/ External Frames
Hip Belt (Women)
a good choice!
Aside from boots, the other item essential to your back country
traveling comfort is a good pack. While boots carry you into
the back country, you're the one that ends up carrying the gear.
A well-designed pack containing the features that appeal to
you will help you maximize your enjoyment and traveling comfort
as you make your way into the back country.
Over the past twenty years, packs have undergone an evolution,
and some might say, revolution in design. Looking back to the
earliest days, personal items were often carried by pack animals,
or wrapped in blankets fashioned into a sling and thrown over
the shoulder. Later, the military took an interest in designing
a more efficient means of carrying personal equipment into the
field. This interest increased in the late 1800's as soldiers
were required to carry heavy ammunition with metal cartridges,
which decreased the amount of personal items that could be carried.
As late as the mid-1900's, "pack boards" using wooden
frames, or cotton canvas rucksacks were the preferred method
of carrying gear into the back country, and the military led
the way in design evolution. In the 1950's, the most readily
available and most cost effective way of acquiring a backpack
was to purchase one at a military surplus store.
Dick Kelty is generally credited with taking the first step
towards creating a commercial backpack design. His backpacks
were built for recreational use and utilized a compartmented
pack constructed of nylon (created in the 1930's by DuPont and
commercially produced in the late'30's and early '40's) and
mounted on an aluminum (which became commercially viable in
1888, but not used extensively until the creation of aluminum
alloys) frame. Kelty packs also utilized an integral hip belt,
which allowed much of the weight of the pack to be carried on
the hips, opposed to the shoulders. Prior to that time, the
"tump" line (a strap that ran over the top of the
forehead) was the primary method used to ease the weight on
Kelty packs were light in weight, more comfortable to carry
than the earlier military "rucksacks" or pack boards,
and were an instant success. It might interest readers to know
that there was initially some resistance to using coated nylon
in the pack material. The urethane rubber coatings made the
pack waterproof at the expense of breathability. At the time,
some backpackers were concerned that the lack of breathability
would lead to mildewed clothing. So for a number of years, Kelty
produced packs in both coated and uncoated configurations. Today,
shoppers will have a hard time locating a pack without a waterproof
coating. However, with the evolution of synthetics in clothing
design, mildewed clothing is no longer a primary concern.
Some Thoughts on the Body and the Act of Walking
If only the body moved in one direction when we walked....pack
design would be easy. While there are some that think that the
body does only move in one direction while walking - forward-
there are in fact a number of dynamics happening all at once.
For one, the shoulders make a gentle front to back motion as
weight is transferred from one leg to another. Meanwhile, feet
and legs are lifted so that an individual may stride forward.
A part of this movement occurs at the sides of the hips. And
the middle portion of the torso twists slightly in response
to shoulder movement and compresses slightly in response to
hip movement. How do you physically attach all these moving
points together, add a large weight to the formula, and maintain
a modicum of comfort? Manufacturers have risen to this challenge
in a variety of ways. Some have succeeded. Some are still trying.
Once you're home
When you get your pack home, we would highly recommend that
you load it up with your equipment and go for a stroll in a
local park - preferably a park with some hills. The best way
to ensure you have a comfortable fit is to give the pack a try,
fully loaded before your next big trip into the back country.
You and your pack will be on "intimate terms" over
many miles of trail. That "little spot that doesn't feel
just right" can become a major problem five miles into
your first day.