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  1. #1
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    Preventing Shoulder-Woes: What's Your Solution?

    Here's an interesting article ("Ouch! My bag is killing me!") from the NYTimes about how the current oversized handbag craze is taking a toll on women's shoulders and backs.

    No, none of us carry Chanel or Hermès handbags. But, the article features excellent advice from doctors on how to ease the burden on your shoulders and back, including being sure to use the pockets inside your bag in order to evenly distribute the weight of your stuff.

    My question: What do you do to prevent the shoulder and back pain so many of us are prone to now that we carry just about everything we own with us?

    If you're using a Tom Bihn bag, I think you're already ahead of the pack. Our shoulder straps and waist straps are tested and designed with weight distribution and comfort in mind. They won't make a heavy load light (although a lot of people say that the Absolute Shoulder Strap actually does), but they do ease and lessen the stress that is put on your body. Alex, our Shipping Associate, has been testing the up-and-coming Quick Adjust Messenger Strap that Tom has designed on his bike rides to and from work. His bag weighs about 25 lbs. fully loaded, and he says the strap is the most comfortable he's used. Plus, it looks really cool.

    Personally, I clean out my bag once a week, as the NYTimes article advises. I find that once I clear my bag of all of the stuff I don't really need, it ends up being significantly lighter.
    Last edited by Darcy; 12-11-2006 at 03:23 PM.
    Current Carry: Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  2. #2
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    I spent the month of August in Montreal, walking between 7 and 15 miles everyday, just checking out the city. I carried the Imago everyday. I noticed how other people carried their bags and realized that different people carry their bags in different ways. I even wanted to carry <i>my</i> bag in different ways depending on the load, and my mood.
    That's why I came up with the new Quick Adjust shoulder strap, plus some other innovations you'll be seeing in the coming months: to give folks more choices for their shoulders!
    As far as all these over-the-top huge handbags that are all the rage (or at least were twenty minutes ago), well being a guy who gets his personal fashion leads from Tintin, I shouldn't really comment. But I will say this: your stuff should set you free, not bog you down. As they say: "simplify and add lightness".

  3. #3
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    In my quest to go minimalistic always, I forgot my #2 pencils for my final exam today! Good thing I was able to borrow one from a friend.

    It could be a scientific formula maybe? Number of friends you encounter daily inversely proportional to amount of stuff needed in bag? Haha.. after all, if you are surrounded by friends, you don't need that iPod, etc....

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy View Post
    Here's an interesting article ("Ouch! My bag is killing me!") from the NYTimes . . .
    [snip]

    My question: What do you do to prevent the shoulder and back pain so many of us are prone to now that we carry just about everything we own with us?

    [snip]

    Personally, I clean out my bag once a week, as the NYTimes article advises. I find that once I clear my bag of all of the stuff I don't really need, it ends up being significantly lighter.
    Um, err, guilty (not the oversized handbag, but of carrying too much around).

    First, for the Bihn-centric answers:
    • Switch to using a Buzz more often -- this automatically keeps down the load
      Quote Originally Posted by moriond View Post
      I use my Buzz when I don't want to carry a lot around -- typically a large textbook, some folders of papers with assignments and handouts, and maybe another book, plus power adapter, pointer, mouse, and miscellaneous small items in the front pocket.
      I usually carry a 12" PowerBook if I tote a laptop. It was the lightest Mac option at the time I bought it, though that's no longer true. I try to use my Buzz when I can.
    • Sold my Empire Builder [sorry, just didn't work for me; it went to a new home with another forum member where it is much loved].
      Quote Originally Posted by moriond View Post
      Hmmm. . . I see that the Empire Builder is not shipping till mid-February. Anyone interested in a gently used version? The problem I found is that with current luggage restrictions I either want to carry a bigger bag or a smaller bag. For someone who is 5'4" the trade-off in weight for the size is better matched by other bags.
      Quote Originally Posted by moriond View Post
      I was at a conference last year with an Empire Builder and for this setting it was too heavy and bulky. I switched bags after the first day to something lighter. The problem is, with airplane travel limits on the number of bags you can take, and other things to carry for friends and relatives on that trip, selecting a bigger bag (e.g. Empire Builder over ID bag) seemed preferable.

      Nowadays I'd take along the Lux bag, which is light-weight, and easily packs down in other luggage (if I need to do this), but which also stands up (oval bottom panel) when you set in down.
      The guy in the next quote sounds as though he has all of us beat for what he is carrying around.
      Quote Originally Posted by Iceblink View Post
      I've had my Empire Builder for over 2 years now, and it's still in perfect condition.

      [snip]

      The strap is comfortable. The reviewer is right. In fact... how about this one... I am a teacher. Just before midterm grades were due, I put a bunch of papers in my bag to grade... along with a bunch of memos... lesson plans... all divided up nicely in the bag. I put the bag on my passenger seat and the airbag engaged. The airbag engages at 60 pounds. I was carrying around 60+ pounds and had no idea!

      It's amazing how much I can put into it. I also carry around a gateway laptop in a Brain Cell that fits perfectly.

      [snip]
      All I can say is that the 60+ pounds must be a much smaller fraction of his weight than it is of mine! Carrying this on a shoulder strap -- even the Absolute Strap -- I'd definitely be lopsided. This must be the different market for the Empire Builder.

  5. #5
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    Well, if you must ask...

    I carry my stuff on my Dana Douglas Infinity rollator, click http://www.danadouglas.com/pdfs/infiniti500.pdf to view. Otherwise, I'm pretty much a minimalist with my medium Cafe Bag when not hauling my laptop to work.

    If you have access to the NY Times, I was featured in an article called "A Different Set of Wheels".

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by moriond View Post
    I usually carry a 12" PowerBook if I tote a laptop. It was the lightest Mac option at the time I bought it, though that's no longer true.
    Are you referring to the Mac Mini? Because the MacBook is heavier than the 12" PowerBook.

    Myself, I try real hard not to tote my laptop at all, and put off buying new laptops until they come out with decent ones that are lighter than my current one (that don't make my wallet too much lighter at the same time).

    Other than that, I just take the bare necessities with me - keys, wallet, cell phone at the minimum; if I am toting a bag then the water bottle, small Miquelrius notebook, pens, business cards, sunglasses, iPod, and digital camera may come along too... and then there's the necessary school stuff when I am going there. I find the Imago to be a bit like the Buzz in the respect that I don't like having it full (and it doesn't take much to make it so), so I am forced to think about each and every thing I put into it.

  7. #7
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    I haven't yet figured out what to do. It seems like no matter what kind of bag I use, backpack or messenger bag, my back or shoulder will eventually start to hurt. I have a large cafe bag as my messenger bag and a timbuk2 backpack that I use depending on whether I just need my notebooks or if I actually need to carry around a textbook and/or my laptop. I'm short and skinny and it doesn't take much to put strain on me so I don't know if it's a problem with my bags or if I'm just incapable of carrying weight without consequences.

    The large cafe bag is generally very good because I don't carry around much when I'm using it, but the strap tangles like crazy. If I'm taking it to the mall, after about an hour or two my shoulder will begin to ache a little and I'll have to start switching it around. I think I need a slightly bigger bag with a better strap, so I'll be switching to the Imago soon (I hope.) I've also started eying the Buzz because it's apparently the same capacity as the Imago and might be better for my back, but I'm pretty attached to the messenger bag format as my daily bag.

    In terms of my backpack... I've been on a neverending and unsuccessful quest for one that I can comfortably use.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by timarelay View Post
    I'm short and skinny and it doesn't take much to put strain on me so I don't know if it's a problem with my bags or if I'm just incapable of carrying weight without consequences.
    It could be both. The backpack you are using might not be compatible to your body shape, or even good at holding weight in general. But it could also be that your body is simply not used to carrying much weight at all, and that would take time to overcome.

    The large cafe bag is generally very good because I don't carry around much when I'm using it, but the strap tangles like crazy. If I'm taking it to the mall, after about an hour or two my shoulder will begin to ache a little and I'll have to start switching it around.
    Are you using the bag across your chest, or on one side of your body only?

    I think I need a slightly bigger bag with a better strap, so I'll be switching to the Imago soon (I hope.) I've also started eying the Buzz because it's apparently the same capacity as the Imago and might be better for my back, but I'm pretty attached to the messenger bag format as my daily bag.
    I tend to think of the Buzz as a messenger that rides a little higher on my back anyway Will your laptop fit the Buzz?

    In terms of my backpack... I've been on a neverending and unsuccessful quest for one that I can comfortably use.
    Good luck on that!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Just View Post
    It could be both. The backpack you are using might not be compatible to your body shape, or even good at holding weight in general. But it could also be that your body is simply not used to carrying much weight at all, and that would take time to overcome.
    I think it's probably a combination of all of the above. I haven't used a backpack in years, and even when I did use one I didn't carry it around for more than a few minutes at a time.

    Are you using the bag across your chest, or on one side of your body only?
    Generally across my chest. I only wear it on one side for very brief moments when there's next to nothing in it.

    I tend to think of the Buzz as a messenger that rides a little higher on my back anyway Will your laptop fit the Buzz?
    Yup, it would. Though I don't carry my laptop with me often, so that's not really much of a concern. I suppose it is a bit weird to be looking at laptop bags when that's not my primary cargo, but laptop bags just tend to be really well made and good homes for my stuff.

    Well, you own the Imago and the Buzz. Under what circumstances do you use them? Which handles weight better?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by timarelay View Post
    Generally across my chest. I only wear it on one side for very brief moments when there's next to nothing in it.
    Hmm. The reason I asked was because you mentioned strap tangling (which I thought would have happened a lot easier with it on one shoulder - I don't know how it would tangle while across the chest?) And also the shoulder pain seemed like it would have happened more if it was a one-side carry, but it would have happened regardless if that shoulder or shoulders weren't used to carrying weight.

    I suppose it is a bit weird to be looking at laptop bags when that's not my primary cargo, but laptop bags just tend to be really well made and good homes for my stuff.
    I def. hear you on that!

    Well, you own the Imago and the Buzz. Under what circumstances do you use them? Which handles weight better?
    Ok first off my laptop does not fit either the Imago or the Buzz. (Well, I suppose technically it does, but it would look really really funny and it would be very unprotected =P ) So I generally use the bags for school stuff. A paperback textbook or two (3/4" to 1" thick each) 2-4 very thin notebooks (1/8" thick each), water bottle (strangely, this is a heavy glass one), sunglass case, wallet (sometimes), pocket folding knife, mini flashlight, digital camera, cell phone, pens and pencils, business cards, iPod nano, Miquelrius notebook, small MSR face towel. These would all fit into both bags, but if I'm doing both textbooks and all notebooks (which I'm not used to since I avoid when possible) it will strain, no matter which bag it's in.

    I generally use the Imago day-to-day for the above mentioned stuff. While I could fit it into the Buzz, I generally prefer not to since a full Buzz is not a happy Buzz. If I'm doing just one textbook and just the 2 notebooks and nix a few accessories, the Buzz is fine. So heavier loads automatically go to the Imago just out of aesthetics and form factor. Slung over the chest, the weight is generally not a big deal with the Imago but if it would be one (say I add another textbook or something) I'd go to the Smart Alec - backpack it.

    Hope this helped

  11. #11
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    Preventing Shoulder Woes: What's Your Solution?
    -----------------------------------------------------
    It's a great question for us and it caught the attention of the ergonomist and anthropomorphist in me.
    1) I alternate and vary the manner by which I carry luggage - so as to share the burden with as many muscle groups in my body as possible- this reduces fatigue.
    -When walking with a load I'll carry the bag on one side of my body (I'm Left Side dominant) - always with the strap running across my body - the burden being borne by the opposite shoulder to the carry side. *Note- I know this doesn't always LOOK so cool.
    - To give the carry shoulder a break, I'll shift the strap to the opposite side of my body.
    The benefits of this is that one shoulder doesn't get too tired when the other is resting idly. It also 'trains' you to be a bilateral carrier- which helps your posture, stature and balance.
    - For short and quick transports, I'll mount the strap on a shoulder that is on the same side of my body as the bag. This is how most people carry most types of luggage up to the size of an Aeronaut. It's not the most recommended from an ergonomic standpoint, but it's efficient and effective for SHORT distances with moderate loads when time is of the essence.
    - Whenever feasable and if the bag design allows it, I'll use a hand strap to give my shoulders a rest and my lower arms a workout. Again, I'll alternate beween left and right sides.
    * So far, I count these as six carry variations for a bag like a Super Ego or ID Bag.
    - If the load is really heavy and the distance of travel substantial, then a seventh- backpack carry mode is recommended. The Aeronaut is the shining star in this category. So the Aeronaut has seven realistic carry modes (Unless you count dragging- then it would have 9!!!)
    2) I always put my luggage down when I'm not moving for longer than 1 minute. I marvel at how some of us can stand in line at an airport or other slow moving line of people and shoulder carry 25Lbs + of load.
    3) If I must dash with a bag- I'll prefer to hand carry it or shoulder and hand carry it. Keeping the center of gravity low when bouncing up and down reduces upper body fatigue and mitigates a loss of balance.
    4) The Tom Bihn Absolute shoulder strap is the technological answer to fatigue mitigation. It absorbs a lot of pressure every step I take with my ID bag loaded with gear- especially on long fast walks through airports or cities. I've replaced lesser straps on other luggage that I own with the Absolute and the benefits have added value to my non-Tom Bihn luggage- such as my Blackhawk Garment Bag and Blackhawk Training Bag.
    Adding it all up -you should not feel much fatigue if you alternate the load around your body, avoid carrying when you don't need to -and 'run don't walk' for the Absolute Shoulder Strap!
    Last edited by Zephyrnoid; 12-21-2006 at 08:50 AM.

  12. #12
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    Being a girl, I have always carried purses.

    In high school, my book load was very heavy and I was carrying a big leather briefcase plus a shoulder strap purse the size of the The Imago.

    It didn't feel comfortable especially since the school was at the end a very steep grade.

    In college, I lived on campus and experimented with various briefcases including one with a hard shell, one small leather one until I found a backpack.

    The backpack was cute and not badly made since I still have it but...

    It didn't have much capacity and was not very comfortable after a day trek in the city to do errands etc...

    Since I got married and "stole" much of my hubby's laptop bags and luggage pieces and bought myself some pieces of luggages that turned out disapointing either ultra heavy (a Tumi garment bag), or impossible to carry and unload comfortably (Timberland shoulder luggage bag).

    The Tumi always ended up checked and the Timberland was dragged on the airport floor.


    Come the Brain Bag. At first I thought that the straps were too wide but when the bag is loaded it's a dream to carry.

    The dreaded shelp between the counter (to check hubby's no name bag) and the departing gate via the dreaded security lines was very pleasant.

    I packed the Brain Bag with the same kind of things I used to pack the Timberland bag with, plus 3 blouses. The Brain Bag still had room in the front to wip out the 3 oz ziplock as fast as possible.

    I carried the Brain Bag all the way with no shoulder pain and with ease.
    A definite A+ Bag.

    On another trip, Hubby carried it when it was loaded with two laptops, a external hard drive, the hardware various cable and many disk cases.
    I knew that other bags would have been excruciating to carry or the straps would not have survived the combined pressure of the weight and bouncing of the load.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Just View Post
    Hmm. The reason I asked was because you mentioned strap tangling (which I thought would have happened a lot easier with it on one shoulder - I don't know how it would tangle while across the chest?)
    The strap tangles while it's off me, and then I have to untangle it to put it back on or it feels weird. I know of at least one other cafe bag owner with this problem. Not sure what causes it.


    I generally use the Imago day-to-day for the above mentioned stuff. While I could fit it into the Buzz, I generally prefer not to since a full Buzz is not a happy Buzz. If I'm doing just one textbook and just the 2 notebooks and nix a few accessories, the Buzz is fine. So heavier loads automatically go to the Imago just out of aesthetics and form factor. Slung over the chest, the weight is generally not a big deal with the Imago but if it would be one (say I add another textbook or something) I'd go to the Smart Alec - backpack it.

    Hope this helped
    That did help, thank you. I wouldn't have guessed one would choose the Imago over the Buzz for heavier loads. I'll continue with my plan to buy the Imago, then!

  14. #14
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    A perfect topic for my first forum post. I am in a quandry about this issue right now. I happen to have RA and can no longer wear a backpack style bag nor carry items in my hands for long periods. So, I have decided to try a messenger style bag. Specifically I will be getting a Super Ego as well as a Horizontal Brain Cell.

    I have been thinking that a shoulder strap with a wider sort of saddle shaped pad that that allows the weight to be more evenly distributed across the length of my shoulder will work great. I suspect the balance point for the pad/strap combo would be a challenge but I bet you guys could "make is work"... Not sure if my description fits what is in my head though...but thing of how a saddle fits on a horse and thing of your shoulder as the back of the horse. It might work with two attachment points for the strap or maybe just a strap that fans out to meet the pad width. ???

    Padding is important and maybe a gel type pad would work and last a bit longer then a foam pad? Plus the covering needs to be SOFT to pretect against those icky strap marks form carrying too much weight.

    Not sure if this is the sort of detail you were asking about but right now I cannot find (anywhere) a strap that will work the way I need. So currently the only solution is anything with a BFP (basically a BIG PAD) and not too much weight. I try to keep it under 10lbs.

    The RA makes getting any sort of physical activity problematic so I am sort of tuned into decreasing the strain on my hands, shoulders, knees and feet...did I leave any body parts out? Thank the gawds for Vitamin-V...

  15. #15
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    Strap options for Super Ego

    Quote Originally Posted by grumpy3b View Post
    I happen to have RA and can no longer wear a backpack style bag nor carry items in my hands for long periods.
    Quick question: RA=Rheumatoid arthritis? And maybe Darcy can tell us about the Super Ego strap? (I think it's still the old style one, and you might be better off with an Absolute Strap or maybe the new strap option Tom is developing for messenger bags. But I think only the ID bag has been redesigned so far to enable use of the Absolute Strap, and the Super Ego still uses the older strap)

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