The Aarn Peak Aspiration is a medium size body-pack designed for mountaineering and trekking, available in two sizes, short (S) and long (L).
Chosing one or the other depends on the length of your back. The declared volume for the S size is 40 liters, the other is 5 liters bigger. According to the manufacturer, the weight of the two sizes is 1550 and, respectively, 1570 grams. Clearly these are not ultralight packs, but Aarn’s primary goal is to minimize not just the amount of energy needed to carry your gear along, but, above all, the stress for your back and the effort to breathe and move freely with your pack on. As of April 2008, the price on the manufacturer’s website is 260 New Zealand dollars, which is about 140 Euros.
The Peak Aspiration has a simple and compact design. Down on the two sides there are two open stretch pockets, big enough to hold gloves, gaiters and probably even one liter bottles. In the center there is a bigger pocket, also open and (partially) made of stretch fabric, which can host a light jacket, a poncho or maybe even an helmet. A cord-loc system helps to compress the pack.
The Peak Aspiration lid has only one small pocket, whose opening faces the external side of the pack. The zipper of the pocket is attached to a ring, which is easier to grab with your gloves on, but also more likely to catch on some low branch when you’re bushwacking.
The Peak has a double closing system: below the lid mentioned above, the top of the pack can be rolled and closed with a buckled strap, in the same fashion of waterproof bags. Right above this strap there is another, placed perpendicularly to the first one, which is buckled to the one coming, through a ring, from the front external pocket. The purpose of these straps is to fix securely on the top of the pack a climbing rope, tent poles or other gear, but they are also useful to compress the pack.
Opening the pack there is a pleasant surprise, which also explains why there is a roll-up closure. The Peak Aspiration comes with a removable waterproof liner, which is as big as the whole pack and secured to it with a velcro strip going all around the edge. Consequently, rolling the top of the pack and closing it with the buckle gives you a strong, waterproof container.
Theoretically, one could fill the waterproof liner only by half, placing all the gear that doesn’t really need to remain absolutely dry below it, directly in the bottom of the pack. In this way the liner may be used as a generic, removable bag. This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s worth doing so: since there is no way to close the liner when it’s outside the pack, you’d risk to lose its content if you carried it along with you around the camp.
Part 2 of this description covers the Aarn Peak Aspiration carrying system.