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Aarn Pack Mountain Magic 55 L
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Dont Wantto
(longhiker) - F
Aarn Pack Mountain Magic 55 L on 06/03/2010 00:18:42 MDT Print View

This is a pack just released last month by Aarn Packs in the US.. fills a lightweight hole in their catalog. I'm never an early adopter but by chance seem to have become one in this case. It appears to be on sale only on the Aarn Packs US website.

Want to post some basic stuff now because I'll never get around to it otherwise.. will try to post pics later.

I just got back from a 2 day 20 - 23 mile hike in Shenandoah NP with my new Aarn Mountain Magic 55 L pack and was pleasantly surprised by this pack.

History: I had bought an Exos 58 a little while ago and was going to use it on this trip.. but I found it a bit stressful on my lower back. My theory was that I had bad posture while wearing the Exos (I'd tried the Medium AND Small sizes at home, Medium worked way better). Previous no-name backpacks gave me similar but worse real-world back problems 3 - 4 days into backpacking trips. I found the Exos more comfortable than other packs I'd tried but it wasn't "perfect".

So I ordered the Aarn Mountain Magic 55 L and by luck it arrived a day before my trip. I took it along, packed with a weight that ranged from 17 lbs to 25 lbs (went with my girlfriend who carried a much lighter pack). This included water and about 5 lbs of food.



1. This pack is only ~ 3 lbs. I think that's really light for such a sophisticated suspension system. (Only 8 oz more than my Exos 58).

2. Good compression straps on pack.

3. The front pouches were really convenient on the trail.. we accessed food, water, our 'nav kit' (map, compass, safety stuff, glasses...) -- almost everything but clothes, tent and sleeping bag -- so easily.

4. AFTER I got the fit sort-of right, my posture was great. I really felt surprisingly well after carrying the load for so long. My back gives me problems often but this time, it felt great. (I think I can fit it even better eventually.)

5. AFTER I got the fit right, I had no sore spots.

6. I am sort of inclined to buy Aarn's yarn about spending less energy when you carry weight with the center of mass within your body.

7. There is no limitation of visibility from the front pouches. We were mostly on trail but it was rocky at times and the front pouches were never a problem. (I'm really skinny... I'd expect it to be even better for larger people (?)). This was my primary concern before buying the pack but I almost forgot to mention it here now since it was never on my mind

8. Ventilation is not bad.. especially compared to what you might expect from a pack like this. I wouldn't complain. I'm skinny though.


1. SO MANY STRAPS!! It can take a while to get the fit right... I think there must be 6 - 8 independent adjustments you can make (not counting ones that you mirror by symmetry). Many play into each other.. gotta keep fiddling.

2. Cumbersome pack -- Going UL and getting the Exos made me happy because it felt like I had less "pack" on me and less "stuff" while hiking. The Aarn creates the impression of a "lot of pack" since it is all around you. Very comfortable but just not minimal-feeling.

3. Not sure the main body can fit a weeklong bear canister.. I'd guess it can't. Want to go to the Adirondacks soon but we'll see...

My conclusion:

If your total pack weight is very small, you'd find the pack too complicated.

If you have back problems or posture problems or are just skinny and water+food weights put your pack easily past 15 - 20% of your body weight, I think this is great.

I'm hoping to do a Colorado Trail thru-hike later this year and I think I can't handle the weight of water + food for some of the sections in regular packs. I want to test this pack more before then and might make this my choice for my first thru-hike!

John Frederick Anderson
(fredfoto) - F

Locale: Spain
Aarn Pack Mountain Magic 55 L on 06/03/2010 01:12:33 MDT Print View

Hi Dont,

The MM 55 looks like a great pack, congratulations. I've been playing with the idea of the MM 33 for a long time, as my pack weight and volume have decreased a lot (like my bank balance) as I've lightened up.
The front pockets are a great idea, but I've made my own for the times when I have to camel up.
See this thread if you are interested.
Anyway, I look forward to hearing more from you about your experiences with the pack, and your adventures.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Aarn on 06/03/2010 06:52:25 MDT Print View

I purchased a 2008 model Aarn Natural Exhilaration without front pockets. I have hiked a few 4-5 times with it and think the comfort is better than the Osprey exos 34 I have. It is a bit smaller and heavier but I like it. The Mountain Magic may work even better.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Ff on 06/03/2010 08:55:30 MDT Print View

I own the featherlite freedom and concur with all your ponints above. I have carried heavy loads in it and been supremely comfy and un-sore. Recently did heavy load on purpose for 40 miles. Did same mileage as before with my ul pack except I had no shoulder soreness from the ul pack-the ul pack had a much lighter load as well. People dog these packs because they do not weigh less than two pounds until you try the bodypack system, you really do not understand. This is a beautiful pack, post pics.

Edited by isaac.mouser on 06/03/2010 09:00:52 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Aarn packs on 06/03/2010 09:13:29 MDT Print View

How does Aarn calculate the volume of their packs? Is 55L the volume of the main pack plus pockets, or the main pack alone? (The method seems to vary on their website, so I'm wondering if the numbers that it quotes are correct.)

Other than volume, is there a real difference between the Mountain Magic and the Marathon Magic lines?

I looked at Aarn packs a while ago and they were simply too heavy, but the new Marathon Magic 33L is looking promising. At 2.12 pounds it competes with the Osprey Exos 34. (The larger Mountain Magic line isn't as competetive.) For reference: the main pack of an MM33 looks to be about the same volume as an MLD Burn- granted, the Burn is only 10oz.

Thanks for promting me to check them out again.

Edited by acrosome on 06/03/2010 09:52:47 MDT.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Dean on 06/03/2010 10:39:32 MDT Print View

My FF is 55L + 10L via front pocket storage. My FF cut down weighs 3.3lbs, when i bought it the weight was 3.8lbs. For the massive amount of gear i can fit in the front pockets:

tarp + stakes
1-2liters of water in each as desired
med kit
tons of food

the 3.3lbs is nothing to worry about. With the aarn pack, my base weight is 11lbs (no water/food/fuel). For a 5 day summer trip w/ everything + items worn/carried i am at about 21-23lbs. Winter im at about 25-27. This is is no way heavy, carrying this load with the aarn is just like carrying nothing. I take alot of luxuries too. But the nice thing is, if i wanted to pickup something heavy on a thru, like a bunch of food, or if i wanted to stock up on water(say 4-5 liters)(passing through an area with little water for a day or two), it would be no problem because the pack is just that good at load distribution. It also allows me to carry a 1.3l pot comfortably, i could go with a caldera keg, but why? A bigger pot allows me to bake and the pack carries so good i would not notice it anyway. Just a few things you may not have considered. Now you will not get the same carrying abilities out of the pack your thinking of, the featherlite freedom has huge front pockets, you can always order some off the site if you would rather have different ones. Danamac @ hammock forums is in charge of AARN USA's distribution, if you wanted to do something like swapping them out, you would need to talk to him.

Edited by isaac.mouser on 06/03/2010 10:48:37 MDT.

Tim F
(kneebyter) - MLife

Locale: the depths of Hiking Hell (Iowa)
Internal Divider on 06/03/2010 11:31:42 MDT Print View

Good info on both the MM and the FF. These packs have intrigued me for a couple of years. Does the MM have the internal divider that the FF has?

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: Aarn Pack Mountain Magic 55 L on 06/03/2010 11:43:43 MDT Print View

I own a Mountain Magic 55 as well as the Marathon Magic 33 and a Natural Balance, they are my 3 go to packs. I am using Aarn packs because of ongoing lower back problems. which seem to be reduced with the use of these packs.

Regarding the Mountain Magic 55 and the Natural Balance these packs incorporate waterproof bags in their construction and I can testify that they work having just returned from a very wet trip in Sweden I will be writing a full report on the Mountain Magic in the near future.

Yes there are a number of straps, but they allow you to customise your pack to your needs. Packing an Aarn pack in the correct way is important to ensure a balance between back and front. The front pockets are large on the Mountain Magic and the Natural Balance and they are intended to offset the weight in the back.

In my view they are very comfortable and work for me, YMMV.

In 3 weeks I will be spending 10 days in lapland with an approximate starting load of 18 kg, the Natural Balance will be ideal for this trip with its separate waterproof compartment for a wet tent and other gear. The front pockets will hold my daily needs as well as stove gas, camera tripod and other high weight to volume ratio items.

The packs are worth a look.

Edited by rogerb on 06/03/2010 11:44:25 MDT.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Internal divider on 06/03/2010 12:00:37 MDT Print View

I cannot comment whether the MM does have hte divider or not, but the one on the FF is zippered, so you have a choice to divide your contents or not, very nice idea. Also im wondering how you guys are packing your AARNs. My basic packing is this: put as many heavy items as possible in the front pockets, heavy meaning in regard to volume/weight. I then put my sleeping bag in the bottom of my split divider on one side, clothes/item of equal weight on the other. On top of this i place my hammock/tarp, although sometimes i put my tarp in my front pocket. The flowmo bodypack pic on the aarn website({under choosing and using) shows the model with a sleeping bag on top, do you guys do this?

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: Internal Divider on 06/03/2010 12:12:11 MDT Print View

The MM does not have the internal divider

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
poles on 06/03/2010 12:58:47 MDT Print View

I would also be curious to know if you guys use poles with your aarn pack, i know they recommend pacer poles, but even the carbon ones are heavy compared to ul poles.

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: poles on 06/03/2010 13:04:35 MDT Print View

I have used pacer poles for about 4 years now. No matter which Aarn pack I use the poles work well, and the carry attachments are perfect for travelling on public transport.

Dont Wantto
(longhiker) - F
what poles? on 06/03/2010 13:19:53 MDT Print View

I'm not sure what these pacer poles are.. maybe it's for a different model of aarn packs. I did still use trekking poles out of habit and because my knees are often the bottleneck while hiking.

The large number of straps can indeed be an advantage.. can imagine almost anyone can get a fit with this pack.

From memory, the Mountain Magic has an adjustable

1. torso length
2. load lifter length
3. load lifter 'clip' on shoulder strap (seems non-functional for me because the load lifter seem to lie along the shoulder straps and don't really lift off)
4. shoulder strap length
5. hip belt length
6. a strap attaching each front pouch to the side
7. another strap doing the same as the above
8. the main vertical compression strap on the pack might also affect fit since it can move the top point the load lifter straps attach to.
9. surely forgetting others

The Mountain Magic 55 L series seems to have the volume split as 9 + 9 in the front pouches + rest in the main back compartment. The main back compartment does have a unique tie down mechanism that seems to allow for very different internal volume .. at the larger end of which the pack might look / feel really awkward.. not sure which end counts as pack volume.

I was apprehensive about Aarn packs for 2 reasons -- the weight and the visibility. The weight of the MM 55 is definitely very reasonable (~3 lbs + a couple of oz at most). The visibility was a big surprise since I thought as a skinny guy, the front pouches would be large on me and have me tripping and falling on rocks..

The front pouches also stay close enough to me to be able to use trekking poles by my side with no problem.. never hand my arms brush against the pouches as a result.

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: what poles? on 06/03/2010 13:28:58 MDT Print View

Pacer Poles are trekking poles, ULA used to sell them, but not with the new owners, more information on Pacer Poles can be found here the way that the hand grips are positioned makes them very different to normal trekking poles.

Edited by rogerb on 06/03/2010 13:30:12 MDT.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Aarn packs on 06/07/2010 14:32:43 MDT Print View

We recently demoed an Aarn FF, and were very disappointed. Once packed and fitted properly it is indeed comfortable, but all those straps everywhere drove us both nuts, and getting the pack on and off was a major undertaking. The front pockets were much too large IMHO, and putting heavy stuff in the front pockets (ie water) caused them to sway un-nervingly. Aarn packs are not easily hydration bladder compatible. The centre divider was also awkward to pack around. Definitely a cool idea, but just didn't push the right buttons for us.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
aarn ff troubleshooting on 06/07/2010 15:25:08 MDT Print View

I put a cut off zip tie under the place where the front pockets connect to the pack, bounce solved. Yes it does take a good 1-2 hours to get the pack fitted properly, with shoulder adjustments for height, hip belt adjustments, etc. The best way to fit it is to load it heavy (40+lbs), do a good walk for at least 30 minutes, feel where the pressure points on your hip bone are (top, bottom, side, middle) and adjust the degree of the belt for the the proper hip bone via the velro in the back, then do another 10 minutes and repeat until you have no more pressure points on your hips.

As far as swaying, mine do not sway side to side at all. You can adjust sideways sway via the blue elastic loop at the side-bottom of the front pockets.

There are alot of straps, and it takes patience, but once you get it dialed in just right, its wonderful.

It is not bladder friendly because you are meant to carry your water in bottles/platys in the front pockets. Don't give up so easy!

Did you take it on a hike, or just demo in a shop/friends house?

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
stays on 06/07/2010 15:25:47 MDT Print View

And i forgot to mention, of course you have to fit the stays in the front pockets as well as the back.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
straps on 06/07/2010 15:26:43 MDT Print View

I also cut 5oz off my packweight from cutting away straps once i found out the lengths i needed, the straps are too long on the pack as is, and all that strap swinging can of course be eliminated with cutting and re-sewing.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
benefit on 06/07/2010 15:28:02 MDT Print View

To see the benefit of a pack like this you reallly have to take it out for extended time, AFTER you've got it dialed in properly. Danamac has a video with Jason Klass on youtube, showing how to fit the pack for everybody who is interested.

Dont Wantto
(longhiker) - F
not on the mountain magic on 06/07/2010 15:32:24 MDT Print View

The mountain magic doesn't have several things mentioned in this thread.. like the central divider or stays that you fit (i guess that means bending it?).

it seems simpler than the pack described by ike and lynn..