I own a 2009 model Aarn Featherlite Freedom and for me it is an ideal pack, why I hear you ask?
Aarn packs are well known for their front Balance pockets which are intended to offset of the weight of the backpack and thus make carrying more comfortable, which in my experience is true. However, there are some subtle differences which make this pack better than some of the alternatives that I have tried.
Aarn packs will never be the lightest pack, they are a New Zealand based company and gear from NZ is renowned for its longevity. I first owned a Featherlite Freedom in 2005 shown below in Rondane National Park Norway. Yes I wore leather boots in those days.
Strangely though I sold it and experimented with other packs.
But in 2009 I returned to Aarn packs when they became available in Denmark. I played with and used the Marathon Magic 33 and then the Mountain Magic 55. In each case I was happy with the packs for their intended purpose but never really felt “at home” with them, upon reflection, it was the harness was not ideal for me. But don’t get me wrong the MM 55 got me through 10 days in Lapland in 2010 and by the end of the trip I recognised the qualities of the pack and the way it carried a load. However, I also recognised in my planning for a 3 week trip in 2011 that the MM 55 had its limitations. Fortunately I came across a 2009 version of the Featherlite Freedom (FF) and immediately realised how well it suited my body shape.
Since the trip to Lapland in 2010 I have played with the pack and used the FF on a few trips envisioning using it in 2011 on my 3 week trip to Lapland. Following is my thoughts on the pack.
The Aarn Featherlite Freedom weighs in at 1860 grams which includes a tape sealed waterproof liner, removing the liner the pack weighs in at 1730 grams. The waterproof liner which, in my experience in prolonged rain works, has a central divider passing through it connecting the front and the back of the pack. The divider is intended to ensure that the load is spread evenly within the pack, on the 2009 model the divider is connected by a zip to the front of the pack, however, I find the zip undoes too easily as a consequence I have dispensed with the divider and the liner, preferring to carry Exped dry bags.
The Front Balance pockets are removable and as a consequence on recent overnight trips I have not used them, instead adding a set of MLD hip belt pockets, without the liner as well as removing the front balance pockets the pack weighs a respectable 1360 gms. The front balance pockets can also be used as a day pack and once connected together as shown below gives a 10 litre (or bigger depending on the size of the balance pockets) daypack or carryon luggage.
and the front view
There is a number of accessories available for the pack and in particular I like the Lasso Locs, shown in blue in the photo below, they enable the attachment of mats, tents etc to a number of places on the pack. They consist of clips that can be connected to strategically placed loops on the pack.
Lasso Locs connected to the Aarn Featherlite Freedom.
Ultimately the choice of pack comes down to fit, comfort and whether it meets the users requirements, for me when I put the Featherlite Freedom on, it fits, it is comfortable and I barely notice it being there, YMMV.