Who It Suits
If your plan for a perfect day is mountaineering, scrambling, snowshoeing, hiking or extended trail running, etc. there’s a good chance the Arc’teryx Aerios 30 could be your new ultimate daypack. It’s super lightweight but still offers a fully framed structure, durability, ventilation, full suspension system, and all the features and attachments you may need up in the mountains in any season.
Who It Doesn’t
Bushcrafters, survivalists, and fans of military-inspired gear should focus on other product lines from Arc’teryx (LEAF) or even find a dedicated heavy-duty pack from a different manufacturer. Also the available colors (vibrant lemon green and very light gray) are not for everyone. Especially if you prefer to blend into the environment and stay stealthy. Arc’teryx, please give me this pack in Wolf Gray or Crocodile, please.
A classic rounded shape with hi-tech features and trimmings – that could be the best description of the Aerios pack. From a distance, it looks like a typical mountaineering daypack. But the closer you look the more details you start to notice. Ripstop material, very fine daisy chains, a lot of reinforced cordage instead of webbing tapes to save a lot of weight. And a runner’s style suspension but certainly more rugged than typical trail running vests, to transfer the bigger pack weight to the hips and shoulders. The Aerios tapers at the bottom to avoid a butt-heavy horseshoe shape, which would be a big no-go for me. All in all, it looks really sporty – it’s a clean and modern-looking mountain pack.
An S-shaped internal composite frame-sheet with webbing straps, a padded multi-layer ventilated back panel and a full-blown harness system makes it one of the most comfortable ultralight packs, even under a relatively heavy winter mountaineering load. The construction looks simple at first glance, but as always the devil is in the features and details. The manufacturing quality is top-notch, as expected. All stitchings fully aligned, all cords and webbings nicely finished. The only thing I’d maybe change would be making the waist belt removable. I know that it would certainly add some bulk to this construction but it could make the Aerios even more adaptable to different scenarios. But, after all, it’s neither a dedicated climbing pack nor an urban one, so making the hip belt fixed is not a big deal in the end.
Materials and Hardware
The hiking world is really going lightweight these days – and so are the materials used to build the Aerios pack. The outer fabric is exactly the same as in the Alpha AR series, so innovative 210D Cordura nylon with LCP (liquid crystal polymer) ripstop grid technology, which makes it exceptionally tear and abrasion-resistant, especially for the weight. The AeroForm back panel integrated with venting mesh, high-density foam in the straps and hip belt – all that gives comfort and saves weight too. I really like the innovative use of the thin but tough cord and toggles as a substitute for webbing and classic buckles as load-lifters. All the buckles, adjusters, and zippers are top quality. Well, it’s Arc’teryx, after all – no compromise, no complaints.
The pack features a spacious main compartment, front zipper pocket, adjustable side pockets, bungee net, daisy chains, and multiple pockets on the belt and straps. Plus a fully featured runner-style suspension and anatomically shaped frame. With a hydration hanger and hose port, the Aerios is fully hydration compatible too. All that in a 30L pack, which weighs a mere 900 grams. It might be a lightweight pack, but it’s feature-heavy!
Space and Access
The whole pack is essentially one big compartment with a U-shaped zipper, which opens down to about half of the pack. So it’s easier to find gear inside when compared to an alpine top-loader design, but it also keeps the pack lighter than a full clamshell construction and prevents gear from falling out of the pack. For a dedicated mountaineering pack, it’s an adequate solution. On a side note – Arc’teryx changed the metal zipper pulls to thin cord pulls, which not only looks good but is lighter and much quieter than the usual metal tabs.
The front pocket is integrated into the pack’s panel, so it partially eats into the space in the main cavity. It looks handsome and works fine, but I’d avoid overpacking that pocket. It’s fine for a headlamp, gloves, sunglasses, Swiss Army knife, etc. What I really like is how they integrated part of the bungee net into the pocket so that some items (like gloves) can be cinched with it inside – that’s something new, and really clever.
Pockets and Organizing
There’s not much organization inside, just a small zipper pocket for real essentials like a compact wallet, spare batteries for a camera, and maybe car keys. Be aware that the hydration bladder can limit full access to this pocket, so don’t put emergency items in there.
That was inside, but the outside of the Arc’teryx Aerios 30 pack is organizational heaven! Let’s start with the ingenious side pockets. At first, I was not convinced as I was used to classic top-access ones. But this new expandable pocket cut plus bungee cord with additional cinch toggle and multiple leashing points might be the best design ever created in the pack industry (love it or hate it, YMMV). When not used they almost lie flat on the pack, but you can adjust them to carry a multitude of items: a water flask (obviously) but also a sitting pad, outdoor sheath knife, crampons (in a protective pouch, for safety), hiking poles, a rolled hardshell, puffy jacket, and even a big 1.2L family-sized thermos! They simply designed it starting from scratch, with out-of-the-box thinking and the effect is mind-blowing.
There’s an adjustable bungee cord net on the front panel (I used it a lot – not just for a rain jacket but even for crampon carry). Ice tool loops and hooks (good for hiking poles too) – check! Daisy chains as extra leashing loops – check! Gear loops on the hip belt? Yes, of course. Further along the belt you’ll find two pockets: elastic net on one side and a zipper pocket on the other. Both big enough for a wool beanie, glove liners, or other items you’d like to keep close at hand.
And finally the shoulder straps – each of them with a big mesh pocket sized for a soft flask (my 350ml one fits easily but a one-pinter would fit too). It could be used to carry a mobile phone as well. Plus a long zipper pocket for an energy bar or other small items like my custom 58mm Victorinox Rambler.
I’ve never been a big fan of running-style packs, mainly because I’m a mountaineer and not a trail runner. For me personally, my pack is a kind of ‘life support system’ when I’m in the mountains. So it needs to carry more than bare essentials. Ice axe, crampons, food supplies, water, comm gear, compass, map, extra layers, rain jacket, headlamp, camera gear, serious IFAK, and more.
“Just essentials” is fine… until something bad happens on the trail and you need to spend a night at 6,000 feet in the winter. Or when you need to help someone in need – so yeah, being prepared is important. And here comes the Aerios, a full-blown mountaineering pack with a frame and full suspension, but the latter is a runner’s style. And take my word for it – it’s extremely comfortable! At least if you don’t overweigh the system, but even when packed with my gear up to 20 lbs it was still perfectly fine. And at my usual 12-15 lbs it was just pure joy to carry.
The straps are wide, soft, and distribute weight very well over the shoulders and back. The frame (removable, however not easily so I didn’t do it) and ventilated back panel provide both proper fit and good weight distribution between the shoulders and waist. With a pack correctly fitted most of the weight lands on the hips, just like in a classic mountain pack. The double bungee sternum strap is a godsend… and it wears like an overbuilt runner’s vest equipped with a well-padded waist belt. This must be the most comfortable Arc’teryx daypack I’ve tried to date. At 186cm I was fine with the Regular size. But there’s also a Tall variant if you’ve got a really long torso. In the comfort department, it’s easily 10/10.
I also tried it as a skiing pack but with all of the cords, straps, and bungee net it tends to catch on ski-lift or other ski-related infrastructure. For skiing as such it was fine, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a resort pack. Get a proper skiing pack instead. Or even a slim and smooth Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30 pack, which is fine also for that purpose.
It’s a pretty much weatherproof pack, but it’s not a watertight one. In a serious prolonged downpour, water will finally find its way through stitchings or zippers. So if you need to hike in rainy weather, adding a cover or simply a watertight liner inside would be a good idea. For occasional summer rain, don’t worry, it’ll be just fine. In winter, against the snow or even a serious blizzard – no issue at all.
Alternatives to Consider
Salomon Out Night 30+5
Osprey Talon Pro 30
Mammut Ducan 30
Gregory Zulu 30
The Arc’teryx Aerios 30 is a really lightweight pack but at the same time tough and weather-resistant thanks to the advanced composite fabric. A fully adjustable runner’s suspension system, S-shaped frame, mesh back and regular padded hip belt provides amazing carry comfort. Six quick-access pockets on the straps and belt, multiple attachment points for carabiners, and waist belt gear loops provide a lot of quick-access storage. And last but not least – ingenious side pockets with bungee keepers offer scalability and lots of room, also for oversized or long items. And all that at a mere 900 grams!
Not So Good
The Arc’teryx Aerios 30 is not well suited for technical climbing due to multiple bungee loops and cordage on the outside, which could snag on rock and things. The double bungee sternum strap works fine but it’s not easy to fasten, especially while wearing gloves. The color scheme choice is limited to just light gray and bright lime green, so not everyone’s cup of tea. An additional dark variant would be very welcome.
If fast and light mountaineering is your goal, then the Arc’teryx Aerios 30 should be on top of your shortlist. It might be lightweight but it’s literally packed with features. It would not be my choice for technical climbing, but for scrambling and general mountaineering, it’s a quite perfect daypack. And what about price? Well, at $190 it’s not a budget option for sure. But it’s surprisingly on par with top direct competitors, so you really pay for what you get… that cool embroidered skeleton of archaeopteryx comes almost as a freebie this time.
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