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#86749 - 01/10/08 01:14 PM Shoulders. . . ouch!
wld_rthr_b_ridng Offline
member

Registered: 01/09/08
Posts: 18
Loc: WV
Hello, I'm new to backpacking and only did a few 15ish mile 2 day trips last summer and loved every second of it except my shoulders/shoulder blades were killing me after about 3 or so miles each day. My questions is; is this a matter of conditioning or is this something that usually happens when a pack doesn't fit properly or is packed wrong? Thanks in advance for info! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

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#86750 - 01/10/08 01:22 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3569
Loc: Texas
""is this a matter of conditioning or is this something that usually happens when a pack doesn't fit properly or is packed wrong? ""

Welcome aboard!
To answer your question, it's a matter of both conditioning and ill fit sometimes.
Could you describe your pack and a rough description of how you are packing it? It's weight and your age/build/etc. will help too.
By day two, I'm feeling my pack, no matter it's fit or my conditioning...only because I don't live with a pack on my back all the time...but that's fairly normal (for us old poots <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />).
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#86751 - 01/10/08 01:36 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: Dryer]
wld_rthr_b_ridng Offline
member

Registered: 01/09/08
Posts: 18
Loc: WV

"Could you describe your pack and a rough description of how you are packing it?"

I have a Northface Women's Terra 40(I know, I know but I didn't want to spend a fortune before I knew that I was going to be obsessed with backpacking). I generally pack bag in the bottom, cooking stuff next, clothing, first aid and other stuff with a hydration pack in it as well. Ridgerest pad attached to the back outside with tent poles in a side pocket (hubby packs the tent). It all weights about 30-35 lbs.

"It's weight and your age/build/etc. will help too."

Those are difficult questions for a woman to answer! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

. . . I'm 31 and maybe slightly "over" average build, 5'6".

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#86752 - 01/10/08 01:58 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
ringtail Offline
member

Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
Dryer's reply was spot on.

It is difficult to tell what the problem is without seeing you wearing the pack. When you have a custom pack made by McHale you have to email pictures for him to adjust the fit.

I often work with a scout troop for taking kids on their first backpacking trip. I hang in back and ask the stragglers if they want to repack their pack. It is possible to adjust the weight distribution and correctly adjust the pack, but sometimes the pack is just not compatible with the kid. But by the third day generally all the kids are carry their packs pretty well.

You need to hike your own pace and not your husbands. Keeping up with a long legged guy will drain your energy quickly.

Just some ideas.

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#86753 - 01/10/08 02:13 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: ringtail]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Like the others said, hard to tell wihout seeing you wearing it, but it could be the weight distribution between your hips and shoulders.

I sometimes can adjust my straps so the pack weight is almost entirely on my hips, but usually wind up about 50/50 or so.

Try easing off on the shoulder weight to start and see what happens.

As TR says below, check the pack size. The TNF website has a chart-look at that and compare the recommended size to you and your pack. It may be too short and not riding on your hips right.

Also, if your shoulder blades are hurting, you might have the pack cranked down too tight or the stays are not bent to your shape. I try to wear mine just tight enough so it doesn't rock around.

Try taking the aluminum stays out and laying them against your back in the position they would be in the pack-the contour should match your shape. If not, tweak them a bit-which may take some doing-so that they seem to parallel your back while standing up straight.

btw-the TNF chart doesn't show the pack has stays, but the pack description does, so I presume the specs are correct, not the chart.


Edited by TomD (01/10/08 02:32 PM)
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#86754 - 01/10/08 02:15 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Hard to tell without seeing the pack on your body but my first guess would be that you're carrying too much of the load on your shoulders and maybe not sharing enough with your hips. Was your hipbelt tight and riding above your hips? Did you shrug your shoulders before tightening it?

Another thought is pack sizing. Yours only comes in one size, for 14"-19" torsos, per the specs. At 5'-6" you should fall in that range but nevertheless it could possibly be too small for you, which means more stress on the shoulders. Do a quick read on pack sizing and measure yourself.

Finally, as far as I can tell your pack is designed without load lifters, small straps that lift the pack's shoulder straps off your shoulders to relieve pressure. If this continues to be a problem you may want to check into a pack with that feature.
_________________________
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

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#86755 - 01/10/08 02:22 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
Ender Offline
member

Registered: 01/17/02
Posts: 779
Loc: ME
Just to throw something into the discussion, I hike with almost no weight at all on my shoulders, anywhere from 0%-5% max. I carry all the weight on my hips, and us the shoulder strap to just keep the pack centered an balanced. I've always hated carrying weight on my shoulders, so I've learned to just avoid it all-together.

Just my $.02... YMMV

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#86756 - 01/10/08 03:26 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: Ender]
dkramalc Offline
member

Registered: 09/19/03
Posts: 1070
Loc: California
I'm with Ender - have never liked weight on my shoulders, prefer it riding (comfortably) around my hips. My Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone and Luxurylite packs both do that well for me (have to admit the LL has less shoulder weight than any pack I've carried).
_________________________
dk

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#86757 - 01/10/08 03:40 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
That 30-35 pounds in your pack must transmit its weight to the ground somewhere through your body be it your hips, shoulders or anything else. The key is to find the way that is most comfortable for you .
_________________________
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

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#86758 - 01/10/08 05:27 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
Xelif Offline
member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 241
Loc: Bay Area, California, USA
The only times my shoulders ever hurt were when I didn't have my pack adjusted properly. Then the pain would be surprising... I didn't use my sternum strap, or have it tight enough when I did use it. That caused the shoulder straps to ride out and onto the knob of bone on top of my shoulders, in addition to throwing off the weight distribution. I ended up carrying too much weight on the shoulders in the wrong place and couldn't get it figured out. Finally I tightened up the sternum strap and it all fell into place.

Hope it helps.
_________________________
- John

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#86759 - 01/10/08 06:35 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
jasonlivy Offline
member

Registered: 01/02/04
Posts: 654
Loc: Colorado
Typically, generally speaking, this sounds like a problem with the torso adjustment. Torso adjustment has to do with measuring your torso length, or, in other words, your upper body, between the C7 vertebrae (the one sticking out at the top of your neck) and the top of the iliac crest (the blades of your hips that can be felt right below the ribs). This is a very important measurement because it is this length that determines where the pack sits on your back. If the pack is too small, you will get way to much weight resting on your shoulders, thus you will have shoulder pain. If it is too long, then the pack will feel awkward and will be very difficult to make comfortable.

As many have said already, the key is allowing most the weight to rest on your hips. Guys have a disadvantage here because our hips our flat, whereas women's hips tend to be curvy. The shape of the hips for women allows the hipbelt to rest more securely without sliding down. However, the hipbelt must be in the proper position in the first place. REI has as good advice as any I've found on the subject here.

The most important thing is that you don't shy away from really cranking down the hipbelt. I would tighten it as tight as it can go. The top of the hipbelt should be approximately an inch above the iliac crest.

I would also pay attention to how the pack is loaded. Make sure the heavy items are as close to the back of the pack as possible and, if on an established smooth trail, that the heavier weight is high (if your climbing or on a off-route trail, the heavy items should be towards the back and more in the middle). How you pack your internal frame backpack is almost as important as how it fits on your back. By using compression sacks and ditty sacks, you can distribute the weight much more easily.

Good Luck!
_________________________
Believe, then you will Understand...

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#86760 - 01/10/08 10:14 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
thegeoguy Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 176
Loc: Sonoma County, California
sounds like the pack is either not fitted properly (torso length too short?) or is not designed to carry the load you were carrying. If your shoulders are killing you after a few miles, something is not working...

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#86761 - 01/11/08 03:47 AM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
jamieS Offline
member

Registered: 09/29/04
Posts: 271
Since you are new to backpacking, I'm going to mention a basic "truth" that seems contray to all the hyped-up stories that mostly surround backpacking:

It is possible to have a fairly painless multi-day backpacking experience.

I've seen the "no pain, no gain" attitude in myself and my hiking partners and it just winds up grinding us down. Speaking for myself, it's a combination of denial and laziness... and a good dose of trying to avoid the bitter truth that I wasted a lot of money buying the wrong gear. But well-fitted gear eliminates a lot of the suffering that most people associate with backpacking.

Yes you will be tired and maybe sore after a few days (just due to the repetitive motions of backpacking), but there should never be pain or discomfort -- especially in the first several hours of hiking. If you are feeling pain that early, you won't get used to it, it will only get worse.

Good for you for seeking more info on fitting your gear to yourself! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

We all have had to do that and, really, we never stop! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />

-jamieS

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#86762 - 01/11/08 06:30 AM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: dkramalc]
Ender Offline
member

Registered: 01/17/02
Posts: 779
Loc: ME
Quote:
(have to admit the LL has less shoulder weight than any pack I've carried).


Agreed. My LL pack carried 100% of the weight on the hips, especially with the use of the front pack.

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#86763 - 01/11/08 07:23 AM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: Ender]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3569
Loc: Texas
In spring and summer, for 1-3 nighters, I sometimes hike with a GoLite Day pack, which has no hip belt. It took me a few tries to get it right, but as long as weight is held to a minimum, and all the pack's 'innards' are packed to fit my back contours, it's my pack of choice and works great. Whether the pack has a waist belt or not, if I haven't been out in a few weeks, I'll still feel early pack discomfort somewhere, simply from not having weight on me until the trip. I know how to fit and pack a pack, and I'm afraid this same early discomfort is what new backpackers are describing when they only do 1-2 nighters and low mileage. Personally, by the beginning of day 3, I've got all the packing and strap 'tweaks' worked out for the load, and the only discomfort is from me being out of condition. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />

This is the tricky part when taking out new hikers.....the pack can fit fine, but the muscles protest just the same until they settle in to the trip, and sometimes the trip ends before that happens, leaving the new hiker with a sense of 'this is just too painful to mess with', and now they are on a search for the perfect pack....or give it up altogether. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />

There is definitely a 'learning curve' with packs and backpacking. Our loads constantly change (as consumables disappear or get re-supplied) , terrain changes, we get tired, different pain tolerances, knowing what 'good' feels like, etc. The more you hike, the more you know what to expect and how to deal with it. You have to take some time and give it a chance.
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#86764 - 01/11/08 08:18 AM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: Dryer]
wld_rthr_b_ridng Offline
member

Registered: 01/09/08
Posts: 18
Loc: WV
I just want to first say that you guys are awesome! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" /> Thank you for the wealth of knowledge and I think I know how I'm going to tackle fixing my problem. I'm going to make the suggested adjustments on my pack and play around with how I pack it and wear it out on several day hikes before we actually go out for a longer trip to see if any of it makes a difference (although I'm leaning toward the thought that this pack just may not be made for me). I do have the load lifters on my pack and I'm always pulling them down as far as I can get them and it always seems like I need them to go further. I usually tend to have the load stabilizers on the hip belt pulled really tight as well. I also packed most of my heavier stuff on the bottom of my pack (not sure why, that just seemed like what made sense) so maybe changing that will help too. What I do not have on this pack is the ability to adjust the torso but I'll play with it a little more before I give up on it.

Thanks again!!

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#86765 - 01/11/08 08:48 AM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: jamieS]
Xelif Offline
member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 241
Loc: Bay Area, California, USA
Quote:
It is possible to have a fairly painless multi-day backpacking experience.


This should be in bold on the front page of the forums <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> It is so true, and I wonder how many people have been turned off hiking due to poorly fitted packs, shoes, etc.
_________________________
- John

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#86766 - 01/11/08 08:51 AM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
Xelif Offline
member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 241
Loc: Bay Area, California, USA
Quote:
I do have the load lifters on my pack and I'm always pulling them down as far as I can get them and it always seems like I need them to go further. I usually tend to have the load stabilizers on the hip belt pulled really tight as well. I also packed most of my heavier stuff on the bottom of my pack (not sure why, that just seemed like what made sense) so maybe changing that will help too.


The 'load lifters' you mention, which straps are these? If you're talking about the shoulder straps, you may be pulling them TOO tight. If I pull mine too tight, it pulls the pack up off my hips and pulls it hard onto my shoulders.

What did the trick for me was getting a friend to fit the pack properly. Try an REI store if you are really, really puzzled. Some of the employees are great with fitting.
_________________________
- John

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#86767 - 01/11/08 08:51 AM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3569
Loc: Texas
Glad to help!! Stick with it and you'll win.
All of us have gone through what you are going through.
Now, imagine...
1. going from a 50 lb. pack down to a 20 lb. pack...or less.
2. making a pack actually 'fit'.
3. 'conditioning' oneself to expect certain things, good and bad, and learning the 'fix'.
.....and how dramatic those changes would be. Once you tackle the above,
you'll have "arrived", and that's how we all became 'ultra-lighters' to one degree or another, all starting with that dang PACK!
Then, you'll spend the rest of your days trying to figure out how to make that overweight 20 lb. pack, weightless! An endless quest. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

note....I'm not the pack expert, but you have the attention and responses from some highly skilled folk, whom's word is gospel around these parts. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#86768 - 01/11/08 10:19 AM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: Dryer]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I looked at this pack on the TNF website.

Unfortunately, the site doesn't show the back of the pack (the suspension side), or have a fitting guide (at least I didn't find it if it's there), but it didn't look like the pack has lifter straps from what little I could see from the picture.

However, if it does, they are short straps-one on each shoulder that run almost horizontally from near the top of the suspension on the pack itself to a buckle at or near the apex of the shoulder strap. When you pull on them, they pull the top of the pack towards you a bit.

I think Arctery'x has a fitting guide on their website. While it is, of course, for their packs, you may get some info you can use with yours.

Another thing you can do is strength exercises to build up your shoulder and back muscles. The fitter you are, the less likely you will be bothered by the weight.
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#86769 - 01/11/08 11:51 AM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
delongdrive Offline
newbie

Registered: 01/11/08
Posts: 6
Loc: Paris (Texas!)
It's probably been mentioned, but if you feel that the pain/discomfort is uncommon to what you figure you "should" be feeling, it's probably due to an ill-fitted or too-heavy pack.

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#86770 - 01/11/08 10:17 PM Re: Shoulders. . . ouch! [Re: wld_rthr_b_ridng]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
My shoulders actually hurt me more in my younger years. Then in my early 30's I started weight training and it really helped. I think women on the average have less upper body strength and more shoulder pain than men on the average.

Also, think about what you are wearing. Shoulder straps can rub you raw if you go sleeveless, or hurt if you have lumpy clothing under.

The shoulder blade ache may be due to your pack pulling you back. This happens when the center of gravity of the pack is not over your center of gravity. Put the heavy stuff as close to your back as possible. Also do not dangle stuff off the back of the pack. If your pack has compression straps, use them to squish the load into a more narrow profile.

I carry almost all my load on my hips by really tightening my hip belt. I alternately loosen the hip belt to relieve my hips and carry the weight on my shoulders.

Also, relaxe when you walk. Beginners are usually way too tense and that causes pain. I also find that short rest breaks at regular intevals are better than long rest braks at longer intervals. I usually do 50 minutes walking and 10 minute break.

I still hurt from my pack at the begining of the season. By the second or third trip it is much better.

A cheaper pack is not necessarily bad as long as it fits you. You can take it to REI and they will evaluate the fit for you.

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