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Backpacker Magazine – October 1998

Load Lifters: Homemade Sherpa Straps

When pack weight drags you down, homemade Sherpa straps can help ease the burden.

by: Jonathan Dorn

I have a friend, Layne, who carries a massive pack loaded with enough gear to make a mule groan. Quite a man, yessiree. By the third day, though, the tonnage starts to take its toll and his aching body parts beg for relief. So at every opportunity Layne flops down in a full wake-me-up-when-it's-over recline.

For those times he can't stop to grab a nap-on steep climbs, narrow trails, and forced marches when he's trying to reach camp before dark-Layne relies on a set of ingenious devices for on-the-go relief. He calls them "Sherpa straps."

Made from polypropylene webbing, these loops hang from the D-rings on his shoulder straps and serve several purposes:

  • Slings: When his arms get tired, or simply to break the monotony, he sticks his hands through the loops and hangs on for dear life.
  • Levers: Pulling the straps down or forward lets him adjust the height of the pack on his back. This enables Layne to minimize pack sway and control balance when he leans into a switchback or steps high over a stump.
  • Load lifters: By pulling out and up, he can change the way the pack rides, giving momentary relief to a specific aching part-hips, back, or shoulders.

Not bad, eh? Here's how you can make your own Sherpa straps with a few inexpensive supplies from the local outdoors store.

Step 1. Fasten hook-and-retainer clips to the D-rings or daisy chains on your shoulder straps.

Step 2. Cut 4 feet of flat polypropylene webbing into two equal lengths. Thread each 2-foot piece through the retainers at the bottom of the clips.

Step 3. Overlap the ends of each webbing piece about 1 inch and sew two bar tacks to secure the connection.

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