By Musa Masala

Photo by S B Vonlanthen

Have you ever gone through the totally miserable experience of hiking or climbing with a poorly fitting, overloaded, or falling apart pack? Guilty of all the above. What misery, and just to add to the mix, it usually seems to be raining whenever this happens. Well, we have come across the solution to your problems, except for the rain part.

Welcome to the Good Trekker, Safe Climber Series, our topic: Properly Fitting a Backpack.

We feel so fortunate and happy to introduce you to some cutting edge research on the art of getting this key skill right.

At a recent conference of the Wilderness Medical Society, we entered a workshop conducted by Dr. Martin Musi; Angela Wilder, MHS, PA-C; and Dr. Jacqueline Kieran Pieper, PT, DPT. These three put together a workshop that is one of the best learning experiences we have had on our gear. We filmed some of it and hope to do more with them in the future. We talked to Jacqueline about the project.

Can you tell us about your research and how you put this program together?

The research started off with the realization that there is a lot of info out there about fitting a pack, and designs are constantly adapting to hypothetically fit most individuals. However not much consideration is made when looking at the individual and realizing that no two people are built the same. Additionally there is a gap in the literature regarding why you want to fit a backpack a certain way based on biomechanics. This workshop and our research is meant to bridge the gap and give people more knowledge and independence when choosing the right pack, and hopefully reduce discomfort and musculoskeletal injury.

What do you hope people will get out of your presentation?

I hope the public will be able to use the info to make informed decisions when choosing a pack. I’m also hoping to be able to give this presentation to vendors and ensure that they also have a better understanding of why they are fitting people the way they do and therefore help troubleshoot problems that may arise.

In the future, I hope to get the ball rolling in the research community to start looking at the individual when fitting. What we seldom realize is, there is the individual and there is the backpack, and together they are a system. When new backpacks are manufactured, adding features such as a rotating hip belt, a lumbar support or suspension, I feel the vendors tend to not take the individual’s body habits and posture into consideration, just focusing on the pack. For example, a person with a flat back posture that is rigid in the lumbar spine may not benefit from a lumbar support, and this may actually cause more discomfort. I’m looking forward to starting this area of research in the near future.

We hope you enjoy and learn from this short video. We thank Martin, Angela, and Jacqueline for their time and discussion of this research that takes us steps closer to enjoying our backpacks. Ahh, backpack bliss!

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