Written by Andrew Burton - http://www.mountain-lite.co.uk
I first came across the idea of using an Aarn pack whilst I was putting in back to back 45 mile days on the pennine way, recce’ing for The Spine Race. There were three mini-adventures run in this fashion.
At first I was using another 20ltr pack along with their 2 ltr chest pouch, but knew I needed to carry more kit on the race and that I simply couldn’t use a 20 ltr pack. I reverted to a larger pack, a 30 ltr one, coupled with the 2 ltr chest pounch, which to be honest did a great job, only that it was too big and all of the weight was on my back. I did two of the recce’s using this set up and whilst I could have got away with it on the race I wasn’t convinced it was the solution.
So me and my running partner got talking about the idea – what other front pouches had space and compartments for different bits of kit. We thought long and hard, conjuring all of the usual big brand names, then he suggested something I hadn’t heard of before. Aarn. Who? A little New Zealand company who focus on producing packs that work with your posture rather than against it. Being a convert to minimalist footwear and the idea that the shoe works with the foot rather than against it I knew that this was a good idea, so I did a little more research into Aarn.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Aarn not only produce larger ‘hiker’ style packs, but smaller ‘running’ packs, so I duly ordered a mountain magic 22. Now it isn’t the lightest pack on the market, but my thinking was that some extra weight to give better balance and allow me a more upright and correct running posture would outweigh the extra weight.
My first run was with the pack all but laden with the compulsory kit for The Spine Race. It performed fantastically. Well, almost. I took a little while to get the clever strap system set up and the wee half hour run there was something catching a little. So I spoke to Charlie at Mountain Lite and he talked me through the set up once again. Silly me, I had completely missed one of the straps and that was the reason for it not quite being the mutt’s nuts on its first outing.
Undeterred, I set out again, this time with a little more kit in it (my final running weight), and a quick 3 hour jaunt up Catstycam, Swirral Edge and across to Raise in blizzard conditions was put in the bag, so to speak. It worked a treat and I knew there and then this was definitely the pack for such an undertaking as the Spine Race.
Even at 22 ltrs, this pack is cavernous. I had camp food for 2 days (and I like to eat); a winter weight sleeping bag, bivvy bag, running poles, crampons, microspikes, waterproof body cover, a primaloft layer and a down layer, base layers (top and bottoms), assorted dry bags, first aid kit, cooking gear (pocketrocket and gas x2), trail food (assorted gels, homemade, chorizo, cheese, energy powders); camera, water bottle (750ml), gps and a few other bits and bobs in it.
So race day – well, it didn’t all go quite to plan and in the end I cut my losses before they cut me after about 95 miles. It was the right choice at the time as it transpired I had nerve damage, BUT,, here’s the thing, I banged out the first 45 miles half an hour quicker than my recce run, my posture was great and I didn’t have any problems with the packs level of comfort. It became a firm favourite there and then.
I'd heartily recommend the aarn mountainmagic22 for those looking for a long distance running pack, especially the multi-dayers and mega adventures that exist. But more importantly, it, or one of its bigger brothers, would make a great hiking/camping pack and I can see they would be just as good as an approach pack for some serious climbing where endless kit needs lugging into the crags.
So what are ye waiting for, get online and get buying. You’ll not regret it.