120: Good Body Mechanics for Backpackers

Show Notes: Episode 120

Today on the First 40 Miles, your car has a mechanic, but when it comes to good body mechanics, it’s all up to you.  Find out how to prevent injury in today’s top 5 list.  Then on the SUMMIT Gear Review, a piece of backpacking clothing that goes before the base layer.  Next, a zero gram solution that will support your lower back while you’re taking a quick break.  And we’ll wrap up the show with a little trail wisdom from the Bible.


  • The twinge in lower back that led to a lesson in good body mechanics
  • Preventing injury through good body mechanics

Top 5 Body Mechanics Rules for Backpackers

Keep your pack weight close to your back

  • Heavy stuff against your back

Lift with your legs

  • Lift with your knees, not with your back
  • Your feet should be apart, with one foot slightly in front of the other.
  • Hold your pack close to your body before you hoist it on

Engage core

  • That means drawing your navel into your spine—or tightening those abdominal muscles (the same ones you tighten when you give a foreceful breath of air out)
  • This instantly provides stability and support to your back muscles and helps prevent back injury

Keep things loose—not locked up

  • If you feel your shoulders tighten, bring them down
  • If you feel your calves tightening, take a few minutes to stretch them when your body is warmed up
  • Bend, don’t lock knees—that’s part of keeping it loose
  • That weight can cause you to tighten up your shoulders and arms
  • If you feel your shoulders tightening up, take your pack off for a few minutes, roll your shoulders, and then tuck them back

Don’t hunch over

  • Hunching is a natural tendency when you have a load strapped to your back.
  • When sitting, resist the urge to sit in a hunched position
  • If you can, give yourself some extra support behind your lower back—either with a backpacking chair or today’s backpack hack of the week
  • When you slouch, it puts an unhealthy strain on your ligaments, spinal joints, which enhances your risk injuries
  • The more you slouch, the more the spine loses its ability to distribute shock evenly, causing stress on your vertebrae

SUMMIT Gear Review: Exofficio Give-N-Go Underwear


  • 94% Nylon / 6% Lycra Spandex
  • Diamond-weave mesh fabric
  • Flatlock seams


  • Quick-drying
  • Treated with Aegis® Microbe Shield™ which makes them odor resistant


  • The weight will vary based on cut and style, but the material is very stretchy, very lightweight


  • Machine wash cold, Wash with like colors, No bleach, Tumble Dry Low or Line dry in shade
  • Or handwash in camp (not directly in a stream)


  • $18-30
  • Depends on what cut and style of underwear it is


  • The Exofficio Give-N-Go underwear is the #1 most popular line among backpackers—travel and wilderness.
  • Top of the box says “17 countries, 6 weeks, 1 pair of active underwear. (Ok, maybe two.)”
  • This underwear has some really great features that make it popular with the thru-hiking crowd, and those features definitely transfer to regular ol’ backpackers–folks who want something lightweight, comfortable, quick-drying, odor resistant, and breathable.
  • The folks at Appalachian Trials did a great review of ExOfficio Give-N-Go…http://appalachiantrials.com/gear-review-mens-womens-exofficio-underwear/

Backpack Hack of the Week™: Zero Gram Backpacking Chair

This is a great way to rest your back when you’re ready to sit and take a break.

Take your pack off, and take a stick or trekking pole, and wedge it against your pack in between the shoulder straps.  The other end of the stick should be wedged up against the base of a tree or the bottom of a rock.

Now you can lean back on the side of your pack (the side without the shoulder straps), and it should cradle your back perfectly.

My Favorite Backpacking Chairs

Trail Wisdom

“Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.”

–Genesis 13:17