Packing your Pack
You want the pack to adopt a tall, thin profile. Remember to maintain side-to-side balance as well – a pack that leans over to one side places excessive pressure on your spine and irritates your shoulders. Make a point of getting as much gear inside the pack as possible. Odds and ends strapped on all over the outside of the pack wreak havoc with balance, especially if they are free to swing around. Finally, the top pocket has a tendency to become the repository for many, many small items that add up to significant weight and often make the pack distinctly top-heavy – be careful!
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Pack sizes are based on your torso length. This measurement is taken from your C-7 vertebra down to the top of your iliac crest. Height and weight have nothing to do with pack size, so please correctly measure this. Keep in mind that the main reason you want a correctly fit pack is to allow for a comfortable ride.
Pack volume is the next area to address. For the length of our trip, and without knowing the volume of medical supplies we will be asked to carry, I would suggest a pack in the 3500-4500 cubic inch range. Mountain Child suggests 65L (4000 ci) as the upper limit you should bring, but this is likely to keep people from filling their packs up with useless gear just to fill the space.
Pack configuration is a personal choice. A few things to look for though are a separate compartment within the main bag for your water bladder, good configuration of compression straps on the pack to allow you to keep the load secure as the volume of gear decreases (as you eat your food, you’ll have more and more space each day) and if you don’t want to use a water bladder, make sure the pack has water bottle pockets that you can reach a bottle and put a bottle back in without removing the pack.
It’s critical that you purchase a pack that fits you correctly. Even if a pack is the correct size for you, try it on in a store with weight (35-45lbs) in it and walk around with it in the store for a while to get a feel for it. Six Steps to a Great Fit Your goal is to have 80% to 90% of the load weight resting on your hips. To achieve this, start by putting about 10 to 15 lbs. of weight into the pack to simulate a loaded pack. Follow the steps below in front of a mirror. Get a friend to help if possible, or visit an REI store for more assistance.
Step 1: Hipbelt
- First make sure all the pack's straps and hipbelt are loosened.
- Put the pack on your back so that the hipbelt is resting over your hip bones.
- Close the hipbelt buckle and tighten it.
- Check the padded sections of the hipbelt to make sure they wrap around your hips comfortably. Keep at least 1" of clearance on either side of the center buckle.
- Note: If the hipbelt is too loose or tight, try repositioning the buckle pieces on the hipbelt straps. If this doesn't solve the problem, you may need a different pack (or hipbelt).
- Pull down and back on the ends of the shoulder straps to tighten them.
- Shoulder straps should fit closely and wrap over and around your shoulder, holding the pack body against your back. They should NOT be carrying the weight.
- Have your helper check to see that the shoulder strap anchor points are 1" to 2" inches below the top of your shoulders.
- Load-lifter straps are located just below the tops of your shoulders (near your collarbones) and should angle back toward the pack body at a 45-degree angle.
- Gently snug the load-lifter straps to pull weight off your shoulders. (Overtightening the load lifters will cause a gap to form between your shoulders and the shoulder straps.)
- Adjust the sternum strap to a comfortable height across your chest.
- Buckle the sternum strap and tighten until the shoulder straps are pulled in comfortably from your shoulders, allowing your arms to move freely.
- Pull the stabilizer straps located on either side of the hipbelt to snug the pack body toward the hipbelt and stabilize the load.
- Go back to the shoulder straps and carefully take a bit of tension off of them. Now you're ready to go!
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