Step 2 - Positioning the Harness Shoulder Straps
The Harness Shoulder Straps consist of two substantially padded straps that rest on the shoulders and hold the backpack to the upper body. This padding on all White Mountain Backpacks™ is made of two or three different foam densities, with the softer foam (low density foam) on the inside against the body and the more rigid foam (high density foam) on the outside. This material contacting the body is either nylon or air mesh material. The Harness Shoulder Straps can be either
fixed to the backpack or incorporate an adjustment for varying Torso lengths. The adjusting Harness Shoulder Straps are either connected to a single yoke and adjusted together, or are separate and adjusted independently.
After contouring the Internal Staves correctly these Harness Shoulder Straps are used to pull the backpack up into position on the back, this pull must be towards the back of your backpack or the adjusting straps or the ladder lock buckle will cause these straps to lock up. If this backward pull is difficult to achieve, have a partner help lift the backpack in position, or squat with the backpack resting on a hand rail, fence rail, back of a bench seat, or vehicle bull bar.
Pulling the backpack into position using the above method allows you to correctly place the backpack in the small of you back, which you cannot do if bent forward with a straight back attempting to do up the Hip Belt. After all we want you to walk upright not bent forward as though we were walking into a strong wind. Using the recommended technique, we prevent lower back damage that can occur when pressure is placed on the lower back while bending forward with weight and tightening
the Hip Belt. Tightening the Hip Belt first can also result in lower back damage that can occur after standing upright and having the backpack fall backwards from the shoulders.
If the Internal Staves have been correctly contoured and the Harness Shoulder Straps Torso Length has been correctly measured and position, you will find the pull position of the Upper Stabiliser Straps at approximately 5cm below the top of your shoulder and the Hip Belt position, at, or just above or below the Iliac Crest. After all we don't want to carry the weight of the backpack on our hips and suffer soft tissue damage in the waist between your last bottom rib and the Iliac
A Sternum Strap is essential in the positioning and comfort of the Harness Shoulder Straps and has three (3) functions;
- To distribute some of the backpack weight to the chest
- To position the Harness Shoulder Straps flat against the chest
- To position the Harness Shoulder Straps away from the shoulder joints
The Sternum Strap should be secured fully around the Harness Shoulder Strap to prevent distortion of the Harness Shoulder Strap and provide correct functionality. Please note that poorly designed backpacks rely on the Sternum Strap to distort the Harness Shoulder Straps and achieve close contact to the body. Backpackers with improperly fitted, or poorly designed backpacks often tie the Shoulder Harness Straps across the chest, place their thumbs underneath, or grasp the Harness
Shoulder Straps in their hands, in an attempt to achieve Shoulder Strap close contact and comfort, or relieve excessive pressure.
Harness Shoulder Straps that follow the natural contours of the body is simply a matter of good backpack design. Contoured Shoulder Harness Straps have a customised curvature that follows the natural route of the strap over the shoulder, away from the neck, down the side of the body into the chest area and then away from the body underneath the arms. The position and angle of the anchor point of the Contoured Harness Shoulder Straps at the base of the backpack, also contributes to
overall functionality and comfort. Quite obviously, Contoured Harness Shoulder Straps are more comfortable than a Straight Shoulder Strap. Backpacks designed for women incorporate Contoured Harness Shoulder Straps to allow for the natural body curvature at the bust, as on the White Mountain EYS, SSS, XHS, and SHS Harness System.
Using the Harness Shoulder Straps to put the backpack on, would come after the Internal Staves are contoured to the individual back, the T-Yoke, Sliding Yoke or independent Sliding System is positioned correctly, the Back Cushion is in place on the SYS or SHS harness system, and the Upper Load Stabiliser Straps are tightened to form a gentle arc in the Harness Shoulder Straps.
For ease of positioning when the backpack is on the individual, pull both Harness Shoulder Straps simultaneously back towards the rear of the backpack. Use these two Harness Shoulder Straps in bringing the Hip Belt and the Upper Load Stabiliser Straps into position on the individual. This method of positioning the backpack prevents back injury, and negates the need to hoist the backpack up while bending forward.
After buckling and pulling the Hip Belt snug, secure the Sternum Strap and pull down or loosen these two Harness Shoulder Straps simultaneously as required until comfortably snug. The Shoulder Harness Straps when properly positioned should be far enough apart so as not to rub on your neck, yet close enough together to prevent the Harness Shoulder Straps slipping onto the shoulder joint, or off your shoulders.
Do not over tension the Upper Load Stabiliser Straps, as this would draw the Harness Shoulder Straps away from the shoulders, render the Sternum Strap ineffective, place excessive pressure on the chest, and cause the backpack to ride up from the hips.
It is very important to draw the backpack fully into place with the Internal Staves closely following the contour of the individual back.
- There is a common misconception that adjusting the Torso Length and the anchor position of these Harness Shoulder Straps on the harness changes the size of the backpack. This is incorrect and you must choose the length of backpack that best suits the individual Torso Length range. The Torso Length adjustment on the Harness Shoulder Straps also accommodates the heavy, medium, or slight build of the individual. A heavy built individual would need longer Harness Shoulder Straps
adjustment, whereas a slightly built individual would require a shorter Shoulder Strap adjustment.
What are Contoured Harness Shoulder Straps?
Better backpack designers will contour the Harness Shoulder Straps to follow the natural contours of the body. The Contoured Shoulder Harness Straps have a customised curvature that follows the natural route of the strap over the shoulder, away from the neck, down the side of the body into the chest area and then away from the body underneath the arms. Quite obviously, this design is more comfortable than a straight strap. Backpacks designed for women, incorporate Contoured Harness
Shoulder Straps to allow for natural body curvature at the bust.
Step 3 - Hip Belt