30 Pounds

Previous Walk it Off entry:  Armstrong Take Two

When I put my last blog post up on the Facebook page that my wife and I have for our adventures (and where we post all the video from those adventures), a friend commented that I must be a glutton for punishment for having and carrying a 35 pound day pack.

And yea, I laughed a bit at that.

So Waynard! This post is for YOU. 🙂

All right, let’s step into the waaaayback machine for a bit and hearken back to the days when I was a very young, very dumb grunt. As an assistant gunner for an M-60 team, I was carrying quite a bit of weight. Point of fact, my battalion commander decided once in his near infinite West Point Graduated Wisdom (note: beware the dripping sarcasm, it makes the floor wet and is a slip of the tongue hazard..) that everyone who was in His battalion would have to carry mortar rounds in addition to the spare barrel, 1200 rounds combat load, T&E equipment, tripod, and my own personal gear in there. Later in the wargames where this was happening, the referees decided to weigh in packs. Mine weighed 140 lbs.

And yea, THAT sucked.

You see, most backpackers go through this stage. I met a guy at work who was talking about gear with me and how he wanted to lighten his load as much as possible. He was Complaining about a thirty pound pack. Upon talking to him, I found out his problem, and after eyeballing him for his fit, I offered to let him put on My pack, and I adjusted it for him. He said the difference was night and day from what his pack was. I asked him two more questions and diagnosed his problem. His pack was too small for his frame.

The first thing you want to know about backpacking is getting a properly fitted backpack. You want the frame of the pack to fill the frame of your body from your shoulders to the tops of your hips and lower back. You want a good hip/weight belt. Good gear stores will fit you for a pack. The virtue of a properly fitted pack is that most of the load sits on your hips and you don’t really feel it on your shoulders. Your shoulder straps, properly adjusted, are there to keep the load in your pack tilted toward your center of gravity. You should CARRY a load on your hips, you should SUPPORT a load on your shoulders and chest. There should never be a lot of pressure on the tops of your shoulders unless: your pack is too small, you have no weight belt, or you have seriously overloaded the weight limits for your pack.

A lot of the people that I’ve read about and seen on movies that “go heavy” instead of ultralighting, usually go back country with a 40-75 lb. pack, depending on how much gear they’re carrying out and how long they expect to be gone. And yea, that 65-75 lb. pack? That’s pretty much the upper limit for most of your back country guys and gals. The crew that shot “Mile, Mile and a Half” actually have a scene where they weigh in their rucks. Admittedly, they were carrying additional camera/video/audio gear, and the charging capacity for that gear, food, water, tents, sleeping bags, and were going otherwise as light as they could. Their packs ranged from the upper 40 lb. range to 60 lbs.

By comparison, I do go “heavy” and my mainstay, my Klamath 78, weighs in fully stocked at 55 lbs. That’s food, water, Everything needed for going solo in the back country. My day pack, stocked for a weekend? 30 – 35 lbs. And with the weight belt, it’s an easy carry.

And that army ruck? Yea. There are two reasons that sucked a LOT. The first is that the weight belt for that ruck was required (by Battalion regs) to be taped down to the frame. And as woods savvy as I was, I knew nothing about the proper wearing of a pack. So that was half the reason that load was on my shoulders. But it was only half the reason because the frame was also about three inches too short for my back. One size fits all? Not so much, no. These days, the Army seems to have learned better. Back in my day, internal frame rucks were available to Special Forces. These days I understand even the line units get ’em, so they’re lucking out.

But these days, I’ve learned better too. It was after the Army that I figured out what that weight belt was for, and up to about three years ago that I found out about proper fitting (by choosing the wrong size pack for my wife in an REI where one of the uber helpful gear geeks gave us an education..).