Sunday, May 18, 2014

Adjusting your Backpack

Yesterday I went for a hike on the Potowatomi at Pickney State Recreation Area in Michigan.  Great hike.  It was the 50th anniversary of the trail and I drove out expecting about a 5 mile hike.  When I arrived at park head quarters they were not sure where it started, after a while I was directed to the Boy Scout camp, Camp Munhacke.  Once there I registered and was told the walk was 8 miles.

I am not in great shape these days, so I was a little concerned.  I figured as long as I took my time I would be fine so I walked slow.  The hike ended up being 9.5 miles (about) and it took me 6.5 hours to complete it.  This is less than 1.5 mph, but, I did complete the hike without having a stroke, so I am pretty proud of myself.  When I first got sick, there was a time when I couldn't walk up three flights of stairs without resting on each landing.  Yes, this pace is about 1/2 of a normal 3mph pace, but, at least I can do it.

Along the route about 100 Boy Scouts and their leaders passed me because I was moving so slow.  Almost all of them had their back packs adjusted wrong.  How do I know?  There should be almost no weight on the shoulder straps.

Badly adjusted packs make a hike miserable.  It is important to learn how to adjust your pack.

Modern backpacks are designed with padded hip belts, but, even un-padded hip belts reduce the shoulder load.  I was wearing a hydration pack with lunch and a few emergency supplies in it.  I tightened the waist belt, loosened the shoulder straps and allowed my legs to carry the weight of the pack instead of my shoulders and back.

Here is how you adjust your pack.  You can do this loaded or unloaded, I actually suggest having about 20 pounds in the pack.

Hoist your pack onto your back.  If you don't know how, get someone to show you.  This involves lifting it up onto your knee and then kind of swinging it onto your back.

Now tighten the waist or hip belt slightly, making sure the belt is actually around your waist and the hip pads, if equipped, are on your hip bones.

If the pack has adjustable straps, the straps should attach to the pack slightly above your shoulders.

If the pack has adjustable attachment points for the hip belt, adjust the hip belt and the shoulder straps so that the pack sits as low on the hip belt as possible, with the hip belt tight on your hips and the top of the shoulder straps slightly above your shoulders.

If the pack can't be adjusted so that the shoulder straps, when the hip belt is tight around your waist, are slightly above your shoulders the pack is the wrong size.

Packs come in different sizes based on torso length, the distance from the top of the shoulders to the hips.  I need a big pack, about 25 inches.  My internal pack is 19 inches and my Jansport external pack, my favorite pack, is sized correctly.  I use my internal frame pack occasionally when I have light loads to carry.

When carrying your pack no weight should be resting on your shoulders.

There is a chest strap, commonly called a sternum strap.  That strap keeps the shoulder straps from falling off of your shoulders because there is no weight on your shoulders.

When there is weight on your shoulders, you will learn forward and this destroys your walking ergonomics.

Learn how to adjust your pack.  It will make your trip much more enjoyable.

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