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Hip Belt & Stomach Issues

 

I'm a bit new at backpacking, but thrice I've had some major acid reflux /water brash issues that have kept me up for hours at camp after a day of backpacking, and have even led to vomiting and dry heaving. I only very rarely have these kinds of kinds of issues off-trail (90% of the time after alcohol, which is infrequent off-trail and avoided on-trail), and never anywhere near this severe (a little discomfort vs. real pain!). I don't really eat worse on the trail than at home, and usually have far less caffeine than IRL. This can happen even before I lay down, which I try to do only a couple hours after eating, and antacids haven't really help at all (unlike my rare and mild off-trail issues).

The only thing I can think of to explain it is that having the hip belt compress my stomach for hours is messes with my esophageal sphincter. Obviously lightening my load, which is in the heavier side of the "lightweight" category, might help, as would some lifestyle changes.. I'm on it, if slowly.

I was wondering if folks had any other suggestions--particularly anything I should consider when on the market for a new (but not excessively pricey) backpack? Would it make sense, for example, to try to get it fit as if I had a longer torso so that it would ride lower, or would that not take any weight off my shoulders/cause other problems?

Sorry - TMI!

1 Reply

Hey @pedrodelatorreiii! I'll preface this with saying that we can't give medical advice, so first and foremost, this may be a good topic to discuss with your GP, especially if this has been a chronic problem with occasional flare-ups. But if you search through hiking forums, your issue is a shared by many hikers, so you're not alone! There are lots of things you can do to possibly help with your reflux, so we'll talk about what you can do to mitigate it from a gear/food standpoint. 

You're correct that a tight hip belt may be contributing to the issue. It may just be the way your pack is adjusted; is your pack comfortable when you hike? Is most of the weight on your hips, or on your shoulders? If you live close to an REI, maybe consider taking your full pack in and having someone look over the fit. If you don't live close to a store, we're doing this awesome virtual outfitting service right now, so you could sign up for a session in the comfort of your own gear room. Also, maybe consider hiking in running shorts with an elastic waistband, vs buttoned pants, to see if that helps alleviate any pressure. 

Hard exercise can also trigger reflux. Maybe try playing around with your hiking route and either lowering your mileage if you're gaining a lot of elevation, or lowering your elevation if you're wanting to hike a bit further. Tuna and oatmeal have been on the hiking menu for decades; the high fiber in oatmeal and the lean protein in tuna may both help with reflux as well. 

You may also consider a hammock setup, vs a tent. In a hammock, you can adjust your sleeping position to where you're not completely horizontal. You'll be able to sleep with your torso slightly elevated, so that new position may help at night to keep the acid in check. 

I hope some of this helps! It's a great discussion to have, as we want to get you comfortable so you'll be able to get out and explore more. 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.