The Marathon Magic 22 from Aarn Packs is designed to help you stay balanced and comfortable on your light and fast endeavors. That being said this is a hard review to write, because I have had 2 versions of the pack for years and am having a hard time finding the words to describe this ingenious take on carrying a load on the trail.
Features: FloMo system, V Tension hip belt, Hydration compatible, capacity is 19L in the main pack + 3 liters in the front balance pockets.
If you are not familiar with the Aarn FloMo system please refer to our previous reviews of Aarn Packs where we reviewed both the Peak Aspiration and Load Limo. But if you're short on time the basic concept that Aarn has championed is that you balance the weight between the weight in the actual back pack and the front carried balance pockets. This allows you to move more freely and stay balanced on any terrain. The added benefit is that you can keep your often accessed items quickly and easily with out stopping to take off your pack. This in turn increases the miles you can carry and all but guarantees you will get to your camera in time to snap a decent picture of the Bigfoot or Unicorn you may come across on the trail.
The Marathon Magic is by far my favorite pack in the line. It is designed for Adventure racers in mind, but also serves as a great day pack with it's light weight and ease of accessibility. The FloMo system is designed with natural movement in mind, whether that is hiking, scrambling, running or riding the back is designed to be worn rather than carried.
From the desert canyons to the high alpine tundra this pack has been with me. The main pack is a top loader that swallows loads and to be honest I think it is a bit larger that the 19L it claims. Outside the main pack is a smaller pouch that makes stashing a jacket or other gear a breeze for easy access. And it also features loops for trekking poles, an ice axe or other things you might want to cross carry. Now here is where things get weird. The front of the pack, yes across your chest, you carry the balance pockets. You carry one 1.5L pouch on each side. These help balance the load and give you great access to snacky cakes, bear spray, camera, water bottle/bladder, or really what ever you might choose.
At first I thought this design would throw me off balance, or rub my arms raw, or generally increase my awareness of the load. To my amazement none of these happened. The pouches are situated in such a way that they are never in the way (and often act as a arm rest!). I can easily access them one handed, they hold way more than I ever thought I would be able to access with out removing the pack and yes I think this has revolutionized my backpacking experience.
The Marathon Magic is a pack with tons of little details that come together nicely to be not only user friendly but also extremely versatile. If I could only have one day pack this would no doubt be my choice.