Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
The use of chest packs to distribute weight?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Christopher Kayler
(ChrisKayler) - F

Locale: Outside
The use of chest packs to distribute weight? on 09/08/2009 15:50:47 MDT Print View

I realize this isn't a new concept by any means, but I couldn't find too much discussion on this. Perhaps because our bags are already so light.

Well, I recently acquired a lowepro chest pack that fits my dslr, lenses, and every other accesory I need for photography. That stuff alone is about 8-9 pounds. When I attach it to the D-rings on my ULA Catalyst, I definately feel better. More balanced. My 35 pound winter pack won't seem nearly as bad when much of it is located in the front.

Has anyone else used chest packs to distribute weight more effectively?

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: The use of chest packs to distribute weight? on 09/08/2009 15:56:40 MDT Print View

Short answer: Yup. Basically for the same reasons, with the same results. More upright stance, too. I'm pretty sure it was Franco who pointed out to me that (at least some) Aarn packs come w/chest packs.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
The use of chest packs to distribute weight? on 09/08/2009 16:32:53 MDT Print View

Many hostel to hostel backpackers will comfirm that the system works... however if you want to get the real thing, you need the Aarns.
The Aarn system is designed to allow extra freedom of movement, full view and puts the weight on your hips not the shoulders.
Snoqualmie Pass

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Chest packs on 09/08/2009 16:35:02 MDT Print View

That picture looks like the front packs are pulling on the shoulder harness. Obviously they don't. How are they set?

Brett Rasmussen
(ascientist) - MLife

Locale: Grants Pass, Oregon
Chest pack experiences? on 09/08/2009 16:56:28 MDT Print View

The idea seems logical. I would be curious to hear more from chest pack advocates. Anyone care to comment on things like mobility, ground visualization, possible pressure on the chest or abdomen, difficulty of putting on and removing the pack, or situations when it does not work well? I assume there would be frontal pack sweat along with the normal back sweat in many conditions. I don’t think that would be too much of an issue in most cases. What would be a rough ideal division of weight between front and back pack? Any experience using a front Aarn pack attached to a non-Aarn backpack or just using a smaller backpack put on backwards along with a normal backpack?

Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Re: Chest pack experiences? on 09/08/2009 17:38:52 MDT Print View


You might find answers to some of you questions at this URL


Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
chest packs on 09/08/2009 17:52:11 MDT Print View

I have used a camera chest pack, but found that in warm too hot weather I got very over heated and sweaty and gave up on the idea. However, it seems to work well for many people and in cool/cold weather probably wont be an issue. Another problem can be seeing where you are putting your feet.

I now carry a water bottle on each shoulder strap and feel that this has some balancing effect. I also attach my bins to the shoulder D rings when I am on a birding trip and this works very well in terms of keeping weight off my neck.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
The use of chest packs to distribute weight? on 09/08/2009 20:03:43 MDT Print View

That is not really the ideal picture to show how the system works (my posture) but does show that there is a large gap inbetween the pockets that allows ground vision.
The pockets have a stay in them that rests on the hip belt, that is why they do not pull on the shoulder straps. most of the time you could slide a finger under my shoulder straps without feeling any pressure there.
Ideally you would have the same weight at the front as you do at the back.
I don't sweat very much but often I will end the day with a damp/wet back but still a dry front. Others have reported heat build up at the front but that is not the case for me. Note that the contact area at the front is pretty much limited to the straps, the pockets hang on the front of them.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
chest packs on 09/08/2009 20:16:31 MDT Print View

My camera chest pack sat in between the shoulder straps and was close to the chest - hence the problems I found. The Aarn system seems to get round these problems well. As Aarn packs are made right here in NZ I am tempted to get a loaner to try out.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
The use of chest packs to distribute weight? on 09/08/2009 20:36:17 MDT Print View

I suggest you shoot off an E Mail to Aarn telling him your typical load, volume and intended use (terrain) and he will likely find you the right pack for you. He does have a fairly large range...
You could start here
don't forget to check your size.
There are many pages of information including several video clips on the Aarn site, worth having a look.
( I have no connection whatsoever with Aarn Tate except I know that he is a nice guy too)
Jason, next you are going to tell us that you don't use IceBreaker too...( ignore this if you are into Chocolate Fish)

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Icebreaker on 09/08/2009 20:47:25 MDT Print View

Hi Franco,

I am wearing Icebreaker as I type and wear it almost every day - so I am doing my bit for buy NZ :).

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: The use of chest packs to distribute weight? on 09/08/2009 20:57:42 MDT Print View

That Aarn site looks interesting. Anyone use his tents?

Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
chest pack on 09/08/2009 23:30:41 MDT Print View

Using an OMM 4or 5L i dont remember for more than a year now.

- its definitly easier to get my dslr ( an olympus 420 )
- trimmed down the weight is not that bad : 130g
- it gets in the way when i put my bacpack on or off, otherwise its ok
- with the dslr i put only a few minor things like map , so the weight is under 1KG and the difference with having 1kg more in the backpack isnt that noticable.

Ryan Teale
(monstertruck) - F

Locale: Almost Yosemite
The use of chest packs to distribute weight? on 09/09/2009 01:09:11 MDT Print View

I just completed the JMT on Saturday and have done many other hikes with a SLR or DSLR attached to the shoulder harness. I have good balance and feel for the trail with my feet so I don't find any problem with visibility. Poles help in this regard as well. Wearing it a little higher really keep the bouncing to a minimum. It is good to keep the camera handy as well as map, lip balm, sunglasses, and many other things. I wouldn't take many pictures if I had to take my pack off every time. I do think having some weight on the front helps for a more upright stance and posture as well.

Near Whitney Summit

Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
Re: Chest pack experiences? on 09/09/2009 01:45:18 MDT Print View

/brett asked" What would be a rough ideal division of weight between front and back pack? Any experience using a front Aarn pack attached to a non-Aarn backpack?"

Ideally you need the weight in the front to pull forward on the shoulder straps as much as the backpack is pulling back. Usually we put dense things like water in the front and if we are not running they go in the front pocket in front of the front. There they pull forward harder. In other words its not weight its moment that matters.
We have put aarn front pockets on an OMM mountain marathon 32. I made holsters out of webbing on the belt. The balance bit works well and it is lighter than the equivalent Aarn pack. What you do not get is the other Aarn features. I think getting front to back balance right is the most important concept.

edit I also added the same pockets to my ULA circuit. This has a hip belt similar to the Aarn Featherlite freedom in that it allows your hips to move. It is only attached to the sack in the middle of your back. I found this worked really well even with big loads. It does not have the Aarn shoulder strap freedom but If you have balance front to back you can keep your shoulder straps loose and your sholders are somewhat free to move anyway.

Brett also asked about mobility pressure and vision. Aarn pockets allow most vision of your feet between the pockets. There is no pressure as the stays can be bent to avoid any reasonable beer belly. The pockets naturally fall away from your chest and are only stopped by the attachment to the shoulder straps. I have got used to them scrambling but they do get in the way. So do full side pockets on the circuit

Edited by Derekoak on 09/09/2009 09:12:54 MDT.

Christopher Kayler
(ChrisKayler) - F

Locale: Outside
Thanks on 09/09/2009 21:42:04 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the comments everyone. It seems like quite a few people have tried it, and that it works out equally as well for everyone (unless it gets too hot!)

John Frederick Anderson
(fredfoto) - F

Locale: Spain
The use of chest packs to distribute weight on 10/05/2009 12:36:06 MDT Print View

Hi all,

Back hiking after a summer laid up with pneumonia and a cracked rib. Boring, but my mind was on the trail and in the mountains!!

I've been toying with the idea of front packs, and, while I'd like to buy an Aarn pack, the one I want isn't available yet (MM40 with detatchable front pockets) so I decided to make my own.

The shots show how they fit and how they carry. I have a one litre platty in each, and they don't interfere with my arm swing with the pacerpoles, which is fantastic!! I gave them their maiden run today on a 5 hour training hike in the pre pyrenees- and the weight distribution compared to having the extra two kilos in the bag was really well balanced.

Finding UL gear in Barcelona is pretty impossible (thank god for the web), but I found some Lifeadventure silnylon stuff sacks- the pack says 5 litres, but I think that is for the pair, and had a seamstress in my barrio sew on some straps based on my MLD hipblet pockets. I put some low and some high to see what was the best carry, and the low ones work best, so I'll cut off the higher ones. I fix the draw cord to the shoulder straps of the pack with a mini carabiner- not hitech, but it works.

Each one weighs 40g, and of course, they are multi use so if I am not carrying so much water I can put something in them inside the ruck sack. The pack is a Grivel 35, by the way (not ultralight, but super comfy).

I can use half litre plattys to give more space for all day things I use like a knife and trail mix etc too.

Didn't cost much at all to do this, and will really make a difference when I have to camel up some days.

Maybe I'll buy some dyneema and make them a bit more bombproof, but for now, they do the job just fine.

front pockets wide

front pockets close up


Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
cheapo chest packs on 10/05/2009 13:20:37 MDT Print View

Hi Fred,
they look as if you have got most of the weight on the hip belt, in which case they are doing the right thing. Aarn pockets are usually a bit more, round the front, but then they are bulkier. Its easier to get Aarn pockets in Northern England as we have a distributor in Windermere.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: The use of chest packs to distribute weight on 10/05/2009 16:46:29 MDT Print View


Thanks. Great post with photos of the water bottle holder.

I've been putting water bottles in a holder on my hip belt for a few years. I've felt that it was a better carry than on my back but thought it might be just my imagination. Nice to hear other people saying that putting some of the weight forward really does make for a more comfortable carry.

Vaya con Dios,