Backpack Fit Help!

Posted by: DiveShallow

Backpack Fit Help! - 05/03/17 12:06 AM

Hi All,

This question is about fitting a school backpack that I often carry a lot of heavy books in. I know this is a hiking forum, but you guys know what's up in terms of carrying heavy loads in a packpack. I pinched nerve recently wearing a messenger bag that put all of the weight on my shoulder. Dumb...I now know.
I don't want to buy a hiking backpack for school, and really hoping to make this new one work (shown in picture). I'm even considering attaching a hip belt in a DIY manner with some PALS style webbing sewn into the side of the backpack. How does this fit look? Is the backpack just TOO big for me? To be clear, this bag is new but I don't want to hurt myself again and I'm having a hell of a time taking the weight off my shoulders and instead on my hips.

The yellow line in the picture is the top of my iliac crest (I hiked my pants up a bit so iliac crest aligned with top of my belt. The green line is the length of the "stiff" back padding. The grey line along bottom of pack just shows that the bottom of the bag sags down, below the stiff backing. The faint purple lines show where the backpack strap meet the bag in the hazy picture.

Any input particularly to avoid injury, adjust fit, put weight on my hips, and or give up on this particular bag would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Backpack Fit Help! - 05/03/17 11:00 AM

The backpack you have is designed without taking into consideration a hip belt. And a hip belt is what you need to take weight off your shoulders.

The role of the hip belt is to take most of the weight of the pack and put it right on your hips. That means that the pack has to extend that far down, and you have to have a belt that really settles around your hips and takes that weight off your shoulders.

If you add a belt to your pack, you'll certainly strap a belt around your mid-section, but it won't really take much of the weight off your shoulders.

Sorry, but you need a different backpack to really make this work.

My brother had a similar issue with his shoulder, and was able to achieve some success with a lightweight backpacking pack--complete with hip belt.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Backpack Fit Help! - 05/03/17 11:10 AM

To properly transfer the weight to your hips, you will need something stiffer than a pad. Proper weight transfer requires either metal stays or a stiff plastic back, each of which needs to be connected to the hip belt. Load lifters can also help a bit, but the structure of back stays connected to hip belt is of primary importance.

There are plenty of lightweight hiking backpacks which will do the job. I'd ditch what you have and start over. Your back is worth it!

Visit a store that carries hiking/backpacking supplies (such as REI) and take the books with you to try on packs!

I only wish that more students would take this step, which will prevent a lot of injuries.

Posted by: 4evrplan

Re: Backpack Fit Help! - 05/03/17 11:25 AM

That's a tough one Dave. I definitely think getting away from a messenger bag is a step in the right direction, but a traditional book bag has some disadvantages compared to a hiking/camping type backpack when it comes to carrying a load. You've already mentioned the hip belt, which is probably the most important different, but there's also the fact that they lack load lifters to take the weight of the strap off of your shoulder. That's partly because packs made for books are typically less tall than ones for camping, so there's nothing up high for the load lifter to attach to. They're not really made for comfortably carrying a load for any length of time, because that's not their typical use. Usually, they're only worn for 10 minutes or so between classes or from the car to class and back.

Having followed this forum for some years, I've seen the the more experienced members give the same advice to less experienced pack shoppers countless times. I don't see why this advice would be any different with a book bag, so here goes. Fit is everything, and it must work with your intended load. Either buy multiple bags from a store with a good return policy and try them each, loaded, for several hours at home and return all but the best, or find a store that will let you bring your load to them and try it in the store. Obviously wearing them for hours in the store is not practical, but you should try it for a good 5 - 10 minutes. I'm not sure the traditional hours long trial period really applies in your case anyway. If you plan to return packs, make sure you keep them clean and dry.

In any case, I hope you find the perfect pack and don't have to deal with bone/nerve issues any more. Good luck.
Posted by: DiveShallow

Re: Backpack Fit Help! - 05/04/17 04:21 AM

Thanks for all of the thoughtful input. I do appreciate it. I think I didn't consider the idea of using a hiking backpack that is smaller and won't look ridiculous for a task other than hiking. I kind of assumed they were all huge. I'm going to look into a pack that has the features I need that won't look too silly in a classroom. I'll post what I settle on! Thanks again.

I hear what you're saying about the other considerations to take the load off my shoulders that the bag just lacks design consideration, thing I will say that I wasn't clear about—this bag does have a stiff molded foam insert along the back (for laptop protection). Even with the back packed heavy it rests stiff and flat against my back (with deliberate lumbar contour).

Insert picture from some review (Ogio Squadron):
Posted by: aimless

Re: Backpack Fit Help! - 05/04/17 01:53 PM

Just to repeat some of the most important points:

In regard to taking weight off your shoulders, the stiffness provided by stays or a framesheet is only important as a means of transference of pack weight to a hip belt. If there is no hip belt, there is no benefit to your shoulders. If the pack has no stays or framesheet to stiffen it, there is little or no no benefit from a hip belt. The stays and the belt must work together.

If the hip belt is misplaced around you waist (too high), then the transference is partial and inefficient. If the torso length of your pack is too small, it will not allow the shoulder straps to 'float' above your shoulders, even when the hip belt is properly placed to rest upon your pelvic girdle, making the transference partial and inefficient. The transference is also impaired if you hunch forward too much. You should be upright and the hip belt pulled snug.

When everything fits and is working properly, the shoulder straps should press against the front of your torso, as the pack is being prevented from falling backwards, away from your back. The point where the shoulders straps attach to your pack should sit higher than the top of you shoulders, and the shoulder straps should not actually make contact with the tops of your shoulders at all. All the downward weight of the pack should be supported by your hip belt resting upon your pelvic girdle.