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I like to carry a daypack that doubles up as a travel bag for a 2-3 day trip, so I don't have to repack my work gear into a travel bag. Last year I found an excellent candidate in the Osprey Radial 34 and did a lot of travel with it. This year I decided to upgrade to the 2016 edition and found it an immense regression.

After months of trying to like it (the bag has excellent organisation), I cannot make it feel comfortable on my back no matter how I adjust its straps and the position of my gear within. The bag always feels like its centre of gravity is away from my body. The shoulder straps pull outwards, and need the chest strap buckled to reduce strain on my shoulder blades. Since this is a cycling bag, I've tried cycling with it (road bike, so steep angle of lean forward), and yet it still feels like the weight is away from my back.

I've tried carrying the same load in cheap bags with no padding and I can manage hours of walking with them. The load is not the problem.

I'm trying to understand why this bag is so uncomfortable so I know what to avoid in a future bag.

The Radial 34 has a back mesh with an air gap. It's barely a centimetre, significantly less than the pre-2016 edition, but it manages to retain the air gap when I wear it. The bag makes contact on two shoulder blades -- which, coupled with the shoulder straps in front makes it feel like it's prying apart my shoulders -- and on the rounded bottom that goes on the hip.

I'm working on the following theories:

  1. The centre of gravity is indeed off, and putting heavy objects close to the back isn't enough to help.

  2. The bag is too tall. The M/L size is supposedly right for my 5'10" frame (I don't have torso measurements handy), but maybe I really need the S/M size to take pressure off my shoulder blades.

  3. The elastic cord used in place of the load lifter straps (an unusual design feature of this bag) is the problem and needs to replaced with non-stretching cord.

  4. The metal frame of this bag has the wrong shape and needs to be rounder or flatter.

Help me figure this out, fellow backpack enthusiasts. What is wrong with this bag?

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    Sometimes something can be nominally the right size but simply not fit. Another person with the same height and build as you might find the same pack to be a massive improvement on the previous model. And trying on an empty pack in a shop for a few minutes is little benefit in finding this out – Chris H Dec 25 '17 at 20:56
  • I tried this one out in a store and loved it. It took me several weeks to notice that the bag was tiring me out faster than it should with regular daypack loads. I'm interested in debugging this: what about this bag is not fitting me? – Kiran Jonnalagadda Dec 26 '17 at 1:45
  • Do you still have both packs? Could try comparing them with a ruler or by eye – stijn Dec 26 '17 at 12:08
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    Please post a photo of yourself wearing the sack with a heavy load, taken from the side - it would help with a diagnosis. It's hard to discuss this in the abstract. – Tullochgorum Dec 27 '17 at 20:07
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Some bags have an adjustment where you can set the upper attachment point of the straps. This often isn't obvious, as you have to un thread the plastic triangular attach point, run the central strap under one or more horizontal straps on the back of the pack, then rethread the attach point.

If it is pulling you back, I suspect that the attach point is too low, allow the bag to sag backward.

Some bags have straps that run from the top of the bag to the front of the shoulder straps. Tightening these can keep the top of the pack from flopping around.

You may also find that the perceived weight varies with how you load the pack. If I'm in rugged terrain, I like the centre of mass low, as it keeps me more stable. However this means I have to lean further forward to balance. On smooth terrain, a higher load allows a more relaxed pace.

If the bag is "thick" front to back, and you have too much volume, then the load moves into the bottom of the pack. More work. Use compression straps to make it thinner so that you are using at least the entire pack that is in contact with your back.

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