Backpack Review for Irish Adventure Racers

This post is  directed at Mike who has asked what backpacks I would recommend for adventure racing.

I can only recommend ones that I have used but there are a lot out there! However I am always looking out for certain features and what the most popular backpacks are among the top racers and I have come up with 4 brands that are popular with mountain marathoners and adventure racers alike.

They are:

  • Osprey
  • Aarn
  • OMM
  • Raidlight

OMM and Raidlight are very popular among mountain marathon racers who primarily need light backpacks that can carry a tent, sleeping bag, mat, food and water for up to 2 days. I have never used either but I have seen a lot of people at Mountain MArathons using both backpacks and swearing by their durability and functionality.

Osprey and Aarn  have backpacks that do the same thing but they also have additional special features.

I feel that Osprey and Aarn are the new forerunners on the adventure racing market, they have evolved to suit the adventure racing specific demands for a backpack that has great functionalities (plenty of chest pockets and side pockets for food, adjustability, outer elastic straps for carrying helmets, loops for poles)

I have 2 Osprey backpacks and an Aarn. The Aarn can carry bottles and food in big pockets in the front which evens out the balance when you are running. It also has an independent system so that it doesnt sway around when its full, rather your body moves while the backpack stays in the same place

I have this Aarn

What I love about the Arn is the strapping system and the huge pockets in the front. You can essentially pack away any gear in the backpack you dont need for a while and carry water bottles and or food and gear in the pockets in front.  When I ski toured with it last weekend the pockets in the front were big enough to pack in my skins on top of all the snacks I had which meant every time I wanted to put on or take off my skins I didnt need to take off the backpack.

The strap at the front is all looped and connected to the waist strap and the backpack but it loops instead being connected or fixed to the backpack which gives you very different sensation of carrying weight when running, as if the backpack is independent. The straps cross across your chest also providing extra security and less chaffing around the armpits.

Here is a pick of me wearing the Aarn on a ski tour

Osprey sponsor Richard Ussher and his wife Elina and basically what ever gear those guys use is great. I have this one and so does Elina Ussher (woohoo) if only it made me as fast as her! I use my Talon 11 everywhere. Although it IS tidy but probably on the small side for what Mike needs, but it is so comfortable. I would recommend it purely for its functionality and comfort. But I would suggest a size larger if you feel you may need to carry some more gear. I tend to get away with very little and I have compact clothes. I absolutely love this backpack it is perfect for my run to work and it is just about big enough to fit a spare change of clothes and some extra bit and pieces. In Abu Dhabi it fitted my water bladder, food, spare layers, a silk sleeping bag liner and some other bits and pieces on the desert trek and I never needed more or less space. It was definitley minimal but it also prevented me from over packing and carrying too much.

I also have the Exos 58 below for multi day trips in the mountains and the guys on the winning team in Abu Dhabi were using this backpack as some of them carried more weight to even out the team. The great thing about this backpack is how snug it feels and it doesnt move around from side to side. I am wearing it in the photo at the top of this blog! I find it very stable.

The only problem is as it is on the large side, there is a tendency to over pack it.  I would still suggest a smaller version of this for adventure racers who like to carry a little bit more weight, or for people who intend to do a mountain marathon.


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