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Re: Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton

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avatar Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton
February 23, 2013 02:30PM
Feb. 21, 2013 — Trudging from place to place with heavy weights on our backs is an everyday reality, from schoolchildren toting textbooks in backpacks to firefighters and soldiers carrying occupational gear. Muscle and skeletal damage are very real concerns. Now Tel Aviv University researchers say that nerve damage, specifically to the nerves that travel through the neck and shoulders to animate our hands and fingers, is also a serious risk.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130221141604.htm
avatar Re: Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton
February 23, 2013 10:03PM
They seem to have focused on damage from the pressure of the shoulder straps to neck and shoulder nerves.

Unlike every other pack I've ever used, my last two have been designed so that the hip belt supports almost all of the weight, with the shoulder straps just helping to keep the pack upright. Here are some links I collected while I was choosing them and learning to use them:

Backpacks: Adjusting the Fit (REI; includes video clip)

Adjusting your Hiking Backpack to Fit Right without Pain (lookingforadventure.com; includes video clips of fitting, packing)

How to Adjust a Backpack for Hiking (David Camp, Northwest Backpack Specialties)

Backpacks - Only the Fitted Survive (Hudson Trail Outfitters, Ltd.)

How to Choose a Backpack (REI)

If someone has better links, I'd love to check them out.

I figure the hip belt can cause problems of its own but it wouldn't affect the neck and shoulders much. My first hipbelt pack wasn't very well designed. I found that the hipbelt gave me itchy red spots on my hips after a few miles. I ended up wearing two squares of sheepskin inside my underwear, fleecy side toward me. The hipbelt on my second one is much better padded and has never given me any trouble. I've retired the sheepskins for now.
avatar Re: Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton
February 25, 2013 03:17PM
I found an earlier thread where we discussed nerve problems that can result from wearing a hipbelt too tight:

Meralgia Paresthetica
avatar Re: Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton
February 25, 2013 04:03PM
It's pretty simple imo. Nearly ALL of the weight of the pack should be supported by your hips.
There should be next to zero weight on your shoulders.
Measure your torso... small of back to knobbly thingie on back of your neck... and buy a pack
that fits your torso.... adjust away until it comfy.

If you want to see how important this is... load up your pack and adjust as normal... and then
undo the hip belt completely so all the weight is on your shoulders... see how far you get
before you start crying. You won't make it far... if you do... you're stubborn or a liar.



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton
February 25, 2013 08:25PM
Quote
chick-on
It's pretty simple imo. Nearly ALL of the weight of the pack should be supported by your hips.
There should be next to zero weight on your shoulders...

If you want to see how important this is... load up your pack and adjust as normal... and then
undo the hip belt completely so all the weight is on your shoulders... see how far you get
before you start crying. You won't make it far... if you do... you're stubborn or a liar.

Back in the day, hip belts were unheard of. The boy scout handbook showed a picture of something called a "tumpline" for transferring part of the load to... your forehead?! It sounded pretty hoky to me and I wasn't surprised to find that it didn't catch on very widely. Maybe that's where some of the neck injuries in that article came from. tongue sticking out smiley

The only packs we had access to were army surplus, miserably designed and a nightmare to carry. They wanted to hang low, stick out in back, and pull the wearer over backwards. We were pretty stubborn -- made it to the top of Katahdin with them (or in spite of them). There was supposed to be something somewhere called a Kelty aluminum frame pack that cost 2 weeks' pay but had been designed with body mechanics, balance and comfort in mind. I never got anywhere close to owning one. By the time I could've afforded it, I was more into motorized transportation.
Re: Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton
February 25, 2013 08:55PM
I had a Kelty pack with exterior aluminum frame way back when, and am kind of sad that I got rid of it. It was very comfortable.
avatar Re: Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton
February 26, 2013 07:56AM
Today, some of the most comfortable packs are also the heaviest when empty. Gregory comes to mind. My first modern day pack made only one visit to Yosemite before I sold it for something much lighter in weight. The Gregory Baltoro 70 was unbelievably comfortable but weighed about 5 lbs empty! crying
Re: Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton
February 26, 2013 09:13AM
I have a Gregory pack that is pretty comfortable, but heavy. What did you find to replace the Baltoro with that was much lighter, but provided the same comfort/ carrying capacity?
avatar Re: Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves, Muscles and Skeleton
February 28, 2013 11:49AM
Frank,
I replaced it with the REI Flash 65 which weighs just about 3 lbs. It's not quite as comfortable as the Baltoro but 2lbs is 2 lbs. I chose the Flash 65 also because it included the viariety of external pockets I prefer for easily reachable items without having to open the main pack while hiking. I'm not certain if they still make the Flash 65 but I know they have something very similar to it. Since its internal storage capacity is slightly less than the Baltoro, that factor assists in the goal of carrying less of what I don't really need.

The first time I went backpacking with the Baltoro I topped out over 40 lbs total load including water. That's at least 10 lbs too much for me. After switching backpack, tent, sleeping bag, plus eliminating some other minor items I was able to get my total weight down to 30 lbs including water. I also switched to lighter weight boots. This year I'm successfully working on eliminating 20 lbs of yours truly to further lighten the load on my feet (only 5 lbs to go). I also now carry one of my 2 water bottles directly from one of my pants belt loops instead of in the backpack. The weight is still there but it's another 2 lbs 3 oz that's not being carried on my back.
Jim
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