Backpacks and their use



  I decided to go on an overnight hiking adventure and started to think about the things I was going to need.  I had considered sleeping, personal and food needs and began to think that, wow, that’s a lot of gear and supplies. How was I going to carry all that I needed? It was clear; I needed to do some planning.

 I decided I needed a check list of the things that I was going to need, but before that, where was I going and could I make that length of a hiking trip? What was the weather going to be like? Shouldn’t I notify someone where I was going in case I ran into trouble and couldn’t get back and needed help? What was I going to need in the way of clothing? There was a lot to be considered if I wanted to be safe.

 After deciding on my route, I thought about the terrain and what that was going to require. What kind of boots was I going to need? Was I going to wear the boots the entire time even after setting up camp for the night? I decided on taking a pair of sandals that I could change into after setting up camp to give my feet a rest. Socks were an important consideration I knew my hike was going to take me across at least two streams and if my feet get wet I certainly didn’t want to be walking with wet socks. That would be uncomfortable. Besides, my feet tend to sweat on warm days and that could cause a foot infection. And if I fell into the stream I would need some dry clothes so all that went on the list as well.  The weather was going to be mild at night and the days were going to be mildly warm with no rain in sight, so my clothing was pretty much set to go.  

 While planning my route I took note that there were going to be a number of changes in direction to get to my destination. Also there are going to be a few hills that needed to be traversed. Was I going to get lost? Not if I knew how to accurately read my map and if I had a reliable compass. 

 Other Items that made the list are as follows:

  • Water
  • Fire and Light
  • Survival Gear
  • First aid Kit
  • Knife
  • Food
  • Sun Protection
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Tent
  • Cooking Equipment

 Other good stuff that could make an adventure more pleasant; Para cord can be used for a number of things from fishing line to guy lines for the tent. Food storage bags and a large trash bag would be good to have. A good foldable camp shovel, one with a pick would be good for digging a fire pit. Don’t forget a hand saw for cutting fire wood. A repair kit should include thread, needle, and duct tape. Insect repellent helps keep the bugs off. A compression stuff sack can reduce the bulk of items by a third.

Wearing the Backpack

The backpack I chose for my trip is larger and sturdier than those used for day hiking and wearing around town. Mine has an internal frame because of the weight I planned on carrying.

For overnight trips, a pack with roughly 2,500 to 3,000 cubic inches (40 and 50 liters) capacity is generally necessary, though dedicated ultra light hikers with compact gear can get away with less. For longer trips, a pack with approximately 3,700 cubic inches (60 liters) or more is recommended.

To spare the back and shoulders from fatigue, the backpack should be worn on your hips and lower body. When purchasing a backpack, before trying it on, loosen the shoulder straps and locate the waist belt so that the top of your hips are in the middle of the belt. Put the pack on, attach the waist belt and tighten. Then adjust the shoulder straps and tighten. Make sure the waist belt is snug around your hips. When adjusted properly the shoulder straps will rise off your body and attach an inch below the shoulders; there shouldn’t be any weight on your shoulders and you should be able to rotate them easily.

 Some packs will have stabilizer straps that will connect to the pack behind your ears and lift the shoulder straps upward.  A sternum strap connects the shoulder straps across the chest and keeps them from sliding away from the body.

 The backpack’s center of gravity should be as close to the middle and lower back as you can. Place heavy items close to the wearers back, lighter items will go away from the body. Keep heavy items above the hip belt. With the backpack properly positioned and fitted, you should be able to wear it for running without it swaying.

 The Wrong Way to Wear a Backpack:

Using the One Strap Sling Method

Wearing a backpack over one shoulder puts all the pressure on one shoulder. Using this method will result in poor posture. It may look cool although it will result in pain. Wearing a pack over one shoulder will cause the pain on the neck, shoulders and back. If you try moving the pack from shoulder to shoulder you will be off balance and this puts strain on the muscles and bones in the upper body, hips and core.

 Low on the Back

Wearing the pack low on the back will increase pressure on the shoulders and lead to lower back and shoulder strain. This may happen due to loosening the straps to make it easier to put the pack on and take it off. Be sure to readjust when changing from a heavy jacket to no jacket at all. The low back position will cause you to lean forward and increase pressure on the lower back. With loose straps the pack will sway back and forth and cause chafing on your shoulders. Difficulty in adjusting the straps may be because they may not be laced correctly or something is broken. Be sure to read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions and or invest in a new pack that is easily adjusted.

Backpack weight for Hiking Packs

For my overnight trip I kept my pack weight to 20 percent of my body weight when it was fully loaded. For a 200 pound person that is 40 pounds. With that kind of weight it is advisable to wear a good hiking boot that provides extra stability and support. As well I opted for the use of a pair of trekking poles for added support and stability.  I also felt it a good idea to train my muscles/body by wearing my pack partially loaded and wearing my new boots to break them in. As I trained, I slowly increased the weight of my pack until I reached 40 pounds. I also practiced put on and taking off the pack with and without a jacket.

 After all my planning and training I was ready to go. I’m here to tell you I had a great time and was very happy that I took the time to plan. It really paid off and allowed me a pleasant time in the wilderness.


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