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Aarn Featherlite Freedom- how to load it?
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Tim F
(kneebyter) - MLife

Locale: the depths of Hiking Hell (Iowa)
Aarn Featherlite Freedom- how to load it? on 03/14/2011 12:29:01 MDT Print View

I know we have some Aarn pack users on this forum, and I know of at least one that has a Featherlite Freedom. The big difference between the FF and other, smaller Aarn packs when it comes to loading it is the center divider. I am in need of some advice on how to arrange the items in my pack. I know this is kinda long, but I wanted to make sure to give enough info.

I am moving to the FF from an SMD Starlite, which carries great for a backpack, but still bothers my back sometimes when hiking. One thing to keep in mind is that I hike in Iowa a lot and drink a large amount of water, which means often carrying 4-6 liters of water between caches.

The Starlite was very easy to pack:
-1/4" thinlite pad rolled up burrito style; pack liner (trash compactor bag) inside that
-rolled Neoair against back of hipbelt; Arc Alpinist long, pillow and XL Down Inner Parka (if the day is going to be warm) stuffed loose in the bottom
-Next layer, arranged in vertical cylinders (best way I can think of to describe it): food bag against back, SP700 w/ all kitchen stuff inside, misc gear bag (FAK, repair kit, flashlight, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc)
-Fill in whatever space there is with clothing bag (balaclava, gloves, socks, rain jacket-if no rain, and, in cooler weather, tights and rain pants)
-On top of all this goes my down jacket if it is very cool that day
-Close and secure liner
-2L platy & sometimes 1L platy
-Rain jacket if it looks like rain
-toiletries go in the small zipper pocket

On the outside:
In long mesh pocket-Tarptent Rainbow w/poles and stakes, pocket saw, Mora
In lower mesh pocket on other side- 2L platy hoser, map
In upper mesh pocket- windshirt, and anything I might need that does not fit it the hipbelt pockets

In hipbelt pockets:
Left- sunscreen, bug dope, hand sanitizer, snacks
Right- camera, camera mount for Pacerpoles

The instructions for the FF say to pack the heaviest/most dense items, and those you want quick access to, in the front balance pockets. In the main bag, medium density items go against the back and low, and lightest/least dense items should be away from the back with the sleeping bag at the top.

I am thinking about a 2L platy in each front pocket along with snacks, sunscreen, bug dope, hand sanitizer, FAK, and any other food that will fit. Toiletries, camera and windshirt will go in the outside mesh pockets on the front pockets.
For the main pack, I am not sure how to load it. It seems that if I put my quilt on top I will have to mess with it any time I need something out of my pack, like my pot if I want some tea with lunch, or a piece of clothing, or something in my food bag. It would also be subject to water if it is raining. I also don't want to put the tent in side mesh pocket like I did with the Starlite (maybe the poles could go there). The food bag will be the most dense thing in the main pack- should I put it at the bottom? What do I do with the 1/4" CCF pad?

If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I would appreciate suggestions from all, and especially if you have a pack with the divider in it. Would also appreciate info on how you cut weight from your Aarn pack.


BTW, glad to see that Aarn and his staff are OK after the big quake in Christchurch.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Aarn Featherlite Freedom- how to load it? on 03/14/2011 22:13:17 MDT Print View

You already have the pockets worked out. You may change a bit as you go but that is pretty much it.
I have my water, a made up 1 pint electrolyte bottle, munchies, gloves/hat , spare glasses, camera and sometime the Montane Featherlite pants . (tennis ball sized) . Oh, and the toiletry kit...
I have the Expedition pockets attached to mine.
In the main pack I shove the sleeping bag or quilt at the bottom. Next to it the mat.
On top my "night kit" (liner/wool bottom/wool T /socks /MP3 player (!)).
The night kit is mostly my camp clothing kit also , after my full wash...
Next to the night kit I have a puffy jacket or jumper .
That takes me past the separation. Over that (sort of middle of the pack,) I have the food bags, ( breakfast/lunch and tea/coffee/sugar/milk in one , dinners in the other) then the kitchen (Caldera Cone kit or gas kit) and the emergency/first aid kit (red sil stuff sack).
Right at the top, usually the map, rain jacket and sometime a shirt/mid layer. Usually also have there a 1 gallon (empty but not always) Nalgene Canteen. If I have water in that , then I move it down.
My tent goes on the outside across the top.

Tim F
(kneebyter) - MLife

Locale: the depths of Hiking Hell (Iowa)
Re: Aarn Featherlite Freedom- how to load it? on 03/16/2011 12:03:36 MDT Print View

Thanks for the reply, Franco. So you pack it a little different than they suggest. I like the idea of putting the down insulation at the bottom; it can expand to whatever room is available to fill up the pack nicely. I also like the idea of putting the food in two bags, then you can have one on each side of the divider for side-to-side balance.

That leaves two big question marks for me, the tent and the CCF pad. Volume inside the pack will not be a problem, but I don't want a wet tent in with my other gear. I was thinking about putting the stakes and poles in the outside mesh pocket on one side, then putting the tent body (in a stuff sack) in the main pack *outside* the waterproof liner. As for the pad, I can think of two options. One is to roll it very tightly and stuff it vertically on one side of the divider. Seems like side-to-side balance might be a problem in this case because that is a lot of volume for only a 7oz item. The other possibility I see is to roll it up tight and put it in the opposite outside mesh pocket from the tent poles. Having both these things in the outside pockets creates a problem if I have to carry more than just the full 2L platys in the front pockets, as this would be the logical place to carry another 1L of water.

Another possibility for packing the main bag would be to unzip the internal divider and load it just like I did my SMD pack. If I understand correctly, the divider is supposed to keep the weight closer to your body. Does it perform any other functions? Do you see any big disadvantages in doing this?

Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
Aarn Featherlite Freedom- how to load it on 03/16/2011 12:18:41 MDT Print View

I did not answer your question at first as I have the Natural Balance not the FF. But now you have the down sorted. I do not think it would be terrible if you unzipped the divider as long as you kept heavy stuff against your back and only fluff filled the extra space. I assume you would still use the trouser shaped Aarn dry bag so I would keep the divider. Like Franco I load my tent across the top using 2 Aarn lasso locks. Last in, first out, keep wet tents out of the sack sort of idea. You could use these lasso locks to carry your mat too. I find side to side balance very important. i sometimes move the tent poles from one side pocket to the other for balance

Tim F
(kneebyter) - MLife

Locale: the depths of Hiking Hell (Iowa)
Re: Aarn Featherlite Freedom- how to load it on 03/16/2011 12:46:49 MDT Print View

Is having the tent loaded on top a PITA when you need to get into your pack? I access my pack several times a day.

If I did not use the internal divider, I would not use the Aarn waterproof liner either since a trash compactor bag weighs and ounce or two less.

I agree with you whole-heartedly about the balance. The first couple times that I loaded the pack I thought that I just wasn't adjusting the suspension right, but I figured out that my food bag on one side of the divider was just much heavier than everything that was on the other side. Once I fixed that, it was a great fit.

My hiking partner has the Natural Balance. He had a lumbar discectomy and was very unsure about being able to carry a backpack again. I pointed him towards the Aarn packs and on our first trip he carried it for 8 days on the SHT. After day one, he was sold. After day two, I was sold on it.

I actually ordered both the FF and the Mountain Magic 55. I compared them and sent the MM55 back because the suspension was just so much better on the FF (it is pretty much identical to the NB). I have not seen a lot of good photos of these packs on the web. I took a bunch of comparison shots of the two packs and have been meaning to post a thread for a while.

Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
Aarn Featherlite Freedom- how to load it on 03/16/2011 14:03:19 MDT Print View

I do not find the tent a problem. It is attached to the load lifter anchors with the Aarn losso locks. When you do up the central Top strap it catches the tent too. When you undo this strap the tent falls out of the way. If you have done up the canoe closure of the main bag this will take longer to do and undo than the central strap has taken. I sometimes leave that open if it does no threaten rain.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Aarn Featherlite Freedom- how to load it? on 03/16/2011 14:28:12 MDT Print View

Sorry I forgot about this one but Derek is on to it.
Yes pretty much what he said.
I did suggest putting the tent in between the dry sack and the pack to someone sometime ago, but because my shelters are pretty compact it is no problem for me to have them on the outside.

Tim F
(kneebyter) - MLife

Locale: the depths of Hiking Hell (Iowa)
Re: Aarn Featherlite Freedom- how to load it? on 03/16/2011 14:54:18 MDT Print View

I am usually using a TT Rainbow. Without the poles and stakes, it is pretty compact. I will try it on the top. Are there connection points for the lasso-loc straps on top of the pack? I ahve been waiting for the straps to become available from since I bought the pack. Looks like it will be May now.

Maybe I could keep it inside if it is dry and outside when wet. Makes for inconsistent packing.

Have you found the liner to be completely waterproof?

Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
Aarn Featherlite Freedom- how to load it on 03/16/2011 15:09:42 MDT Print View

The slic clips on the lasso locks slip into the anchors of the load lifters.
I found the liners to be great then both failed together after about 5 years. Aarn offered to replace them for free. I have not taken him up on the offer yet.
The only way I have found to seriously lighten an Aarn pack is to transfer front pockets onto another pack and try and amend it to bring back the features I really want. It is not easy.

Michael Rienstra
FF vs. MM55 on 04/12/2011 19:11:51 MDT Print View


I'd love to hear more about why you chose the FF over the MM55. A thread with a bunch of photos would be terrific, but in the meantime, can you share the short version with us?

Tim F
(kneebyter) - MLife

Locale: the depths of Hiking Hell (Iowa)
Comparison post soon to come...really! on 04/18/2011 14:37:26 MDT Print View

Michael- just noticed your post. Several other people have asked me when I was going to post the comparison thread also, so I guess it would help a few people. I will work on it tonight or tomorrow night. I have almost 100 pics, so it is likely to be a pretty long post. Here is a pic of the two packs together (the Mountain Magic 55 is on the left):

Aarn Mountain Magic 55 & Featherlite Freedom

Stay tuned...

Ismail Faruqi
(ismailfaruqi) - F
Photos on 04/22/2011 01:11:43 MDT Print View

Cheers Tim, keep'em coming... really considering both of packs now...

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
aarn ff on 04/22/2011 07:49:42 MDT Print View

the last pack i will ever use, pending some new aarn pack.

all electronic stuff

Waterproof maps

ditty bag
all bars/food thats in wrappers(i dont like to store food that can leak out(FBC) w/ electronics)
1 full collapsable 1 liter platy in mesh front sleeve secured by cinchable straps
Small neon orange hand/gear cleaning towel secured in front cinch straps(for hunter visibility and ease of access)

all FBC meals for 5 days go in first(bottom)

Gorp on very top
1 full collapsable 1 liter platy in mesh front sleeve secured by cinchable straps
Bear spray next to water bottle in cinched straps
Small neon Green face towel in front cinch straps(for hunter visibility and ease of access)

Bear bag kit + TI Stakes
Compass, Knife on neon lanyard

(first of all i remove the orange liner and use a compactor bag for true waterproofness.
Since i use alot of down, i dont take chances. I also unzip the vertical divider)
At the bottom is my clothes(heaviest)
in the middle is my hammock
my underquilt and topquilts are next

rain gear + Patagonia houdini

Tarp in snake skins + water filtration kit in ziploc

In winter, i keep my gloves clipped to the outside of the pack around front pocket/hip belt area. Inside of these i keep my nitrile gloves(used for warmth/water filtering in winter) and my waterproof shell mitts. I also keep my balaclava clipped to the side of my pack in winter as well.

I balance the weight between the front pockets and the back portion of the pack by attaching both fully loaded front pockets to a fishing scale then comparing that weight to the weight of the back portion of the back. I use bars to adjust weight by placing a few in the back if needed.

Its important with this kind of pack to keep the weight relatively the same between the front pockets and the main compartment(+- 1/2LB) to get the true benefits of the design.

At night i hang the front pockets up high in a tree but remove the bag w/ the electronics. I sleep with the main poriton of the pack under my feet in my bridge hammock using the compactor bag as large an inflattable pillow(works wonders to elevate the feet at night)-although in winter because your feet are elevated(more wind exposed)in the hammock, I need booties + a VBL(cuben waders(stream crossers) underneath skin tight merino bottom baselayer):

Becasue this pack has so many storage options, i have alot of things clipped/stored on the exterior as stated above. Mainly things in need quick access to, these include:

+bear bag kit
+2 small walmart neon microfiber towels
+waterproof maps(assuming no rain is forecast or seen)
+bear spray(useless if not quickly available)
+sometimes camera in mesh pocket for wildlife(needed in a hurry sometimes, only if no rain)
+gloves(nitrile, insulative, shell)
+ water filtration kit

I also often hike with the right front pocket open since it has snacks like gorp. So i can eat while hiking.

Edited by isaac.mouser on 04/22/2011 08:14:39 MDT.

Michael Rienstra
Re: Comparison post soon to come...really! on 08/28/2011 21:54:20 MDT Print View


Whoops, I just noticed your post! I forgot to "Watch this thread".

Terrific to hear that you're planning on a comparison post! Feel free to "tease" us with little bits at a time, no need to post all 100 photos in one go.