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Backpacks: Tips on Preventing a Sore Neck or Shoulders for Old People

We're not getting any younger and the things that many of us did when we were younger no longer are easy. Case in point, wearing a backpack. This seems like a simple activity and should be relatively straightforward, however, don't make the same mistakes that I made the weekend before last. I am still recovering from that one.

Since we're filming in the park, the amount of gear that I have in tow now has increased. Let's just say that overall, the amount of 'stuff' has exponentially increased from stuff for the little one to filming equipment, we're not shedding any pounds.


So I bestow upon you some tips based on the research and limited testing that I have done since that fateful day when we trekked 9 miles and that bag was not properly fit on my back. Don't get me wrong, you're 25, you eat your Wheaties, and deadlift 350 -- I doubt you'll have an issue. Deadlifting 350 is in the past for this guy.


Recommendations from Experts on Backpack Wearing

These are from a number of resources, so find what works for you and stick to it. You definitely don't want to be in our situation with an angry shoulder and arm that can't be raised at all.

  1. Size: This is critical and more difficult than just saying find the right size. If you're thru-hiking, ignore all this, all bets are off. But if you're venturing out on a day trek, make sure that it's not hanging below your waist and sitting above your shoulders. I carry a 22L and sometimes a 36L with camera gear. I bet you could get away with an 18L.

  2. Height: Keep the backpack so it's roughly just a little lower than your shoulder blades. Too low and it will put some wear and tear on your shoulders and back.

  3. Adjustment: You know those straps that are on the top of the backpack straps and are connected to the bag. Yeah, those are for pulling the bag closer to you. Use them. Also, make sure that the bag is high enough on your back and that it doesn't hurt to use the middle strap to keep the bag centered on your shoulder blades.

  4. Waist: Use that belt on the waist. This was my fatal mistake. It should sit right above your hips and is there to carry some of the weight of the bag off of your shoulders. Tug it tight and use your hips to carry some of that weight.

  5. Distribution: Make sure that the weight of the bag is configured correctly. Heavy stuff should be dead center against your back. If it's too far back, physics is going to pull the bag back and make it feel heavier. Light stuff on top, medium weight on the very bottom, but mainly keep that heavy weight close to your back.

  6. Balance: If there is a water bottle on one side, make sure that there is something the same weight on the opposite side. Unless you are 25, throw all caution to the wind (don't do that, I am kidding).

Mind you, this is random musings of a guy that still thinks he's younger than he actually is. Be careful when you're out there, and make sure that the pack is strapped in properly. Now get outside and enjoy some hiking!

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