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Basic tips on weight distribution of backpack?

What are some simple yet useful tips for distributing weight of backpack?
I think putting heavier stuffs lower and closer to your back helps with less strain, eh?
I'm a healthy 20 years old man, so I don't have any "preference", any tip will do :)

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
12040 posts

The exact opposite. Put the heavier stuff on top so that the weight is distributed more equally throughout your torso, instead of straining the lower back. I assume also that your pack has a frame- if not, get one! Finally, use the waist belt to distribute as much weight onto your hips as possible.

Posted by
3580 posts

A properly fitted backpack puts the weight on your pelvis and legs, not on your back or shoulders. For best balance, I would put the heavier things at the bottom and snug the belt around your upper pelvis. You don't want lots of weight on your shoulders. Check with an outdoor store like REI that sells backpacks to get the proper fit and adjustment of your backpack. A chest-strap helps secure the load. This can be important if you are carrying over 20#.

Posted by
28 posts

Whee, okay, two different answers. I guess I'll need the third person to confirm which one is right :P

Posted by
213 posts

Billy, it would be helpful to know what kind of backpack you are using. Assuming an internal frame pack like the kind one would use for backpacking the guidelines are these: At the bottom of the pack--in what is normally the sleeping bag compartment--place items that are not too heavy such as clothes, outerwear, girlfriend's teddy bear, if you are not using this for a sleeping bag. Then above that, in the middle of the pack, imagine a vertical divider running from near the top of your pack to the sleeping bag compartment parallel to your back. Pack the densest and heaviest items in that imaginary zone close to your back. Moderate weight items go in the zone away from your back with lightest items farthest from your back. Your very lightest items go above those things, toward the top of your pack. You were right about puting heavy stuff close to your back, but do so in the center of the pack where it is close to your body's center of gravity. Pack it low, and it's below your center of gravity. Pack it high, and its above. Both put a strain on the back. Then be sure your gear is balanced from side to side so one side is not heavier than the other. When carrying the pack distribute its weight so that most is carried by your hips and not your shoulders. Technically, you shouldn't have any weight on the crest of your shoulders, only some on the front of your shoulders. Shift the pack's weight as you travel to relieve sore and pressure spots. I offer this as someone who has backpacked hundreds and hundreds of miles all over the U.S. Check out REI's website and this is also the advice you will find there on packing a pack.

Posted by
28 posts

I will use Ebags' Weekender Convertible, by the way.
Super answer, thanks a lot Dwayne :)

Posted by
12154 posts


That's the bag I use. It's a great bag for my kind of travel but really not a great back-pack (no frame for structure or support).

I carry mine three ways. If I'm walking less than 50 meters, I just pick it up by the handle and treat it like a soft sided suitcase. If more than 50 meters to about 1/2 mile, I just use one of the backpack straps and sling it over a shoulder (this is the way I carry it most of the time). If I'll be walking more than 1/2 mile, I use both straps and the waist band. I leave the extra shoulder strap at home.

The biggest problem for me is it's structure. It's light and has no frame. I use my packed shoes in the bottom (as I'm wearing it) left and right sides, to give it some structure. I roll my clothes and pack them vertically with the heavier stuff in the bottom of the bag. Once packed. I cinch the bags compression straps tight to help give the bag some rigidity.

It's still only slightly less of a sack of potatoes than Rick's classic bag but most true backpacks can't be carried on an aircraft. Since my trips aren't really "backpacking", I've been very happy with the bag's performance and how it has held up through numerous trips.

Here's what I pack on a typical trip:

Posted by
5677 posts

I want to second the suggestion about making sure it fits. I have carried on a women's medium size backpack that I got at REI. It was the second pack that I bought from then and it was fitted to my size. They items that could be used to put some weight in it so I knew how it would fit. What a difference it made! I need to just give that older pack to someone else as I'll never use it again! The waist and chest straps too, made a huge difference and I made sure they fit properly. Pam