4 Tips To Carrying A Backpack Without Hurting Your Back
People have been carrying backpacks for centuries, but in recent years chronic back pain has become a real nuisance to society. Part of the reason is because of obesity and inactivity. But another huge factor in back pain is how we carry backpacks. You might not think they’re that big of a deal, but think about this……what do you carry your books in everyday that you’re at school? What do you carry while you travel? While you go hiking? When you go to the gym? Backpacks play a huge role in our lives, and if we don’t use them correctly they can cause a lot of pain. That’s why I’m writing this article to give you 4 tips to carrying a backpack without hurting your back.
1 – Carry 15% Of Your Bodyweight…At MOST!
The recommended carrying weight for a backpack is only 10% of your bodyweight. But you should keep a strict cap at 15%
Let’s say you weigh 150 pounds…that means the recommended limit is 15 pounds, but you should definitely not go over about 22.5 pounds. Anything heavier than that can alter your posture.
If you do that for long periods of time it can seriously hurt your back.
2 – Put The Heavy Stuff At The Bottom
Especially when traveling or hiking, you are forced to carry heavier objects than if you were just going to class.
Studies show that if you load the heavier stuff on the bottom is has a lesser effect on your spinal curvature.
3 – Even Everything Out
When you’re loading a bag up, place an even amount of weight on the right and left sides. Studies show that this tactic reduces lateral spinal motion.
The same should go for tote bags, but we’ll get into those next.
4 – Always Double Strap It
The neck is a major weak point in the spinal column. Studies show 2omen are more susceptible to injury in that area, as well as people who sit a lot.
To take pressure off the neck area always place both straps of a backpack over your shoulder. It allows you to place the load evenly across both upper trap muscles.
If you absolutely have to carry a travelers bag or a tote, just switch sides frequently, and keep the load light.
I hope you found this article informative, and you take a second to share it on facebook. You’ll probably also want to know 8 Simple Lifestyle Changes That Burn Over 100 Calories In No Time.
About Adam Pegg
Adam is an athlete with a serious passion for fitness and health. He played basketball at University of Delaware and Stetson. His degree is in health science and he’s a certified personal trainer who loves helping people reach their goals.
How Should A Hiking Backpack Fit? (Read This First!)
The straps should be adjusted so that they sit two inches below the shoulder. The pack should end at your waist and not above your hips. Attaching the hip belt to the pack will allow you to see how the strap fits. If it is too long, you may need to shorten it. Padded Shoulder Straps The shoulder straps should be padded to prevent them from slipping off your shoulders.
A padded shoulder strap can be purchased at most sporting goods stores, or you can make your own by cutting a piece of fabric to fit your shoulder and attaching it to the back of your pack. Make sure that the padding is not too tight or too loose, as this will affect the fit. You can also purchase a shoulder pad from your local sporting good store or online.
Table of Contents
How do I know if my backpack is too small?
If there is too much space between your shoulders and the shoulder straps, or if the anchor point of the shoulder straps is to high or low, the backpack may be the wrong size or the torso may not be long enough.
If you have a long torso and a short torso, you may need a longer backpack. If your torso is long and your hips are short, a shorter backpack might be right for you.
Where should my backpack sit on my hips?
You always want to fit your backpack from the hips up, starting with positioning the middle of the hip straps directly on top of your iliac crest. Make sure they’re tight, and give them a strong tug. It will give you a solid foundation to work from.
It’s pretty simple, but it’s important to get it right the first time. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a bag that’s too baggy and won’t be able to carry as much stuff as you’d like.
How low should your backpack hang?
Your backpack should hang just below the shoulders with the bottom in your low back curve. Don’t allow it to hang more than 4 inches below your waist. It’s a good idea to pack it to minimize the weight on your shoulders and hips.
If you have a backpack that is too big, you may want to consider a smaller size. If you are carrying a lot of gear, it may be a good idea to buy a small backpack.
How do you wear a backpack without hurting your back?
Carry and pick up the backpack properly: The pack should rest evenly in the middle of the back and not sag down to the butt. If you pick up the backpack the right way, you can avoid back injuries. Lifting a heavy load requires you to bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands.
The pack must be placed on a flat surface. If it is on the ground, it will not be able to support the weight of your body. It is best to place it on an elevated surface, such as a table or bench, so that it can support your weight.
How big of a backpacking backpack do I need?
Daypacks range from 20 liters to 35 liters on the high-end. While a smaller-sized backpack is usually sufficient for 1/2 day hikes, you will want a larger pack in the 35-liter range for all-day hikes so you can carry extra water, food, and gear. Best Backpacking Backpacks For Beginners The best backpack for beginners is one that is easy to use and comfortable to wear.
It should be light enough to fit in your backpack, but not so light that it’s uncomfortable to carry. The backpack should also be able to handle the weight of your gear, which means it should have enough room for your sleeping bag, tent, sleeping pad, water bottle, or other items you might need on a long hike. For more information on what to look for in a good backpack and how to choose the right one, read our beginner’s backpack guide.
Why is backpack fit important?
Having an ill-fitting pack can lead to excessive pressure in your neck and shoulders. If the weight isn’t distributed evenly, you will be thrown off-balance. You will not be able to walk with correct posture and you will have to compensate in order to keep your balance.
If your pack is too big, it may be too heavy for you to carry. If it’s too light, your weight will be distributed unevenly, making it difficult to maintain proper posture. And if you’re carrying too much weight, the pack may not be strong enough to support you.
How to Avoid Hiking Backpack Back Pain – the Battle Proven Guide
No matter if you go hiking or mountaineering, if you’re on a multi-day hike, there is no way around a heavy backpack. All the things you need to set up camp like a sleeping bag, cooking gear, your tent plus freshwater and food are heavy. And in most cases, your lower back is the crucial part carrying the weight. You don’t need to be especially prone to back issues to profit from these tips on how to avoid hiking backpack back pain. This guide is battle proven and backed by science, so read on for the details!
An ergonomic backpack and some simple rules will lay the base to avoid hiking backpack back pain. This post will be split into multiple parts:
Bio Mechanical Basics: Your Back in Easy Words Explained
Your back consists of the sacrum, and the sacroiliac joint (SIJ), which connects to the spine. The SIJ connects the Sacrum and spine to each other, and as thus it connects back and leg muscles and transfers loads to your legs. This joint is particularly important if you carry a heavy backpack on a hike. In fact, it constantly moves when you walk around with your backpack, and that’s why a blockage in the SIJ causes back pain. Source article found here.
How Back Pain Is Caused When You Hike With a Heavy Backpack on Your Back
On a hike there are some situation that lead to blockage and then back pain: If you step into air because you miss a step or rock, or if you stumble, these things frequently lead to misplaced loads and then blockage of the SIJ. But chronic distress during your normal workday lead to back pain as well. Long static sitting at work, wrong movement when you carry loads, etc. can lead to blockage. Even if you don’t feel any pain in normal life, under load of a back pack these issue pop up.
A heavy backpack causes back pain when weight is placed on your joints in the wrong way. The basics are simple: You want a heavy weight to be evenly distributed on upper and lower body. A backpack has shoulder straps and a waist band. The shoulder straps transfer to the shoulder, the waistband to the legs, via the back. The weight which is transferred to the legs can be transferred through the sacrum or the pelvic bone. Any weight transferred to shoulders will go directly down the line to your SIJ and then the leg muscles.
The SIJ connects your back with the the legs via the sacrum, and any load placed on it directly will be transferred via the sacrum to the leg muscles. But the SIJ is particularly sensitive to displacement of the moment of inertia of loads, as are most joints. In some ways, the SIJ is similar to the conical grinder of a coffee machine: If you place a load on top of it and move it, it cannot move freely, as the gap for free movement reduces.reduced. The consequence is back pain.
Reduce Back Pain by Reducing Weight Placed on the SIJ and Sacrum
Your goal should be to reduce the load to the SIJ. If you want to do this, you have only one option: Put more load on the pelvic bones or waist. Don’t let the shoulder straps fool you: The weight that you place on your shoulders transfer down to your sacrum and SIJ more ore less directly, bio mechanically speaking. It follows the shortest route, and that’s a straight line directly down to your Sacrum. If you ever wondered why your lower back hurts when you wear a backpack without waist band / hip belt, this is the reason. But how to reduce the load on the SIJ? You have two ways that complement each other nicely.
A) Use a Waist Band / Hip Belt to Transfer Load Directly to Your Pelvic Bones and Then Legs
A carrying system that’s useful from a biomechanical viewpoint is reducing load on the shoulders and instead places it on the pelvic bones. This makes sure the weight is directly transferred to the leg muscles, without stressing the SIJ and Sacrum. As a consequence, the Sacrum is not displaced, and the gap between SIJ and Sacrum is nice and wide. This ensures free movement and no grinding (remember the coffee grinder!). To put the weight on the pelvic bone, carrying systems have a waist band / hip belt. This band ideally sits tight on your body, and if you adjust it correctly, the transmission of weight on the pelvical bone relieves the SIJ a lot. You can even have more than half of weight going directly to your legs this way!
B) Pack Your Backpack Right, I.E. With the Centroid Placed Correctly
Another way to reduce load on the SIJ is to pack the backpack right. A backpack that is packed correctly needs to have the centroid as close to your body as possible. If it does, then as much as 70% of the weight can be transferred to your legs directly via the pelvic bone, and only 30% are transferred via the shoulders and SIJ. Obviously, you cannot reduce the amount of weight transferred via shoulders to 0% as you always need them for stability and balance. Follow these tips to ensure the centroid of the backpack sits nice and tight to your body:
- Put light items to the ground, heavy items as close to the body as possible, less heavy stuff further away from your body
- Light terrain hiking: Centroid of weight close to body and at height of the shoulders
- Difficult terrain hiking: Centroid a little below the shoulders, to give more stability when going steep downhill and climbing
- Use side pockets to evenly distribute the weight on left and right side
How to Adjust Your Backpack to Reduce Hiking Backpack Back Pain
If you want to adjust your backpack, you first need a good carrying system. So my first advice is to buy a quality backpack. There are many good brands including Vaude, Lowa and Osprey to name a few. If you buy a backpack, pay some attention that the backpack fits your anatomy. What this means: Width of shoulder straps, shape of the waist band / hip belt, length of back piece and length adjustment of the carrying system. You should also pack the backpack with realistic weight, aka if you try it on in the store, bring some gear to stuff, and make sure to loosen all the straps BEFORE trying.
For adjusting the hiking backpack correctly to avoid back pain when hiking, follow this easy to remember sequence:
A) Adjust the waist band / hip belt first, place it on the middle of the pelvic bone on an area known as the iliac crest.
B) Adjust shoulder straps: Carrier inserts should be at height of your blade bone. Don’t make the classic mistake of pulling the straps too tight, as this moves the weight too much over the shoulders and away from your pelvic bone where you want it.
C) Adjust chest strap: Its used to keep the shoulder straps in position.
D) Adjust the angle and stability of the load via the load adjuster straps.
Once you have all these adjusted, you are ready to go.
Use Sticks to Avoid Back Pain Both Ascending and Descending
No matter how good your carrying system is and how much care you pay while packing the backpack, if you have a heavy backpack your centroid is shifted backwards. Your bodys natural reaction is to lean forward while walking, which puts you in a bio mechanically problematic posture due to reduced freedom of movement in your SIJ and will lead to back pain in the long run. Ascending only makes this worse.
If you know how to use them, sticks are a great way to reduce the forward leaning while ascending and walking on a plain surface, and also help while descending. Sticks also help you to transfer weight force directly via your arms to the ground, relieving your SIJ. For most hikers they will also be really comfortable as they reduce load on the leg muscles and help utilizing arms while ascending. This leads to more even distribution of stress, and lets you hike longer and with less fatigue on individual muscle groups.
Sticks are also a great way to reduce load on knee and leg joints while descending. They also help you maintain upright posture when descending. Without sticks, many hikers tend to lean backwards while descending, which leads to an unnatural foot position where the heel is absorbing most of the load. This load is then transferred into the SIJ which in turn leads to even more back pain. Sticks reduce this, as they help you maintain an upright ad stable position, where you can naturally roll your feet while descending.
If you want to avoid back pain from your backpack while hiking, make sure to adjust your backpack correctly. Most back pain from heavy backpacks is caused by incorrect load transfer to the SIJ and Sacrum. A properly adjusted backpack transfers as much as 70% of the weight directly to the leg muscles via the pelvic bones, reducing load on the SIJ and Sacrum, and if you follow the steps above you can adjust it yourself easily. If you liked this post, feel free to leave a comment and read on some of your other gear related posts!
I’m Jim and this is my place where I talk and write about climbing stuff. As an avid climber and family man, I love to be outside and spend the day climbing, camping, and having a good time.
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