Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems

Department

Human Factors and Systems

Committee Chair

Jason Kring, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Lynn Koller, Ph.D.

Abstract

Hikers attempting long-distance trails, like the Appalachian Trail, load their backpacks down with gear that may exceed ideal limits on pack weight. Hikers pack clothing to deal with changing weather conditions, sleeping bags, tents, tarps, cooking gear, food, water and other accessories to compensate for the lack of comfort in the remote wilderness. These heavy weights may affect hikers' ability to walk in comfort and result in physical injuries such as ankle sprains, knee pain, muscular fatigue, and soft tissue damage. Heavy pack weights can cause injuries and possibly prevent hikers from completing long distance hikes.

This study evaluated pack weight to understand the limits of long-term load carriage. Participants were Appalachian Trail hikers who attempted to complete the entire trail in the 2012 season. Hikers were asked to complete a series of online surveys throughout the duration of their hike to assess pack weight, body weight, injuries/illnesses sustained, miles hiked, and reasons for quitting a long-distance hike. Through logistic regression analysis an equation for the prediction of completing the trail was developed. The evaluations of pack weight, load percentage of total body weight, average miles hiked per day, Body Mass Index (BMI), experience, and gender revealed how they affect the prediction process. The independent variables used for prediction show interdependency throughout the analysis with moderate relationships that would be required to successfully predict a hiker to complete the trail.

In addition, there was supporting data that reflected higher instances of pack related injury reports to hikers who carried heavier pack weights. This study illustrates trends in pack weight and load percentages that may provide useful in suggesting weight limits to increase the success rates of hikers and reduce injuries. The hypothesis that hikers were negatively affected in the number of miles hiked as pack weight increases was supported in the study.

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