There has been much discussion about school packs and the damage inflicted on students in carrying excessive weight. The main consideration here is the design of the daypack, the positioning of a well-designed daypack, and customization of a fully functional harness system on the individual. The designers at White Mountain Backpacks™ tend to disagree with some of the statements made on school daypack construction, and this is what we recommend.
An example of a well designed a daypack harness system is the White Mountain Backpacks™ AFS (Airflow System) Harness System used on all White Mountain Premium Performance Daypacks.
The features of this high functioning Harness System includes the following:
- An internal Frame Sheet inserted into the back of the daypack made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a flexible but strong plastic to protect the back from objects within the daypack, and provide backpack stability.
- A vertically centred single aluminium Internal Stave covered in 50 mm webbing and stitched to the HDPE frame sheet. The HDPE frame sheet not only protects the back, but in bending the Internal Stave and the entire HDPE frame sheet, the backpack can be contoured to the individual back curvature.
- An adjustable Sternum Strap that has three functions, to
- Distribute some of the daypack weight across the chest to alleviate pressure on the shoulders.
- Pull the Shoulder Straps away from the shoulder joints to prevent shoulder joint stress.
- Keep the Shoulder Straps flat on and across the chest for maximum comfort.
- Longer Shoulder Straps enable the backpack to sit comfortably on the lower back, and in combination with the Sternum Strap, prevent excessive pressure on the shoulders and lower back.
- Correctly contoured Shoulder Straps by design, clear the neck, come in at the chest, and then move away from the body for a comfortable male or female fitting.
- A fully padded Hip Belt with a dual adjustable 50mm side release buckle, and Lower Load Stabiliser Straps. A fully padded Hip Belt and Lower Load Stabiliser Straps enables the individual to draw up to 80% of the load into the lower back and prevent excessive pressure on the lower back. The 50 mm webbing and the dual adjustable 50 mm side release buckle, make it an easy exercise to tighten the hip belt fully.
- A harness system of this type prevents backpack sway that contributes to involuntary body movement in correcting balance, and excessive muscle and spine use which eventually results in body pain.
Worn correctly, a well-designed daypack with a fully functional harness system will function correctly in protecting the back. That means having the Waist Belt, Hip Belt, and Sternum Strap in use, and not wearing the daypack too low on the back, hanging from one shoulder, or strung over the neck and shoulder as a shoulder bag. Positioning the daypack iincorrectly puts excessive pressure on the shoulders, neck, and lower back, and quickly leads to severe lower back, neck,
and shoulder pain. A standard daypack worn correctly on the back between the shoulders with a waist belt attached alleviates a lot of pressure on the lower back, provided the weight is not excessive. For heavier daypacks, a fully functional Internal Frame Harness System like the White Mountain AFS Harness System is essential.
To wear a fully functional well-designed daypack correctly:
- Contour the Internal Staves or HDPE Frame Sheet to the individual back.
- Using the Harness Shoulder Straps, position the backpack Hip Belt at the point where an individual would position a trouser belt, just below or above the Iliac Crest. Positioning the Hip Belt in this way will prevent soft tissue damage between your lower rib and the Iliac Crest, and prevent excess pressure on the stomach.
- NOTE: A Waist Belt is NOT an Adequate Substitute for a Padded Hip Belt with Lower Load Stabiliser Straps.
- Position the Sternum Strap snuggly across the centre of the chest, then loosen the Shoulder Straps just enough to allow a weight transfer to the Sternum Strap, and lower back. Then retighten the Sternum Strap.
- If provided, use the Upper Stabiliser Straps to make sure that the backpack is still positioned against the back of the shoulders.
For all backpacks, we would recommend that the maximum weight, even with a well-designed backpack with a fully functional harness system, should not exceed these recommendations:
These weight recommendations are often exceeded with Travel Packs, however in these circumstances we would envisage that these loads are not carried for long periods.
More information on internal frame daypacks is available on our web pages;
Backpacking Health - Information on the correct choice of daypack for carrying weight.
Backpack Weight - Information on the relationship of backpack weight and backpack fitting.