Sep 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm #1263054
Companion forum thread to:Sep 7, 2010 at 1:54 pm #1643717
all the above youll only find out by trying out the pack
in other words fit, fit, fit is what ultimately matters … which is why i buy from stores with a generous return policySep 7, 2010 at 5:50 pm #1643782
Good breakdown of the components of a lightweight internal frame pack.
Thanks for your diligent effort on this multi-part report.Sep 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm #1643956
"You should quite definitely reject any framed pack which doesn't have these" – bit contradictory compared to other BPL views.
Gossamer Gear Gorilla does not have them and it has a frame (U shaped rod). Got top mark when reviewed here.
Do my eyes deceive me but this 50L pack soon to be available has no load lifter straps in the photos.Sep 8, 2010 at 2:48 pm #1643994
I hope your report will discuss the most important factor determining the comfort, load carrying efficiency and strain on the body produced by the load. This is the closeness of the center of gravity of the load to the center of gravity of the body. This is the most fundamental and crucial biomechanical factor to be considered in pack design, as shown conclusively by Sports Science findings on a wide range of load carrying systems. If you fail to discuss this, I believe you are not presenting the full picture to your readers.
A discussion of these research findings as well as a research bibliography can be found here: http://www.aarnpacks.com/sports_science/index.htm
Aarn TateSep 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm #1644015
Yes, I have read and studied your web site at some length, and I do agree with most of what you are saying. Especially about the position of the CoG!
On a personal note, I found the pack from your range which I tested some time ago to be too narrow for my way of thinking: the narrow throat made packing very difficult for me. And I found the front pockets to be too tall for my torso – I suspect you are a lot taller than me.
Part 1C of this series will focus very much on the three essentials: comfort, comfort and comfort. But it will try to explain the hows and whys.
CheersSep 8, 2010 at 4:29 pm #1644021
Since we have Aarn lurking…
Something that popped into my mind recently is that as much as the pockets work very well for me for logistical reasons (IE I have all the bits that I could want to use quickly at my fingertips) as well as balancing the load on my back, many are not built like this :
having large front bones (….) they already have weight balancing "front pockets".
Sorry for the non politically correct observation.
Roger, I am about your size, 3 kg heavier.
FrancoSep 8, 2010 at 8:59 pm #1644083
@bleanLocale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Reading this article makes me reflect on how much is in the eye of the beholder, and how careful one needs to be to distinguish physical facts from different people's needs/habits/wishes. I'll be interested to see whether this article stirs up much of any controversy.
No one can doubt that Roger is very experienced, and analytically/technically inclined. Nevertheless, I disagree with a couple of his points. Just illustrates that different folks have different needs & experiences. I realize that not everyone will agree with my comments either.
*)The back padding "provides much-needed padding between the bag and your back" — it seems to me that given properly adjusted hip belt and shoulder straps, along with a good frame and/or the pack being well-packed, there should not be a lot of pressure of the pack against your back. Knowledge, not equipment — the way to prevent something sticking you in the back is to pack the pack correctly, not add heat and moisture retaining padding that also weighs at least a little.
*)"Every good pack has load lifter straps…. You should quite definitely reject any framed pack which doesn't have these." — judging by their popularity, they must do good for many people. Perhaps I have just never figured out how to best use them, but for me they mainly interfere with the pack straps fitting correctly and doing their job properly.
*)"This goes across the chest to stop the shoulder straps from sliding off your shoulders." — I am not at all convinced that in the reason. In my experience a properly adjusted sternum strap is valuable to keep the shoulder straps from pulling backward on my shoulder joints. The sternum strap also transfers a small amount of the weight bearing from my shoulders to my chest.
The article does not like sternum straps; I find a good one indispensable. I feel the same way about sternum straps that the article feels about load lifters — do not buy a pack (that will be used to carry much weight) without a sternum strap that fits you well and works well for you.
I do agree with the article that the sternum strap should not be very tight. If it is interfering with your breathing, try setting it a bit higher on your chest. Furthermore, I do not find it any more interference with my breathing than I find a hip belt interfering with the breathing motion due to restricting my stomach moving in and out with my diaphragm action — neither one enough to worry about.
*) Haul loop — seems important to Roger's habits; negligible value to mine. Probably just reflects my doing a lot of heavyweight backpacking before haul loops were common. I consider a haul loop a minor convenience, but something I rarely have much use for.
— BobSep 8, 2010 at 9:12 pm #1644086
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
After reading a bunch of BPL pronouncements that load lifters are unnecessary, it's great to see your giving them their rightful place!
I have very sensitive shoulders and can't get along without the load lifters. That's why I rejected Gossamer Gear packs. Interestingly, my grandchildren have the same problem, especially my 10-year=old grandson. Maybe it's hereditary! I have found my load lifters to be a vital part of what makes my pack (SMD Comet, discontinued little brother of their Starlight and Traveler) so comfortable for me.
There's lots of good info in this article and I will read it again more carefully!Sep 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm #1644089
If a pack fits perfectly to your body,, one does not need load lifters except under very heavy loads (at least for this forum- i.e. 40 plus pounds). At lower weights, the shoulder harness itself can be used to 'lift the load,' assuming the torso and shape of the back panel perfectly confroms to the users back. Load lifters are used on 'off the shelf' packs to adjust for differences in personal fit. Which is fine and obviously needed in most cases.Sep 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm #1644093
Aarns packs are very interesting and it is great to see new ideas – got to try one a few months back… I really liked the way the shoulder straps moved with you as you climbed up. (though to be honest I found the front carry system only good for easy tracks as you can’t see your feet and where to place them – forget scrambling… also the flat backpanel makes for a very hot sweaty back)
Anyway… as Aarn pointed out, centre of gravity is crucial and a good hipbelt arrangement (I really like the Wilderness Equipment harness atm – another new idea in heavy pack carrying) is able to very effectively spread the load to the hips (which are central). I am able to walk all day, for many days absolutely upright with 25kg. I appreciate this type of belt/harness is on very heavy packs which aren’t in this reviews scope and also the lighter hip/harness arrangements in this review are not meant for 25kg loads. (I know you CAN carry them – but it is not the most comfortable way of carrying a load of this weight)Sep 9, 2010 at 4:23 am #1644122
aarn should have been in this review, they are doing more than jsut adding new buckles. They are the leaders in pack innovation without a doubt. Check out the featherlite freedom or mountain magic.
=PSep 9, 2010 at 8:11 am #1644160
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Good article Roger
Reading this article and Ryan's, I'm confused about maintaining Torso length
Is Torso length the ability for the pack to maintain it's height when it's held up on the bottom by the waist belt?
In other words, if there's no waist belt, does the issue of Torso length disappear?
If you have your foam pad unrolled inside your pack, with everything else inside this, and you then compress it sideways, it forms one unit that doesn't collapse, so the frame seems unnecesary.
I agree, sternum strap doesn't make any sense to me, hinders breathing, but definitely a matter of personal preference.
I think a lot of these features are partially marketing hype. People will buy new gear, more expensive, if it has perceived value.
One reason for external frame pack is to have mesh panels against your back for better ventilation so you don't sweat so much, but if you put foam panels for comfort, then you may as well not have a frame.Sep 9, 2010 at 9:12 am #1644173
Some good points Jerry – have a look at this analysis done by Ryan Jordan a few years back. There is a distinct torso collapse even with a rolled pad. A rolled or folded pad will never equal a stiff frame with respect to load transfer and stability over about 15lbs.Sep 9, 2010 at 6:00 pm #1644349
@nlsscottLocale: So. Calif.
Is it important or not to have the frame extend above the attachment point of the shoulder straps? Does this shift the Center of Gravity higher and/or closer to the spine? Does it help prevent collapse of the torso length? If load lifters are important, do they need to have a frame extending up to support them?Sep 9, 2010 at 6:49 pm #1644371
@earlyliteLocale: New England
Roger and Sue,
I found your technique for measuring pack volume across pack manufacturers and the effect of pack width on the ease of packing to be quite informative. Thanks for this careful and well-reasoned analysis. I'm looking forward to your subsequent posts on this tricky topic.Sep 9, 2010 at 7:17 pm #1644376
No, 'torso length' is an actual measurement of length. You have a torso length, and how to measure that is described in the article. Manufacturers make packs with different torso lengths, although whether their claim matches your body is not always clear. Fortunately, many of them do specify what 'medium' means in terms of a (human) torso length.
Yes, some features are marketing hype for sure. Bugs me too. But some other features are essential imho, and this is discussed in the articles.
> One reason for external frame pack is to have mesh panels against your back
> for better ventilation so you don't sweat so much
Well, that's ONE reason. Load-carrying ability is another.
> but if you put foam panels for comfort, then you may as well not have a frame.
Can not agree with you there.
CheersSep 9, 2010 at 7:22 pm #1644377
> Is it important for the frame extend above the attachment point of the shoulder straps?
Hum – opinions may differ, but in general I think it is usually a good thing. That said, there are a number of quite functional packs where this does not happen. So it may not be 'essential'.
> Does this shift the Center of Gravity higher and/or closer to the spine?
Not by itself, really. I think the CoG is affected more by pack shape, or cross-section.
> Does it help prevent collapse of the torso length?
Not really. I think the important bit in a pack is the stiffness between the hip belt and the shoulder straps.
> If load lifters are important, do they need to have a frame extending up to support them?
They do not HAVE to have a frame supporting them, although it is often easier if there is a frame.
CheersSep 10, 2010 at 12:14 pm #1644563
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I have 2 internal frame packs with varying hipbelt comfort. One, an original Dana Designs Terraplane, fits wonderfully (only B/C it's the 3rd belt from Dana that I tried!).
The other is the 2nd generation REI Cruise UL 60 with a much thinner and skinnier (& less comfortable) hipbelt. I REALLY like the split hipbelts of Lightwave's packs and am thinking of cutting my REI belt to try to effect that more contour forming fit. I do have a great shoe/luggage repair shop that patiently does mods on other packs for me. If a mere long split doesn't get the job done I can try removing belt material as well to open up the split.
REI can always send me a replacement belt if I screw it up irretriveably but I think it's worth a try since I love every other aspect of this pack, especially its Velcro-adjustable harness for torso length adjustment.
I feel split hipbelts may become much more popular as they may conform to many different hip shapes better than a solid belt ever could.Sep 10, 2010 at 1:22 pm #1644581
I'm looking forward to the Comfort section of the article.
I remember when I first started trying on packs (incorrectly, I might add) I had no idea what was considered "comfortable" with 10, 20, 30, or 40 lbs on my back.
Sure, some packs felt better than others, but what was it SUPPOSED to feel like? Even today, I often wonder how what I consider to be comfortable compares to what everyone else considers comfortable.
I've got 3 packs. SMD Swift, Osprey Exos and Osprey Talon. Yes, they're all "comfortable" to me and I can spend all day in them with a loaded pack, but there are so many other packs out there, that how do I know I'm nowhere near as comfortable as I could be with a different pack!? I need to try ULA, MLD, Gregory, REI, Cilo, Granite Gear, and the list goes on. But time and $$ prevent that from happening.
I'm rambling now.Sep 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm #1644648
Ben 2 WorldParticipant
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
Comfort is subjective (obviously). My own "definition" of comfort is "carrying all day, every day, and not really noticing that it's there". That doesn't mean that I don't feel generally tired after a full day's hike. But "not feeling it" means not feeling any particular stress, pinch, jab, tug, or any other 'ill-fitting discomfort or sore points' that would cause me to be continually mindful of the beast on my back'.Sep 12, 2010 at 10:49 pm #1645101
Kathy A HandysideParticipant
@earlymusicusLocale: Southeastern Michigan
It's nearly impossible for me to get anything to fit right. My toros is 15" – I'm short, but I'm also heavy right now (hormonal changes to blame). Trying to get all the components to work together for me is difficult. I can get the torso length right, but then manufacturers have this idea that women should not be larger than say a size 8. So that means having to get a men's hip belt to get it large enough – and then the angle is wrong. And because I'm extremely short-waisted, shoulder straps are almost always too long and too wide. And don't even get me started on trying to get hiking clothes to fit!
I can only change my body just so much! Even before I gained this weight, it was hard.Sep 12, 2010 at 10:52 pm #1645102
Kathy A HandysideParticipant
@earlymusicusLocale: Southeastern Michigan
I have a Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone pack, size small, with men's waistbelt in medium and trim shoulder straps, also men's (I might be able to swap those out for women's; I don't know). The pack fits me okay, but the shoulder straps do not ride flat on my shoulders – they sit a bit higher, even with adjusting the load lifter straps all kinds of ways.
I guess I'm just built wrong for backpacking!Sep 13, 2010 at 12:30 am #1645119
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Most of us hike "light." But not always. I hike mostly in deserts. Sure base weight is usually well under 7 lbs, and often under 5 lbs. But water often moves total pack weight to well over 30lbs. And the lightweight internal frame packs just don't do the job. They are not comfortable until I drink a lot of the water. So my loads are often in a constant state of flux. SUL, heavy, SUL, etc., all on the same trip.
Another interesting point I learned from Dan McHale is that is it not uncommon for an average height woman to have the same length spine as tall man. Too often an off-the-shelf pack is not going to properly fit many people.
So what is the best solution?
I have a garage full of packs for all kinds of conditions and situations. Last week I came to the conclusion that I want and need a pack perfectly designed for my body that will be comfortable in all conditions and permutations. It might be a little heavy at times by BPL standards, but no matter what load I carry, it will always be comfortable and it will fit perfectly no matter what load or volume I pack (within reason). And if I purchase a pack constructed with the best materials available, I will not be replacing light packs that have been damaged by a sharp rock or a cat-claw branch. And I can probably sell several packs in my inventory to pay for what I really want. So this week I will be ordering a McHale full Dyneema LBP, with several options to meet varying requirements.Sep 13, 2010 at 3:56 pm #1645296
I've heard other comments about not being able to see your feet when wearing the Aarn front balance packs. I have a Natural Balance which I love and have no problem seeing either my feet or the waist buckle. The trick is to not have the chest strap overly tight. It not only allows a clear view but makes everything much more comfortable. I have no problems scrambling with the pack. I was very disappointed upon discovering Aarn packs weren't included in the study. They are the most innovative packs on the market in my opinion.
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