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Pack weight transfer question
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Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Pack weight transfer question on 04/22/2011 23:06:37 MDT Print View

I had 2 discs removed from my spine and the 3 vertebrae fused 10 weeks ago. Today I got the go ahead from my surgeon to gradually return to normal activities, including carrying a pack. As I continue to heal, I'd like to avoid as much load on my shoulders as possible. I have 2 packs, a REI Flash 65 with a plastic frame insert and a Golite Pinnacle, which I got in that big clearance and haven't tried yet. It has a foam insert. My question is how much of a difference is there between the two types of frame as far as transferring weight to the hips? It seems obvious that the plastic frame sheet in the Flash would be better but once the Pinnacle is filled, providing additional support to the foam insert frame, it may not be a huge difference. The Flash is only a pound heavier and really comfortable so far so I don't mind using it. But I would like to try out the Pinnacle as well, but that can wait if need be. Any opinions on plastic frames vs foam frames for keeping the weight off your shoulders?

Edited by rlnunix on 04/22/2011 23:07:09 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Pack weight transfer question on 04/22/2011 23:32:46 MDT Print View

I don't have any experience with those two packs, but if you want maximum transfer of weight to your hips, you might want to look at a full frame, such as an Osprey Exos. Very light, with just about as much weight transfer as you can get.

Osprey Exos 46: 37 ounces
REI Flash 50: 29 oz.
Pinnale: 33 oz.

The Exos is the heaviest, yes, but don't underestimate the weight transfer ability of a full frame.

Ken K
(TheFatBoy) - F

Locale: St. Louis
I'm in that same boat. on 04/23/2011 00:31:46 MDT Print View

I had a couple discs removed in November and a triple laminectomy (un-fused). I've been on a slow track back (TAKE YOUR TIME!!!!). I've just started backpacking again, and have been trying to reduce my carried weight. I still need full load transfer, but want a light pack. I have read amazing things about the load transfer of the Six Moon Designs packs with optional hoop or stays. I'm planning to buy a Traveler in the next couple months.

P.S. Did I mention the TAKE YOUR TIME thing? It takes a while... After my first back surgery failed early last year, I was miserable. I had to have a second surgery. I'd rather rehab slowly than go through all that again.

William Zila
(Ultralightwillinn.m) - MLife

Locale: Albuquerque
Osprey talon 44 on 04/23/2011 00:33:33 MDT Print View

Great pack 2lbs 6 ounces awsome weight distribution all around great pack

Eugene Hollingsworth
(GeneH_BPL) - F
Pack weight transfer question on 04/23/2011 00:56:59 MDT Print View

Consider a Gregory pack. It's heavy by UL standars - my new Z-65 comes in at 4 lbs even. Before you discount it for weight though: the pack is designed to put the load on your - lumbar? - by having a padded area that sits just above your butt.

Caveat: I haven't worn mine with more than 15 lbs around the store for a few minutes, but I did loosen up the straps and had little/no weight on my shoulders. It is similiar to the Lowe Alpine 90L that I used for few hikes where I would loosen the straps a lot and let the pack hang loose w/out weight on my shoulders.

I don't have the back issues you have, so really cannot give experienced advice for your particular injury. You might want to find an REI or similar store to try one on and see how it fits.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Frameless Pack Weight Transfer on 04/23/2011 09:55:56 MDT Print View

I had more weight transfer to the hips when I used the REI Flash 50 in frameless mode. It was obvious that the framesheet was "bridging" across the hollow of my lower back, and would therefore slide a bit when I bounced while walking. Without the frame, I could suck the pack into my lower back much tighter - but with a slightly looser hipbelt (ie: not as much pressure felt on the front of my hipbones).

I think to get good weight transfer from a frameless pack, side compression straps (so you can turn the load into a solid lump), and a hipbelt that is very wide in the back (so it sucks the pack into your kidney area) are CRITICAL features. Without them, you need a pack that has a volume that forces you to stuff your gear VERY tightly, so it's a solid lump. Side compression is easier & more versitile (and could be added to your Flash 65 by any tailor).

On the Flash 50, I used a 48" Ridgerest as a tube frame, sleeping bag on bottom, food / kitchen bag next, inslated / camp clothing next, rain gear on top. So most of the weight was centered on my lower back (only light stuff above the bottoms of my shoulder blades). The flash doesn't have good compression, but this was a 65 liter load, stuffed into a 50 liter pack.

That said, the Osprey Atmos was more comfortable by about 25-33%. Not because of weight transfer though. It was because didn't press against my back or shoulder blades anywhere when I bent, twisted, or reached.

I also tried the Osprey Exos. It bounced a lot more than the Atmos, had a softer trampoline that bottomed out when I bent or twisted, and didn't allow me to compress the load anywhere as well.

Good Luck !

Eric Swab

Locale: Rockies
Pack weight transfer question on 04/23/2011 10:21:17 MDT Print View

I have a Flash 65 and just got a Golite Jam. I used the Flash with framesheet and aluminum stays intially and with strap adjustments could carry all the load on my hips and was carrying 30-35 pounds.

When dropping pack weight I took out aluminum stays and framesheet, then cut stuff off of it. I found folding a Ridgerest worked better for me than rolling it, like JG above said with no lower compression straps it is hard to get it to tighten up and keep it close to you. I do think the Flash is very versatile pack and economical pack though that works in a wide range.

I bought a Jam pack and have only used it once on a short day hike with 18 pounds in it and the foam back panel still in. I think it will be a good pack for me (better external storage, bottle holders, etc.) but may not work work your back situation.

If you like the Golite pack style in general, my girlfriend, who has lower back problems too, uses the Quest pack that has a frame similar to the Flash. It looks like a Pinnacle with a top lid added.

You have them both, just try them whenever you can with different packing styles, even if just walking around the block or local park. Sell or return the one that doesn't work out.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Pack weight transfer question on 04/23/2011 10:38:40 MDT Print View

Use a pack with a true weight-transferring frame. From what I read, the Flash 65 has aluminum stays and a frame sheet, so it should do the trick if it fits you properly. A good fit will do as much for your issues as the weight transfer, so pay attention to both.

+1 on the Osprey Exos line. Black Diamond is making some packs with ergonomic, swiveling hip belts and internal frame. I would ask your physical therapist which design is better for your issues-- fixed frame or swiveling.

I've given up on frameless packs. They are wonderfully light, but a pain to load and weak on weight transfer. I think they are great for day hikes or the lightest of overnight trips, but I give up after that. IIRC, the Pinnacle is just a larger version of the Jam and the foam is padding, not structure. The GoLite Quest would be more the equivalent of your Flash 65-- a couple stays and plastic frame sheet.

IMHO, you can stuff all the foam you want in there and it won't give weight transfer like a couple stays and associated hardware. That doesn't mean you have to use a five pound pack. If all the rest of your gear is SUL, the framed pack with carry it with ease and IMHO, the extra pack weight is negligible vs the comfort it provides.

One thing that stood out: do you need that large a pack? If I had medical issues, I would be working on getting the volume and weight of my gear down to a 50-ish liter pack--- or smaller. The larger, taller packs are putting a lot more stress on your back just from leverage.

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
back trouble and load transfer on 04/23/2011 10:55:10 MDT Print View

The best load transfer and comfort I've found has been using a Nimbus Ozone but it weighs 3 lbs 8 oz. But in a effort to go lighter. I have tried a zpacks zero, a GG murmur, a GG Gorilla, a black diamond speed 30, an osprey Exos 34 and a few more.
All wonderful packs but my back is not in such wonderful shape and even though I got my base weight down to 6lbs, I decided I just needed a frame that put the weight on my hips or I would have to give up backpacking.

For load transfer to my hips the best I've found is the ULA Ohm at 23 oz. Even better at load transfer and comfort but a pound heavier, I sometimes use the Marmot daypacks with frames. I've tried the Marmot Zephyr and Marmot Garmsal which weigh 2 lbs 8 oz or so and these I find for my back are the most comfortable, they stand me up straight and put the full load on my hips. But I'm still searching for that perfect pack.

Michael Fogarty
(mfog1) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
External on 04/23/2011 11:07:21 MDT Print View

If your main objective is to carry most of the weight on the hips, I'd consider an external framed pack.(adjustable torso)

As for an internal framed pack, McHale packs are designed to carry all of the weight on the hips, until you begin to exceed 35lbs or so. This is done by making the pack with the shoulder straps positioned above your shoulder crest (top of your shoulders)

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Thanks on 04/23/2011 17:03:50 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the input. This is only temporary so I don't want to buy another pack. I do have my original Camp Trails framed pack I got when I was a teenager. (Hey, I'm sentimental.) I may just use that until I feel comfortable going back to an internal. I won't be the most stylish person on the trail but I can make any gear look bad so who cares? I really like the Flash 65. Very comfortable. So if it turns out the Pinnacle doesn't work out long term, I'll stick with that. Sell which ever one I'm not keeping. I am disappointed that I can't just load the Pinnacle and take it for a spin as I've had it sitting there looking pretty during recovery.

I do need a lot of volume. I am almost always with my dog so I carry a larger tent. And I carry the dog's Zrest because I don't like how it rides on the dog pack. And I have a Kooka Bay wide DAM that takes up quite a bit of room. So I do need a higher volume pack.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Pack weight transfer question on 04/23/2011 19:37:14 MDT Print View

I have a 2009 Pinnacle and I think it would be OK if you're under 20 lbs, but it sounds like that isn't your case. I've only done 2 major trips, but this is what I found, having ~30 lbs total pack weight on both. At that weight, the foam would sort of buckle right at the top edge of the hipbelt. It didn't bother me since your back curves in there anyway. After that trip I added a piece of corrugated plastic and that helped quite a bit except one time where I had 47 lbs in it just to test if it could handle it. I have since removed the foam/plastic and use a 52" blue CCF pad burrito style and that has worked the best so far. My next trip will be with a new 3/16" pad burrito style.