Aarn Marathon Magic 20L
This is an older version of the current, 22l model.
I borrowed one off a friend for an intense, 2-day backpack over a series of peaks in the Western Highlands of Scotland. Day 1 was especially intense; 21 miles and 11,000 feet of ascent, mostly on trackless, rough ground!
The Aarn pack was a revelation, a real leap forward from 'standard' lightweight backpacks. The straps work superbly together, distributing weight over a wider area.
The X shaped chest strap feels far more natural than a single chest strap, and takes part of the load a waist belt would normally take, so the narrow, unpadded waist belt feels perfectly comfortable. The chest straps also link through to the shoulder straps, equalising the tension, and further aiding comfort. The conus clip, which replaces the chest buckle, is easy to use.
The back breathes well and has a frame that supports the load but moves with you.
The front pouches are fantastic. I carried a 1 litre Platypus bottle in each one, food for the day in one and my camera in the other. Not only is this very convenient — nearly as easy for drinking as a reservoir and tube — but it is also far easier to keep an eye on fluid levels and refill on the move. Carrying the densest items on the front also balances out the load really well, allowing for a more upright posture.
I think it has a very large capacity for its nominal 20 litres: my old Berghaus Freeflow 32l is about the same size and my Karrimor X-Race 20l is a lot smaller! The capacity is fine for very light backpacking. We didn't camp, so I could afford the luxury of a full set of nice, clean clothes for the bunkhouse!
The one fault with this pack is that the ends of the straps (which you use to adjust them) are long and flappy! The chest and waist ones do join with velcro, making a loop, which helps a bit. You'd think Aarn would have come up with a clever way to tidy them up, as the rest of the pack is so clever. Perhaps the latest models have taken care of this?
This backpack is designed for very 'fast & light' pursuits, and so is not really hard wearing enough for a lot of mountaineering use. I felt very guilty returning my friend's pack with some obvious abrasion marks from the abrasive rocks clambered over on my trip! Other Aarn packs use tougher fabrics.
Overall, this is a superb, functional, comfortable pack. It is a genuine leap forward in backpack evolution.
Source: borrowed it
Price Paid: N/A - borrowed!