There has not been a lot of technological development when it comes to the most basic of outdoor gear: the backpack. Sure materials may get more lightweight, or water resistant, and manufacturers will add padding to make the straps more comfortable, but nothing has been done to address the number one problem with long distance hiking - reducing the stress of carrying the weight of your pack.
Even a lightweight backpacker who spends the money for the lightest and most technologically advanced gear is probably carrying at least 35 pounds on their back when headed outdoors. If you can't afford those high end outdoor accessories, then your back can easily weigh 50-60 pounds. All that weight takes its toll - limiting how far off grid you can go, and places a lot of stress on the lower back and joints that can reduce the enjoyment of outdoor treks, and also cause injury.
We came across a Kickstarter campaign for a company who aims to completely redesign the backpack with its revolutionary design. Now the HoverGlide isn't cheap, but if your looking to rethink and rebuild your gear from the ground up, then this backpack may be just what your looking for. The buy in starts at $399 plus shipping for the smallest pack which does sound like a lot, but isn't far off some of the high end brand names out there. The idea is fully funded with $250,183 raised to date. After doing some research, we are just about sold.
The HoverGlide uses a system of bungee cords and pulleys to create a backpack that levitates the load while hiking, climbing, or running. The downward motion of a backpack can make it feel 3X heavier, so by cushioning the downward jarring of the weight as you move, the pack minimizes stress on the body. This can reduce the risk of spinal injury and save your knees. Studies in the journal 'Nature' showed an 82% reduction in force while walking and an 86% reduction while running.
The design could also save school kids who carry a heavy load of books. One study suggested that the average load carried by schoolchildren indicated a high prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms among elementary schoolchildren. The study advised preventive measures and appropriate guidelines with regard to safe load carriage in schoolchildren were needed to protect this age group. Outdoor people could even theoretically save additional weight by carrying less food. If you think about it, the pack will save you energy expenditure which means you need to carry less calories with you on a long journey.
The backpack was designed by Lawrence Rome, a physiologist at the University of Pennsylvania. The original concept tried to harness backpack movement to generate electricity. The goal was to secure a military contract, but Rome took his idea to Lightning Packs, LLC and started the HoverGlide. The company says that they design and produce electricity-generating and ergonomic backpacks for warfighters, disaster relief workers, hikers and students.
It's a simple idea that makes you wonder why didn't some one think of it before. Rome did say that the principle is the same as the bamboo poles used in Asia to carry heavier loads. The flexible nature of bamboo means it absorbs the up and down movement of the person while keeping the load at a constant height, making it much easier to carry. "When adjusted, you don't feel it move," he says. "We have people walk and then try a slow jog and they feel nothing. But when they lock the pack, then they really feel the difference and they much prefer it suspended."
There are four varieties of the HoverGlide available: the 55L Trekker, 30L Tactical, 30L Hiker, and 28L Commuter. All are built over a lightweight military grade plastic frame that are tested to last. The materials in the pack itself are water repellent with plenty of pockets, sleeves, and 3D "air" mesh webbing that is breathable for storage. The estimated delivery date is July, 2019. The company says they will send you a survey once the campaign ends to choose the optimal bag type and harness fit for you. We really like the idea, but will probably wait for the second generation of backpacks where any bugs are worked out. We would also like to know that the pack material will last since it is quite an investment. What do yo think of this new backpack idea?