When you’re shopping for an overnight backpack, the single-most important feature to look for is a good fit. And when it comes to fit, the most important element to get right is the waistbelt. If, however, you’ve got no hips, no outward curvature around your waist, then you may have a problem. I certainly do. Here’s my solution.
Backpack waistbelts are designed to transfer the majority of the pack’s weight, roughly 80 percent, to your lower body. This uses the strength and stability of your legs and skeletal structure to carry the load, sparing your easily fatigued shoulder muscles. Thing is, waistbelts need something to rest on: the gentle outward curvature of your hips.
Many men, myself included, have virtually none of that. Tall and thin, my torso merges with my legs in an almost straight line. Two little bony nubs are all that protrudes from my waist. As a result, I have found that my waistbelt inevitably scooches downward as I hike, often rubbing my skin raw in the process. For years, my only solution was to cinch the belt as tight as I could stand, which relieved some of the discomfort on my hips, but replaced it with the displeasure of having my guts squished.
A few years ago, I finally hit on a solution that works. I take a fleece, fold it upwards from the bottom three times to create a flat padded surface, and use the sleeves to tie it around my waist. Voila! Suddenly I have artificial hips that my waistbelt can comfortably rest upon. This discovery has been a tremendous boon to my backpacking comfort—and provides the added bonus of keeping your fleece handy anytime you stop and need to add a quick layer.
Now I’m a hipster. No, I’m hip to what works. No, it’s a hip solution. No, wait. Ah, never mind.