When I first shouldered the Arc’teryx Aerios 15, it became clear that the brand’s mojo doesn’t stop at hardshell jackets. This running-vest-style daypack initially felt like it might be a bit over-gunned for enjoyable day strolls into the woods. But after multiple hikes and scrambles into the Sierra Nevada mountains, it became clear that the Aerios is ready for just about anything, at just about any speed.
This comfortable and robust pack is made in a running vest style. Stretchy shoulder straps cinch down with two bungee cords and provide room for small essentials. The wide straps also offer a large degree of weight distribution and control; you feel locked in when moving and shaking with this pack. A solid compression system keeps the contents of the bag condensed, and an AeroForm back panel keeps the airflow moving when things start to get sweaty.
I put the Aerios 15 to the test on my local hiking trails. I brought it on 5-mile out-and-backs up steep slopes, jogged with it down switchbacks through the pine forests, and tested everything from the pack’s comfort, security, accessibility, packability, and durability. And I came away convinced that the Aerios is one of the best hybrid hiking and running daypacks available today.
In short: Intelligent design seems to guide everything Arc’teryx churns out, and the Aerios 15 Daypack ($130) is no exception. While it is fairly specialized, this running-vest-style pack doesn’t skimp on the everyday features that make it amenable to casual day hikes. There are a few issues to iron out in the suspension system (read more below). But with a few minor adjustments, this pack carried comfortably and became my go-to for technical trail running in the mountains. If you’re looking for a technical pack that can keep up with your active pursuits, you should consider the Arc’teryx Aerios 15 pack.
- Material 100-denier CORDURA nylon; 210-denier CORDURA nylon with twisted 200-denier LCP grid
- Pockets Main compartment, one small front-access pocket, two side access zippered pockets, internal security pocket with key clip, breathable shoulder harness with 2 zippered pockets to accommodate soft flasks
- Suspension style Highly breathable AeroForm back panel with anti-barreling frame sheet
- Hydration-compatible No
- Ideal use Trail running and day hikes
- Weight 1 lb., 8 oz.
- Comfortable shoulder harness with zippered pockets and pouches
- Double set of stretchy chest cords to keep pack from moving too much
- High-quality materials
- No hydration sleeve
- Side pockets not the most secure
Arc’teryx Aerios 15 Daypack Review
The Aerios pack series from Arc’teryx comes in 15L and 30L variations in both female and male versions. It also makes a 45L version that is available only for men’s sizing. I recently tested the 15L variety against a slate of other daypacks, and the Aerios stood out for its comfortable features, durability, versatility, and quality.
At $130, it isn’t exactly a cheap daypack. But among GearJunkie’s Best Daypacks of 2023, the average retail price for a similar daypack is $118. So while the price on the Arc’teryx Aerios 15 doesn’t put this pack in the “budget” category, it’s actually pretty par for the course.
Fit and Layout
Depending on your torso length, this pack will tend to sit in the middle of your back above your hips. An optional hip strap keeps the load of this pack higher up, which may feel strange at first but helps with stabilization over the long haul.
The shoulder harness is the big deal here. It’s shaped with a broad, running-vest style and is made of breathable mesh fabric. Two zippered pockets and pouches fit soft water flasks and small essentials like a phone, sunscreen, or some snacks. I love the easy access to things like this while I’m on the move. The mesh pockets easily fit a phone. And the pouch was great for a pair of sunglasses or a small water flask.
Straps and Cords
Two bungee cords act as sternum straps. While this allows for a form-fitting feel, they tend to loosen over time and with excess movement. This was something I noticed especially when running down the steep switchback trails near Bishop, Calif. I would have preferred classic cinching straps with buckles to eliminate this problem.
This pack also comes with a removable frame sheet. The frame sheet gives the pack structure and protects your back from any bulky objects inside. But it’s always nice to have the choice to remove it if desired. And once removed, the Aerios 15 scrunches down into a very compact ball. That lends itself well for packing inside larger backpacks or duffels for a multiday trips.
Aerios Feature Set
The main features of this pack are in the shoulder harness. But, there are a few other things worth mentioning that make the Aerios 15 unique.
The pack has two large side pockets that cinch down. Those are great for storing 32-ounce Nalgene or equivalent water bottles. There are trekking pole attachments on the front of the pack. That’s helpful when moving over technical and variable terrain like talus fields, to easily grab or put away your trekking poles as needed.
The front of the pack features a bungee compression system that helps compress the contents of the pack down for better weight distribution. That also serves as a great place to stuff an extra layer or wind jacket for quick deployment on the go. This proved useful for unexpected spring storms.
There are also a few hidden functionalities with this cordage compression system. In both side stash pockets, the end of the bungee system terminates in cord lock adjusters. That way, no wandering tree limbs will snag them and undo your dialed-in tension. At the other end of this system, twin plastic clips keep things tight, or open up to secure trekking poles with the loops at the pack’s base. Smart.
No Hydration Sleeve?
Something that this pack is lacking, however, is a separate compartment or sleeve for a hydration bladder. There is an opening through which to put a hose as well as a hanging loop, therefore making the pack hydration-compatible. But the bladder itself will sit with the rest of your contents in the pack’s main compartment, which is not ideal.
This seems like a gross oversight, as no one wants a damp water bladder to be sloshing around with your extra layers, camera, or whatever other sensitive items you might have in your pack. I opted to have a small water flask sit in the front pouch of the shoulder straps, but for longer hikes, I would have preferred a more secure place for a water bladder.
The quality of the materials in the the Aerios 15 hiking daypack really shines through. The body is composed of lightweight, high-tenacity 100-denier CORDURA nylon fabric. It has a liquid crystal polymer ripstop grid reminiscent of the Hadron technology the brand uses in its high-end hardshell jackets.
This ensures that the pack will be more resistant to tears and snags. That also helps justify the price tag.
The AeroForm padded back panel is a bit rough in texture. You might have to be careful wearing a fleece with this pack or any other material that is prone to pilling. It provides good breathability, however. My back had adequate air flow on hot days in the high desert of California.
Downsides and Oversights
As mentioned before, the bungee sternum straps have a real knack for loosening over time, and certainly while running. You can fix this with a couple of overhand knots in the cordage to prevent it from slipping. But this was one of the pack’s more obvious design oversights, in my opinion.
Also, while small water flasks are likely the better method of hydration with this pack, the lack of a more secure water bladder sleeve had me nervous about carrying water that way. A simple sleeve would greatly improve this. But until that’s added, I’m a little gun-shy about carrying my camera in the pack’s main body bouncing against a full hydration reservoir.
Conclusion: Who Is the Arc’teryx Aerios 15 For?
Despite a couple of design flaws, this daypack still performs extremely well for long day hikes and trail runs. Its slew of useful features put it squarely in the category of “technical” hiking and running daypacks. It easily performs as well as other infamously good hiking daypacks like Black Diamond’s Pursuit 15 and Deuter’s Speed Lite 25.
This isn’t a pack you’d often wear for biking around town to the coffee shop. The running-vest-inspired design doesn’t scream everyday use. But for hitting the trails or getting into the mountains, the Aerios 15 will be quite at home. It comes in a 30L design for men and women and a 45L just for men. For longer day hikes, or for those who prefer padded waist belts, those higher volume versions might be worth looking into.