Hiking Without a Backpack

view overlooking Caribou Lake in northern Minnesota, USA

I went on a short trip at the end of September to the north shore of Lake Superior. My husband Bruce and I went day hiking for three days. And not once did I lug a backpack (and no Bruce did not carry my stuff for me…)

We lucked out with the weather. Dry days, cool temps, and warm sun.  Each day we went on a different type of hike. All the hikes were moderately difficult but not too hard–each one was well worth the effort when I got to the destination. The views were amazing!

In my late teens and early 20s, I dealt with chronic pain, mostly in my neck, upper back, and shoulders. Carrying a heavy or even moderately heavy day pack for hiking was never in the cards for me. But I love to be outdoors and I love to hike. So, I don’t hike with a backpack. I hike with a hip pack.

Below is a picture of me on our recent trip with my well-loved pack. Having weight dispersed over my hips for several hours of hiking actually feels better than no weight at all. I can carry all I need for a full day’s hike—food, adequate water, and extra clothing. Most importantly my shoulders can relax and spread out across the top of my rib cage with no weight at all on them.

author hiking on superior hiking trail

On our day hikes, we ran into several backpackers who were out on the Superior Hiking Trail (or SHT). The SHT runs approximately 300 miles along the shore of the lake from the Minnesota-Wisconsin border to just shy of the Canadian Border.  They of course had large packs on for thru-hikes. If you ever see someone with such a pack on you’ll notice they have a waist belt. This is so a majority of the weight is carried by the hips, instead of the shoulders. Notice the trend?

Those packs have too much overall weight for me and I like to sleep in a warm bed at night—so I’ll stay with my day hip pack and a motel reservation.

If you avoid hikes because of back, shoulder, or neck pain don’t give up. Experiment with a hip pack. You’ll never know unless you try. Your body might just like it.

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