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Hip Belt Positioning
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Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Hip Belt Positioning on 03/30/2009 10:45:01 MDT Print View

Forgive my ignorance in the subject, but where exactly is the hip belt supposed to rest? Should the top of the hip belt be aligned with the top of the lilac crest, or should centerline of the hip belt be aligned with the top of the lilac crest?


Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Location on 03/30/2009 11:05:59 MDT Print View

I use a GG Vapor Trail - wide and thick hipbelt. I put the center line of the hipbelt, which is stitched, on the top of my iliac crest so that the hipbelt bends in on top of the crest to better cup my hips. The pack stays snug and I have loaded it up to 35 lbs. successfully.

That said, RJ's old post ( states that the centerline of the hipbelt should be 1" below the top of the iliac crest.

Edited by citystuckhiker on 03/30/2009 11:07:25 MDT.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Location on 03/30/2009 11:28:41 MDT Print View

Thanks, I saw that old post on the current thread about stays, but hadn't read that far down yet. There's a million articles and youtube videos on fitting a backpack, but they all just say to wrap the belt around your hips - incredibly general. I was looking for something more specific, as that article makes clear. Every time I go into my local REI, their expert backpack guy is either not working, or helping somebody else, and my lunch is over before I can talk to him.


Huzefa Siamwala
(huzefa) - M
Re: Hip Belt Positioning on 03/30/2009 11:47:31 MDT Print View


Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Hip Belt Positioning on 03/30/2009 15:20:42 MDT Print View

In my experience, if you're carrying the weight on your hips, start with the belt centered on your navel. Tighten it securely and retighten it after walking a ways.

If you start with the belt on your hips, as you walk the belt/buckle system will settle as it stretches into it's "working mode". This can pinch nerves and blood vessels and cause numbness in your thighs.

If you start with the belt positioned at your navel, it will settle onto your hips as the belt stretches. When I begin to experience hip or thigh problems it's always that the pack is riding too low on my hips.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Re: Hip Belt Positioning on 03/30/2009 15:32:15 MDT Print View

That's interesting Denis. For me it's somewhat opposite. I like to start with the pack positioned correctly on my waist, just above my butt. Then as things loosen up I tighten the shoulder straps and load lifters if I have them.

Having the hipbelt at my navel for any length of time means all the weight is on my shoulders and is very uncomfortable. I've never had a problem with the waist belt causing pain numbness when correctly positioned.

The key in either case is to continuously readjust the pack to maintain comfort.

Edited by nschmald on 03/30/2009 15:34:16 MDT.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Re: Re: Hip Belt Positioning on 03/30/2009 15:56:50 MDT Print View

Due to an old neck injury I am unable to carry any weight, at all, bearing down on my shoulders. I adjust the pack to support the weight on my hips, with the shoulder straps set to have weight only pulling back, supported on my collar bones.

I can, if necessary, carry my whole pack weight (Luxurylight framed pack, six day trip) without the hip belt, if I over tighten the shoulder straps so all the weight is on my collar bones. It's not comfortable but, when the buckle failed on my pack, I was able to carry on for three more days.

What I have noticed, on the trail, is hikers whose hip belts have fallen below the iliac crest. Their packs are not riding correctly and they often complain of discomfort. That reminded me that last Saturday, in the Berkeley, CA REI I pointed out a customer, trying on a new pack, to a staff member and noted that the pack was about two inches too short for his torso length. The staff member agreed and suggested a longer pack to the customer. Too short a pack puts too much weight on the shoulders and does not allow the hip belt, or the shoulder straps, to do their job properly.

Just some information gleaned from leading workshops for beginning backpackers, since 1987. After missfitting boots, missfitting backpacks cause the most grief. Oh, then there are exploding stoves. LOL, but that's another story.

Edited by redleader on 03/30/2009 15:59:47 MDT.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Hip Belt Positioning on 03/30/2009 16:44:00 MDT Print View

I'm confused. If you start with the hipbelt slightly high and then allow it to sag down onto your hips doesn't that mean that you had to tighten the shoulder straps from the beginning? What's the difference from what I suggested being position the hipbelt at your waist and take up any sag with the shoulder straps or load lifters (I prefer the latter)?

I agree that a too short pack is the worst problem. It's impossible to transfer weight to the hips if the pack doesn't reach the hips.

Edited by nschmald on 03/30/2009 16:45:54 MDT.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Re: Re: Re: Hip Belt Positioning on 03/30/2009 17:21:04 MDT Print View

I never tighten the shoulder straps so they rest on my shoulders. I use the load lifters to raise the shoulder straps completely off (above) my shoulders. That way all the shoulder strap load is, basically, horizontal only, keeping the pack from falling too far back.

I think what I'm describing, rather poorly, is that: (Waists being, generally, smaller than hips) If one starts with the pack on the hips, and it slips down, one might find the hip belt not properly supporting the weight, and the shoulder straps taking more of the load. If this is the case, resetting the shoulder straps to ease the shoulder load only increases the slipping hip belt. By starting with the belt set above the hips - on the smaller waist - the belt will not be as likely to slip below its optimum position on the iliac crest.

A senior pack specialist, Martin, at the Berkeley REI once showed me that the trouble I was having was due to starting out with the pack belted too low. After I started to wear the pack as he had suggested all my problems went away. Well, the slipping belt, knees going numb problems anyway. Many of the other problems disappeared when I heard the lightweight "Word" here at BPL. I went from a 24 pound base weight to a 27 pound total weight for the same trip.

In the end, whatever works for you, works for you. If you carry your pack comfortably you're doing it right.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Too Short Pack on 03/30/2009 20:12:04 MDT Print View

Dennis, how do you tell by looking that a pack is too short? Is it something I could tell my putting on the pack and looking in a mirror? I ask because I had my gf measure my torso based what I found online, and she got 18.5." Then I had a guy a REI measure it and he got 19". But it wasn't that store's pack expert, so maybe he was off. 19" is a med. but it's close enough to a large that if the measurement was slightly wrong, my pack might be too short. I've been trying to get my new med. sized GG Gorilla pack comfortable for about a week, and I'm not sure what I should be feeling on my shoulders. The Gorilla has no load lifters, just a curved aluminum stay. I'm totally new to actually paying attention to fit, so perhaps I'm paying too much attention now- overanalyzing - (if that makes sense) and feeling like the fit is wrong where it's actually fine. If my torso is 19", is there harm is sizing hp to a large? Is a little to big better/worse/same as a little to small?

Thanks everyone for all the help. I just want to be sure I'm not walking down the trail someday when somebody stops me and says, "Hey, did you know your pack doesn't fit you right? It's too short/long?" Followed by me smacking myself on the forehead.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Too Short Pack on 03/30/2009 21:15:00 MDT Print View

Don't smack yourself just yet.

How much of a load do you carry, and do you want that load on your hips or on your shoulders?

Since the Gorilla has an aluminum stay I might assume you want the load on your hips. Since the pack has no load lifters, the pack should be long enough that, when the hip belt is in the proper position, the shoulder straps rise from the front of your shoulder at about 30° to 45°, more or less, from the horizontal. The strap should not rest on the top of your shoulder. The straps should only prevent the pack from tipping backward. That way your skeletal structure, not your joints, support the load.

Load lifters are a very handy device that allow one to adjust the straps on and off the shoulder, thus shifting more of the weight to your shoulders, then to your hips and back. This allows you to change the muscle groups that support the pack, assuming you can carry the load partly on your shoulders. Something I'm not able to do. Not even a day pack.

Load the pack to about 30 pounds, or as much as you'll ever be carrying. Put on the pack and adjust the hip belt to it's proper position. See how the straps fit the above description and go from there. It is easier to deal with a pack that is a little too tall than one that is too short. Remember that the pack contents are part of the structure and always use the compression system to keep the load "tall" and close to your back. It would be an idea to take your "kit" to the store and load the pack in the manner you would while hiking.

If you're getting the pack from REI you're ahead in that you can always return it if it is the wrong size, or the wrong pack. A weekend trip with a kit for five or six days will tell you a lot. Don't forget to include a bear canister, if you'll ever be using one. I'm not familiar with the Gorilla, but with some packs that's a deal breaker.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: Too Short Pack on 03/30/2009 22:59:02 MDT Print View

Dennis, thanks for the input.

I had my girlfriend remeasure my torso, as I have a better understanding of where I'm supposed to measure from. I believer before I was resting my fingers on top of the crest rather than even with the top, plus they might have angled a bit. The new measurement put it at 20". So I'm somewhere between 19 and 20, right on the medium/large line. Here's a picture I took of myself in the Gorilla with ~20bls loaded up, a 3 or so day load for me.pack straps�pack straps�pack straps�pack straps

As you can see, it's nowhere near a 30 degree angle. I have the top of the hip belt aligned with the top of my lilac crest. I don't know if the lack of load lifters makes a difference. I have an Ohm arriving tomorrow in size medium and that has load lifters, so I'll see. I may have to order the large in each if neither feel quite right. I seem to have to curse of falling right on the line between med. and large in everything, making finding something that fits well very difficult.

Again, thanks for the input. It's better to spend a little money in shipping fees than to end up with the wrong sized pack.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Re: Re: Too Short Pack on 03/31/2009 00:01:23 MDT Print View

From the photo I would say the pack is about 2" or 3" too short to allow you to get the weight off your sholders. The attachment point for load lifters is usually at the top of the stays and, on that pack, there is no height for the load lifters to lift. Without load lifters the strap attachment points must ride high enough to allow the 45 degree slope.

Even if you were to raise the pack belt to the level of your navel it would still be too short after it settled into place. IMHO you need a size large.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Re: Re: Too Short Pack on 03/31/2009 12:48:10 MDT Print View

IMHO it is always better to err on the size of a longer pack rather than risk not being able to get the weight off your shoulders. YMMV.

Sean Walashek
(caraz) - F

Locale: bay area
lift and tighten the hipbelt on 04/02/2009 20:56:05 MDT Print View

If you put the pack on without the hipbelt tightened, scrunch your shoulders and then put on and tighten the hipbelt and relax your shoulders, that is where you want it. If when you do that the hipbelt is above your iliac crest then the pack is to small. If on the otherhand the hipbelt wraps around and cradles the hips you have the right size.
(edit: If you have a gut you may find it uncomfortable to have the hipbelt in this location)

Edited by caraz on 04/02/2009 20:57:44 MDT.

Michael Landman
(malndman) - F

Locale: Central NC, USA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Too Short Pack on 04/07/2009 09:23:32 MDT Print View

From the photo I would say the pack is about 2" or 3" too short to allow you to get the weight off your shoulders."

I concur. I can slip a finger or two between the top of my shoulders and my pack's straps. This way, none of the packs weight is carried by my shoulders or back, all the weight is transfered to my hips. My shoulder straps simply press the pack into my back, giving me stability. Similar to Denis, I have a long term back injury that makes it mandatory for me to not load my shoulders.

One should be careful that the hip belt does not end up low enough so that it interferes with one's hip joint movement. This will, in the best of cases cause one to fatigue ones legs, and could cause the nerve issues mentioned above.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: Re: Too Short Pack on 04/07/2009 17:42:38 MDT Print View

James and all-

This will be relatively brief and mildly disjointed, but I plan to come back to it later...

Bottom line, fitting packs as discussed above is fitting them more or less inappropriately. Perhaps it is necessary for comfort with the packs discussed, but that necessity is born out of inadequacy and poor design. Properly fitted, a hipbelt should be centered on the top of the iliac crest. Think of it this way: If you put your hands on your hips and roll them inwards, when you push down on top of the bone (iliac crest) your hands can't go anywhere. That's kind of the point with the hipbelt--you want it to grab your hips/iliac crest in the same way. A pack should typically have about 1.5-2 inches of wrap of shoulder strap, ie from the top of the shoulder down. The photos make the pack look a little long, if anything. The reason people are saying to size longer to get the weight off the shoulders is because most frameless UL packs are woefully inadequate in weight transfer. If they were designed well, you could fit the pack properly. Because the packs aren't designed well, you have to fit them improperly to compensate for the lack of a frame or functional load lifters. That's it for now...

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: Too Short Pack on 04/07/2009 17:52:41 MDT Print View

Thanks, Brad. I made the same (now I believe incorrect) comments as others. Later I tried on a new Ohm and had difficulty getting a good fit. I then went back and tried on my favorite pack (sadly falling apart) a Ghost. The shoulder straps had 2+ inches of wrap around and the load lifters served not so much to transfer weight to the hips but to form the pack to my back. This put the weight on both shoulders and hips in alignment with my spine, at least that's my guess.

I've since sent the ohm back for the medium. Hopefully that will work better.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: Re: Too Short Pack on 04/07/2009 18:47:56 MDT Print View

Just another thought, or continuation...

I think to make some of these packs work you might actually have to fit them "wrong," because they won't work "normally" or "properly." I've been playing with the idea of taking one of these packs at an appropriate length frame and trying to use tent poles to act as a frame. Or maybe just some aluminum arrow shafts, one for each load lifter...

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: Too Short Pack on 04/07/2009 20:11:03 MDT Print View

Brad, thanks for the detailed advice. I emailed Grant at GG, and he asked me to send him some pictures of the pack on me, and his opinion was that it was a good fit. The lack of load lifters on the Gorilla make evaluating fit different than on a pack with them, I think. The shoulder straps are attached to the top of the frame, where I believe the load lifters would normally be attached. That is why there is no wrap-around.
Following what you said, if I understand it, I wear the hip belt with the top coming about 1" above the top of my illiac crest. In that way, the pack fits very well. The shoulder straps "rest" on my shoulders without pressing down on them. The top of the stay aligns almost exactly with my 7th vertabrae. Grant said going up a size would put them about 2" higher. That seems pretty high.

Thanks to everyone for their input. There's surprising little detailed info on how a pack should fit out there.