Gear Guy

How can I make my pack more comfortable?

Gear Guru: I six-foot-four, weigh 200 pounds, and have an Arcteryx Bora 80 backpack. When I carry heavy loads, the waist belt becomes uncomfortable and bruises my hipbones. The belt and pack also tend to slip down. Any suggestions on how to improve the fit and comfort level? Craig Portland, Oregon

A: If you're kind of skinny and don't have much padding round the waist, the belt will just ride on your hipbones. However, you don't tell me how much weight you're carrying when this takes place. After a certain load point—say 50 pounds—this problem is almost inevitable. The Bora is a well-made pack with an excellent suspension system, but it has its limits. I've bruised myself numerous times with my Dana Designs Terraplane, a pack that is regarded by many as the load-bearing champion of non-custom packs.

It's possible that your pack isn't fitted quite right. You might try adjusting the suspension so the belt is further up the pack, forcing your shoulders to take on a bit more of the load. You might also wear different shorts or trousers, those that are designed to work with a pack. Mountain Hardwear's excellent Synergy Short ($78), for instance, have a "conical cut" waist that doesn't bunch up under a pack belt.

The last solution I have-and I mentioned this just a few weeks ago in another column-is to rig a tumpline. This is a cloth strap that runs under the pack then up over your head, making your head and neck bear part of the load. That's how people in Third World countries, where they don't have access to $400 packs, carry 100-pound loads. It'll take some getting used to, but it works. Recently, I even saw a pack with an built-in tumpline. For a good description of the mechanics go to:

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