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Gear Guy

Will a heavy pack cause circulation problems?

I have a new Dana Design Shortbed pack, but after packin' for a long ten miles, I noticed that my hands and fingers were swollen. Was this just a bad pack fit, or was it too much weight for the long haul? Ray Kuna, Idaho

A: The Dana Design Shortbed ($279; was a revelation when it came out about five years ago. An external-frame pack from an internal-frame pack company, it really combined the best of both worlds: the good flex and balance of an internal frame with the ventilation and packing options of an external frame. Alas, it and the other external-frame models are no longer in the Dana lineup. Earlier this year I got a Terraframe—a Shortbed frame with a Terraplane bag—for $99. They were close to $300 new.

Anyway, this isn't answering your question. You don't say how much you were carrying. A lot? As in, 60 pounds or more? As my old high school biology teacher Bill Oberteuffer once said, slumping to the ground under a loaded Kelty pack (back when they were da bomb) during a school-sponsored hike: "There's no magic in any pack if you overload it." So big loads will tax any pack. And ten miles is a pretty long march, so I'd not be surprised to see my own hands swell up a little.

Otherwise, it could be a little tight around the shoulders. You can always just loosen the shoulder straps to put a bit more weight on your hips. Or, spend some time adjusting the pack with the idea that you want the curve of the pack straps further up the frame, for a greater distance between hipbelt and shoulder straps. And, of course, it never hurts to sit down every hour or so and take your pack off. Have a nice drink of water and enjoy the surroundings! That'll help solve a lot of pack problems.

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