Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20 Review
Cons: No rain cover, hip belt pockets are made of mesh.
Manufacturer: Lowe Alpine
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Aeon ND20 is a smaller women's specific daypack offering from Lowe Alpine. The ND stands for both Nanda Devi, a Hindu Goddess, as well as "Narrower Dimensions," which women's specific packs typically have. The stated dimensions of the panel are 14 to 18 inches (36 to 46 cm) but when we measured it was more like 15.5 to 19.5 inches.
We were surprised by how comfortable the Aeon is considering the minimalist design. We were worried that the shoulder straps wouldn't be very comfortable because there isn't a lot of padding on them, but the tape-like material is flexible and contoured to our shoulders well, and it didn't dig into us uncomfortably in any way. You'll barely notice this pack on your back, though it didn't carry a heavy load as comfortably as the packs with more structure and support.
The back panel has foam cutouts to provide some padding, and the whole thing is covered by mesh to improve airflow. It didn't ventilate quite as well as a detached mesh back panel though, like the ones on the Deuter Futura 22 SL and Osprey Sirrus 24, but it still helped a bit on hot days. However, the sleeve for the water bladder is right behind the back, and if you do put one in there, then the whole back panel gets pushed into you. There is a decent amount of padding on the lumbar area and hip belt as well.
The Aeon looks pretty sleek and minimalist from afar, but it has almost everything we need and nothing we don't. There are dual compression straps on each side and separate trekking pole and ice axe holder attachments on the back, which we liked better than Osprey's system of stowing them under your armpit. There's an outer mesh pocket on the front with a secret side zipper, which is a little more secure than other bags that have an open shovel pocket in that location instead. There are two hip belt pockets, though they are made of mesh so remember that if you put your phone in one and it starts raining! The one thing it doesn't have is a rain cover, though that can be purchased separately for $14.
At 29 ounces, this is about in the middle ground of packs that we tested. There are some lighter but still comparable packs in this review, like the Gregory Maya 22 (28 ounces) or the Mammut Lithia Speed 15 (19 ounces), but the Aeon gave us a bit more comfort for just a few more ounces. Packs typically get lighter by using thinner materials or skimping on some features. The Aeon uses thicker nylon and has a proper hip belt, making it more durable and comfortable over the miles. This trade off of slimming down on padding without totally eliminating all of it is similar to what we found in the Gregory Maya 22.
Ease of Use
After months of packing these bags and taking them on all our adventures, we got a pretty good sense of how easy each one is to use, and the Aeon's score comes mostly from it's excellent adjustability. Though the Aeon comes in one size only, it's one of only four bags in this review that has an adjustable back panel. This lets you dial in the fit to your dimensions even more than selecting between a size small or medium. According to our measuring tape, the back panel adjusts between 15.5 and 19.5 inches. It takes a bit of muscle to detach the Velcro from the back panel, but that's a good thing as it didn't shift on us while hiking. The Osprey Sirrus 24, and both the Gregory Maya and Jade also have adjustable rear panels.
The hip belt on the Aeon comes around our hips a little bit more than the Osprey models but not quite as much as the Gregory Jade 28 or the CamelBak Sequoia 22. Keep that in mind if you like a lot of coverage around your hips.
The nylon on this bag is coated to increase its abrasion resistance. Lowe Alpine doesn't disclose the denier of the material, but our best guess is that it's a 100D that's made a little thicker via this coating. The bottom of the pack has a double-layer of nylon, which is a nice touch considering that this is usually a high-wear spot. Like most of the day packs that we tested, we didn't have too many durability issues during our testing period. One thing to consider is that the outer mesh pockets will not stand the test of time. The holes in the mesh and soft material cause them to snag easily, and after a lot of use, they'll start to look like Swiss cheese. This isn't a deal breaker to us since almost all packs have them now and it's hard to find one without, but it's something to keep in mind if you live in a spiky-plant ecosystem.
We greatly enjoyed the Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20 for short hikes where we didn't need a ton of gear or supplies, due mostly to the smaller capacity. It can hold a summit layer and rain jacket, a first aid kit, and some snacks, but if you're looking for something to hold your full-size camera, you won't be able to bring much else with you. This bag is cut on the narrow side, which makes it a good choice for biking with, but it doesn't carry a 15-inch laptop very well. We could get ours in there, but it extends beyond the frame on either side, and it isn't that comfortable to carry. If you want something that works well for commuting, check out the Osprey Tempest 20, our Top Pick for Around Town, which has room for a laptop and a great bike helmet attachment.
This pack retails for $110, which is neither cheap nor expensive in the daypack world. The Mammut Lithia Speed is also a great choice for small, lightweight adventures and costs just $95. However, if you want a little more comfort and capacity, we think our number two overall scorer, the Lowe Alpine Aeon is well worth it.
The Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20 is a well-made daypack that works best for lighter loads and shorter hikes. It's lighter than some of the beefier models that we tested but almost as comfortable, and it has some great features. This manufacturer doesn't have much market presence in North America anymore, and you'll come across dozens of Osprey and Gregory packs on the trail before you're likely to encounter a Lowe Alpine model, but they're still making high-quality packs and are worth checking out if you get a chance.
The Aeon line has four different sizes: the ND20 tested here and the ND33, ND25, and ND16. There's also a corresponding men's version for each size.
— Cam McKenzie Ring