Aarn Aotearoa

About the company

Aarn are a small company based in Christchurch, Aotearoa (NZ) who produce “body centered load carrying systems”, where all the load can be carried on the hips, and the shoulders can be weight free. These are sometimes called body packs.

They make a range of packs from day bags to multi day expedition-style packs, plus trekking poles, some tents and other items of gear.

My summary

Aarn are the only company that I am aware of that is developing this particular style of ergonomically aware gear. As such, it has a particular niche and aesthetic which will not appeal to everyone. So I suspect that people who are attracted to the concept of, as the company says, “healthy, energy efficient and pain-free load carrying” will be most interested in the equipment rather than choosing it for its ethical or environmental considerations. The core principles behind their design can be found here.

Having said that, the company does have a basically sound and considered approach to both sustainability and work place issues. The lack of detailed information makes it hard to rate the company, however, I found the company very responsive to questions, so if you have specific questions that are not covered here, you could always contact them directly.


not rated (see above).

Sustainability criteria:

  • reporting framework: how does the company benchmark what it does/ reports? Does it use one of the international accredited systems

no information available, although see below for details on the MBDC system, below, which does have an accreditation system).

  • approach to environmental issues

The company announced its environmental responsibility scheme in 2007.

“In choosing which brand you purchase, the impact on the environment is important. Our aim is to adopt the cradle to cradle principles developed by William McDonough and partners (see here for extra detail). The main principles are to change the material cycle from cradle to grave to cradle to cradle using 100% recyclable materials; to eliminate any toxic materials from the cycle; and to replace non biodegradable materials with biodegradable ones as they become available.

To achieve this our policy is:

1. To make our products last as long as possible, with our product lifetime guarantee on materials and workmanship, and our low cost repair service.
2. To recycle all materials used in the business, rather than sending them to landfill.
3. When the product has finished its working life, we ask you to return it to Aarn Design, rather than sending it to landfill. We will disassemble it and recover all reusable materials. These will be recycled in various ways.
4. As biodegradable materials become available which meet our performance and durability criteria, we will adopt them.

  • energy consumption & carbon dioxide emissions/ distance travelled

Their equipment is made in Vietnam (previously China). The following is taken from the website:

Environmentally, there is not a big difference between NZ and Asian manufacture of our products. For NZ manufacture, all fabrics need to be imported into NZ from Asia, and all products shipped long distance to all markets except NZ and Australia. With Asian manufacture, the raw materials are all made locally or in neighouring countries and overall shipping distances for the finished product are less. This shipping advantages of Asian production are offset by the use of fossil fuels to generate power in Vietnam, whereas most power in NZ comes from Hydro. China is worse than Vietnam in this regard, as most power comes from coal, so environmentally, the switch from China to Vietnam is a change for the better.

  • waste generated
  • water consumption
  • working conditions

From the company:

The factory we use in Vietnam is a modern new building with clean facilities, good ventilation, good catering facilities and an area for sports activities. Some of the workers are local, and come from their homes to work, others are from out of town, and have their own accommodation block. I have been to many factories in China, Vietnam and the Philippines and this is one of the best I have seen. I make a number of visits a year to our factory. Under-age workers are not allowed in Vietnam, and if workers work extra hours they are paid overtime. This is a large and professional backpack factory, making products for some other very environmentally conscious brands like Klattermussen of Sweden, so the standards are good”.

  • other environmental claims or benefits
  • details on who stocks the item/ where to find it/ where to get further information

Contact details for the company can be found here.

In Melbourne, you can find their gear at Backpacking Light.

Full list of Australian distributors here.


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