Backpack fit - load lifters

12:00 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm having a bit of trouble understanding the load lifters. Based on the pack fit articles on, Osprey's website and others, the load lifters are supposed to be at a 45deg angle coming down to your shoulders. However, I'm trying to find a good weekend pack and none of the ones I've tested have been even close to that. In fact, I've realized that the load lifter angle is essentially based on the pack's distance from the hip belt to the lifter's attachment point on the pack - it needs to be your hip distance to the top of your shoulders plus about 2". Even on a pack with an adjustable suspension, that distance isn't going to change since the load lifters are sewed on, so I can't change it.

So far I've tried several packs (Osprey's Atmos 50, Kestrel 58 and Talon 44; Granite Gear Leopard 46; and the REI Flash 50) and none seem to be fitting correctly according to the pack fitting info. 

Also, I can get what looks like a good fit in the mirror on several of them when I have the shoulder straps tight, but as soon as I let a little bit of the shoulder strap tension off to put more weight on my hips, the packs seem to tip backwards, rather than dropping down vertically onto the hip belt.

Any suggestions and information is greatly appreciated.

(PS. I'm loading all these packs with approximately 30 lbs of my normal gear so I'm comparing apples to apples...)

2:09 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Here's what it says on REI's website:

Ideally, they will form a 45° angle between your shoulder straps and the pack. Kept snug (but not too tight), they prevent the upper portion of a pack from pulling away from your body, which would cause the pack to sag on your lumbar region. Left too loose, they allow the pack to tip backward, compromising balance.

But I've been keeping the lifters snug and yet the packs are doing just what it says they're supposed to prevent ---> the packs are tipping backward and sagging on my lumbar region. I'm pretty sure I've never noticed this problem with my Aether 70.

5:26 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Offhand it sounds like you have the harness (shoulder strap and hip belt system) improperly set for your height.  Since you cannot reposition the attachment point of the lifter straps, try raising/lowering the harness, and the position of its elements, relative to each other.  It could also be that pack does not fit you.

Also there is an art to packing an internal frame pack.  The heavier items should be placed in specific areas of the pack, depending of the activity to be performed.  In any case the heavy items should not be far from the spine, as that will cause the load to pull the pack away from your back, and make you strain to maintain balance.


8:02 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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The load lifters on most mainstream packs are far from designed well as the stays are not long enough to effectively use them. IMO many packs have load lifters for show and they provide little to no functional use. If the load lifters are not attached to the packs frame then they are nearly useless, if they are just sewn to the pack material they are just there for show. The 45 guideline does not stay true for everyone, and can actually vary quite a bit. You may be letting off to much on your shoulder straps, they should only be loosened a very slight amount after you snug up the load lifters.

9:27 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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I agree with Rambler that many load lifters are poorly designed.  When they are designed well, they don't work right when the pack is the wrong size for the person's torso length.  For me, the load lifters on my Osprey Talon 22 are useless, but the ones on my North Face Badlands 75 work great.

When I fit people with a pack, I have it loaded with 30 pounds or so and use the load lifters to get the shoulder straps off the top of the shoulder.  Sometimes this is a 45 degree angle, sometimes it sin't.  The point is to make the shoulder straps only contact the front of the shoulder and chest area.  This keeps the pack from falling backwards.  Weight should transfer to the hip belt.  


11:50 a.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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My feeling is that many load-lifters on internal frame packs are of limited utility. My criteria for a good pack fit are:

1. Hip belt centered over hip-bone.

2. Back panel makes contact with the entire surface of the back

3. Shoulder straps make contact with the entire surface of the shoulder and do not "tent" where the load lifters attached.

If it's possible to achieve these three and still have the load-lifters at as 45 degree angle, then - great! But, if having the load lifters set at this arbitrary angle tents the shoulder straps or pulls the hip-belt up, it's hurting more than helping, IMHO.

2:12 p.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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i'm with rambler on this, and i also endorse the REI article.  for load lifters to work properly in my experience, the frame needs to extend above your shoulders enough to allow the lifter straps to have at least a 40-45 degree angle.  that way, tightening the straps actually shortens the distance between the shoulders and the frame, creating the 'lift.'  otherwise, the straps just pull backward.  so, almost by definition, smaller backpacks whose stays don't extend above your shoulders have trouble making meaningful use of the load lifter straps.  in my opinion. 

the only internal frame pack i have used recently that has working, effective load lifters is my large mystery ranch backpack, the G6000.  a few of my older large internal frame packs also had load lifters that actually worked. 

the fit issue you're describing sounds like you should start from base and adjust from there.  first, make sure the torso length is correct - some packs allow some adjustment, others come in a few sizes.  helps to get measured and fitted by someone who knows what they are doing.  second, loosen everything - shoulder strap pulls, load lifters, hip belt, and so on before you put the pack on.  finally, once you put the pack on, start tightening.  i usually start with the hip belt, then the shoulder strap pulls, then the 'load lifters.' 

most backpacks require some finagling between the the shoulder strap pulls and the load lifters to get a comfortable fit....that interplay is one of the reasons McHale Packs, a custom pack maker, came up with its bypass shoulder straps.

Seth's comments illustrate for me why pack fit is a relatively personal choice.  backpacks necessarily make contact with your back in the lower area, the lumbar region, and up near the shoulders.  whether the rest of the pack does or shoudl contact your back might be more an issue of preference than need.  some people like having less backpack surface area against their back, because less contact means more air circulates and less of that sweaty back feeling.  others are more like Seth and like the more secure feeling of the pack against their back.  I don't think there is just one correct way to fit a backpack, at least for this aspect of it. 


9:33 p.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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if the pack frame doesn't extend above your shoulders the load lifters won't work, at least that has been my experience.

3:42 p.m. on May 8, 2013 (EDT)
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It makes sense that the load lifters aren't really positioned right on smaller packs since because they are smaller, they don't extend up very high past your shoulders.

Any suggestions why the Atmos 50 feels like it's tipping backwards when I loosen the shoulder straps? I have a 19" torso and bought the medium so that should be right (and the harness is adjustable)

6:35 p.m. on May 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Well, without seeig pictures of you wearing the pack it is hard to tell for certain. But a packs "natural" reaction is to tip backwards when you loosen the shoulder straps. It can be a number of things; overall fit is poor, loosening shoulder straps too much, pack not packed efficiently. shoulder straps need to be just snugged up but not loose, if they are loose the pack will tip backwards, especially if the load lifters suck.

4:02 a.m. on May 13, 2013 (EDT)
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My information is antiquated, but I remember properly fitted Ospreys and Danas in the 90s-early2000s having the top of the stays around mid-ear height.  That's how they got their 45° angle.  It was another way to gauge whether the torso sizing was accurate.  Small packs never extended that high on the back, so they functioned slightly differently and were less necessary.  Having said that, I'd even prefer my day pack to have some kind of frame tensioner, like load lifters, because I find them to make it all much more comfortable by way of giving a thinner profile and better, more natural center of gravity.  In other words, they do what they're supposed to do when fitted properly.

9:16 a.m. on May 13, 2013 (EDT)
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That really only holds true if a given pack uses full length stays. If a pack is using 1/2 or 3/4 stays such is the case with a lot of "modern" "light weight" packs then the stays may not correlate to torso length. In my experience stay length is independent of torso length in alot of modern day packs, though they can correlate some. Example would be a 30-40L pack with a large torso size. The stays on such a pack would remain short in relation to the overall pack size.

If you want truly functional load lifters then you need a pack with full length stays, and this is typically only seen in packs designed to carry heavy loads nowadays. Just because the pack capacity is large 70+L. does not mean it will have full length stays either.

12:34 p.m. on May 13, 2013 (EDT)
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@TheRambler- how well the lifters work is dependent upon pack design as well.

My Argon for instance does have stays(dual/removable) that are not what one would consider "long" but Osprey has also incorporated an alloy "wire" frame into the design which does extend above my shoulders an gives the lifters the 45 deg angle.

My Stratos 26 has no stays but again it incorporates the alloy wire frame.

As you may be able to tell this is a day pack and I have no problem getting the right angle on the load lifters to make a difference.

Basically what I am saying is that there is a lot more to it than just the stays.

12:56 p.m. on May 13, 2013 (EDT)
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Pack design is a large factor surely.

I had an osprey aether 70 which also has the wire frame, and though I could get a 45 angle on the load lifters they are still far from "good fully functional" load lifters IMO. Those wire frames seem to do an ok job with overall pack support but do very little in regards to the load lifters. Or leave a good bit to be desired. They worked but did not work as effectively as a pack with full length stays where the load lifters attach at the bottom of the stays vice the top.

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