Backpacker’s Bane


When I carry my big backpack on an overnight trip, it bruises my hips. After my first day on the trail, I’m too sore to enjoy the wilderness experience. In fact, I can barely walk. any suggestions?

—Bruised and Battered

Dear B and B,

First, you must delve into your pack and discard every item you don’t truly need. As inspiration, consider that some alpinists remove the plastic housing from their Swiss army knives to shave weight. Others cut their toothbrushes in half. And some don’t even bother with oral hygiene when traveling in the mountains. (Neither Jock nor the American Dental Association recommend this last course.)

Once you’ve ruthlessly minimized the amount of gear you are carrying, the next trick is to position it in your pack. There are two schools of thought: One claims that heavy objects go at the bottom of your rucksack; the other suggests that most of the weight should sit in the center. I lean toward the former but urge you to experiment.

Once your pack is loaded, determine if it is sized properly. The waist belt should rest comfortably on your hip bones. Most modern large-load packs are designed with capabilities to adjust the length of the pack to fit your torso. At a minimum, you can change the length of the shoulder straps to center the waist belt on your pelvis.

Proper clothing is the final consideration. I highly recommend narrow-profile hiking pants worn sans belt to minimize bulk between the pack and your body. If all else fails, I suggest purchasing a llama to help carry your overnight gear.

Happy trails, Jock