ASU Invention Could Make Backpacking a Little Easier

An Arizona State University employee field-tests the Pogo Pack prototype on the Superstition Mountains' Peralta Trail. | Courtesy of Arizona State University

An Arizona State University professor's invention could make a heavy backpack feel a lot lighter.

Thomas Sugar, a mechanical engineering professor and member of ASU's Human Machine Integration Lab, has designed the Pogo Suit, an oscillating backpack intended to help the wearer carry a heavy load. The basic concept is that the contraption uses powerful springs to move the backpack's load up and down at just the right time, decreasing the metabolic cost of carrying the load.

“Imagine when you’re running with a school backpack, just a small backpack, and it’s slamming down on your shoulders at the wrong time, and it doesn’t feel good," Sugar said in an ASU news release. "This one goes in the opposite direction. It oscillates to make the backpack feel lighter.”

The setup, built by ASU engineering associate Eduardo Fernandez, also includes a circuit board, a battery and wiring.

An ASU employee tested the prototype Pogo Suit on the Superstition Mountains' Peralta Trail and reported noticing a big difference, particularly on inclines — comparing it to the feeling of "a giant hand coming along and lifting the pack off your back for a split second."

The prototype has some drawbacks — it's heavy, which negates some of the metabolic cost savings, and it's noisy, which can distract from a scenic hike. But Sugar is already thinking of improvements to the design, so maybe you'll see a Pogo Pack on a trail near you in the future.

If you're interested, here's a video, courtesy of ASU, of the Pogo Pack in action.

Pogo Pack test on Peralta Trail - Superstition Mountains, Arizona from ASU Now on Vimeo.

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