New Pack, Lower Back Injury

12:23 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Hello All,

I'm in the market for a new pack, and want to hear some feedback from you. I have been backpacking for about 30 years, and have a torn disc L5-S1. This is a complication as result from a fractured pelvis in 2007. I refuse to let this injury keep me from big mountain trips, and am looking to become more of a lightweight. 

I am ideally looking for something around 55-60 liters, I typically go on trips for about 4-10 days. does anyone have any advice for a truly comfortable lumbar/hip belt? I am happy with my Lowe Alpine 65+ pack, but she's getting old, and a little heavy (6lbs). I'm afraid some of these newer packs with thin hip belts may not suffice... Right now, my base pack weight (with this pack) is about 20lbs...

I'm thinking about a Gregory Savant 58... please, ANY advice will help!!!

12:27 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Oh yeah, almost all of my trips are cold-ish weather (fall/winter/early spring).

1:56 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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well, you definitely don't need a six-pounder to carry 20 pounds. 

impossible to suggest a brand - i would try things on and see what feels good to you.  regarding hip belts, i would focus on how they fit and work, not on how thick they are.  some interesting reading from a custom backpack manufacturer on this issue:

http://www.mchalepacks.com/sarc/03.htm

 

2:32 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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A thinner waist belt works fine, in my experience, as long as its job is to hold     the weight on your hips. To do that doesn't require a full, wide band, just enough to position the wider sections where the weight is (usually on the hip bones). 

Have a look at the 55+10 Deuters, for example. Wide band over the hip bones, but the actual strap across the belly and holding the pack in place is only 1" wide. 

3:09 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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I’m no expert on this topic but it’s an interesting dilemma in that many people with back injuries prefer external frame packs but those also tend to be the heavier packs. Of course bodies are different and injuries are different so this may not be a suitable or even wise option for you. I don’t know your tolerance for experimentation but it’s perhaps worth investigation.

FWIW, I have a Gregory Savant 48 that I use for overnights and weekends in warmer weather and I like it so far. I have overloaded it a few times and there is a noticeable loss in support when doing so. The stay in that pack is a simple wire frame with a foam backplane. Some of the materials on that model seem a little frail to me like the mesh pockets. It doesn’t strike me a super durable product but time will tell.

As with anything else we wear comfort is just so subjective, it’s hard to recommend something like that.

I sincerely wish you the best in your search; I would be devastated if faced with such an issue. Please let us know how it turns out.

4:40 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Most of my gear dates back to the late 70's, early 80's and I still, at times, use my old Lowe Lhotse pack and North Face Tuolumne tent. However, in 1997 I broke my L5 vertebrae and was laid up for almost 2 years. Undaunted, I purchased a North Face Alpha Aurora backpack and eventually headed out to the Rockys for a 7 week trip. My stride had shortened and I had permanent nerve damage in my left leg, but I found the hip belt acted as a well padded back brace, as good as the metal butterfly brace I was supposed to wear, and the suspension allowed me to transfer most of the weight to my hips instead of my spine. The Alpha Aurora is no longer made, but the technology is still out there in other packs.
Badger-Pass-Approach.jpg

Do some research and let us know what you decided on; back injuries are more common these days as the population ages.

7:51 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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I have similar injury 1 disk up or so up from you for 3 disks....

I am liking a used Gregory Forester pack I came by last Fall. It feels better than any other pack i ever had.

This pack weighs around 4 pounds.

I am only suggesting that type of set up, as the pack and i are not always getting along. This pack is a haul bag style and hasn't got any other pockets.

Basically there is a internal gear hammock in the main body and then there is a top removable pouch, that don't not become a fanny pack either.

So my beef is the way this haul sack is organized. Other Gregory packs have external pockets.

I feel less pain bearing this pack loaded than i do with it off any other times.

I haven't known a pain free day since I was injured back in 87' but at this point i know there will be none the first day i am dead.

Like you, i am not about to quit living, bit it does alter my style.

I am also using 2 trekking poles. This is new for me too, but it works.

Like North 1,  I have permanent nerve damage in both legs. When they are tired which is most often since they never stop,  I walk like a drunk.

While i sleep my legs never stop working.. people like us are on the 'Use it or Lose it plan'.

I have no idea what to do about the drives home after a hike either. All is well til the truck is parked,  but everything after that gets interesting.

2:05 p.m. on April 23, 2013 (EDT)
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I would suggest you try an external frame as well, if for no other reason tan they carry big loads better than a lot of internal frames do. they are also usually cheaper than internal frames as well.

8:53 p.m. on April 23, 2013 (EDT)
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I suggest you take a look at the Aarn Bodypacks :

http://www.aarnpacks.com/
Loads of info there about how and why they work

There is a US agent for them

8:26 a.m. on April 28, 2013 (EDT)
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I would also suggest to look for a external frame pack, or a hybrid. Your comfort regarding your injury will come from a good solid frame more so than the hipbelt. There are quite a few good options out there. Internal frame packs are nice and all, but by no means provide as much support as an external.

I also have a L5 and L6 injury from my time in the service, and i tried quite a few different internal frame packs and none really was what i was looking for. I tried a kelty coyote, and an osprey aether, and both were nice packs, and were comfortable enough to wear, but i was always plagued with lower back pain, especially at the end of the day.

I recently got a pack from Kifaru (the highcamp bag with bikini frame)which is more of a hybrid , but fits the bill perfectly thus far. I plan on posting a full review of it here in the next month or two. I used to think my other osprey, kelty packs etc were comfortable enough and i just needed to live with the discomfort, but boy was I wrong. This pack has made all the difference. I have about 50 miles on it so far, and i have absolutely zero discomfort/pain in my lower back now when using it, and no pain at the end of the day either. A truely night and day difference for me.

 

7:18 p.m. on April 28, 2013 (EDT)
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Rambler you can hike and then drive and get out of a vehicle and still stand up to walk? I really like the Forester with about 40 pound but after the last drive of the day from ab hike i about can't walk anymore that night. I get seized up in the driving. I do better in cold of +10 F and colder.l The colder the drier it is.

7:26 p.m. on April 28, 2013 (EDT)
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Yes, i can, well i can now. I used to get "siezed up" a little after hiking whether i was just sitting still in camp or driving. With my new pack though, it has literally been a night and day difference, i have almost zero pain now. It is making my time backpacking and the time immediately following any backpacking activity much more enjoyable.

7:44 p.m. on April 28, 2013 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

Yes, i can, well i can now. I used to get "siezed up" a little after hiking whether i was just sitting still in camp or driving. With my new pack though, it has literally been a night and day difference, i have almost zero pain now. It is making my time backpacking and the time immediately following any backpacking activity much more enjoyable.

 Well then I can still dream....... I don't get pain free days ever... I just refuse to quit living. But oh is it hell getting out of the truck after a hike. That ride may be 30 miles in 30 minutes but getting out is like a old drunk man got out. I have considered just not getting in the truck.

Maybe i need a new truck instead of a new pack eh?

12:30 a.m. on April 29, 2013 (EDT)
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I've gotten rid of a couple of good cars because the seat just isn't right for me... The best (car) I've found for severe lower back pain is the seat of a Saab 95 (Nine-Five). In the past, I have removed manual seats from cars, and installed 8 way power seats from some european cars and wired them. This could be a realistic option for someone that drives a truck.

I've been dealing with constant pain for close to seven years, and will eventually get to the bottom of this, and find the best pack for my situation... Until then, I will be using my weary Lowe pack; I'm going out for a week on Wednesday!!!

I really appreciate everyone's input, this is valuable information for many, many people out there!

9:55 a.m. on April 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Munro, since you are the OP I can tell you I know what the 9 / 5 is and i know what the 95 was..... 96, Sonnet, 99 900 and 9000 to.... funny world we live in. Good luck with the pack and the back..... Wish me the same eh....

I still like the Forester frame.I think I just stiffen up when i sit to ride home.

1:02 p.m. on April 30, 2013 (EDT)
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very nice, I was a Saab mechanic until my fall in the shop... I'm planning on building an all electric Sonett 2!

December 19, 2014
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