Our First Test Run

Our First Test Run

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It’s a bright and early Saturday morning. Our neighbors are sleeping soundly after a long week of work. We, on the other hand, are up at 6AM preparing for a backpack test run. The idea is to find out how each of us does, simulating a hike with our fully loaded packs. Here are the basic assumptions and facts:

  • Our Pack: Osprey Manta Ag 36, 2.87 pounds (Video Review, Blog Post)
  • Carrying Weight: 22 pounds
    • Our goal is to stay under 20 pounds, but we want to test ourselves at the max, so we’re going slightly above goal. This gives us a good reading of how we’ll do in real world conditions.
  • Distance: 3 miles
    • We’re the type to walk when and wherever possible and reasonable. While most of our walking with our packs on will be under 3 miles, we want to test the higher end. Plus, we’ll be carrying these while traveling, so who knows how long we'll be standing in lines and crowds.
    • Keeping in mind that walking with our packs will mainly be commuting, we’ll limit our test run to 3 miles. When we do day hikes and excursions, we’ll secure the pack at the place we’re staying and carry a smaller day pack.
  • Physical Condition: Both of us walk 2-4 miles regularly. Sergio strength trains arms, legs and core muscle groups regularly. Shannon works out sporadically, focusing more on high intensity interval training. Having had three hand and wrist surgeries and still having ongoing, chronic wrist pain, her upper body strength is less than that of a typical woman’s.
  • Preconceived Assumptions: We eat healthy, are of healthy weights and can bust out a mad hike at a moment’s notice. We both think we got this covered. If people can go backpacking in nature with 60-80 litter bags, carrying food, tent and sleeping bags, then we should be able to do 20-ish pounds no problem!

Since it’s over a month before leaving, we don’t have everything we’ll be caring with us. So, instead of packing our bags just like we’ll be in a month or two, we find items around the house that’ll equal about 22-pounds and fit into our bags. This is surprisingly a challenging task. We‘re a very minimalistic couple to begin with and we have very few belongings in comparison to the average household. On top of that, we've already gone through and done a sweep of the house and donated several duffel bags of stuff. We end up with several small buckwheat pillows, 1.5L mouthwash bottles, a gallon of water and a few miscellaneous items to put in the bags to simulate weight.

Strapping on the bags for the first time for an actual outing with them is exciting. Putting them on is slow at first. We adjust the straps to fit each of us individually. We get the chest strap clipped and the hipbelts cinched. The idea is to distribute the weight so you don’t carry the bulk of the bag on your shoulders. If you get a bag that fits well and you get the hipbelt cinched tightly around your waist/hips, the weight will rest there. Done well, this dramatically increases the total weight you can carry.

How did it go?


Walking out the door: Both of us are excited.

A couple of blocks into it: Both of us are surprisingly pleased at how easy and light the bag seems to be. We both seemed to have thought that it would be a bit more difficult.

½ a mile: Holding strong, smiles on our faces and lively conversation.

1 mile: Shannon’s smile is fading. Sergio is doing well.

2 miles: Conversation is dwindling, but Sergio is staying strong, focusing on his posture. Shannon is cinching her hipbelt tighter, focusing on getting the weight to rest on her hips.

Almost 3 miles and a few blocks short of the front door: Sergio is stoic and handling the weight well. Shannon can’t move her neck without sharp radiating pain, and her shoulders feel like she’s carrying about 80-pounds.

After the walk: Sergio is a little stiff and a bit tired, but overall is doing well. Shannon on the other hand immediately does traction on her neck and is contemplating every way in which she can cut weight.

Test Run Conclusion 


Take away: We learned a lot by doing this test run. We found out where we stand and what we need to improve on. Upper body strength is very, very important. The strength training Sergio has been doing is extremely beneficial and carried him through the 3-mile test run. While we both know that when push comes to shove, anyone will build the needed muscle and become accustom to the weight of the bag over time. However, we’d rather it be as easy as possible on day one. Shannon certainly has some work to do to prepare for her pack.

Plan: Shannon joins Sergio in all of his workouts and stretching routines, about 2-3 times a week. Additionally, Shannon sets a daily alarm reminding her to do a rep of 40 chair dips. 

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