood upright, and had no back or knee problems.
Age has crept on, the body changes, bones protrude, flesh disintegrates, carrying weight becomes a burden.
Then I bought a Natural Balance. It weighs a kilo less than my old pack. I climbed in the hills around me, crawling in places, I packed it to the limit, I tramped out in heavy rain, it was faultless. I have done some real bush whacking with it, thinking the fine fabric would tear: it did not. This for me is the perfect pack.
The Aarn design is the most intelligent and ingenious pack I have had anything to do with. I would never consider another type of pack. The design has thought carefully about the body and how it reacts to weight bearing. The pockets are in all the right places - maps, cell-phone, water, food - everything in perfect position to reach without having to take the pack off.
I congratulate Aarn. His engineering and design skills are superb. And thankyou for the extra years of freedom this pack will give me.
Having just come back from a 14km. hike in the hills in perfect shape and able to spend the rest of the day at work and still feel OK I am elated.
Jo Speedy, Hastings, NZ
“I recently took the Natural Balance Bodypack to the UK where I completed the Lands End to John O’Groats Walk—1,050 miles in 57 days, i.e. an average day of walking 18 to 24 miles. The Bodypack did the business! I’m enormously impressed with the pack which I have no doubt helped me to complete the journey without any notable incidents or setbacks.
Having had a lumbar discectomy a few years ago, and a history of neck and upper back problems, it was essential that the pack and hipbelt put minimal strain on my lower back, neck and shoulders. I found that at the end of each day, I had no soreness or tiredness in these areas. Further, my overall fatigue level after 8 to 10 hours walking was surprisingly low, given that I was carrying an average daily load of about 13 kg.
The fore and aft balancing worked well—I found that I had good balance when it was really needed; going up or down steep gradients, rock-hopping, crossing streams or on slippery surfaces. The backpack proved 100% waterproof. Thanks
for helping me to realize a dream!”
Richard Hipgrave, Wellington, NZ
“Hi. Not something that I usually do, but I just could not let the event pass without comment. An unsolicited recommendation!
I am 59 years old and my wife is 56. In February 2004 we had a serious bike accident where my wife broke her collarbone, her pelvis and a rib. I fortunately suffered more minor injuries. We are both keen trampers and planned to continue but were worried about being able to carry our old packs, which always gave problems mainly on our shoulders. We purchased two of your Natural Balance packs (mine the 75L, my wife's the 70L).
We have just returned from 4 days of tramping round Lake Waikaremoana and what a revelation! Both of us just could not believe that you could spend days with the pack on and have absolutely no issues with the weight. These packs just have no impact on you shoulders. This particular tramp requires a lot of clambering up and down a 'root' based track but the packs were just great to carry. I cannot recommend the packs more highly and regardless of whether you have problems I am sure that you will benefit from using these amazingly designed packs.”
Thanks for saving our outdoors life!
David & Margaret Ivory, North Island, New Zealand
Thanks for such a wonderful pack! It was a big investment, but I've never been happier with a piece of adventure equipment. The fantastic design and great build quality make it a pleasure to handle and has saved me in some tricky situations.
When scrambling up vertical inclines with a previous pack the awkward and scary sensation of falling backwards down a steep cliff makes me appreciate the Natural balance so much more- I use it for all my treks now- even day walks.
I love the balance pockets to store my water bottles - what a fantastically versatile unit!
Ben Campbell, Ashford, South Australia
" I have been using a Natural Balance for years. It is still going strong and is without a doubt the best, most comfortable pack I have ever used. I've done lots of backpacking the Sierra here in California and it never fails to get people's attention on the trail. I always tell them, "You are looking at the backpack of the future."
David Nelson, California, USA
" Tested: June 2008, northern Australia, solo walk over 23 days (full pack, no re-supply possible).
Environment: tropical; dry season; slow country=deep gorges, loose rocks, exposed ledges, spinifex/sandstone ridges, screw-pine cluttered valleys, open woodland, vine thickets, speargrass hells
Exposure/time: (from Easiest to Hardest): strolling over horizontal, open, flat ground (1%), walking in woodland, feet mostly visible (25%), rock-hopping along creeks, feet visible (35%), river crossings (1%), high-stepping through over-head-high vegetation, feet not visible (25%), pushing/scraping through distorted spinifex/sandstone labyrinths, feet often not visible (7%), gorge climbing (6%)
Weights: body: 64 kg (141 lbs) skin-out at start: 24 kg (53 lbs) (of which 2 kg clothes/shoes/hat) complete pack at start: 22 kg (46.3 lbs).
Other packs used on previous walks: On earlier walks (over 14/20/21 days) in various parts of the Australian Kimberley, I used a very light (710 g=25 oz) frameless pack, the “Starlite” (Six Moon Designs, recommended for 16 kg/35 lbs loads max; I carried 16-19 kg. During those 3 walks, obsessed with the idea that “light is always better than heavy”, I pushed myself through difficult country (with stays added to the pack on the 3rd trip). I took it for granted that my daily exhaustion, especially during the first 2 walks, merely reflected the hard terrain. I was physically in above-average condition. Trip #4 (2008) changed my mind: I now had an Aarn.
My experience: At first, I felt like a bicycle rider in the seat of a Ferrari. Starting out with the “Natural Balance” crammed and heavy (=1/3 of my body weight), I spent the first 2+ days fiddling with adjustments; numerous possibilities meant that I had to *learn*. I carried most of the dense, heavy stuff in the front Balance Pockets (satphone, camera, GPS, lots of lithium batteries, muesli bars etc). These pockets hold max. 10 L/pair (=22 lbs/pair). The rear pack: it is divided into top and bottom loading sections. The top section contains a removable dryliner with a vertical divider making 2 cylinders; these parallel cylinders keep the cargo close to the body, i.e. prevent weight from bulging out and away from the back (the stressful lever action I knew well from my previous packs). Excellent solution! - with one disadvantage: loading requires *thinking*. The front Balance Pockets: Each contains a bendable alu stay that is seated in the front hip belt. Meaning, the “Balance Pockets”, too, do not weigh on the shoulders at all but only on the hip. Since there are 2 front packs - the center chest gap lets me see my feet while walking. Also, I can use my arms freely. Although the Balance Pockets were packed full, and are designed to lean away from the chest (bendable stays=no sweaty contact with body), I had no problem seeing my feet while on the move.
Day 1-2 (v high grass, deep gorge packed with boulders, river crossing): I am amazed, amazed: I am comfortable, despite the heat and the weight. Still, this highly customizable pack demands more than just 1 or 2 hours of initial learning. The most important of all adjustments to be figured out is the *precise* fitting of the hip belt (since the whole pack rests on this).
Day 3 (steep slopes of loose rocks): I am much impressed by the quality of workmanship and materials: the pack feels and looks tough.
Days 4-5 (ravines, spinifex thickets): After eating 2 kg of food, I have now achieved a comfortable ratio of body vs. carried weight. The pack’s tough materials seem not to suffer even when I scrape through thorny vines and scramble across huge boulders. And the numerous brushes against bushfire-burnt trees leave hardly a mark. Packing has become somewhat easier: Tent, sleeping bag etc. in the bottom section, accessible from below; food and mat are in the top section which still rises high enough to bump a little against the rim of my hat.
Day 6 (open woodland): Hot, hot. I keep a full 500cc water bottle in the front outer stretch pocket of one “Balance Pocket”. I am grateful for the 3D “Matrix Mesh” between my back and the pack: it does let the air ventilate nicely, keeping my shirt almost dry.
Day 7 (gorge): Climbing down along a string of waterfalls, I am doubly cautious: loose rocks, partially hidden; few handholds. A few intense stretches, edging along ledges. By now, I have come to love my pack: it seems to move as part of my torso, rather than swinging or jerking away from me; and I feel no fatigue at all. And yet, on exposed ledges, the bulky front “Balance Pockets” make it impossible to keep kiss-close to the rock face. This awkwardness is mostly compensated for by the astonishing overall balance of the pack – the back part never seems to pull me backwards away from the rock. Still, when I find my chest forced away from the rock face by the bulging front Balance Pockets, I sometimes have to retreat and to look for a safer route. On the other hand: a *conventional* back-only pack might let me press my chest flat against a rock face but would pull me more, by lever action, away from the wall. No, sir, give me my Aarn. (Aarn – a new hipbelt holster allows you let the Pockets swing to the sides easily when you unclip the top straps, for such moves).
Days 8-12 (screw-pines in flooded deep-grass valleys; then waterless rock labyrinths higher up): On some previous trips, this was when fatigue began to overcome me. But now I feel none at all, despite this being the hardest country I have yet walked. My back, hitherto prone to lumbar pain: no pain. Shoulders and neck muscles: loose. I am no spring chicken but I feel like a spring chicken.
Days 7-23: Houston, we have a problem. On one of the front Balance Pockets, the alu stay’s top is working its way out top of the sleeve top. Using a light carabiner, I connect the Balance Pocket’s side plastic ring to the connector strap on the pack’s shoulder strap. All in all, this weird disfunction hardly lessens my delight in the Aarn. (the Balance Pocket frame socket has since been redesigned solving this issue - Aarn)
Day 23: Conclusion: last week, I slipped and fell once – on flat ground. This is an enormous improvement over previous walks under a conventional backpack, where I took bad falls half a dozen times during the first pack-heavy days. I am balanced now. I am not tired. I am walking free. No, the “Natural Balance” is not cheap: at NZ$460 or more (US$320), you’ve got to need it badly. But as an old chap with a bad back who loves long walks in difficult terrain, under a fair load, I couldn’t sing its praise more gladly."
Anchan Braun, Australia