For the record, I am in awesome shape...not overweight by any means. Although I am new to backpacking I am not new to hiking or trails. I am foremost a trail ultrarunner, averaging 30-70 miles per week of running depending on what I am training for, and have finished two 100 mile trail races in the past year. My longest training runs can be up to 6.5 hours and cover 30 miles of trail. After my last 100 in October, my son and I started hiking anywhere from 2-6 hours at at time. I also do 3 days per week of lifting and core work.

I am definitely a backpacking newbie though and not ready to commit to ultralight methods.

All good points you have made regarding the packs. I had 17 lbs in both packs when I tried them at REI and both felt good although I could see if I had added another 13 lbs that the suspension on the Aura would probably make a noticeable difference in my favor. Can't wait to fill it up and take it out on the trails for a day.

I like the idea of separating things into two piles after our practice hikes and will definitely do that!