lumbar close up

Our findings on hipbelts and lumbar pads…

Over the last year Lenny and I tested a seemingly endless combination of hipbelt and lumbar pad configurations.  Between sizing, foam, foam thickness, foam density and overall stiffness the variables really start to add up.  Ask 100 experienced backpackers and you’ll get 100 different answers on what they prefer.  Some would never buy a pack without a lumbar pad, some people hate them.  Some like a soft flexible hipbelt some prefer a really stiff rigid one with plastic sewn in as backing.  The truth is there  so many body shapes, spine profiles and other variables there is no perfect answer or a one size fits all application.  With that in mind this was our approach…

The Hipbelt:

I want to briefly explain why and how we ended up with the design that we did.  The final product is a soft flexible hipbelt that has a concave shape with 5/8′ of foam; a soft 1/2″ and then 1/8″ backing foam to add a little rigidity.  With the soft hipbelt this will conform and mold itself to more body types and in our experience the ride is substantially more comfortable under all conditions.  We tested some really stiff versions and under heavy 100+ lb loads they feel slightly better for the first mile but by mile 3 your hips will be rubbed raw as the friction created between the moving parts of your body and the non-moving / non-flexible belt create hotspots.  With the flexible design it will just sit there and move with you so the ride quality does not degenerate the farther you hike.

One thing we did realize through this process was that if you built our same belt out of a cheaper upholstery foam the result is completely opposite.  You then you have to go with a more rigid design, most likely why some people out there prefer a stiff hipbelt.  Fortunately with the foam we are using we can do this and the end result is an extremely comfortable hipbelt that is great with 20lbs or 120lbs.

The Lumbar pad:

On the lumbar pad we ended up settling on a 1.5″ thick design that has a soft density foam on the outside backed by a more dense foam on the inside.  What happens is this; with light loads (40lbs under) the soft foam has a great feel and cushion to it that gives you some resistance so you don’t have to cinch the hipbelt down extremely tight to keep the weight off your shoulders.  As the weight of the load increases the soft foam will compress and hit the more dense foam so that you have good resistance to really cinch the belt down as the heavy load will be pushing into your lumbar area.   When the soft foam compresses it also reduces the overall thickness of the lumbar pad which helps distribute the load more through the entire hipbelt and not just concentrate it on the lumbar area.

Custom Options:

So in realizing that there isn’t ever going to be one perfect hipbelt we designed it with all these factors in mind and to further accommodate people we are going to offer custom options.  There will be 3 different overall sizes so everyone from a 29″ waist to a 40″ waist should be covered.  We also designed the lumbar pad area so that it is extremely easy to remove and are going to offer (down the road) different thicknesses for people to try out if they want a thicker or thinner lumbar pad.

Other features:

  • Reverse pull webbing that helps you gain substantial leverage when cinching the hipbelt
  • Non-slip lumbar surface helps keep lumbar in place and helps prevent shirt from sliding up back
  • Removable webbing to accommodate hipbelt pouch accessory and holsters




  • Eric Bergey

    This thing keeps sounding better and better. Is it April 15th yet??
    Any idea on the price of the 3500 bag itself, no frame?

    • Exo Mtn Gear

      Not 100% sure yet on how the pricing will break down. It will be the $200-250 range.

  • ChasingtheHunt

    I have to agree with Eric. You guys are really considering every aspect and putting in plenty of work to make sure the product works for everyone. I cannot wait to get my hands on this. I know your hard work will pay off!

  • Daniel Son

    The more I read about this pack the more I want one. I have never heard of anyone paying attention to so many details on the design of a pack, let alone keeping the public informed, as you guys have. You have truly found a niche in the backcountry archery world and are doing a terrific job at designing the gear for it.

  • Patch

    Steve, have you looked at the split hip belt? It splits into 2 parts so one part rides on your hip bones and the lower split hugs your hip bones. What were your thoughts on this if you tried it? A friend of mine has a pack with this, and states it is the most comfortable hip belt he has worn.

  • Vince

    For the lumbar pad, shouldn’t the soft density foam be put on the inside rather than on the outside? This is because by logic, the stiffer foam should be used against the load for support and resistance while the softer foam should be used against the body for comfort and cushioning.

    • Exo Mtn Gear

      The soft density foam is up against the lower back while the more dense foam is between the soft foam and the frame.