Chest-Hugging Backpack

1:40 p.m. on June 24, 2011 (EDT)
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So far I’ve just tried a few packs, and they all seem to have the same problem: lower-back pain and intense shoulder irritation.  If I clip the tiny chest strap across, it digs hard plastic into my sternum.

It seems to me that ideally a pack would hug your whole chest so as to transfer as much weight as possible there while reinforcing your back and preventing the pack load from swaying with your gait.  Does it exist?


4:25 p.m. on June 24, 2011 (EDT)
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I'm no expert but what packs have you tried?  Did they have waist belts? The weight should be distributed more to your hips. Most  packs I've seen lately have adjustable sternum straps (up and down).

I would suggest looking at http://www.trailspace.com/articles/backpacks.html

10:43 p.m. on June 24, 2011 (EDT)
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Do not overlook EXTERNAL FRAME backpacks.  I have four of them.

I have a vintage  (made in 1978) KELTY external-frame that is soooo comfortable, even with pretty heavy loads.   Nice and cool on the back, too.

A vintage Gerry panel-loader external-frame pack, for day-trips and week-end'ers.   It is super-light.  Cool on the back-area, also.

I recently sold a high-end Gregory internal-frame backpack, because ... try as I might ...  I could never find a 'happy medium' of comfort, and load-distribution on my body.  Plus, my back sweated a lot with it.

Plus, take a gander at everyone hiking with internal-frame packs.   They all look hunched-over like Neanderthals.   Can't be any good for your back.

With an external-frame pack, one can walk completely erect.   Very comfortably. Cool, also (great ventilation on the back).

Yogi Robt

3:45 a.m. on June 28, 2011 (EDT)
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marienbad said:

..It seems to me that ideally a pack would hug your whole chest so as to transfer as much weight as possible there while reinforcing your back and preventing the pack load from swaying with your gait.  Does it exist?

Actually a properly fitted pack should place most of the weight on your hips.  I frequently adjust my shoulder straps in mid hike such that they serve mainly to keep the pack against my back, with next to no weight placed on my shoulders.

Ed

12:43 p.m. on June 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Sounds like you need to go to an adventure store and have a bag expert assist you with correct fitting and maybe a better bag/pack purchase.  Also take along your current pack and show them how you fit it and what you do and don't like.

1:24 p.m. on June 28, 2011 (EDT)
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Like the others, it sounds like you either have a poorly fitted pack or aren't wearing the pack correctly.  There's also a correct order to tightening your straps, and it can make a big difference in how the pack holds to your body.  On top of all that, how are you packing your gear?  Are you packing the heavy stuff in the middle of the pack and closest to your back?  Are you sure to keep the profile as slim as possible so your center of gravity is least affected?  Keeping everything tight to the body and not building outward so you have to more compensate for that pull backwards?  Build up, if necessary, and not outward.  80-90% of the weight should be on your hipbelt.  The shoulder harness shouldn't take much constant weight at all, and the sternum strap is there to keep the shoulder harness aligned.  That whole apparatus shouldn't be a central carrying structure at all.

7:57 a.m. on July 4, 2011 (EDT)
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While it does sound like you have been trying mis-sized packs, there are backpacks that come with front packs to balance weight distribution. Aarn is one of the best manufacturers. Check out their website. http://www.aarnusa.com/

I have been interested in this category myself because of the postural benefits, and because I like easy access to gear without having to take off my pack.

9:13 a.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Great, Philip!   Thanks for the link.   I've been looking for something like this.

~r2~

11:48 a.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Won't a pack like the Aarn put more weight on your shoulders instead of your hips?  I can see the posture and balance benefits but would be concerned about the transfer of load weight.

12:02 p.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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I borrowed my buddy's Granite Gear pack last week for the weekend.  It took some arm-twisting because it was new. Very lightweight and fit chest and hips nice.  I'm usually an external frame guy - I use a Kelty and believe it or not an old military ALICE pack when I need a beater.  I agree with everyone else, weight should be on your hips. 

I get into trouble at with some packs because of my long torso.  Loosening straps enough to put belt down over hips makes some packs pull away from my back sometimes.  Is this what you mean?  Find a pack fitted for a long torso in that case.

7:43 a.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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Yes - find a pack fitted for a long torso. It really is the most important element of fit for a backpack. Here's a video that shows you how to measure yours. http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/articles/backpacks+torso+hip+size.html

Don't buy anything that is shorter and don't let anyone convince you otherwise. It is ok to buy a pack that is a little long in the torso, but don't go shorter.

7:46 a.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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ola - it really depends on how much weight you put in the front pack. I don't think they're intended to be packed heavy. It is ok to put weight on your shoulders, but not as much on your hips. I suspect that the postural benefits offset the load issues - if you stand straighter you probably get better shoulder to hip load transfer with the back half of the pack.

August 22, 2014
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