Traditional backpacking frames and belts transfer weight away from your shoulders and onto your hips for an easier carry. They provide some structure for your pack to keep it aligned with your body. However, since they’re more rigid and fixed in place, they can also cause chafing and throw off your center of gravity if they don’t fit well or seamlessly adjust with your movements. The solution? A backpacking frame and belt system that pivots.

A pivoting system on a backpack offers a more comfortable experience because it automatically adapts with your changing movements on trail. That’s why we’ve incorporated our new, patent-pending PVT Frame+Belt system into our Gorilla 50 and Mariposa 60 backpacks.

These two packs are long-time, tried-and-true favorites. So, we didn’t want to be like one of those footwear companies that changes the design of your perfect running shoe every season for seemingly no reason. You can rest assured that the updates we’ve made to the 2024 Gorilla and Mariposa models came after significant testing from a diverse range of brand ambassadors, long-distance hikers, and outdoor gear aficionados. But if you’re still feeling unsure about the change to using a pivot system on these packs, this blog is here to help!

Below, we’ll dive into exactly what a pivot frame and belt system is on a backpack. We’ll also cover what some of the benefits are of this design choice, and help you get amped for your next Gossamer Gear pack. We’re sure you’ll be a fan of the PVT Frame+Belt system in no time—just like our testers!

How a Pivot Frame + Belt Works for Backpacking

In short, a pivoting frame and belt on a backpack allows for the pack to move naturally with you rather than being strapped into a fixed position. Pivoting frames can be constructed in a couple ways. One is by using hardware—essentially a pin added within a frame that allows for rotating movement. However, this approach can add quite a bit of weight to your pack. 

The other approach involves using the pack parts that are already there, but making small adjustments that allow for greater movement, such as not sewing the hipbelt into a fixed position on the pack. This approach, which we’ve employed, keeps the pivoting system simple and lightweight.

Our signature PVT system involves an aluminum, closed-shape frame. This provides rigidity and strength that matches your back’s contour. The bottom of the frame then slips into a pocket on the back center of the accompanying pivot belt. The belt is designed to fit you like a glove for ample support and optimal weight transfer. At the same time, it works with the frame to allow your pack to move more naturally with your unique gait. As your hips and pelvis tilt and rotate with your hiking stride, the lower end of the frame is free to move back and forth within the pocket. It is secure, transfers weight effectively, and promotes flexibility with your movements.

Say hello to less chafing and more comfort.

4 Benefits of Using a Pivoting System on a Backpack

Pivoting frame and hipbelt systems on backpacks foster less resistance as you move along a trail. This offers several benefits.

1. Enjoy More Natural Movement and Balance

Have you ever been wearing a fully loaded pack, forgotten you were, and then made a sudden movement that totally threw off your center of gravity and left you on the ground looking like a flailing turtle? We’ve all been there at least once. (Right?)

Since your pack shifts in real-time with your movements when backpacking with the PVT Frame+Belt system, it’s easier to maintain your balance. Your center of gravity adjusts with you.

Additionally, when your belt is not in a fixed position and your pack allows for some organic wiggle room, your stride on trail feels more natural. A walk in the park, if you will.

2. Maintain Simple Direct Weight Transfer With Added Functionality

The PVT Frame+Belt system that we’ve employed on our Mariposa 60 and Gorilla 50 models is not rocket science. And that’s intentional. You don’t have to worry about metal hardware breaking and requiring a complicated fix. You also don’t need to fret over excessive additional weight added to your base.

Our pivoting backpack system is simple but effective in maintaining a direct weight transfer from your tender shoulders to your sturdy hips, all while adding the comfort and balance of the pivot. The hipbelt and frame are free to move independently of each other and in response to you.

3. Experience Easier High-Stepping Activities

Often, trails don’t follow a flat, stable path. You have to wrangle your way over fallen trees, step up and over boulders, and bend to avoid branches. These activities are referred to as “high-steps,” whenever you’re moving up and down a foot or more. They can even be simple activities like leaning over to tie your shoes or scoop water into your filter from the creek.

When you make these changes in personal elevation, your hip joints and pelvic area rotate in larger angles. With fixed frame and belt systems, high-stepping can be uncomfortable, as your muscles have to tighten to accommodate for the imbalance in your center of gravity. If your joints and muscles lose the battle in this strain, you may find yourself looking like that flailing turtle we mentioned earlier.

The PVT Frame+Belt system can make high-stepping feel more secure and less tiring while you’re on trail.

4. Reduce Fatigue Over Longer Mileage

Without a backpack on, your body is free to move however it needs without resistance. Your spine may sway a bit and your hips rock, each in their own time. When you add a backpack with a set frame and hipbelt to your walking stride, it creates a fixed grip between your spine and hips. They’re no longer able to easily move independently of one another. As a result, your muscles tense in different ways against that rigidity. This can lead to feeling fatigued faster.

With the PVT Frame+Belt system, the pack’s design encourages more natural movement. Your joints and muscles don’t have to strain as much against a force that tries to hold them in place. Therefore, if you’re heading out on a long hike, the pivoting system on your backpack has the potential to reduce early fatigue.

Welcome the PVT Frame+Belt to the Gossamer Gear Line

When it comes to carrying a backpacking load with optimal comfort, a pivoting frame and belt system is an excellent feature. You’ll find the PVT Frame+Belt system on the latest Gorilla 50 and Mariposa 60 models. The PVT Hipbelt comes with: 

  • Two large zippered hip pockets
  • Straight or curved fits in five sizes for greater size and shape inclusivity
  • Center pocket to accommodate the PVT Frame
  • Foam-cushioned comfort
  • Sturdy weight transfer wrap
  • Tough recycled Robic fabric

Note that previous Gorilla and Mariposa models (early 2024 packs and prior) will not function with the PVT Hipbelt or PVT Frame. 

Enjoy More Comfort on Trail With a Pivoting Frame + Hipbelt

Now that you know more about pivot frames and belts on backpacks, we hope you’re even more excited to try Gossamer Gear’s PVT Frame+Belt on the recently updated Mariposa 60 or Gorilla 50. These new models are the direct result of customer feedback and relentless testing.

We’d love to see your pivot system in action on trail! Make sure to let us know how you like it and share the fun with us by tagging Gossamer Gear on social media (@gossamergear) and using the hashtag #takelessdomore.

Hungry for more backpacking gear and planning knowledge? Check out some of our other articles on the Light Feet blog:

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April 04, 2024 — Korrin Bishop