The Art (and Science) of Your Backpack

Someone asked me recently if ultra light gear has gotten too light; too weak to hold up to the rigors of outdoor adventures. While there will always be some problems with manufacturing, ultra light gear requires extra care to avoid shredding it. Zippers can’t be forced, pads can’t be thrown down on rocks, and backpacks need to be fitted and packed properly.

Osprey Exos 48

At Backcountry Essentials, we’ve gained a reputation for helping people find the right ski boots for comfort and performance. Similarly, we make sure that packs fit your needs, body, and style of adventure. If you already have a pack and have questions about how to make it more comfortable, come in for a free fit check. Otherwise, here are a few tips for how to adjust and pack your load.

Your pack is designed to carry the weight on your hips. First, loosen all the straps, then tighten the hip belt till 80% of the load is on your hips. Snug the shoulder harness to keep the pack upright, followed by the sternum strap. Finally, the load lifters at the top of your shoulders balance the pack and allow weight to be shifted to relieve different muscle groups throughout the day.

Also, how you pack your gear makes a huge difference in how it carries. The bottom third is for lightweight bulky items, like your sleeping bag. The middle third is where you carry your heaviest items, preferably closest to your torso. The top third is for quick access items like lunch, rain gear, etc.

The Osprey Exos 48 is an excellent example of a superlight pack that is still comfortable even with a load of up to 40 pounds. And finally, remember that backpacking, even with ultra light gear, takes training for your body to get used to, but, oh, the places you’ll go . . . it’s worth it!

IMG_6337Chris Gerston owns Backcountry Essentials, an outdoor specialty shop located at 214 W. Holly in Bellingham, WA.

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