Comfort in a backpack

A BACKPACK is a bag attached to straps and intended to be carried on the shoulders with support of the back. The main parts of the backpack are shoulder straps, waist strap, and the back part of the bag. The combination of straps and the back part of the bag keep the backpack on the back of the body.

SHOULDER straps rest the load of the bag on the shoulders and the lower back. This makes the shoulder straps the most stressed parts of the backpack. To assist with load distribution and prevention of slipping off the shoulders, a chest strap may be included to secure the shoulder straps. Backpack shoulder straps come in three main variations; straight, contoured, and bridged. Straight straps follow the length of the panel that rests on the back, running straight down from shoulder to hip.  Contoured straps are like the shape of our bodies – an outward curve like a crescent or an s-curve between the sternum and below the elbow joint. The bridged strap is made by having the two shoulder straps connected as one piece at the top

STRAIGHT straps on the backpack are generally good for infrequent or light use, contoured straps on the backpack are better utilised for prolonged carrying of heavy loads and active use like biking. Bridged straps tend to be most used as day travel backpacks and outdoor backpacks. The waist strap is necessary for backpacks with high volume loads. It is designed to help distribute the load to the lower body to minimise the stress on the shoulders.

THE COMFORT of a backpack is enhanced by the straps on the bag. When carrying a backpack, most of the weight pushes down on the shoulders, hips, and the back. The wider a strap is, the wider an area the pressure is distributed over the body. However, the shoulder strap should not be too wide to rub on the neck and arms. Bridged straps tend to force the backpack on the lower part of the back. The bridge maintains a fixed width of the space between the straps. If the bridge is too long the straps may hang over the shoulders. If the bridge is too short it may feel tight and cause irritation to the muscles around the neck.

THE BACK of the backpack is responsible for evenly distributing the load on the whole back and maintaining a level of ventilation to the back. The more the back takes weight off the shoulders the more comfortable the backpack feels. Therefore, the bag side resting on the back must be designed to distribute the weight over the whole back.

IN ADDITION, having adjustable straps and padding of both the straps and the back of the bag contribute to the comfort of the backpack.

THE BACKPACK can be used as a luggage carrier on treks which take days, a bag to carry items for activities which last a day or two, an everyday carry bag (for work or school), or as a travel backpack. Understanding the expected use provides a guide on what to look for to achieve maximum comfort.

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