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fitting internal/external frame packs
Here ya go..... :) -Cindi
>I assume this was directed to me and the posting I did a while ago on how
>to adjust frame packs. I don't have a copy, but I'll do it again and try
>to cover the basics. (If this was not me, nevermind, go ahead and delete
>As I've said before, pack fit, to me is one of the most important parts
>of a trip, and an often neglected one. How can you enjoy the scenery
>when a shoulder strap is causing you to be in agony every step, or a
>misfitted hipbelt won't let you high-step over a log and all you can
>think about is making it to the next rest break?
>Our objective: to get most of the weight of the pack riding on your
>hips, not your shoulders. There are various opinions on exactly how much
>should be on which, I usually say about 80% on the hips, but that is
>really a matter of personal preference.
>If you think about it, this makes sense. The hips are the weight bearing
>bones of the body, not the shoulders.
>There are 2 main components to the suspention of a backpack then: the
>hipbelt and the shoulder straps. The hipbelt is what does the weight
>transfer and it should ride so that it is able to press onto the
>hipbones. Don't wear it like a belt, it should be low enough to press
>onto the hips. Generally, I wear mine a little above even with the
>points of my hipbones so it has some downward pressure onto the hips, not
>just inward pressure.
>So, most of what we do is going to be with the end result to have a
>properly placed hipbelt effectively transferring the weight. To do this,
>we have to adjust the shoulder straps. This is where the difference
>between internal and external frame packs comes in.
>Virtually all internal frame packs have an extra set of straps that go
>from the front of the shoulder strap to the top of the pack. These are
>called "load lifters" (or sometimes "load stabilizers") they have 2
>functions (as the names imply): a) to stabilize the pack b) to make sure
>that any weight being borne by the shoulder straps is taken off and
>lifted back onto the frame of the pack (putting it back onto your hips).
>We'll get back to those in a minute.
>The shoulder straps on an internal frame pack should be anchored to the
>frame about 2 inches below the shoulder (sort of wrapping around the
>shoulder, almost). The padding should cover the area of contact with the
>shoulder and extend a couple of inches down below armpit height.
>On some packs, the lower edge of the load lifter straps (where it is
>attached to the shoulder strap) is adjustable with some sort of sliders so
>you can control where on the shoulder it pulls from. It should hit the
>shoulder strap at about collarbone level. From there, it should go up
>and back at about a 45 degree angle, and hit the frame at about earlobe
>height or so. If the angle is really low, the strap won't lift up so
>much as back, and it won't take the weight off. Similarly, if the angle
>is too high, it won't be able to do the job well either.
>There are also straps on many internal frame packs that go from the
>middle/back of the hipbelt to the bottom of the pack on either side.
>These are usually called "hip stabilizers" playing with these adjusts how
>close the pack rides to the hips. Also, playing with these and the
>shoulder stabilizers can vary the weight distribution (that shoulder/hip
>Many internal frame packs also have a sternum strap which buckles from
>one shoulder strap to the other. Sometimes this is just a convenience to
>keep them from sliding off the shoulders but I find that it is pretty
>much necessary on my pack (a Gregory) to get the "harness" working well
>for my body. It is meant to go across the upper chest (sternum - duh).
>Many packs have a sternum strap that can adjust up and down to get the
>right spot. A note to women: make sure when trying on the pack that you
>can get the sternum strap to a comfortible position, I've heard/seen some
>horror stories, 'nuff said!
>Moving along to external frame packs:
>many of the principles are the same, and in some of the high end
>externals you get all of the neat-o adjustments that the internals have.
>With or without them, you should be able to get an equally (or often
>more) comfortible fit. While the basic principles are the same, there
>are some differences. The biggest one is the shoulder straps. Most
>don't have load lifters. If this is the case, then the shoulder straps
>themselves should be going up at a 45 degree angle from your shoulder to the
>pack frame. Even if it does have the load lifters, the shoulder strap
>should anchor to the frame straight back, not down like an internal.
>I'll mention buying tips is a minute but to interject here, be warned,
>that it is more complicated to make these adjustments on an external
>frame than an internal, usually it involves taking out a pin and moving
>some plastic spacers (it is usually much easier on an internal).
>For this reason, sometimes salespeople are resistant to doing this (or
>even don't know how!). If they don't want to and you feel like you need a
>better fit, tell the guy to piss off and go somewhere else. Don't let
>them bully you into thinking that it will be OK when you get it on the
>trail (more on that later).
>An adjustment that many external frame packs have that many internals
>don't is a floating hipbelt. You can change where on the pack the
>hipbelt in anchored (actually, it is vice versa, but it is simpler to
>think of it that way) and adjust for height that way.
>Which brings me to my next point: adjusting for height (on both internals
>Just because you and your friend are the same height does not mean that
>your pack size will be the same. Pack (frame) sizes are determined by
>TORSO LENGTH, not height. You can be the same height as your friend but
>have longer legs and a shorter torso. You can measure your torso by
>using a soft tape measure (like the fabric kinds tailors use) and having
>a friend measure your spine from the 7th vertibre (the bump at the base
>of your neck) to the point on your spine in between the points of your
>hipbones (usually around to top of your back pocket on your jeans).
>Generally speaking an extra small torso is around 16 inches and a very
>large one around 21 inches. (I'm about 18 inches, a medium in most cases).
>Often manufacturer specs will say which sizes are for what torso ranges.
>When putting on packs, don't worry if your internal rides lower than your
>buddy's external, externals ride higher, you are not carrying more weight
>*do not adjust your set* (or pack)
>Also, before you take off your pack loosen the important buckles:
>shoulder stabilizers, shoulder strap, and hipbelt in that order. This
>will do a couple of things: a) make it easier to take off because it fits
>looser, b) put less stress on the hipbelt buckle when you unsnap it (so
>it doesn't spring back and wear down) and c) make it _much_ easier to put
>back on. It is soooo much easier to aim for a big loose shoulder strap
>than a super tight one and try to wriggle into it.
>When you get the pack on, shrug it up to the right position and tighten
>in the opposite order (hipbelt, shoulder strap, shoulder stabilizer).
>OK, almost home. A quick word about buying a pack. The choice between
>internal and external frames is a tough one, and we can discuss that
>But I would like to say something about shopping for a pack. You are
>buying something that you will have to wear for a long time. Think how
>much effort you put into buying a car and you only spend a couple of
>hours a day in that. Don't let a salesman bully you into getting a pack
>that he things is best for you. If he/she thinks this is the case, then
>ask him to explain the rationale for thinking so.
>Also, try on the pack WITH WEIGHT IN IT!!! Every pack feels good empty.
>If possible, bring your stuff in (packed neatly in stuff sacks) and
>actually pack the pack there (I would do this on second or third trip,
>once you have narrowed it down to 2 or 3 packs).
>Keep the pack on for a while, walk around the store in it for at least
>1/2 hour. See if anything starts to chafe.
>Remember that on most internal frame packs, the 2 stays (which provide
>the frame) casually be custom bent to fit your back. You can do this
>or have the salesman do it (usually they come pre-bent to general back
>shape, you can customize it, but remember when taking the stay out, to
>mark it so you remember which way it goes back in!)
>Also, most internal frame packs have a break in period, it should feel
>better after a week or two on the trail.
>Well, I think that's it. I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff, if you have any
>specifics, feel free to ask.
>University at Albany - Psych, Anthro, Judaic Studies
>"Welcome to the psychotherapy hotline. If you are obsessive-compulsive,
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