How To Fit Your Pack
Avoiding a pack attack
Occasionally, we come across riders with monkeys dangling off their backs. We’ll often stop and watch as those riders peel away into the first corner, only to see that monkey throwing itself around, trying to pull the rider to the ground every chance it gets. This metaphorical monkey is exactly what it feels like when you wear an ill-fitting pack. Hydration packs are cleverly designed to be as comfortable as possible, but if you don’t take the steps to find one that fits properly, you’ll feel as if the world is trying to bring you down.
We’re talking about pack fitment, with so many riders wanting to ditch their packs, we feel it’s only right to see if we can’t make them more comfortable first. Don’t let your pack push you around. Stand up to that bully by following these tips.
HOW TO FIT YOUR PACK
• When searching for a pack, inspect the straps and see which design is most comfortable for you. Wide shoulder straps can spread the load and help the pack ride more comfortably on your shoulders. If the straps are too wide, however, they might dig into the side of your neck or collarbone, causing discomfort.
• Most packs have a cross strap connecting the two shoulder straps. Always buckle this strap and wear it tight. Furthermore, this strap should be adjusted so it sits an inch below your collarbone.
• If you plan on riding with a heavier load, opt for a pack with waist straps. These straps are designed to be adjusted first so that you can carry the load more on your waist than your shoulders.
• Pack heavy items as low as possible. By keeping the weight low, you will prevent the pack from feeling top-heavy. This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often we see packs loaded up top.
• Adjust your pack so that it rides high and tight on your back. This sounds counterintuitive (especially in light of our last tip), but it’s important to keep your pack tight to your back, even if it means you have to run the weight a littler higher. A tight pack will move as one with your body.
• Always hang your hydration bladder from the hook inside your pack. Allowing the bladder to slosh around freely can make you feel off balance. Additionally, look for a bladder with a divider in the middle. This design prevents water from moving from side to side.
• Look for a pack that is well-ventilated. Some packs offer a floating fit that creates a pocket of air between the pack and your back. Other packs use cutouts in the padding to help channel air through.
Both designs have their pros and cons. A pack that floats sits further off your back, causing it to, well, float. This creates more movement but increases airflow, which is a must on hot summer rides. A pack with channels cut in the padding allows for a snug fit, which helps keep the pack in place, but at the cost of ventilation.
• Are you looking for additional protection? Some hydration pack companies have added back protection to their packs to protect a rider in the event of a crash. If you often ride gnarlier trails or just want to be as protected as possible, opt for a pack with added back protection. In some cases, this extra padding can be removed or added, but that will vary based on the design and brand of your hydration pack.
If you simply aren’t comfortable wearing a hydration pack but enjoy longer rides that require you to carry additional items, a fanny pack might be your best bet.
Fanny packs with hydration bladders have become popular among enduro and trail riders. These packs offer more limited space but generally have enough room to house the essentials for a multi-hour ride. If an all-day epic is more your style, a fanny pack might not cut it; however, the tradeoff for comfort and mobility is worth it for some riders.
TO DITCH THE PACK OR NOT?
If you’ve been on the fence about wearing a pack during your rides, first follow the above tips to see if you can’t make a pack more comfortable. If those tips don’t help, you can get creative finding ways to carry more stuff on your bike. It will take some clever placement and trial and error to get everything to stay secure and rattle-free, but for short- to mid-length rides, going pack-less is a real treat. Ultimately, the choice is yours. All right, enough time spent fiddling with your gear; let’s get out and ride.
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