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If backs bend, then why are packs flat?

by , September 9, 2010


If backs bend, then why are packs flat?

Note: For a higher resolution image of the above, click [HERE].

Computers used to fill buildings. Then just rooms. Then just desks. Now most computers are laptop or pocket sized.
So how does this change things in the world of carry? Well, you can now carry your computer, and many people do…

But there’s a catch…

If you’re still carrying one of those terrible ‘Microsoft Developers Conference 1998’ computer bags a short hop to and from a car, there’s no problems. But if you want to ride, run or even skip or hop your way to work, then you’ll want that computer in a bag that is braced against your body.

Most backpacks and messengers place the laptop section against their back panel. It makes sense doesn’t it…? Flat against flat. Any good hiking geek would approve, as this is where heavier loads should be placed in heavy packs.

Hiking packs are optimised to carry things for long period of time in an upright position. Which means the back panel, waist and shoulder straps are designed for it. However, this principle is flawed as soon as you bend forwards (for instance on your ride to work). In this forward bent position, your spine resembles a VW beetle more than a Lamborghini Diablo, and the flat of the laptop starts to resemble a see saw, only making one small point of contact with your back.

Some brands like STM, Nike, and Incase have played with a couple of bags that move the laptop forward in the sections so it is not in direct contact with the back. The downside has been that this usually divides your large section in half. With messengers, it’s even more tricky, as traditionally the whole bag would wrap around your curves, so having a rigid laptop anywhere in the bag stopped this happening.

Hopefully some of the many bag designers reading this (which if you are , we would love to hear from you!) take it as a great opportunity to investigate and design new ways to carry our favourite devices around. Like internet users, we go from one thing to the other very quickly. I dream of a solution for ‘on the go’ users that keeps my technology both safe, and in a more than comfortable carry good.

What about you guys? Have you found any packs that do bend, even a little, to your back to allow for a more comfortable experience when carrying?

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  • larryO

    Ah, the vexing problem of creating a back system for a pack which is both effective at load transference and flexible enough to change shapes according to the users spinal positions… It seems most pack companies tend to try to address movement in a single plane (rotating hip belts, pivoting shoulder straps, sliding webbing through a sleeve to allow for shoulder movement (Aarn), etc.), but as you point out the necessary movement needs to happen in a third dimension in order to change to curvature of the pack to the spine.

    I think the Berghaus crew were on to something a few years back, but don’t think they ever actually tackled the hip sway issues at the lumbar area which would make the solution totally unacceptable for riding on a bike (http://www.berghaus.com/en/technology/technologydetailpage_1857.html). Modan also attempted to address third dimension movement, but faced similar issues.

    Long ago I played with this problem (for Karrimor bike), and the best solutions I found dealt with making the pack change shape. I could probably find some old drawings if anyone ever wanted to see them…

    Thanks for an interesting post, it got me thinking!

  • http://Www.bebe.no Børre

    Hi LarryO

    I would really love to see them 😉

    • larryO

      Hey Borre,

      Shoot me an e-mail at larryO@entermodal.com and I will try to find them… It might take a bit (I have been super busy the last few months…)

      Take care, and nice to meet you.

  • Alex

    Boreas. Gear.

    That is all.. They will be coming out with a new bag that has a built in webbing suspension system to not only provide true back support, but also extreme airflow.. say goodbye to sweaty backs… and did i mention their inserts are molded to contour with the spine?


  • larryO


    Have you ever seen a Trapper Nelson? Not the solid canvas one (although that is also a good version).

    I’m interested to see how the design team at Boreas addressed the structural requirements to support the webbing suspension, whilst allowing for form fitting…

    Take care!

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  • http://comed3.com/ Diablo 3 Rmah

    I wouldn’t feel way too sorry for Blizzard you ever do the math on how much they’ve coming in from The world of warcraft??

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