View Full Version : Packs On Packs Off

06-14-2006, 02:27 AM
This may or may not stimulate some responses but I am keen to see how many other's out there use what method to put on their packs.
I just exchanged a friendly PM with Military Moron stimulated by his "Kifaru strap adjustment guide" article and noticed that there was no reference to the Over the Top Method of putting on a pack.

My question is what does everyone else do, we all carry packs which are the heart and soul of this forum so would think this is of interest to all.

For those that are not familiar with the Over the Top Method (as I know there will be some)
Place pack flat on ground with shoulder straps up. Stand facing pack with toes pointing towards top of pack, feet shoulder width apart. Bend with the knees (of course) and place hands through shoulder straps grabbing hold of side pockets or side of pack. Then with a single lift similtaniously straighten knees using momentum to lift pack over head and slip on back like a sweater letting it slide into positon (not drop).

Very quick (1 or 2 seconds tops)
Tactical as can be done with weapon in hand (with practice)
No need to readjust straps.
Less strain on back/shoulders with no twisting or other contortionist like moves.
Works fine for heavy loads up to 100 lbs.

Needs a well packed pack without lots of extranious bits hanging off (which should be the norm anyway)
Needs a Bomb Proof Milspec Pack (I have seen some elcheapo knock offs come apart using this method)
Works best with internal frame packs.

I have been instructing both soldiers and civilians for over 30 years and most (not all) agree when mastered this is by far the easiest method. I have even convinced some waif like teenage girls that this is the easiest method.

As MM commented to me there is no right or wrong way but what is the concensus?

Over the Top
Sling it On (including assisted with knee etc)

The pole starts here:

Over the Top x 1 /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

06-14-2006, 03:12 AM
+1 OTT.

OTT is my preferred method.

But I find it hard to do with large-ish packs with no cargo handles in the right place (down low on the side, maybe just above the waist belt).

I've not yet quite worked out how to do it with my Kif pack, but I have been thinking hard about how to get some handles in the right place, either tied, lock'n'docked or sewn on.

Yeah you can do it by grabbing side pockets, but it doesn't quite feel right to me. Maybe I'll get used to it.

Big advantage of OTT in my opinion is no twisting and side swinging and lots of symmetry.

Therefore less chance of falling over/overbalancing, or damaging yourself through relatively risky lateral twisting motions.

Also has the advantage (which might be a disadvantage if you muck up and miss) of being one smooth movement that exploits momentum once you master it.

Of course getting it started can be hard when its really heavy, but then again thelift-knee-side-sling method is hard to do with a real haeavy pack to.

Maybe it's just an Aussie thing, cob?

06-14-2006, 05:31 AM
OTT, without a doubt.

Thommo, did you mean to say it was easier with EXTERNAL framed packs? Because I know with the ALICE it was very easy, you just grabbed ahold of the frame.

06-14-2006, 08:10 AM
Biggest single drawback to this method is the weird trajectory an unevenly packed ruck will take. A buddy of mine was throwing his MOLLE ruck OTT just after packing 2x boxes of 7.62 on top of his load. (Ammo ALWAYS on top and easy to get to) As he threw his pack up and over and the heavy side--the top--came down on his head, inflicting a soft-tissue injury to his neck equivalent to a 40 MPH rear-end collision (or something like that). He sucked it up and finished the op--with LOTS of pharmeceutical help.

06-14-2006, 08:40 AM
Good stuff Thommo!

I use three methods when using large or heavy packs.

When around trees, I have a small rope attached to my pack handle and a caribiner so that I can hang the bag from a sturdy limb or around the trunk of a tree. I take it off, work out of it and step back into it easily this way. (hint: check the bark out first! Some bark is worse than mud when it comes to transferring crap onto your bag.)

When I'm carrying fragile things, (I hike my groceries for practice and practicality) I naturally load the most fragile things at the top. So I first haul the pack up onto something elevated like a car hood, park bench, tall rock and then sling into it.

All other times I will most often (unless I'm standing in the middle of mud) use the OTT method which also just happens to be a very good method I first learned using scuba gear. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

06-14-2006, 08:41 AM
Yes, I've dealt with that before when strapping heavy stuff to the top of the pack. You've just got to be mindful of how you load it and try to pick up around the center of gravity, but, yes, sometimes it can't be helped. In bad cases, I usually laid down on the pack, strapped it on and stood up.

Dan M
06-14-2006, 12:34 PM
I prefer to grab the carry handle, extend arm up over head and then slip the weak arm in then the strong arm (holding the carry strap) slides in. Not too keen on the OTT method.

06-14-2006, 03:44 PM
+ 1 OTT. If you have a heavy pack eg. ammo, get a buddy to load the ammo after your pack is on or as Hanzo said sitting or lying down strap up and get a hand to stand up (don't strain that back). That's how we got our packs on with the extreme cold weather gear (and the rest ). /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/eek.gif
OTT: light to moderately heavy
Heavy: MM's guide is GTG
Extremely Heavey: sit/lay on ground with help up

06-14-2006, 04:47 PM
thommo was wondering why i didn't mention the OTT method in my writeup, and thought that it was uncommon over here in the U.S.
I replied that it was pretty common over here - it just wasn't my personal preference after trying it, but i urged him to go ahead and explain the process here, so others might try it and decide what works for them. the more info/options, the better - that's what this forum is about! /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

06-14-2006, 05:07 PM
I will say that I find it hard to do with my Express. I just can't find a good place to grab it by. So, with my Express, I swing it over my back.

Probably should've mentioned that part.

06-14-2006, 06:53 PM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Originally posted by Hanzo:
I will say that I find it hard to do with my Express. I just can't find a good place to grab it by. So, with my Express, I swing it over my back.

Probably should've mentioned that part. </div></div>Hanzo:
If the Express has them, try the deltas.
It sort of works for me.

WRT external frames, I think it is easier to grasp the external frame, but you potentially have more issues with the frame (or things attached to it) getting caught up if you are wearing webbing or a vest.

So it is posible - and can be humourous if it is someone else - to see someone wandering around in small circles, swearing with the corner of the bottom pad of their LC frame caught in the top of their suspenders and the rest of their pack sort of hovering above their head, arms in straps as they try to disengage.

I suspect this was what Thommo was talking about WRT external frames being more difficult.

Love the tree method.
We recently joked about it, but didnt do it (getting old).

I mean hey, isn't that one of the things that separates man from most beasts?
The use of machines.

Right on!

06-14-2006, 07:49 PM
Fireball, good tip, thank you!

06-14-2006, 10:57 PM
+1 for OTT, although I would qualify that by saying for packs under 40kg. Some of the ridiculous pack weights we had in EM (>75kg), meant you really had to use the old teamwork approach to standing up!
I always felt sorry for the poor sigs!

Cheers, Dave.

06-15-2006, 01:03 AM
Good to see it's not just an Aussie thing with the OTT hey fireballxl5.
Hanzo I did mean that I find a external frame more difficult with OTT but still my preferred method with either pack. As others have pointed out the frame can tend to catch on webbing etc if sliding down your back hence requires a "clean throw" when going over (just more practise by the individual). Ext frame can however provide more to hang onto.
I agree with excessively heavy loads some common sense needs to prevail (large qty of ammo, additional weapons and heavy sigs gear can often go well over reasonable weights that can be OTT).
As Brooklyn Ben points out necessity can make life a little easier with some thought.
Thanks MM for suggesting my post. This is exactly what this forum is about. It is not a competition or right or wrong way but interesting to see the results. I think OTT is the preferred method so far however this is from a predominantly military culture I would imagine the same question on a backpacking forum may be different?
Keep the preferred methods comming (I'm keeping count just for fun of course) I think this question is akin to does the toilet paper free end go next to the wall or hang free? /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/wink.gif

06-15-2006, 05:58 AM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Originally posted by Thommo:
I think this question is akin to does the toilet paper free end go next to the wall or hang free? /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/wink.gif </div></div>when it comes to toilet paper, the end goes OTT most definitely for me.
funny you should bring that up - back in college (in the 80's) for a statistics course, one of my classmates did a survey on campus: loose end of the roll - over the top or under? the result was overwhelmingly OTT (especially amongst guys). most of those who had it come out the back were women who didn't pay attention to where the end was when changing out the roll, and were too lazy to turn it around. it was funny - he got into details; "do you tear off the stuck down loose end on a new roll to see which way it's going before installing it, or can you tell which
way it's rolled and just install it? if you put it on backwards, would you take it off and turn it around?" /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

06-15-2006, 04:25 PM
I definitely agree w/OTT. I've been using my EMR for two years now for both military and civilian trips (I wasa recreation major in college) and I've humped loads ranging from 40-100 lbs. I'm not sure the name for them, but on lighter loads, under 65-75 lbs. I use the sewn loops on side of the pack (I think they're for cargo chair or piggyback accessories). Yep, just did a check and the top loops for piggybacking a pack are what they're for. Anyhow I just use those little bad jacksons and hoist the ruck OTT and away I go. If I'm moving out in a hurry then I can adjust the shoulder straps and waist belt on the fly. I was leary at first that these straps would break because they're sewn along a seam, but in another testament to the bomb proof construction of Kifaru they've held up nicely. I'f I'm humping a really heavy load then I add some '550 cord loops to the loops already there and use them for extra leverage. Mel, I hope this doesn't void my warranty!

06-15-2006, 05:44 PM
I've said it before and I'll say it again..OTT takes too much muscle energy, and is dangerous. A good way to throw your back, pinch a nerve, smack you buddy in the face, jostle a snow cover branch, or otherwise end up wishing you had done the knee-hoist or buddy-assist method.

06-15-2006, 07:15 PM

With due respect, I'mnot medically trained, so can you please explain why OTT is dangerous - or at least more dangerous than the knee hoist?

I would have thought that the side hoist/thigh balance would have a lot more risk with regards to throwing your back due to the lack of symmetry and the stress being put on one side, not to mention the potential balance problems attendant to that asymetry or the twisting/shrugging under strain that is required to get the ruck from thigh to back.

The other dangers you talk about, eg branch hitting, or smacking your mate seem to me to be a matter of matter of that most uncommon of virtues, "common" sense, situatinal awareness and safe practise.
Sort of the same types of issues you need to consider when chopping or even throwing grenades for that matter.

The buddy assist method for heavy weights certainly has a lot going for it, but I can not understnad your points re OTT versus thigh lift/side swing.

06-15-2006, 08:40 PM
I think AbnMedOps may be getting at the poor technique demonstrated by many people, you and I have both seen them. You know, the guys who keep their legs straight, bend forward at the waist (about the worst way to lift ANYTHING!) and then sling the hefty pack up and over. That is a receipe for injury.
The 'buddy assist method' is by far the safer way to go, provided 2 of you mates are there to help. Otherwise there is still the asymetrical strain taking place on the way up. Safer, but still not ideal.
I am inclined to think that there may be NO completely safe way to lift and carry very heavy (>75kg) packs, the load alone has potential to cause injuries without adding any twisting mechanism of injury to it.
JMHO, after 20+ yrs doing the job.

Cheers, Dave.

06-16-2006, 08:19 AM

I think you make an excellent point about how it's done. I've seen guys doing the side sling method that just makes me cringe. Bending over at the waist, grabbing a shoulder strap and whipping it up and swinging it around all in one move. While lifting things with your back is bad, I personally have seen more injuries by twisting motions than anything else. Like you said, there's no good way to lift half your body weight.

06-16-2006, 01:46 PM
I've never seen any back injuries from using the OTT, and that's from 4 years as an infantry medic. I have at schools like SFAS seen men whack their buddy in the head because they were too bunched up when donning rucks upon dismounting the truck(s). Most of these injuries (the ones to the head) are very minor, but have seen one or two where the guy getting hit lost a tooth or needed some sutures to put him back together.

As for the snow covered branch thing that's just plain old SA on the operator's part. 90% of the time when I'm tactically using the OTT method I'm on a knee or both knees anyway coming out of the prone or from behind C/C so if I'm clumsy enough to hit a tree branch then I probably have done more than just that and the OPFOR is already on my ass.

Still, there is a time and place for everything (METTC and all that happy stuff) so I occasionally use the buddy assist method. My prefernce is and will always be the OTT, it's also IMO the easiest (OTT) way to comfortably don a ruck when wearing belt kit or any sort of LBE and get the ruck centered without anything off balanced or tangled up. Just my 2 cents

06-17-2006, 11:42 PM
I've been following this thread with interest, and finally decided to post my thoughts on the issue. I will say up front, that I've tried both systems mentioned here for pack donning, and I feel that you are more susceptible to injury with the OTT method, versus the knee/thigh hoist method. This is just my personal opinion.

The OTT method seems to have taken it's roots in the military ranks. Very rarely will you see a backpacker use the OTT. I really don't think there is a right way or wrong way. It's all personal preference, kinda like "weaver or isosceles", or "on top or doggie style" /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif . Whichever you choose, technique is everything, as mentioned here in this thread for the OTT method. Maybe that's why some guys choose one over the other, because they have figured out the technique for one, and not the other.

I will say that there seems to be a misconception here in this thread about the knee/thigh hoist method. If using the proper technique, there is NO risky lateral twisting or contortionist moves. You start with the pack upright, sitting on it's bottom. You already have an advantage here over the OTT method, as you don't have to bend over or squat as much to begin the process, because the pack is upright, and not laying on it's back. You grab both shoulder straps and lift up, to rest the pack onto your outstretched upper thigh. Your knees are flexed, and you are in a squatting position. You now put your right arm through the right shoulder strap, and simply straighten up into a standing position. You DO NOT twist your body, or swing the pack around freely. At the same time as you straighten up into a standing position, your right arm should be hanging down along your side. Now, just guide the lower part of the pack around to your back, taking care not to just push it, shove it, or swing it around. You don't have to twist or contort at all to accomplish this. Once the pack is around to your back, put your left arm through the other shoulder strap, just like putting on a jacket. You might have to scrunch your shoulders up, with a little bump, as you put your left arm through. Now, just cinch your shoulder straps to start your strap adjustment procedure. I might not have explained this very well, but I can demonstrate it easily in person, showing there is no lateral twisting involved with this method. You OTT guys, give this technique a try, and see if it works for you /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/wink.gif .


06-18-2006, 02:04 AM
I'm not sure I completely understand, but if it gives me an excuse to play with my pack, I'll try it! /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

06-18-2006, 03:28 AM
Mel, Thanks for your interest, I think we both agree that OTT has its origins in the military culture and the benefits I find with the OTT method (I say again the benefits I find) are for me it is the quicker method, I personally may not have the upper body strength to find other methods comfortable (with heavy packs) and being the inherantly lazy person I am I don't like readjusting my various straps. The pack I have been using for the last 10 years (military and civilian use) has probably only ever had the straps adjusted less than 1/2 doz times in roughly 4,000+kms (I am lucky that my load does not very that much each trip, and all my straps currently are double "tri-glided" to prevent slippage). In my current position as a Team Leader with youth at risk wilderness therapy work I find I am Pack On/Off at least 30+ times a day (50+ for a female team)
For me it is all about speed, comfort, ease and safety with the method I have mastered.
Whilst I have and will continue to instruct the OTT method I have never made it compulsory for any of my students and if they can show me that they can use alternative methods without endangering themselves, thats fine. Like everyone here I am always concisous of twisting etc when putting on a pack.
On a lighter note, I do on occaision go to ground without dropping my pack and give my youth full team the challenge of getting me back on my feet . My combined weight with pack is well in excess of 150K's (300+ lbs) of course I make it easy for them (not) quite a team challenge and good for a few laughs at my bruised and battered expense usually.