Selecting and Using Backpacks

Backpacks can cause neck, shoulder and back discomfort if not selected and worn properly.

Here are some tips to follow to avoid problems:

  • Limit the load you carry to about 15% of your body weight. That’s 22.5 pounds if you weigh 150 pounds. Many doctors recommend a maximum of 25 pounds, no matter how big you are.
  • Select a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps. Air-filled cushions are available on some packs.
  • Wear the shoulder straps of the backpack over both shoulders. Slinging the straps over one shoulder can cause you to lean to one side.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps to keep the pack snug against your back. Loose packs can pull and strain the muscles in your shoulders and back.
  • Position the backpack so it hangs just below the shoulders and rests on your hips and pelvis. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never hang lower than 4 inches below your waistline.
  • Choose a pack with a waist belt to transfer weight from your shoulders to your trunk and hips.
  • Select a backpack with multiple compartments to distribute loads.
  • Arrange items so they don’t slide around and shift weight.
  • Use a wheeled backpack for heavy loads and long distances.
  • Look for well-designed models. The Tough Traveler website has some good models.