View Full Version : Adjusting a pack

John B.
2005-01-28, 18:43
Yeah, this is almost the same as my previous post on packing a pack, but I started a new thread because it's a slightly different question on adjusting/fitting a pack.

To be as straightforward as I can, when the pack is loaded and properly fitted/adjusted, should the hipbelt bear ALL of the pack's weight?, two-thirds of the weight?, half of the weight? none of the weight? in comparison to the shoulder straps?

What I'm getting at is the last time I hiked with my pack, after I adjusted it as I thought it should be, MOST of the pack's weight was supported/carried by the hipbelt. The shoulder straps were bearing little of the pack's weight. Is that how it should be?

If there is an ideal weight bearing ratio between the hipbelt and the shoulder straps, would be be 2/3 on hipbelt and 1/3 on shoulders???

I swear I'd give a bottle of Wild Turkey if there was a single soul at either of the two gear stores in my city who knew even a little bit about the stuff they sell. I asked two of the salesmen if they'd ever done any hiking, and at least I'll give them credit for being honest and answering 'nope'...

2005-01-28, 19:21
I'm glad I don't live there. Kind of like asking for help in a Home Depot/Lowes versus the old corner hardware store.

In my experience, there is no formula. While you want most of the weight on your hips, I usually shift around as I go so that I don't wear one part of my body out. Also, going down hill, I loosen the load lifters and shoulder straps so that the pack leans back a bit, giving me a little better balance as I go. I'm constantly fiddling with my pack. Try it, it might work for you. Either that, or I'm just hyper and need to always be messing with things. :biggrin:

2005-01-28, 23:24
If your pack is under 15% of your body weight, and the shoulder straps are angled correctly, you can ditch the belt. That's rule of thumb. Really, you need to find a hang out and get a SMEE to look you over.

2005-01-29, 08:25
IMHO, as with all things hiking, this should be a matter of personal preference based on or developed with experience, and don't forget that you can adjust this stuff as you're hiking. I think Colin Fletcher (excellent resource) uses the term 'driving your pack', and the adjustments become second nature as you go. The stiffer the pack structure, the more weight you can practically (and comfortably) shift to the hips, which is why I am willing to schlep the extra pound or two of my Mountainsmith Auspex when compared to a freeform bag like a Golite Breeze or others. My personal preference is about 70% or more on the hips, but sometimes I'll throw it all on the hips and let lots of air in between the pack and my back. With that much weight on the hips, the shoulder straps basically just hold the pack in place. When the trail gets dicey and balance is important, I'll loosen the belt and put all the weight on the shoulders. Anywhere in between, it's just whatever feels best at the moment.

2005-01-29, 15:45
The stiffer the pack structure, the more weight you can practically (and comfortably) shift to the hips, which is why I am willing to schlep the extra pound or two of my Mountainsmith Auspex when compared to a freeform bag like a Golite Breeze or others.

Deadeye, thats why I carry a MountainSmith Ghost (and since its quite braggable, I just scored a good deal on what seems to be the last "for sale" MS Boogyman on the planet!)

Im not willing to carry an Auspex ;) but in discussions with Patrick Smith (the guy who founded MountainSmith) he made the very valid point that a bag that rides well on the hips, can weigh more, but feel lighter than a bag that rides only on the shoulders.... the primary human structure base is the hips. Its where everything else comes together.

As for going without a belt... when I want a change of pace, I can take off the belt and clip it behind me... just snug down the belt straps and its like the belt isnt even there anymore.

Ratio of hipbelt to shoulder straps when hiking.... I prefer to keep as much weight as possible on the hip belt. I use the shoulder straps only to keep the bag on my back.Strap pressure is on the front of my shoulders, not the top

2005-01-29, 19:45
Interesting... I chose the Auspex over the Ghost for two reasons: space and the frame. With the Auspex, I can get good ventilation, almost as good as an external frame pack, and my pad can get rolled up inside, so nothing is hanging outside to snag. I thought it was worth the extra pound, 'cause the Ghost felt awful warm and clingy to me. On the same subject, I just got back from a day of snowshoeing, and I discovered that what I thought I did, and what I actually do, were quite different. I got up from lunch, shouldered my pack, and automatically humped it up a bit while I cinched the belt snug. As I started off, I realized that I had as close to 100% of the weight on the belt as I could get, and the shoulder straps just held the pack from falling over. I thought about it some, and came to the conclusion that this is the way I always carry it... not the 70% or so I said earlier.

Maybe I should look at the Ghost again. Maybe I should re-examine my entire life, how I pack, eat sleep... Nah!

2005-01-29, 22:28
Off topic - Im not a big fan of the current Ghost.... Mine is the blue and black original version. I dont know if they changed the suspension any in the new version. I find my version breathes well enough, and I dont pack it so heavy that I cant sling it off a shoulder if I have to to get some air.... plus, I dont like packs that ride higher than my shoulders.

Back on topic-ish - The MS hipbelt is the same as the belt on the Kifaru military packs (designed by the same guy), here is a pic of a kifaru pack with a sleeping bag, and a 1000rnd case of .223 ammo packed into it. Weight is about 40lbs. As you can see in the pic, ALL of the weight is on the hipbelt. The straps arnt even being used. In my opinion, this is the sort of weight support a hipbelt should provide. The ghost, with its delrin hoop isnt quite as solid as this Kifaru pack, but can hold about 15lbs flat to the back without shoulder straps being used. The straps just keep the bag from falling off.

Pic - http://militarymorons.com/equipment/kifaru/img/nostrap3.jpg username and pass are both "mm"