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Gear Guy

Can you recommend a backpack with front crossover straps, or an alternative that leaves me unchafed?

Backpacks are a bit of a problem for me because I rather well endowed and the straps get pushed out onto my arms when walking—with all the consequent chafing. Can you recommend a pack with front crossover straps, or an alternative that leaves me unchafed? Deborian Boca Raton, Florida

A: A difficult, um, problem to solve, Deb. Here's the challenge: One could, of course fashion shoulder straps that form an "X" across your chest. You could do that yourself, just by swapping the strap mountings and maybe retrofitting straight straps for what probably are pre-curved ones. But that will basically collapse your rib cage, making breathing difficult. So as a solution, it's an extremely poor one. A really, really big fanny pack, meanwhile, would cause it's own problems with your hips and back.

So, try this: A tump line. Get some nylon webbing, and attach it to the top of each shoulder strap. Adjust the webbing so it runs over the top of your head, from shoulder to shoulder. The idea is that you want to transfer as much weight as possible to your head and neck, getting it off your back and shoulders. Keep the shoulder straps on the pack, but use them for balance, not load-carrying. It'll take some getting used to, but it works, absolutely. People in most cultures, in fact, carry loads in this manner—only Westerners have taken the backpack route.
Give it a shot, then tell me how it worked. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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