man wearing a backpack in the wilderness

backpacking, backpack, back pack, chiropractor

Backpack – It’s All in the Bag

Dr. Cody Drake

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With spring here, people are likely to hit the trails. This could mean carrying a backpack. You may be asking yourself; ”There is a wall of backpacks here, where do I even begin!?”

REI would just as well have you buy them all. For those of us REI shoppers, we likely want to! That being said there are a few key details to look for in a backpack. There are many different styles and types for varying purposes – all of which are essential to a quality trek. Read below for some tips.

The first thing to think about is the purpose. Each pack is designed for a specific use. Camping packs are large with interior or exterior rigid structure and can hold 40+ pounds. Daypacks are small with some having relatively little structure. All of which are useful, however, some are a little better than others.

The second thing to think about is what you are going to carry. The heavier the load, the more support in a pack you need. Inversely the same is appropriate. Think about how uncomfortable it is to carry that heavy Seltzer 12-pack to your picnic off of one shoulder!

In any event support and weight control is paramount. The heavy loads should be on the bottom of the pack and evenly distributed. This is why the packs that are meant to carry heavy weight have those large hip straps. You do not want heavy loads to rest on your shoulders and neck. Not only does it make your pack more difficult to carry, but also it may throw off your balance and cause you to tumble forward. Nobody wants a face full of trail!

You also want the load to rest on your hip crests utilizing the thick padded hip straps. The main part of your pack rests into your lumbar curve (for larger packs) and the top of your pack should not be above your shoulders. For lighter, smaller packs, the body of the pack should settle between your lower shoulder blades .

The clavicle straps are great for maintaining upright support for larger packs as well as weight distribution along your clavicles for all packs. Make sure to always use the clavicle straps!. DID YOU KNOW?….The only structural connection your shoulders have to your skeleton is through your clavicles and sternum! You want that support! You want to utilize the clavicle buckle on your pack to spread weight and support across this area. When not buckled, the weight of your pack rests on your shoulder girdle and neck/ shoulder muscles. This is why those areas have elevated aching and soreness when the clavicle buckle is not in use in a heavier pack (have you noticed that!?)

You may ask yourself; “How long is too long carrying a pack?”. There is no correct answer to this question. Ultimately listen to your body. If you are constantly shifting your pack or the muscles aches are beyond your control then that is enough time OR you should lighten your load. Remember ALWAYS use both shoulder straps. Having only one arm through the pack might have been cool in 1994, however it can be very damaging to your body. If it is part of your costume though, then rock on!

In summary there is a lot to think about when it comes to choosing the correct pack. I hope this quick reference guide helps. If you have any questions for your goals with use of a pack please reach out to us here at LUW and we are more than happy to have a consultation and discuss pack wearing with you. We are also able to discuss your posture and how that plays a role in pack wearing and consequences of pack use. Shoot us a call anytime, otherwise get out there and tear up those beautiful summer trails and spend that REI dividend!

If you find yourself in pain from backpack usage, consider these Lake Union Wellness services:

Chiropractic Care
Massage Therapy
Back Pain Treatment

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