Backpacks - where to put the heavyweight?

Overread 11 4.1k 19 England
19 Dec 2011 9:22PM
Quick question, but when one packs a heavy backpack (the kind with a proper shoulder and waist band harness setup) do you put the heavier items to the top or the bottom of the bag? For general purposes the light and heavy items are around the same size so its a top or bottom (or middle) kind of choice.

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Jestertheclown 10 8.0k 252 England
19 Dec 2011 9:32PM
I'm going to guess that there's some kind of formula for this and some spotty faced whizz-kid, just out of medical school, has come up with a reason why you should pack it in a particular way to save damaging various parts of your anatomy.

Personally, I'd just pack it so that it's at it's most comfortable.
BigRick 14 2.1k 3 United Kingdom
19 Dec 2011 9:34PM
i pack heaviest at the bottom, as i dont want the heavy stuff on top of the lighter stuff when it is on my back. Smile
lobsterboy Plus
15 14.9k 13 United Kingdom
19 Dec 2011 9:40PM
Back when I was a Scout leader - we used to teach 2 rules:
Heaviest stuff at the bottom
Stuff you are most likely to need at the top

Putting the heavy stuff low puts the weight as close to the hip belt as possible.
It is usually more comfortable to carry the load on your hips than the shoulder straps.
strokebloke 10 493 17 England
19 Dec 2011 9:57PM
As a structural engineer (not a spotty-faced medical whizz kid) I would concur with the majority.

Where possible, place the heaviest items nearest to the vertical load-bearing component of your skeleton. i.e. your hips
A heavy load around your shoulders will have the tendency to make you topple over backwards - thus making you lean forward - thus inhibiting your breathing. Thus you will be uncomfortable. [top marks to Bren]

PS: I wanted to be a spotty-faced medical whizz kid, but I wasn't clever enough GrinGrinGrinGrin

Overread 11 4.1k 19 England
19 Dec 2011 10:19PM
Thanks guys - for some reason I'd got "heavier at the top" stuck in my mind, but really wasn't sure about that! Still swapped the lens and flash units over now all light at the top - well kinda it still weighs a tonne (and I'm sure the bag is bigger than me!Tongue)
ianrobinson 9 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
20 Dec 2011 12:05AM
what bag is it overread, i presume it's a camera bag, i have a tamrac exploration 8 and tend to have 2 camera bodies in there and 4 lenses one being the 70-200 canon f2.8 l is usm ii and extenders plus filters x 6 and extra batteries plus flash and laptop for quick viewing of images plus lots of other items.
Now that is what I call weight, but then the bag is designed for that and when done up the straps are very padded and it is surprisingly comfortable, it also holds the tripod securely as well.
Great bags for fitting every thing in.
Overread 11 4.1k 19 England
20 Dec 2011 12:36AM
It's a Lowepro ProTrekker 600 AW - and its got, most of my gear in it (which is something like 4teleconverters, 4 macro lenses, a 70-200mm and some cameras somewhere). Granted its a travelling weight not a trip weight, and thankfully the trains will be doing most of the carrying; but its great to get most of the gear into one bag for the trip home.

However I fully agree that a proper harness setup makes a massive difference. I have a MiniTrekker as well and its made wonderfully and can really take a heavy load without breaking, but the harness on it is very thin and the waist strap lacks any kind of padding at all. Really shows up when you're on the move with heavier gear and I found it sapped strength very fast. Good bag, just the harness that lets it down if you put a seriously heavy kit inside.
JackAllTog Plus
10 5.6k 58 United Kingdom
20 Dec 2011 8:47AM
Heavy at the bottom should make it less likely to topple over when you take it off and it will keep your centre of gravity lower when you have it on. Use all the straps done up and still bend you knees when bending down to take it off or put it on.
Jasper87 Plus
9 2.2k 157 England
20 Dec 2011 9:05AM
The walking/hiking magazines advice on this has always been to put the heavier items closest to your back, the weight is then directed down the spine and gives more stability. The further out in the pack it is, the greater the tendency to pull you backwards, whether it is at the bottom or on top.
dwilkin 12 24.3k United Kingdom
20 Dec 2011 12:22PM
Same bag as I've got - I actually put the heaviest item in the middle, coz it's a 500mm lens, but otherwise I would agree to put it at the bottom...
h4rsx 9 17 5 United Kingdom
20 Dec 2011 1:38PM
Heavier stuff at bottom, it lowers your overall centre of gravity, which does make a difference when hiking up hills or clambering around on rocks, and also as many others have said, the closest point to your body, ie. your hips for stability.
SophieHart 9 136 United Kingdom
20 Dec 2011 1:43PM
We were always told to pack heavy at the top so you carry the weight on your shoulders and not put excess stress on your lower back. But maybe with modern packs and all the fancy hop belts that's all changed.
digicammad 16 22.0k 39 United Kingdom
20 Dec 2011 3:06PM
Any decent rucksack will have hip belts, so most of the load is down through your hips into your legs, the shoulder straps should really only be for stability.

Putting the heavy items at the bottom of the sack lowers the centre of gravity, which helps with balance. Also the rucksack tends to be further away from your body at your shoulders than at your hips, so heavy items at the top would tend to move your centre of balance backwards, making your position less stable and forcing you into more of a crouch.
collywobles 15 4.0k 10 United Kingdom
20 Dec 2011 7:24PM
Digicam -- Rucsacks should always be loaded with the heavier equipment at the top. In doing this you carry the weight up on your shoulders giving better balance and prevents backache caused by having the heavier stuff lower. Take a look at any expedition documentary - the load is always high so that the load is straight down through your legs, if the weight is low it tends to give you backache by pulling your shoulders backwards. If you were to load low and try to climb a mountain - you'd have difficulty and probably tumble backwards

The hip belt should be used but you can vary the postions by moving the load between hips and shoulders.

Have spent years doing hiking and serious expeditions and I find this the best method.

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