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Backpacks and Hip Bone Bruising

Hi Friends!

I left my first backpacking trip with pretty significant bruising on my hip bones from my pack's hip belt, so I'm curious to know if anyone else has had the same issue. The pack was new, so is the solution as simple as waiting for it to break in and form to my body? How would you move weight in the pack to help with this?

It felt perfect when I was fitted at REI, and I didn't really feel it on the trail until the end of day 2.

I did find some good advice in this thread, but I'll take any more pointers you may have. 🙂 https://www.rei.com/conversations/backpacking/hip-bone-iliac-crest-bruising-and-soreness-recommendat...

It may be that I'm just bony and sensitive lol. Has anyone else found a way to deal with this or is it a matter of toughening up over the season?

Thanks for any advice you can give!

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7 Replies

Hi @bearbait sorry to hear about the bruising, yikes! that sucks.

Some good stuff on that link to a past discussion.

Sometimes bruising can be caused by something between your hip belt and your skin.  I'd first look to make sure that there are no shirt folds, no pants seams, no belt twists, no stuff on the belt that would be digging into the skin.  You want the area to be as smooth and flat as possible.

Is the bruising just in one spot or evenly spaced out around the hips?

The belt belt should only be tight enough to not drop the weight down below the hips.  I find when I'm wearing a lot of nylon, it's harder to keep it cinched up enough to not keep slipping down, but don't over cinch it.

I tighten my shoulder straps first, then hunch my shoulders up to lift the pack a bit, cinch the belt, bring down my shoulders to let the pack ride down to my hips, if it drops too far, I raise the pack again, tighten the belt some more, then let it drop.  It does no good to keep tightening the belt when it's already pressed against the hips, that's going to guarantee over-tightness.

So I recommend tightening the belt when it's up a bit at a narrower part of the waist, then letting it drop down and settle on the hips.

Try that and let me know what happens.

If it is still sore, then we need to look at the weight of the pack and or the quality of the belt.

good luck

REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes

@Philreedshikes and @OldGuyot, Hi and thanks for the good advice! I've got the Osprey Aura 65 size S and loaded down, it was about 20-25lbs. I made sure that there were no clothes or anything under the belt since I had the same problem with other packs in the store, and I was afraid it would happen with this one too.

After you mentioned that the belt shouldn't be over-tightened, it occurred to me that the belt on this pack is geared to fit tightly; that is, the belt pulls back to keep it tight to you, almost as if there's hard plastic in it. If that makes sense. So even when the belt is completely unfastened, it stays snug to you and bears weight. I initially found that to be a really nice feature since it gives you so much support, but I'm curious if whatever's in the belt to make it stiff just doesn't match me or needs time to mold around me. I would find that surprising, though, since I wouldn't call my hip setup much different from other women with size small packs.

I was taught how to adjust it properly in the store, but I assume time and experience will help me learn what works for my body and what doesn't. And get used to carrying a loaded pack!

https://www.rei.com/product/126717/osprey-aura-ag-65-pack-womens

Thanks so much for the suggestions 🙂

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@bearbait Osprey suggest a pack weight between 30-50lb for that pack so a 25lb total pack weight shouldn't cause an issue.

There is not really a "break in" time for modern backpacks and they should not get severely more uncomfortable in the process. 

The backpack size "Small" has mostly to do the with the torso size (usually 16-18 inches) and possibly the actual capacity of the pack.  While the length of the padding that wraps around your hips typically increases with the pack's "sizing" it does not really indicate how the pack might fit your hips since that is very dependent on the design of the belt. 

Looking at the reviews for that pack and for the smaller 50L version there are others that have complained of hip bruising.  I have certainly seen reviews in the past for Osprey packs...particularly women...where the hip belts just didn't work for them.  Osprey packs are supposed to be the cat's pajamas for comfort but that doesn't mean they work for everyone.  I have had some REI staff criticize them and steered me away from them in the past.  I think some people just don't get along with the full mesh suspension.  I have never used one myself.

If you can, I strongly recommend taking the pack back to REI, explain the problem, see what they suggest and try some different packs again...maybe your second choice from before would be a good place to start.  It is not unique to you that the first fitting doesn't work and gets the wrong size (generally if you are between sizes) or picks the wrong design...maybe because other factors swayed the decision or because sometimes you can't know without actually trying.

The REI Traverse 60, the Gregory Deva 60 or 70, Deuter Air contact lite 60 and the Osprey Ariel 65  are packs of similar capacity, weight and complexity if that is what you need.  None of these use full mesh suspension...even the Traverse which stopped using it with last year's redesign.   They are all fairly heavy packs designed to carry more total weight than 25lb. 

If you are only planning to go in 2 or 3 night trips with a 25lb load you might do with a ~50L pack like the REI Flash 55 (there are others) which is lighter and more configurable.  It is probably less robust that those packs but if the fit is right,  it will save you about 1.5lb in weight off the basic pack.  Depends a bit on how bulky your gear is and what other travel you plan to do with the backpack.  Unlike Osprey, REI does not have a lifetime warranty...only 1 year...which is important to some.

I am not a big fan of the term "breaking in".  I hear it a lot with boots.  I am no expert in either boots or packs (nor the science of designing a pack).  I met a custom boot maker years ago and have seen other boot (and shoe) makers often state that the term "breaking in" is really about breaking your feet into the boot (not the boot to your feet).  They would say that the materials and the fit of the boot is what makes your feet comfortable.

I am pretty lucky with the fit of my pack.  I did find that during the days hiking that I would have to tighten my hip belt a few a bit.  Without knowing which backpack you have and that you purchased it (or found it at REI), I would assume that for your pack it is not the quality of materials.  I would go with @Philreedshikes good advice and see if that helps.

Enjoy

Not a medic but my understanding is that bruises are cause by impact or pressure points.

Possibly reasons I can think of ...Could be a combination...

1. Carrying too much weight for the design of the backpack.  What backpack and how much did it weigh (including supplies and the average amount of water you carried) when you started your hike?

2. Not loading the weight properly.  Generally putting heavier stuff further away from your back has a leverage effect and increases the pressure on your back and shoulders.  The pack may be prone to bounce more also.  You may try to compensate by tightening the belt and shoulder straps too much creating pressure points.

3. Backpack adjustments...Possibly the the shoulder straps and hip belt were not adjusted properly once you had a full load.   Also backpacks that are designed to carry heavier loads have a few subtle adjustments that can affect how the pack rides.  Straps where the hip belt attaches to the pack which can affect how the pack swings side to side.  If the pack has them they should be tight and hip belt is fasten. They can make subtle changes to the  hip belt fits.  The so called "load lifters" that pull the pack higher on the shoulder straps and closer to your back.  These secondary adjustment don't work properly unless the hip belt and shoulder straps are first sized and adjusted and worn correctly.

4. You body is not yet adapted to carrying that kind of load in a backpack for that long.   If you are not used to carry a load like this it is quite likely that it will beat you up by the second day.  Loading the backpack to the weight I intend to carry and going for a 5 mile hike is what I have done before trips just to see.  If I haven't been keeping in shape this can result in a bit of back compression and aching...never had bruising but I'm pretty happy with the way my pack fits. 

5. It is the wrong backpack for you due to subtle fit problems that only show up after wearing it loaded for a while.  The hip belt shape or shoulder straps might not really work for you.  You could be between torso sizes...not uncommon.... some packs have a full range adjustment...some are sized but may have small adjustment .  Generally when they fit packs they only used a fraction of the weight and volume you will likely carry.  Fully loading the pack will change how the pack fits and rides.  When you first get fitted for a pack generally you have no idea if it feels right or not in the limited time it takes and it can take a could of fittings or swapping out the pack for a different size of design to get it right.

6. You bruise easily.  Unlikely but...

 

 

 

 

Sorry to hear your challenges.  along with the below, you may want to assess your straps.  If your straps aren't set properly, it can leave all weight on the hips and may result in this. 

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When they did the fitting at REI, was your pack fully loaded? If not, I'd make an appointment (if necessary) and go in with all of your gear in the pack and see if they have suggestions on packing it differently and they can assess how you've cinched the various straps.

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Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.
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