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Hipbelt Help
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Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Hipbelt Help on 04/08/2014 12:42:14 MDT Print View

Here's a dilemma for the BPL brain trust...

I seem to have a difficult time getting most packs to effectively transfer weight to my hips. I'm mostly dealing with lighter loads (< 25- 30 lbs total), yet by the end of a long day, my shoulders and upper trapezius are sore and uncomfortable from supporting most of the pack weight.

I have a somewhat atypical build, I think, and it might be part of the problem. I have broad, muscular shoulders and upper back from a lifetime of competitive swimming and paddling. I also don't have much in the way of defined hips or a butt for the hipbelt to wrap around or rest upon.

I find most hipbelts won't stay put even when cinched tight around my (non-apparent) hips. The belt inevitably slips down or loosens up enough that most the weight ends up hanging off my shoulders and traps again. My main pack at the moment is a 1st generation HMG Porter. I've been tolerating the poor hip transfer for the last couple of years as i'm strong enough to still accomplish my trip goals, but it's really starting to annoy me.

I'm curious what packs (or hipbelts) others with similar builds have had success with. Or similarly, what design features should I be looking for in a hipbelt? Or maybe there's another pack design element I'm missing that would address the issue like a more built-up lumbar pad?

I'm somewhat resourceful and could possibly retrofit a better hipbelt/lumbar pad to my existing pack(s) if needed. Also not opposed to trying a new pack if it looks like a better solution. Thanks!

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
Pack Design? on 04/08/2014 12:51:47 MDT Print View

I'm not sure whether this will help, but the hipbelt placement is different depending on pack design. With your build, hipbelts made to be worn ON your hips would easily slip down, but some packs are designed so that the hipbelt sits ON TOP of your illiac crest (just below your natural waist). In that position, the belt, when tightened, should be prevented from slipping down by the large bones of the crest...

Rick Adams
(rickadams100) - M
hipbelt on 04/08/2014 13:05:13 MDT Print View

There are many opinions on this subject. Pick the one that makes most sense to you.

I don't know much about your particular pack but understand the fit issue. If it is a framed pack with a traditional hipbelt the first place I'd look at is where you're wearing the belt. It should be centered vertically where you hipbone turns inward on the side of you're body, the lilac crest i believe. When tightened the top portion of the hipbelt should cup over the lilac crest making it difficult to slide down. I think it is the "right" way to wear a pack and the only way if you have no butt to stop the downward slide.

Full wrap vs lumbar pad style works best (with notable exceptions), this creates more body contact and friction against sliding as well as allowing the belt to be tightened without hindering blood flow or squeuzing nerves (done both).

There are probably some myog solutions to be offered by those who know your pack.

Also, my experience is that comfort is particular to the individual and a pack makers weight recommendations mean little.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Hipbelt Help on 04/08/2014 13:20:06 MDT Print View

Read THIS review of the Kalais by Will , he says

The four-pull hipbelt tightening system on the Kalais is remarkable, it allows you to tighten the top and bottom of the wide hipbelt separately, conforming the hipbelt around the hipbone, allowing the pack to comfortably carry heavier loads, with total weight transfer, and not slipping off the hips.

Elemental Horizons uses a removable contoured aluminum stay that is similar to the one used by Gossamer Gear and Six Moon Designs, but its integration into the pack is much better. Rather than a simple straight sleeve on the inside of the backpanel, the stay is more solidly anchored at the top and bottom of the pack, so it transfers weight to the hipbelt better, as my testing results indicate.

Elemental Horizons also has a lumbar support option if that is what you need, I also like the hip belt for ULA and the new Sixmoon designs(designed by Brian Frankle the original owner and designer of ULA)hip belts which have the four-pull hipbelt tightening system. Is the torso length of your pack correct ? Are your shoulder straps fit properly for your shoulder and chest size ?

Edited by annapurna on 04/08/2014 13:21:42 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Hipbelt Help on 04/08/2014 13:20:43 MDT Print View

"I find most hipbelts won't stay put even when cinched tight around my (non-apparent) hips. The belt inevitably slips down or loosens up enough that most the weight ends up hanging off my shoulders and traps again."

Over long days this will happen to everyone. The key is to make sure that the frame length on the pack is sufficient. For packs without load lifters, I always want the frame slightly higher than the top of my shoulders such that if and when the belt does slip a bit, there is no additional load on the shoulders.

Ex. I normally wear a medium pack for most manufacturers, but with my Porter because it has no load lifters, I use a large (with my Mchale in the Guide Harness mode I increase the length of the frame using micro adjusters). I start the day with about an inch of clearing over the shoulders without any issue of stability, although some will claim that this is an issue. If your pack has load lifters, you are going to want more of a wrap over the shoulders so that the load lifters can do their job.

Belt placement: Ideally, the belt should be situated such that top part of the illiac crest is in the middle of the belt. Where is the top part? Right at the sides. The very top of the boney hipbone and not the front. If you have a large gut, then the belt will ride lower than that and if you are really skinny, likely higher.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Hipbelt Help on 04/08/2014 15:20:36 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for the feedback.

I'll have to go back and see how/where my pack lands on my hipbones. As I recall, the belt rides just a hair below the crest or with just a slight wrap around the top of the Iliac crest. Using the typical measuring technique, I have a 20" torso length measurement which puts me squarely in the size Med. ULA packs and size L HMG packs (both of which I've owned).

The way most of these packs are made, each size pack has a 2" or sometimes 3" torso length range, so I'm not sure whether it's even worthwhile to try to size up (or down) in either brand or if I instead should try to find a different pack that would allow for either a custom fit or greater fine tuning of the torso length in smaller ~1" increments. Assuming my recollection of where my hipbelt rides (above) is correct, I really only need a minor adjustment of its placement.

I agree that full wrap hipbelts and/or those with double buckles seem to get closer to transferring the weight. I think that's something I'll definitely look for on my future pack(s). The belt on the HMG Porter just doesn't wrap far enough around or hold tight once set. Interestingly, my Porter's hipbelt is removable so there might be opportunities to replace it with a different full wrap-style belt assuming I can find one that fits the lumbar belt sleeve.

Thanks again everyone.

zorobabel frankenstein
(zorobabel) - F

Locale: SoCal
full wrapping hipbelts are great on 04/08/2014 15:44:33 MDT Print View

Some 4 months ago, I finally got around to replacing the hipbelt system on my winter pack. I had carried this pack for a bit over a decade, and have attributed the slipping hipbelt to the big loads carried. It had a winged hipbelt of sorts and a lumbar pad that was way to wide for my 30" waist. I modified the pack to use a wrap around hipbelt, I modified the lumbar pad to almost half of it's original width, and replaced the 25mm padding with 2mm padding (I had to keep the lumbar pad to stabilize the hipbelt and to keep a velcro attachment on the belt from rubbing against my back). The wrap around hipbelt was a huge improvement for me. I no longer have to think about the pack and the hip/back/shoulder pain, and can focus on other things, like foot pain :)

Edited by zorobabel on 04/08/2014 15:46:50 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: Hipbelt Help on 04/08/2014 16:32:03 MDT Print View

Valerie said, "some packs are designed so that the hipbelt sits ON TOP of your illiac crest (just below your natural waist). In that position, the belt, when tightened, should be prevented from slipping down by the large bones of the crest."

This is what you need.

ULA and Kalais belts use essentially the same "four buckle system", which helps a lot to "pocket" the hip bone on the belt. However, close examination reveals that the pull on the four buckles is equalized as they are all routed through a single point attachment (dead center on the front).

McHale goes one better, using two actual buckles, allowing for a differential between the tightness of the top and bottom of the belt. With this system, if the top inch of belt width is above the illiac crest, it can be tightened there to prevent slippage, which the lower half of the belt can be a bit looser.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Hipbelt Help on 04/08/2014 17:16:08 MDT Print View

I don't think a burlier lumbar pad is the right way to go. Rather, a true full wrap belt like the Paradox or some McHale packs is worth a try. Even the least butted among us have some widening from the waist to the hips. If you cinch the belt on this point, and there is no gaps between padding sections to stretch and create extra space, you should be all set.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
Re: Hipbelt Help on 04/08/2014 18:50:50 MDT Print View

I'm also wondering whether the new SMD Fusion packs might work, if you're not in the market for the Paradox/McHale price range. If I recall, the Fusions have a 2-buckle system with a full wrap belt...might be just the thing -- for under $250!

Having a female shape, I don't experience much belt slippage, but I find that belts worn slightly higher (i.e., toward the top of the illiac crest) are more comfortable in the long run.

belt on 04/08/2014 19:35:37 MDT Print View

Belt fit, belt style, lean, fat, and torso lenght all combine to make a belt work, or work against you.

With a long enough torso lenght, I assure you that you can keep the weight off your shoulders.

John H
(pastyj) - F

Locale: SE US
Re: belt on 04/10/2014 08:11:03 MDT Print View


Given your problem description, and your build, I agree with MB. I am willing to bet you could solve (or nearly solve) the problem with a pack with a longer torso, i.e. you may need to get a pack whose torso length is greater than your actual measurement.

Regardless of how a belt actually fits, at some point it stops slipping down...unless it allows the pack to slip all the way to the ground :) Assuming the belt is still comfortable once reaching that point, your shoulder straps should still be off the top of your shoulders and the only pressure they exert is on the front of your shoulders as they keep the pack from falling backwards.