Here’s how to pack a backpack for when every square centimeter counts, and every strained back muscle hurts.
You’ve probably heard all about it already – especially if you have a young child in elementary school – but a heavy backpack can take a real toll on the human body over time.
In fact, scientists suggest that kids and adults alike should not carry a backpack that weighs more than 10 percent their own body weight. Backpacks much heavier than this can lead to everything from poor posture to an unnaturally curved spine for kids, and can also cause immense back pain or catastrophic injury for adults. In other words, watch what you’re carrying – and how much you’re carrying – in your backpack.
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Back in our schooldays, our backpacks were used to hoist our textbooks from classroom to classroom and from the school to our house and back. Not that we actually liked carrying those lousy books, or enjoyed the amount of weight they both literally and metaphorically placed on our shoulders. We just didn’t have much choice in the matter.
Nowadays, if you are reading these words, your backpack has likely morphed from a receptacle for textbooks and homework into a convenient method of transporting all of your hunting gear into the field. We’d say that’s a better deal.
Still, while an outdoorsman may be happy to carry a heavy backpack because of what’s inside it, that doesn’t mean that the old worries about backpack weight have been rendered moot. On the contrary, as you get older, you actually become more susceptible to debilitating back injury. Unless you want to be bedridden and unable to move a muscle without causing yourself excruciating pain, you had better take a moment to learn how to effectively load your backpack so as to cause yourself a minimal amount of stress.
After all, throwing out your back sucks in any situation, but for a hunter, it’s never worse than when it costs you valuable time in the field.
The key to success in loading a backpack is to distribute the weight of your load evenly. If you are taking your pack on a hunting trip, a hiking expedition, a camping escapade, or a fishing adventure, chances are that you’ve got a lot of cargo you want to take with you. You need to economize the space in your pack while also keeping yourself safe from injury.
Start with a completely empty pack, then place a light base load – preferably containing your sleeping bag, your tent, your sleeping pad, and any other bigger, but lighter-weight items – at the bottom of your pack. This will give nice cushioning to your lower back.
Next, load the heaviest items in your load into the pack so that they occupy central real estate. The heaviest loads should sit against the center of your back when you put the pack on, surrounded by lighter-weight items. The heaviest essentials can vary depending on your outdoor task, from the cooking gear for your campsite to your tackle box, but should always end up in the same spot in your back.
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At the top of your pack, you mainly need to cushion the heavier items. Stuff in any extra clothing and food at the top of the pack, and then zip the pack up. Extra compartments can be used to store your flashlight, your GPS unit, your knife, your first aid kit, your cellphone charger, and anything else you may need to grab quickly at a moment’s notice.
Once the pack is prepared, slip it onto your back, taking the time to tighten the straps to make sure the top of the pack is right up against the back of your neck. In addition, use the pack’s belt to secure the pack across your stomach or chest. You may think it looks silly, but it will help keep your load from swinging around unnecessarily and potentially causing you to lose balance.