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.