When I showed a friend the Aeon 27 his immediate reaction was "well, it looks a nice little rucksack. What else will you be able to say about it?". To a certain extent he was right: the Lowe Alpine Aeon 27 is a nice little rucksack; in fact I think it's great. But I can say a lot more than that...
What's it for?
In the men's Aeon range there are two sizes of zip-opening packs (18 & 27 litres), and two classic top-loading models (22 & 35). Lowe Alpine are promoting the range as multisport packs, and the Aeon 27 definitely ticks that box.
I've done a number of big mountain climbs using it; it has been used to lug gear up to crags; I've hiked with it; mountain biked with it; used it on an overnight bikepacking trip; and it has carried my stuff to work (I commute on a cyclocross bike along a canal towpath, so we can add "gravel riding" to the Aeon's list of activities as that sounds much cooler!). Of course, pretty much any small backpack can be used for all those things, but Lowe have put a lot of thought into the design of the Aeon range in order for the packs to really work well across the range of activities.
The Aeon 27 is listed as weighing 0.85kg; that's not ultralight for a bag this small, but it's not bad, and I think it does fairly reflect the comfy back system and feature set. Mine actually weighs 0.83kg – not a big difference, but kudos to Lowe Alpine for being conservative in their weight claim.
Lowe Alpine do a women's version of all the Aeon models. These, the ND models, are actually slightly smaller in volume than the male/unisex equivalents, and that is probably the result of having slightly shorter back lengths. Some claim that in smaller packs having a back system especially designed for women's body shape as opposed to some generic "general" body shape – i.e. the average man – is less important, but I think it's great that Lowe Alpine have given equal prominence to both genders. You can even get the ND models in boring colours like black - women aren't forced to go for pink!
All the Aeon models come with the "Flexion™ Harness" and "Air-Contour Back System". The back system is not one of those tensioned, trampoline-style 'air backs' but instead sits in closer to your body for a more precise and balanced fit. Its perforations do still cleverly allow some air to get around under your sweaty back, and the padding is sufficient to stop, for example, cams and hexes stuffed into the pack from poking you in the back. The back is flexible, meaning the pack moves well with you; a stiffer back is only really needed on larger packs with heavier loads. The Aeon 27 is available in either a regular back length (41-51cm) or large (46-56cm); the fit can be tweaked a bit via a hook and loop (ie non-branded 'velcro') pad. They've done well to give you an adjustable back on a pack that's well under 1kg!
The "Flexion™ Harness" is just some really nicely designed shoulder straps in conjunction with a smart hip belt. The shoulder straps are laminated; they have no padding but really don't need it, being soft enough to contour over your body while still spreading the weight well. At the same time they are very thin in cross-section, helping to keep bulk and weight down. They remind me of the modern laminate designs of climbing harness, and work really well. The hip belt also contours closely to your body. Over the hips it is really nicely padded, yet also very well ventilated. Lowe have even put some stretch mesh zip pockets on the outside, perfect for storing small things you want on the go – snacks, a compass, my monocular etc. In conjunction with the chest strap (which includes an emergency whistle of course) the Aeon 27 clamps to you really successfully, without bouncing or slipping around. I don't fell run, but I suspect it would even be OK for that; it's certainly great for cycling with, be that rocky descents on a mountain bike or weaving through traffic.
The Aeon 27 has a half moon zip opening. I find this works very well. It is perhaps a bit harder to over-stuff than a top-loader, but that helps you not to take too much. In particular when climbing with it and clipping it into a belay via the haul loop, the zip entry makes getting to stuff easy and reasonably secure. Inside is a small zipped security pocket with a key clip.
The pack does have three stretch mesh outer pockets – a big one covering most of the front of the pack that is great for stuffing things like wet waterproofs in, and two on the sides which take water bottles and the like. I even put my rock shoes in them one day when walking up to Cyrn Las with quite a lot of gear for a little 27 litre pack. The stretch pockets really do allow you to the push the capacity of the pack, good when you are carrying lots of kit in to a climb, but once you've geared up the pack is small enough and light enough to climb with.
All the Aeon packs have an accessory strap near their base, which is primarily designed to fit a LED clip-on light when cycling. This works well for that purpose but I've also found it works as a retainer for the waist belt, holding it away around the pack when I don't want it on. It's clever little features like this that make the Aeon a really versatile pack. Another would be what Lowe calls the MultiLock™ system – basically, various elasticated clips, loops and accessories that can hold trekking poles, ice axes or helmets. Having taken the Aeon on a lot of climbing trips I've frequently used the these hooks to hold my helmet to the outside of the pack, and they work well.
Climbing with it
For me the Aeon 27 is a good climbing and scrambling pack because it is well balanced and reasonably light, and because the shape (in part a result of the zip closure) means you get good head clearance when wearing a helmet, while the base of the pack sits high enough that I can get to my chalk bag and the rear loops on my harness while wearing it.
My Aeon 27 has now been up several big mountain routes like Gambit Climb, Eagle Ridge, Raeburn's Arete/North East Buttress, and the Sword of Gideon, along with a lot of days of other use. It hasn't survived that use completely unscathed and now has a couple of Gorilla Tape patches on the inside where scuffs actually turned out to be tiny tears (picking a pack up and looking inside it while holding it up to the light is a good way to identify such holes or tears). The Aeon is made with lighweight nylon rather than the seemingly indestructible but much thicker and heavier material that a couple of my old Lowe Alpine packs are. At £90, the Aeon 27 is not cheap either and, whilst I think that's not too much for this quality of pack, obviously you would hope for a good few years of service from it. If I have any criticism it would be the fabric. For a pack that's sold, in part, as a climbing model, adding a few grams more in weight with something tougher like Cordura might have been a good idea, particularly on the base.
Beyond that, the Aeon 27 is a great little rucksack. And what else is there to say about it?
Lowe Alpine say:
This stylish pack is constructed with lightweight yet durable abrasion-resistant nylon, coated in Lowe Alpine's unique TriShield® which further increases durability and tear resistance. When you're moving quickly, you want your kit right where you need it, and with ample storage and easy access zip entry the Aeon 27 means everything is perfectly placed. The large front stretch stash pocket is ideal for a guidebook or extra layer, while an internal security pocket keeps the essentials safe. An easy access zip top entry, front top pocket, and easy reach stretch side and hipbelt pockets mean you can grab maps, snacks, or anything else you want on the move. Hydration compatible, and with features to suit whichever activity you choose, including The MultiLock™ system for attaching all styles of helmet, poles and axes.
- Flexion™ harness
- Air-Contour Back system
- Multi-Lock™ attachment system
- Forward pull hipbelt adjustment
- Hydration compatible
- Ice axe loop
- Key clip
- Secure TipGripper walking pole attachments
- SOS panel
- Sternum strap with whistle
For more info see lowealpine.com