If you are an avid backpacker, then surely you have felt the pain of lugging heavy equipment on your shoulders during long trips. Whether it’s a brief excursion in nature or days-long journeys across rough terrain, having a reliable backpack is essential for anyone who wants to bring along all their crucial items and supplies.
Despite the advantages backpacks provide us on outdoor excursions, they can also be detrimental to our wellbeing if not used correctly. In fact, improper use of a heavy backpack may result in harmful ailments like lower and upper body pain, as well as more severe shoulder and spinal injuries. To avoid such issues from occurring while hiking with a heavy bagpack, it’s best to follow these expert tips below.
Preparation For Hiking With A Heavy Backpack
Choosing the right backpack
Choosing the right backpack for your hike is an important first step to having a safe and enjoyable experience. Size, fit, and material are all factors to consider when selecting a pack that works for you.
Size: The size of your backpack will vary depending on the type and length of your journey – for day hikes with minimal gear, a smaller pack will suffice, whereas backpacking trips may require a larger capacity. Having enough space is important as it allows you to store items securely without stuffing the bags too full.
Fit: Comfort is key when carrying additional weight over long distances – before purchasing a pack make sure to try it on and adjust all straps so they fit securely. Additionally, try loading it up with at least 10lbs of weights in order to practice carrying the load you’ll be accustomed to while hiking.
Material: The material of your pack should be both durable and lightweight in order to reduce strain while remaining strong enough to handle the terrain. Look out for features such as water-resistant nylon or ripstop fabric that can help protect against wear-and-tear during longer outings.
Related Article: How To Choose The Right Hiking Backpack
Adjust Your Backpack Correctly
Before beginning your backpacking journey, it is important to ensure that the crucial components of your backpack are adjusted accurately. To guarantee a secure fit and properly distribute weight while on your hike, make sure that adjustable hip, shoulder and chest straps are adjusted correctly:
Hip belt: To lessen the strain on your back and shoulders, fasten the waist belt of your backpack around your hips so that its upper edge is situated an inch above the top of your hip bone.
Shoulder straps: To ensure maximum comfort and support, adjust your shoulder straps so that no area of space exists between your backpack and the back of your shoulders.
Chest and sternum strap: This was crafted to ensure that shoulder straps remain comfortable throughout the hike.
Training for the hike
Training for a hike is essential in preparing the body to safely and efficiently carry extra weight over long distances. Start by wearing your backpack around town in order to get used to the extra weight and familiarize yourself with its features.
Enhance your back strength with exercises such as the seated cable row or side planks. If you are unfamiliar with these types of exercises, ask for guidance from an expert at your gym or consult with your chiropractor on which ones to do first.
For those new to hiking, cardio is an important component of getting into shape for the trails – try jogging or biking at least three times a week, increasing the intensity as you become more comfortable. Additionally, incorporate simple strength exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges in order to build up muscle and endurance.
Consider taking a few practice hikes while still close to home; start on easy terrain before gradually increasing difficulty levels in order to push your limits.
On the Trail
Contrary to popular belief, usually, it isn’t the amount of weight you are carrying that causes back pain while on a backpacking trip. Instead, it is your posture. If you let your lower back over-arch instead of keeping an upright stance while wearing your backpack, this excess pressure will put strain on the joints and soft tissue in your spine – causing unwanted discomfort and pain.
To relieve your body of this strain, use the following steps to strengthen and realign your posture:
- Draw your shoulders back, allowing yourself to stand tall with a slight backward tilt in the upper body.
- For proper alignment of your lower body, tuck your tailbone under you to ensure that the hips face straight and not tilted.
- Lower your chest gently, ensuring that you don’t slump forward.
As previously mentioned, it also helps to practice wearing a weighted backpack at home before heading out on the trails – this will allow you to adjust to what feels comfortable, giving you time work on the correct posture before really hitting it hard outdoors.
Balancing the weight
To ensure a balanced and safe journey, it’s important to distribute the weight between your two shoulders and back evenly throughout the hike. Start by packing heavier items close to your body – this will help with balance and save energy from not having to counteract the weight of the bag as much. Additionally, make sure all straps are tight in order for everything inside the pack to stay in place.
For bulky items such as tents or sleeping mats, attach them outside of your bag so that they don’t take up too much space inside as well as making it harder to achieve an even weight distribution.
Taking breaks is a must on any hike, especially if that hike is long-distance or if you’re carrying a heavy backpack. Having the right number of rest periods and scheduling them properly are important factors in having a safe and successful journey outdoors.
When it comes to how frequent to take breaks while on a hike, there are several components that come into play like how fit you are, the level of difficulty of the terrain and weather conditions. It’s crucial to listen carefully to your body; if you need some time off from hiking in order replenish fluids or give fatigued muscles an opportunity for recovery – take one!
Our recommendation is to stop every half hour to an hour for stretch breaks.
Staying hydrated is one of the most important things to remember when hiking, especially when hiking with a heavy backpack. Dehydration can quickly lead to fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and muscle cramps, which can impact your overall performance.
A good rule of thumb is to drink at least a liter of water for each hour you’re out on the trail. If you’ve packed a hydration system, sip water often throughout the hike so that your body stays properly hydrated. Remember – it’s better to stay ahead in terms of hydration than risk slipping behind!
Understanding your limits
It’s important to understand your own limits when it comes to hikes. Even if you are a seasoned hiker, make sure that the trails you take on are within your skill level. If the terrain is too difficult for your skill level, recognize this and adjust accordingly so as not to push yourself beyond what you’re capable of. Be aware of the physical toll each trek will take on your body, and adjust according to what is comfortable for you – if a certain trek is causing pain or strain, consider re-evaluating it before continuing. This way you can stay safe and still enjoy the beauty nature has to offer!
Gear That Helps Hiking With A Heavy Backpack
Picking the right hiking footwear for a hike is essential to ensure comfort and safety throughout the journey. High-cut boots are usually the best option for long-distance hikes with a heavy backpack, as they offer better ankle support.
Trekking poles should be your go-to choice when it comes to dealing with the extra weight.
Trekking poles give you more stability and reduce the load on your legs and back. Not only will this help reduce the risk of injury, but also provide better balance while on uneven terrain. The main advantage of using these poles is that they take some of the strain off your joints – making it easier to move forward without feeling weighed down or overwhelmed.
When selecting trekking poles, make sure they’re of an appropriate length – too short and you’ll be unable to properly use them, while too long might lead to an uncomfortable grip. Additionally, adjustable ones are ideal as they allow you to extend or shorten them depending on the surface you’re walking on.
Hiking with a heavy backpack requires knowledge, preparation, and understanding of your own limits. Don’t be afraid to take on challenging terrain with a heavy pack. Remember to bring the necessary supplies to keep yourself hydrated, as well as proper clothing for protection.
Make sure to also check in with yourself frequently; if something doesn’t feel right or is causing pain or strain don’t be afraid to reassess and adjust accordingly! Finally – have fun, stay safe, and enjoy the wilderness!