Scoutmaster Musings - Pack Packing


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Scoutmaster Musings

Pack Packing
The training for high adventures or weekend hike-in campouts should include proper pack weight distribution skills.

It makes sense to most people to pack the heaviest things in the bottom of the pack, but that isn't correct. A quick demonstration is all it takes to convince them that high and close to the hiker's back is best. It's all about center of gravity.

When standing normally, your body has a center of gravity running from your feet up through your head. There is the same amount of weight in front and behind and side to side of this imaginary vertical line. If you bend your head backwards, your hips move forward to counter the weight. If you lean to the left, your hips move to the right. Pretty simple.

When you plop a pack on your back that weighs 1/4 to 1/3 your body weight, you naturally need to lean forward to counter it. But, packed correctly, the amount of lean can be reduced resulting in more comfortable, upright posture while backpacking.

Pack a Backpack Place a heavy tent or dense food at the top, close to your back. When you lean forward a little, this weight crosses the center of gravity, helping to offset the rest of the pack weight.
Place that same tent low on the pack and you need to lean forward further to offset the weight.
The further out from your body a heavy item is placed, the more lean is required to offset it.
A heavy item to one side will require lean to the other side to offset.

So, high and close centered side to side is key for the heaviest, most dense items. Sleeping bag and pad should be low. Lightweight items like an empty water jug can be furthest out.

Philmont Backpacking Here is a scout at Philmont. See how far back the sleeping bag and pot are? If he moved that sleeping bag and pad to the top of his pack, he wouldn't feel like someone was trying to pull him over backwards.

Any item, such as the cooking pot, that is free to swing will cause problems. Things like sleeping bags thumping against the backs of legs drive hikers insane and the weight motion causes them to use extra energy. They will also eventually swing their way loose and fall in the dust. Be sure to strap everything down well.

Even though I don't personally like camelbacks, their design is cool for this weight distribution concern - heavy water close to your back and centered. If you have two 1-litre bottles like me, one on each side of your pack, that is 2.5lbs on each side. If you drink all of one, you're lopsided. Drinking some from each side keeps the load even.

Posted: 9:30 09-12-2008 358
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