Lowe Alpine Aeon 35 Rucksack Review

9th Nov 2017

Lowe Alpine Anthracite Aeon 35 Rucksack

Like many of the best outdoor brands,  Lowe Alpine was created by a renowned outdoor activist.  In this case it was 1967 and legendary climber Greg Lowe, an early exponent of lightweight Alpine style ascents, turned his talent and experience to rucksack manufacture. He created, amongst other innovations, the now familiar internal framed backpack and, more recently, the TFX back system.  An amazing 50 years of continued development and Lowe Alpine is still a very highly respected market leader.

Over  the course of my own adventures I’ve been lucky enough to use a range of Lowe Alpine packs.  From some of their large expedition size models to stripped back fast and light packs - I have never failed to be impressed by their design and construction.  I was recently asked to test a new to market model called the Aeon 35.  Here’s my review……

Features

The Aeon 35 is a lightweight feature rich 35 litre rucksack and part of Lowe Alpine’s new Aeon range.  The range has a selection of packs ranging from 16 to 35 litres.  The packs will suit a range of activities from climbing to hillwalking and I dare say, although I’ve not used one, that the smaller sized models would make good mountain biking options too.  This flexibility is also helped by Lowe Alpine offering zip closure or the more traditional drawcord and over the top lid option which was the model I tested.

The first thing I look at in a rucksack is the back system - and straight away there are some very interesting features here.  The back panel is what Lowe Alpine call the Air Contour system which, I understand, is a name and design nodding back to their well renowned and long established Contour system.

The Air Contour back system features a laminated dual density EVA foam back panel designed to offer sufficient rigidity while enhancing ventilation.  When the pack is empty the back is flexible enough to bend but, when it is filled, there is plenty of support.  This is combined with a lightweight low profile Flexion harness designed to contour around the body and shoulders.  There is a sternum strap and the low profile padded waist belt has stretchy zipped pockets.

At the front Lowe Alpine have incorporated a stretchy panel pocket, a main compartment with hydration compatibility and a clip closure lid with zipped outer pocket and small interior zipped pocket.  There are also side compression straps, ice axe and trekking pole storage and a zipped entry into the main compartment.

So, every feature you could really wish for is there, but there is one last ace in the hand.  The Aeon 35 also has an adjustable back system.  This operates via a simple velcro plate that can slide up or down and secure quickly in place.  A great addition that, despite its simplicity in use, doesn’t add any noticeable bulk.

The Aeon pack range is constructed from a strong, abrasion resistant 100D x 210D nylon which is coated in Lowe Alpine’s TriShield® coating to increase durability.

In Use

The Aeon has been tested on various hillwalking days and a recent overnight mountain biking trip.  It has also been used for a number of climbing days and a scrambling trip to Snowdonia.  I am definitely not considering this a long term test, but I have tried to ensure it is used in a range of contexts and for different types of activities.

It is worth mentioning straight away that this is a very attractive looking pack.  The Aeon is available in various colours and the one I was sent is in a subtle dark grey colour called anthracite.  Other colours available are blue, red and a lighter grey.  Beyond colour, the pack has subtle detailing and the fabrics have a pleasant slighty shiny appearance - it looks great. 

I said the Aeon is feature rich, and it actually has so many features you really need to get used to its intricacies.  Perhaps the first thing you’ll want to do is adjust the back panel to suit your back length.  I understand the system adds about 10cm of adjustability and so Lowe Alpine still offer a variety of sizes, but it really allows users to fine tune the fit.

The length adjustment is really easy to do - just pull apart the strong velcro padding, slide into the chosen position and stick the velcro together again.  The velcro adjustment sits under the back panel and is neatly concealed.  It also doesn’t add any significant extra bulk to the back panel - a really innovative and useful system.  I loaded the pack up and played around for a while until I felt the sizing was spot on.  It is unusual to have an adjustment feature on a rucksack of this size - very welcome, but unusual.

Once the Aeon is loaded up and sized up,  the next learning curve is to try it on.  The back panel design is very interesting.  The system has a fair amount of rigidity but also conforms to the shape of the users back - this makes for a back hugging fit that feels great.  The pack moves in tune with the users body and yet has plenty of support.  

The criss cross pattern of the padding also adds space to let air circulate.  Before the weather turned so wintry I had the chance to use the Aeon in some hotter weather and it stayed comfortable and vented really well.  Lowe Alpine have ticked all the boxes with this back system and it easily equal to anything similar I’ve used before.

Any back system has to also work well with the shoulder strap and waist belt system.  On the Aeon the shoulder straps feature a Flexion fabric which offers around 2% stretch.  Having this form fitting stretchy material means the straps can be very low profile with minimal padding.  I was a little worried whether this would be comfortable but, infact, it is exceptionally comfy.  The straps hug you and offer plenty of support whilst ventilating well and minimising lateral movement.  This has been well tested particularly when the rucksack was used for mountain biking where any side to side movement will soon be noticed.  Oh, and there’s an efficient sternum strap with whistle on too. 

The waist belt is also very well designed. Lowe Alpine have used the stretchy nature of the back mesh material to allow the waist belt to grip snugly around the users waist.  Then, on each side of the belt there is fin shaped padding with a central cut out.  I imagine this reduces some weight, but it also makes it very well ventilated without sacrificing comfort and support.  On each side of the waist belt there is also a zipped stretch mesh pocket which is ideally sized for a phone, compass or, more crucially, those essential trail jelly babies!  

There really is nothing left out in the load carrying department - in which case it makes sense to consider the load carrying facilities of the Aeon. The main load compartment is a traditional style compartment that will swallow the bulk of your gear.  This closes with a traditional drawcord closure but there is also a handy side zip entry for this pack too.  This can be really useful if there are items like waterproofs that you want to pack in the right place for quick deployment.  Lowe Alpine have also ensured this zip sits under a protective flap for weather protection.

The lid has a zipped exterior pocket and a smaller under lid zipped pocket that will house small items like keys or a wallet.  On the front of the main compartment there is also an additional, and really useful, pocket.  This is a zipped stretch mesh pocket that can be used for carrying things like snacks, additional clothing or a map.  This sits flat when not in use, but will spring into life when needed. 

Cleverly, Lowe Alpine have added a separate hydration sleeve that sits outside the main load compartment (please note that a bladder isn’t included with the pack) and so it is fully hydration system compatible.  Lastly, there are side compression straps and a clever multilock system that will hold a helmet, ice axes or trekking poles and stretchy pockets on each side that will hold everything from drink bottles to clothing - as I said earlier this rucksack has every feature I could really imagine…..and they all work exactly as designed. Oh….hang on.  I forgot there are also reflective flashings down the back panel too!

Summary

This is a great rucksack.  It has really well thought out features all wrapped around Lowe Alpine’s superb construction quality.  It suits so many users and has so many useful features that I really think it is a great product.  We are in an age when many users are doing very varied activities and want products that will tick the boxes for multi use and I think Lowe Alpine have ticked a lot of boxes here.  Very well done to Lowe Alpine.  More details are available on the Lowe Alpine website here and the UKC video here  explains the features common to the whole Aeon range.

Posted by Paul

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