By: Steven Schuhmann, SPT
Whether you are taking a long or short hiking trip, a backpack is an essential item for carrying equipment, emergency items, or just a lunch. When I first hiked in the Adirondacks, I wore a backpack. I had no idea whether it was the right kind or if it fit correctly. By the end of the day, my shoulders and lower back were killing me. What I learned is that a poorly fitted backpack could turn a good trip into a journey filled with neck, shoulder, or low back pain.
Here are some tips on making sure your backpack fits correctly:
To maintain a proper fit and better distribute your load throughout the hike, a good backpack should include hip, shoulder, and chest straps.
Hip Belt: Your legs are much stronger than your shoulders. To offload weight from your shoulders to your hips, secure your backpack’s waist belt making sure the top-edge is 1 inch above the iliac crest (top of hip bone).
Shoulder Straps: Adjust your shoulder straps so there is no gap between your shoulder blades and the backpack. The connection points of your shoulder straps to the pack should begin about 2 inches below C7 or the top of your shoulders.
Chest / Sternum Strap: This maintains comfortable positioning of shoulder straps during your hike. Adjust the straps to 2 inches below your collarbones and lightly cinch it down. Pulling tight will restrict your chest from expanding when you are breathing.
Size: To make sure your backpack fits correctly and comfortably, it must be proportional to your torso size. Have a friend measure along your spine from your seventh cervical vertebra (the knobby bone at the base of your neck when you put your head down) to the level of your iliac crest (the top of your hip bones). This will ensure that your pack is a comfortable and the correct size.
Proper posturing on the trail: When you’re wearing your backpack, your body’s center of gravity changes. To maintain proper balance, lean forward slightly by bending at the hips. If you were to stand straight up, the bottom of the pack would increase the weight placed on your lumbar region (the lower back).
Weight distribution: Inside your backpack, place heavier items closer to your back, leaving lightweight items to the periphery to better control the load of your pack. This will also decrease any added stress to your shoulders or lower back.
For more information on proper posturing during hiking, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.