Optimizing Packing to Reduce Strain and Energy Consumption

Correct weight distribution of the load makes a huge difference to the comfort of your pack. Its more important than the weight itself in reducing the forces acting on the body. To achieve the optimum weight distribution, you must get the feel of the weight/volume ratio of each piece of equipment. For example, a 1.5 kg. sleeping bag will have a low weight/volume ratio. A 1.5 kg. bag of raisins will have a high weight/ volume ratio.

For optimum comfort, items with the highest weight/volume ratio should be high and close to your back (backpacks), or low and in front (Bodypacks).

With a Bodypack, the lightest items go at the top of the pack, with medium weight items below. We want to bring the center of the gravity of the load down as well as in, in order match the center of gravity of the body. This will reward you with the brilliant balance and agility.

We recommend putting your heaviest most compact items in the Balance Pockets, plus items you need to access quickly . If its a choice between the 2, counter balance comes first. As you use up heavy items like food on a trip, keep transferring the weight forward to keep the pockets full.

Water is your heaviest item so it is placed as far forward as possible - in the mesh pockets on the front of the Balance Pockets. We recommend using 2 light drink bottles, one in each pocket to keep the weight balanced. Drink from each alternatately to maintain the balance. Rectangular Yoghurt bottles are light, cheap and easily replaceable. In the mesh pockets they are easy to access to drink from and to refill (you don't have to take the pack off). We use 2 small volume bottles when the water requirements are less, 2 larger volume bottles in drier conditions. A hydration bladder on the other hand is easy to access to drink from but fiddly and time consuming to fill and reinsert in the pack. However 2 small bladders will work well if packed in the mesh front pockets of the Balance Pockets. 

 

PACKING TECHNIQUE TO ACHIEVE PERFECT BALANCE

We have seen that the only way you can be naturally balanced when you add a load is to have the center of gravity of the load matching the center of gravity of your body. This is exactly the same criterion necessary to achieve a natural fluid movement and a natural upright posture. A naturally balanced load is only possible with Aarn Bodypacks. When you get rid of the leverages created by an offset load on your body, everything works together beautifully to achieve the best performance with the minimum effort and the minimum impact on the body. A balanced load provides the greatest safety in rough challenging terrain.

The image shows how to distribute the weight in your Bodypack to achieve this ideal. Because the Balance Pockets have a smaller volume than the pack, we pack our heaviest most compact items in them. Water is our heaviest and most often used item, so it is best placed as far forward as possible - in the front mesh exterior pockets. For a balanced load left and right, use 2 equal size water containers, one in each pocket. You can use either 2 small bladders, or cheap rectangular drink bottles which are light, easily replaceable and more quickly filled than bladders. You can refill water containers without taking the Bodypack off at all. Compass, GPS and compact cameras are best carried in the top exterior mesh pockets. You can hook the camera strap into the top hook for extra security when taking pictures.

The main compartment of the Balance Pockets is packed with items you need often during the day and which you need to access without stopping and taking the pack off. Camera, snacks, sunglasses and sun cream, mittens, hat etc.are packed at the top. At the bottom, place your heaviest and most compact items like fuel, stove, small pots and heavy food items. As you use these food items up during a trip, transfer some of the moderate weight items in the pack forward to the balance pockets. e.g. some people find they can fit a compact tent in one pocket. 

The way you pack the pack is different to a backpack used on its own. Once the Balance Pockets are loaded, we still need to place the heaviest remaining items closest to your back. But for maximum ease of movement, we also want to lower the center of gravity of the pack by putting our lightest, bulkiest gear gear at the top of the pack. Usually this is our sleeping bag, and at the top is also the place with the least likelihood of water penetration when crossing rivers etc. The main items in your pack will therefore be clothing, your sleeping matt and your tent. You can experiment with the fine details of item placement to suit your style of hiking and camping, but these recommendations will result in the least energy requirement for a given load, the least impact on your body, the most fluid movement and the most enjoyable load carrying possible at your level of fitness.