Backpacking — meaning the physical act of carrying a pack on your back — is hard work. Whether you’re trekking the remote backcountry of New Zealand or schlepping a 50L pack around Europe for the summer, it can be hell on your back (all the reason to pack smarter, by the way). Now, one company has engineered an ingenious new floating pack design that could change the entire game.
According to manufacturer Lightning Packs, LLC, the way the HoverGlide backpack works is deceptively simple. The double-frame design uses an inner, fixed frame which mounts directly to the wearer’s back via a standard harness, while the outer, moveable frame attaches to the fixed frame. Through patented suspended load technology, the latter moves independently from the fixed frame. This “floating” position ensures the backpack maintains a constant height relative to the ground, regardless of the wearer’s body movements. For the hiker, this should translate to much less back and shoulder strain.
This all might sound like a bunch of woo-woo, infomercial-flavored nonsense. But, consider the bag’s creator, muscle physiology expert Dr. Lawrence Rome from the University of Pennsylvania, is currently working with U.S. military Special Operation Forces on a similar project. In the official press release, he claims:
“HoverGlide dramatically reduces the impact forces during locomotion, even permitting running comfortably with heavy loads. The lower forces reduce the potential for acute and long-term injury, and also reduce the metabolic energy needed to carry a backpack. So, people can move faster with lower exertion.”
The company touts impressive numbers in the impact reduction on HoverGlide wearers — up to an 86 percent decrease while running, and up to 82 percent while walking. For hikers, trail runners, and even commuters who might easily cover tens of miles in a single day, that’s a dramatic difference.
The concept is rooted in sound science, as one admittedly very dry 2009 study suggests. Plus, this isn’t an entirely new idea. For centuries, farmers and trekkers in Asia have used bamboo poles to carry heavy loads over long distances. Bamboo’s natural flexibility absorbs much of the vertical movement of the wearer’s burden while moving. Like the HoverGlide, the weight of these bamboo “backpacks” maintains a constant height relative to the ground, making them much more comfortable to carry.
At launch, HoverGlide will be available in four bag types that ride on two frame sizes. The smaller, 20-inch frame can mount three interchangeable packs — a 28-liter “Commuter,” a 30-liter “Hiker,” or a 30-liter “Tactical.” The flagship 24-inch frame will be large enough for the company’s 55-liter “Trekker” pack.
The HoverGlide backpack is currently in the crowdfunding phase on Kickstarter with prices starting at $419 for the small, 20-inch frame plus your choice of bag. The project has already blown past its $75,000 goal and looks well on its way to shipping by the middle of 2019.