After much shoulder pain, I finally let go of my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter 4400 and replaced it with a Seek Outside Divide 4500. The Divide is infinitely more comfortable than the Porter and weighs about 6oz more. This extra weight is absolutely worth it for those larger loads. I have used this pack on a 50+ mile Canyonlands trip, a Dirty Devil trip, and a few others. It may be the perfect pack for packrafting with one of Alpacka’s classic series boats or their whitewater boats. It carries these heavy loads comfortably. That said, I found the Divide to be overkill for regular backpacking trips. I also missed the compactness of the HMG packs. So I began scheming.
There is much discussion in forums about how you have to size up with HMG packs to make them comfortable. With my original pack I followed these directions and found mixed results. The shoulder straps attach to the pack right at the top of one’s shoulders. This seems to negate the need for loadlifters. If the shoulder straps were to wrap around the shoulders, loadlifters would be needed to keep the pack from pulling backwards too much. The problem, however, is that the straps on the “correctly” sized HMG pack attach too close together. With even small loads they rest on my trapezius which is incredibly uncomfortable. I endured this pain for about four years before finally switching to the Divide.
Then, this spring I began planning a trip which would tie into my master’s thesis. I would follow an individual deer from the Kaibab Plateau up the entire Grand Staircase, over the Paunsaugunt, and end on the Markagunt. Loads would be small and light, so I began looking for a pack which would save me some weight. I picked up a medium HMG Southwest 3400 sort of on a whim. This will be an experiment, I thought. The pack was about 32oz. It would be 20oz lighter than my Divide, if it worked. My torso measures 19.5” from the iliac crest to C7, so the medium would supposedly be too small for me with their torso recommendation of 17” to 19”.
With a couple of tri-glides, a couple of ladder-locks, and a couple of pieces of 3/4” webbing with Seek Outside’s gatekeeper buckles on them, I rigged some loadlifters to the pack’s y-yoke strap. It felt fine walking around the living room, but only after 50 miles or more would I know if my idea was any good. I’ve now walked about 100 miles with this pack, and it’s great. It weighs 33.4oz with the loadlifters and I have experienced zero shoulder pain.
If you like the features and compactness of the HMG packs but hate the shoulder pain, consider SIZING DOWN and adding loadlifters. If there is any interest, I can explain how I did this. It’s likely, however, that someone else will find an even better way of doing this.