Small of Back vs Hips For Weight Distribution
Sep 7, 2023 at 11:45 am #3788565
I have been using a Hill People Gear pack designed with two metal stays that place much of the weight bearing surface on the small of my back as well as my hips. I definitely notice the carry comfort difference vs my other packs that distribute the weight primarily along my hips. I examined the Hill People Gear stays and the bend is very pronounced vs other stays, and they are more beefy as well. The stays weigh more than the ones in my other packs, but the carry feels so much better.
It seems that the small of the back is an anatomically correct place to load pack weight because it is a shelf of sorts but I don’t see many pack makers focussing on this area, they seem to mostly focus on the hips. I am curious why this seems to be the case? Or, maybe it is just correct for my stocky body type.Sep 7, 2023 at 11:53 am #3788567
Can you share a picture of the stays?Sep 7, 2023 at 11:59 am #3788570
The first couple of minutes show the stays and how to bend them to fit the small of the back.Sep 7, 2023 at 12:53 pm #3788573Bill BudneyBPL Member
@billbLocale: Central NYS
It makes sense to me. I have a long torso; most frameless packs do not fit me. Instead, I use a large lumbar pack with shoulder straps. It focuses the weight on my lower back and hips, with the shoulder straps keeping everything in place.
It looks like a soft rucksack, but carries more like a real framed pack.
That’s a good vid explaining why it works.
As for why other pack-makers don’t do it, my guess is that they are trying to make their packs fit a wide range of people without customizing the fit so carefully as HPG recommends.Sep 7, 2023 at 1:07 pm #3788574
Thanks for the video – very nice!!! The packs look beautiful!
I think the intention is always to make the pack sit there…..but, at least for me, it will start slipping down after some time unless I tighten the belt a lot.
HMG actually told me I should not be reshaping the stays :-)Sep 7, 2023 at 1:33 pm #3788575
Bill – they have a pack called the Umlindi, and it is described as a large lumbar pack with shoulder straps. This is the pack I have been using.
Murali – my HPG pack fits my body shape well, my Umlindi stays in my lumbar area even if I undo the waist belt. When I cinch the waist belt I mainly feel the weight come off of my shoulders.
Their Prairie Belt waist belt also fits me well, it’s been one of the few belts that does not slip down, I think because it fully wraps around my waist. Here’s a video.Sep 7, 2023 at 2:54 pm #3788580baja bobBPL Member
I like to have my pack ride higher and above my hips in the small of my back. I had Dan Ransom make some of his aluminum tube stays that are very stiff and cannot be bent with your hands. They have quite a bit of curve like in the video. I switched them into my SWD Wendigo pack and they are about 1/2 inch too long. On my last trip, it was driving my crazy because the bottom of the pack was sitting a little too low and I kept having to pull it up, which doesn’t happen with the regular stays.Sep 7, 2023 at 4:33 pm #3788583
Lowell – Isn’t Umlindi at 30 small for trips? You must be adding more bags or strapping stuff outside?Sep 7, 2023 at 5:28 pm #3788584DWR DBPL Member
That curved in that part of the back is there to act like a spring while you walk…. I would be concerned about a pack fitting into that curve and applying weight would inhibit the spine from doing what it is designed to do. But… every body is different… I would not be surprised if some people love the pack and some find it very uncomfortable. What makes sense to your brain and feels good at first fitting, may be miserable after a long day of hiking. Personally, I really like the zPacks (and Ospry) designs where here the packs stays are arched such that part of the weight cantilevers against the small or your back… I find that design takes some of the pressure off of my hips and works very well for me. But… I have had friends love and other friends hate that… every body is different.Sep 8, 2023 at 8:54 am #3788608
Murali – the Umlindi (30L) works for summer. This is added when more volume is needed.Sep 13, 2023 at 10:06 am #3788877Steve ThompsonBPL Member
Based on 25 years experience with McHale packs, I’d say not the small of the back, but rather have the load rest on the sacrum.
To affect this, the hipbelt needs to position independently of the lumbar pad (say +/- 1/2”) to account for anatomical differences.
Before this I had constant problems with slippage and chafing on my protruding iliac crest “hipbones”.Sep 13, 2023 at 1:48 pm #3788889
I have a newly minted McHale, which I am learning to like. For me, my HPG rivals the McHale in terms of carry comfort at around 30 – 35 lbs.Sep 13, 2023 at 7:24 pm #3788917
Steve – did Mchale fit your backpack to sit on sacrum? or you just experimented and realized that hip belt slips around illiac crest – therefore let it slip down to the point where it slips no more – which happens to the sacrum. Looking at the sacrum – it is outward curve of the butt after the lumbar – which means your hip belt is well below the illiac crest???? Does it not impede your walking? can you walk fast with the hip belt on the sacrum?
For me as well – all backpacks slip and then no more once it sits on the sacrum as the outward bulge of the butt prevents further slippage….but, I don’t find it very comfortable though.
Here is a good video showing the sacrum and the curve of the sacrum.Sep 13, 2023 at 8:47 pm #3788922Bill BudneyBPL Member
@billbLocale: Central NYS
I never gave much thought to exactly where the belt rests; I just put it on where it is comfortable. Turns out that is with the sides of the belt over my iliac crest, while the lower part of the rear rests on the sacrum. It’s pretty natural, and I would expect most wide hip belts to ride that way.
It does not interfere with walking. I think that my hip muscles (mostly) flex a couple of inches below the sacrum.
But you’re a mountain-climbing machine, Murali, so YMMV. :)Sep 14, 2023 at 9:22 am #3788945
On my body the sacrum is not what holds my McHale in place, it’s the iliac crests. I am actually struggling with my McHale because it slips down and that just isn’t super comfortable for me.
I do not have this problem with my HPG Umlindi pack. It rests in my sacrum nicely and the sacrum is acting like a shelf of sorts. This is the case even if I do not have my hip belt on. They also have what they call delta straps that attach to the hip belt and cinch the pack even closer to your body and this accentuates the sacral fit.
Watch at 4 min 20 sec markNov 12, 2023 at 1:57 pm #3792977
For the record, Dan McHale was very clear that my belly would be getting in the way of it fitting exactly on my iliac crests. I purchased it anyway because of the quality of the pack and it would fit well enough for me.Nov 12, 2023 at 2:46 pm #3792979Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
there sure are a lot of webbing and buckles on the hill people gear pack
like on the hipbelt he put in extra ladderlocks rather than just using the buckles
I prefer a more minimalist approach, but that’s just meNov 12, 2023 at 2:59 pm #3792980
I know, it’s a lot of belts! People talk about how all those belts allow the person to cinch down the pack REALLY tight, and that adds stability/comfort. My weights are not that heavy.Nov 12, 2023 at 3:19 pm #3792982Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I shouldn’t be critical. If it works for anyone, that’s great.Nov 12, 2023 at 3:22 pm #3792983
Totally agree with being glad when pack work for people, there is a reason why there are so many packs out there :)Nov 12, 2023 at 5:27 pm #3792986jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
“I had Dan Ransom make some of his aluminum tube stays that are very stiff and cannot be bent with your hands. ”
Some day someone will re-introduce a light weight external frame pack. Three generations or so of backpackers have never used one, or anyway a decent external.
I like my pack belt at the top of the Illiac crest too. I need the weight off my shoulders and onto my hips and legs. Leg muscles are something like ten times more powerful than shoulder and back muscles. so, as they used to say when fitting an external frame pack, “weight in the pack; pack on the hips”. Of course, adjustments could be made, as with internal frame packs.Nov 12, 2023 at 9:01 pm #3792998Rob LeeBPL Member
@ouzel-701Locale: Southern High Plains
I made 2 mistakes trying to keep weight off shoulders. I’m slim & have fused lumbar. I have almost no “shelf”. Discomfort only with spine compression so wanted to put most weight on hip belt.
1. Formed pack stays with the double curve as others swear by. This failed because the lower curve acted as a ramp that directed the pack away from my lumbar causing the slip. Straightened lower curve & now the belt is secure as the weight vector is now toward my back/hip not away from them.. My iliac is “wrapped” by my padded belt & now fits similar to a floating hip belt.
2. I used long torso packs with the shoulder strap attaching higher than my shoulder. Required too much tension to front of shoulder to keep pack formed to back. Shortened the stays 4″ so the straps wrap over the shoulder providing fit but they don’t carry weight because the hip belt now fits so well. This wrap is recommended by McHale on his CD.
Too much human variation for one way to work. Experiment till you find what works for you.Nov 20, 2023 at 9:55 am #3793529AK GranolaBPL Member
I’m interested in this discussion because I have also only just gone with what felt comfortable. I was told years ago by a salesman at REI that the waist belt should be at the level of my navel, which is three inches higher than my iliac crest. Wearing it that way put the entire weight of the pack on saggy fat (or robust abs if that had been the case!). Our bodies are definitely not all the same.
With the belt coming at my hips, where I like it, the weight is supported by the hips, but the contents of the pack are centered on the small of my back and also between the shoulder blades. At the top is light stuff like a puffy, or the day’s food (with most of the food down lower in a canister).
I fear the day when my pack breaks and I have to find something new. It’s about as perfect as can be right now. Granite Gear Blaze.Nov 22, 2023 at 5:32 am #3793677Steve ThompsonBPL Member
Murali, sorry, haven’t checked this thread in awhile. In answer to your question on the McHale, as I understand it, he designs all his packs such that the lumbar pad rests on the sacrum with the hipbelt straddling the hip bones. The hipbelt secures with 2 straps so you can tension the top of the belt differently than the bottom locking in the position.
As @lowell k notes, his design may not work well for all body types, but I think the prinicple of using the sacrum as a shelf is sound and finding a pack that works like this will increase comfort.Nov 22, 2023 at 9:49 am #3793685Dustin VBPL Member
I keep my climbing hardware in a late 80’s Mountainsmith pack. The hipbelt is a whole system designed to put nearly all of the weight on your hips. The belt panel has no padding, just four adjustable straps to the buckle let you tweak to the shape of your hips. After that, you have four more load-lifter-like straps to pull the plastic frame sheet and pack body forward and down so that it contacts your whole lower back. There is a slightly grippy panel in the middle of the belt that sits on the sacrum, that ensures that it doesn’t shift, as the belt is sewn to the pack fairly near to the middle and moves slightly with your hips. A lot of MS packs had that design at the time.
I don’t go trad climbing as much as I used to, but I’m always surprised and pleased how well it handles 50# or so of gear, rope and water for short, steep approaches. The whole hipbelt system does keep the bulk of the weight off of my shoulders, but boy is it sweaty. Glad the current packs are built for ventilation.
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