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Need help with adjusting my backpack
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Henry Shackleton
(asportking) - F
Need help with adjusting my backpack on 05/28/2012 18:17:37 MDT Print View

Ok, so I'm going to be going to Philmont in a month, and I've been trying to get out hiking with my backpack more. However, no matter how I adjust it, it's always feels uncomfortable. If I put the hip belt on top of my hip bones (keep in mind that I'm sort of skinny, so when I say I put it on my hip bones, I really do mean they sit right on top of them), my hips get really sore after a while. If I put the hip belt around my hip bones, the belt starts rubbing against my hips and starts wearing away at my skin. If I loosen the belt up so that I'm putting 40% or more of the weight on my shoulders, it starts wearing away at the bottom of my back (I'm not really sure why; I have a suspicion that the back of the backpack's sitting on the top of my butt). How would you suggest I adjust it so that it's comfortable? Keep in mind that rotating between the three ways I mentioned during the hike isn't really an option- it starts to become unbearable after about an hour, and I don't think that's enough time for the other parts of my body to recover. Thanks!

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
You are not alone... on 05/28/2012 18:54:50 MDT Print View

This has been an issue for me too. I am also thin and don't have much natural insulation/padding on my hips, just skin it seems. For heavy loads, the solution for me was to get a fully customized pack with adjustable torso length, a smaller molded hip belt from a women's pack, and different sized shoulder straps. After some tweaking, I found that 60% on the hips and 40% on the shoulders was about right. My hips were raw for weeks while training but toughened up. I am going through it all over again for this season now with a different/lighter pack.

What kind of pack are you using?

Henry Shackleton
(asportking) - F
Re: You are not alone... on 05/28/2012 19:04:25 MDT Print View

Currently, I'm using this pack:

I'll try tweaking with the straps, although I've been doing that since I got them, and I haven't gotten much luck. Theoretically, if I were to just tough it up with my sore hips and keep walking, would my hips get used to it after a while, or would it just damage them?

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Weight on 05/28/2012 19:30:05 MDT Print View

How much weight are you carrying? That is a really big pack.

The easiest way to make your pack more comfortable is no have less in it.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Need help with adjusting my backpack on 05/28/2012 19:36:37 MDT Print View

It really sounds as though the pack doesn't fit. This is one occasion when it's a good thing you bought it at REI, because if it isn't working for you you can and should return it.

I suggest you box up all your gear (including the weight/volume equivalent of the food you'll be carrying), take the box and the pack to REI and get fitted with a new pack, using your gear. Walk around the store with fully loaded pack for an hour and see how it feels.

I agree with Greg that you have an enormous pack. I can go out for 10 days with a 43-liter pack (plus side pockets). How much weight are you carrying?

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/28/2012 19:38:25 MDT.

Henry Shackleton
(asportking) - F
Re: Weight on 05/28/2012 20:04:32 MDT Print View

It's only like 37 pounds. It's a big pack, but I'm packing as little as I can (it's probably going to end up being around 30 pounds for Philmont, but I'm trying to get used to carrying more weight), so there will probably be some extra room in it.

I'm not sure if I'd be able to return it in time. I live about 12 hours from the nearest REI (I bought it when I happened to be visiting a city with an REI), and if I sent it in by mail, I don't even know if I'd get the new one in time for the trek, and I certainly wouldn't have enough time to break it in and get used to it.

Speaking of getting used to it, the backpack's pretty new, and I've only gone on a dozen or so short 4-5 mile hikes with it. Maybe I just need to break it in?

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Re: Weight on 05/28/2012 21:42:58 MDT Print View

That 85L REI pack seeks way overkill. For a couple pounds less, you may want to consider something like the REI Flash 62 (which is on sale). 62L should be big enough for a bear canister for other trips, have enough room for short winter trips (bulkier gear), but will be somewhat floppy for overnight trips (in this case, line your pack with a trash compactor bag and stuff all your clothes and sleeping bag in there to take up space, compression sacks make small hard to pack rocks).

No matter what pack you go with, have someone help with correctly measuring your torso length before ordering if you swap packs.

Edited by radio_guy on 05/28/2012 21:46:28 MDT.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Ideas on 05/28/2012 22:24:42 MDT Print View

Have you looked at videos on how to adjust all the straps on your pack. Loosen all the adjustment strps then put on the hipbelt an tighten, then put on the shoulder straps and tighten them until snug but not loaded the pull the load lifters tight. For me this gives me a good fit. For my hipbelt i put the top of my hip belt just under the top of my hipbone. This is a lot lower than many people but it works for me.

Pack fit is very personal so keep trying different things. Also try changing the torso length and see how it affects your comfort.

If you do have some money you might want to buy a second pack from rei and keep it until you decide which one works better. This wpuld give you a backup if the current pack doesnt work and you can return any of them whenever you want when you get near a store.

The heaviest pack I would ever consider for an average backpacker is

rowan !

Locale: SF Bay Area
Something to try on 05/28/2012 23:58:56 MDT Print View

Of course this won't solve the problem of the pack not being a great fit, but it might help you be more comfortable temporarily. You can fold a spare T-shirt into a long narrow shape and wrap it around your hips under the hip belt for some padding. I've done this on occasion and it helps quite a bit. A friend of mine does essentially the same thing with a couple of pieces of sheepskin.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Need help with adjusting my backpack on 05/29/2012 00:00:15 MDT Print View

I would also recommend double checking pack fit and make sure you are adjusting the straps correctly. It is possible that it might be fitted properly, but it's just the wrong pack for you. My experience is that not all packs are comfortable for all people. One thing that makes a big difference is the shape of the pack against your back. Some packs let you adjust this by bending in the stays, some you are stuck with, they are either good or bad for an individual. The other is there is a huge variety in waist strap… thickness, height, type of attachment.

It's possible (provided you have the muscles) for the right pack to carry 80+ lbs comfortably on the hips for hours. If you are only getting an hour, something is very wrong.

If you end up decided to switch packs, I will observe that I have trouble imagining any reason you would need more than 50-60L and say 35-40lb unless you are planning a trip that was more than a couple of weeks without resupply.


John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Need help with adjusting my backpack on 05/29/2012 04:25:40 MDT Print View


Return the 5 pound pack and take Mary D's advice.

"I'm not really sure why; I have a suspicion that the back of the backpack's sitting on the top of my butt".

This indicates to me that the torso length of your present pack is quite possibly too long for you.

+1 for the following quote.

"I suggest you box up all your gear (including the weight/volume equivalent of the food you'll be carrying), take the box and the pack to REI and get fitted with a new pack, using your gear. Walk around the store with fully loaded pack for an hour and see how it feels".

You might feel a little strange doing this and you'll definitely look a little strange to the average REI shopper but it will be worth it. Don't forget to allow for the weight of whatever loaded water bottles / hydration reservoir you plan on carrying during this test.

Remember there are a lot of hot lights in those REI stores and you must remain well hydrated at all times. ;-)

FWIW my MYOG pack is a little over 18 ounces, has no stays or frame sheet and I carry a maximum of 23 pounds including water, food and fuel. I had no problem going 5 days+ on the trail on the AT last year.

I know you'll hear this a lot on this forum but lighten your pack, shelter and sleeping gear. Always think in dual use terms for carried items. For example your rain jacket, if you carry one, can be an extra layer of insulation for you at night when you turn in.

Get a properly fitted, lighter pack and lighten your load. Based on your physical description of yourself I'd recommend a well fitted and padded hip belt in your case since unlike me you aren't equipped with padding of your own like I am.LOL

Party On,


Henry Shackleton
(asportking) - F
RE: Need help with adjusting my backpack on 05/29/2012 04:42:40 MDT Print View

Thanks a ton for your suggestions.

I know the pack was a bit of an overkill, but I tried on most of the backpacks they had (with 20-30 pounds in it), and this one honestly felt like it fit me the best at the time. I'll try out the suggestion of wrapping a shirt around my hips, it seemed like a good idea.

As for the torso length being too long, I did have my torso measured at the store, and they adjusted the pack for that. However, I did mess around with that when I got back (the hip belt was a little crooked), so I might have accidentally made it long. I'll see what I can do.

Again, thanks a lot to everybody. It's starting to worry me how many people are telling me to return the pack; as I said, I live far away from the nearest REI, and I don't know if I'd have time.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Need help with adjusting my backpack on 05/29/2012 08:07:59 MDT Print View

Part of everyone saying take it back is just the forum you are on. Here a 2lb Backpack is a heavvy backpack and carrying 30lbs is a heavy load. Also there is almost never a reason to have an 85L pack.

But if you can get the pack comfortable for you then go out and use it. If after the hike you decide you want something smaller than take it back when you have time. The nice thing about REI is that you can try out the pack in the field and if you don't like it take it back when ever.

That pack is perfectly fine to use, it definately isn't the most efficient use of space or weight but it will work.

One other thing you might want to ensure is that you are keeping the center of gravity of the load close to your back and close to the bottom of the back. If you have any heavy stuff like food above your head the back will tip back and forth putting more load on your body. If you can keep the back fat and wide rather than tall and skinny it should be more comfortable.