Pack swaying

Posted by: Aubiegirl

Pack swaying - 04/16/19 12:35 AM

I'm new to backpacking & getting ready for my first overnight. I have watched all the "how to pack your pack" videos I can find but I can't seem to load my gear so that my pack doesn't sway from side to side. I am trying to put the heaviest weight in the middle of the pack & close to my back. I was fitted for my pack at REI. I'm 5'3", have a short torso & have an XS female-specific Gregory Deva pack. I tighten all of the straps to cinch in the contents. I always have side to side movement when I walk. The weight of the pack fully loaded except for water is right at 20 lbs. Any suggestions about what else I can do? Thanks!
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Pack swaying - 04/16/19 02:00 PM

The center of gravity of our packs (where the heaviest items are) should be close to our bodies' center of gravity. Maybe just slightly above.

For us women, our center of gravity is quite a bit lower than that of most men. It's just below our waist, due to our larger hips. Therefore the heaviest items should be barely above waist level. They also should be closest to our backs so they don't pull away from our bodies.

Most directions for loading packs are evidently designed by/for men, whose center of gravity is well above the waist, near the shoulders.

That's why those directions aren't working for you--you are not a man! You need to put the heavier items lower, so you won't be thrown off balance. Don't pack heavier items high, as often suggested.

You may also have a pack fit problem--pack fit is almost as individual as shoe fit, so a pack that others recommend may not suit your body at all, especially when loaded. That's why we recommend buying the pack last, and taking your gear with you to the store.

I personally have found that increasingly, REI employees don't know that much about backpacking. Unless you know a long-time employee by reputation, don't rely on their expertise--most don't have much.

However, start out with the cheapest solution: pack the heavier items low, close to your waist and close to your back, and see if that makes a difference. I think it will!

Posted by: BZH

Re: Pack swaying - 04/16/19 06:08 PM

I get that when the load lifters are not cinched up. They should pull pack into your body. If they are loose, they sit on a fulcrum attached at waist strap and swing back and forth.

The great news is REI is supposed to have great customer service. Load the pack up and go into the store during non-busy hours. Get them to help you adjust the pack. If you can't get it to fit, return it and get something that fits your body better. Packs are like shoes... just because they are a good brand and the right size does not mean they will comfortably fit you and your body. Don't try to make the wrong pack work... get one that does work.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Pack swaying - 04/16/19 06:47 PM

You don’t say how much sway you get. Are you just getting a little sway side to side,because the load lifters create about a finger of space between your shoulder and shoulder strap? Or is it serious movement,throwing you off balance at every step and twisting the waist belt? A slight amount of movement is unavoidable,with emphasis on “slight” - just enough to avoid straight jacket fit.

I agree with Mouse: “REI expertise” is often an oxymoron. One “expert” tried to convince me I needed a size large pack instead of the medium I thought I needed. When I asked to try the medium, I found out they had no medium left; his “expert” fitting was solely based on “you need large because I’m out of medium.”

Take all your gear with you when you go back to REI, and have them help you pack. If they can’t get the pack to work, ask for a refund and go to a local store (Dicks and Cabela’s don’t count.) Talk to staff until you’re confident they can fit you properly. If they’re not willing to fit the pack with your actual gear, you’ve got the wrong store.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Pack swaying - 04/17/19 10:53 AM

You could sway sideways naturally when you walk. A pack will amplify any natural gait. I see a lot of people walking and viewed from the back, they sway. You may have to learn to walk without swaying. Trekking poles may also help you minimize a natural tendency to sway.
Posted by: Aubiegirl

Re: Pack swaying - 04/18/19 11:08 PM

Thank you all! I'll try placing most of the weight lower and see if that helps. If that doesn't help, I'll take everything with me to REI (it's 2.5 hours away) the next chance I get. I appreciate everyone's input!
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Pack swaying - 04/19/19 02:25 PM

Do try the other suggestions, too, especially the one about tightening the load lifters. I didn't think about that one--I have such pressure-sensitive shoulders that I have to make sure the load lifters keep the top of the shoulder straps from more than barely touching the tops of my shoulders! So I didn't even think about the consequences of loose load lifter straps!

I ran afoul of those male oriented pack loading directions early on, back in the 1980s, so that's why my recommendation was to try that first. I still see those even today! Certainly that's the easiest place to start!

Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Pack swaying - 04/19/19 06:01 PM

(Sigh.) one more thing we men are to blame for! smile The worst part, though, is that you’re right. They’re also not designed for young boys. Or even all men.

It really is about keeping the load as close to your center of gravity, side to side and front to back. When I’m helping someone figure out their pack scheme, that’s my first priority (keeping stuff I use during the day in the outside pockets and stuff I only need in camp in the main compartment is my only other guideline.)

I almost always find that water bottles on the waist (or low side pockets) is a good start for anyone. (Hydration systems, which I don’t like, have to go where the maker puts them; this is usually OK since they put them close to the back; they don’t always put them low, though.)

The I have them load the pack using the method that has worked best for me over the years: sleeping bag on bottom, inflatable pad on top of the bag close to the back, kitchen and food on top of the pad, tent poles down the inside corner close to the back (and on the opposite side from the water bottle if you only carry one), with tent and clothes filling the space around the outside of the pack. The shove-it pocket (way out back) gets maps and toilet paper and (as the hike progresses) any sweater or jacket I take off - and nothing else because it’s too far from the center of gravity. Small items go in the lid or low side pockets or waist belt pockets. I’ll make some “guesstimated” adjustments as I go, depending on the person’s height and body type. (This is often putting a layer of clothes on top of the sleeping bag for a taller person, or putting the sleeping pad on top of the food bag for a shorter person. It might also be loading the tent or pad vertically to balance weight side to side.)

Then I have the person put the pack on, and adjust the straps (and recheck the torso length and shoulder strap wrap), tightening the load lifters and sternum last. Then, man or woman or kid, I ask if the pack feels like it’s pulling them backwards, and where the pull feels like it’s coming from. Depending on the answer, we start moving things around and sometimes re-shaping it (put the food in a tall, narrow stuff sack or in two sacks) and then put it back on to see how the fit changed. Eventually, we get it dialed in.

That seems to work better than the one-way-fits-all diagrams we all are familiar with.
Posted by: Aubiegirl

Re: Pack swaying - 04/28/19 10:25 PM

It looks like I'll need to make a trip back to REI with all of my gear. I'm still not able to find a comfortable fit on my own. Thanks for your input!
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Pack swaying - 04/29/19 08:37 AM

Good luck! Let us know what happens.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Pack swaying - 04/29/19 02:16 PM

I just read an article on that too long a torso length can produce the symptoms you describe. The author's suggested solution is an adjustable torso length backpack, and he lists some. This may or may not help, depending on the pack fit and how it's loaded. You might need another brand that fits better.
Those of us with really short torso lengths often have this problem.
Adjustable length backpacks

Just another item to keep in mind.

It might be a good idea to make an advance appointment with REI, explain your problem, and ask for their most experienced backpack fitter. In addition to your gear, if you can mock up the equivalent in weight and bulk of several days' food and fuel, and take at least a liter of water, that will help.

Also, I suggest you take a copy of Glenn's post above (#202919) and make sure the fitter goes through the list.

Good luck!