Backpacking and backpacks are pretty simple and are based on a pretty simple concept. Going out in the woods and getting away from your house and being able to carry everything with you. But the technologies and the pack features and all of that stuff isn’t that simple and there are a lot of terms and specific jargon to backpacking that can make it rather complicated to figure out what features are being talked about on a pack while reading product descriptions or just talking about a specific strap set up. So we’re going to cover some of the basic anatomy of a backpack and should give you a good idea of the components of a pack and what they’re called. Backpacks typically come in two different designs. You have panel loaders and top loaders. A top loading pack traditionally has a hood that opens and you can access the pack through the top and that is your main entry point. A panel loader is going to be a pack that has entry points that are outside of the top. So in this case, this pack has a zippered opening across the front of the pack that opens up. So now you have access through the front of the pack, as it’s lying down, similar to a piece of luggage. In this case, this pack has top and panel loading features; some packs have both and some have one or the other. So, the most important part of a backpack is going to be what’s called the suspension system. This is a combination of the hip belt, and the shoulder harness as well as whatever components are used for load transfer, like aluminum stays, titanium rods or a foam back panel. It includes whatever technologies and materials a company has devised in order to distribute weight from the pack onto your back in a way that’s comfortable and safe. Let’s cover some basic straps and set ups for the components of the suspension system of a pack and where they’re located. Here we have the hip belt and your adjustment in the front here. A very important strap on the side is your load distribution strap. That’s this piece that connects the hip belt to the bottom of the pack. You have your shoulder straps, here, with adjustments under the arm. A sternum strap across the chest, this is adjustable as well. And last you’ve got your load lifters, up here at the top. They attach from the shoulder, collar bone section of the shoulder padding and they go up to the very top of the pack and are adjustable. So there’s the basic anatomy of a backpack. Keep in mind that every pack company is a little different and some of them have very unique features that are specific to their pack and their company alone; they are not all going to be the same. Hopefully this gives you some guidance and a place to start along with a better understanding of how a pack is put together.
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