We've covered backpacks that swing around front, backpacks that keep tabs on your belongings, packs that charge gadgets and ones that transform into other pieces of kit, like jackets and washing machines. Despite all those features and many more, backpacks virtually always have the same basic structure: a storage pouch hanging off a shoulder or two. The ME-2 dares to be different. This all-new backpack doesn't go over your shoulders at all, instead wrapping around your torso and catching a ride.
There are some variations on how backpack shoulder straps are arranged, including these rerouted straps, but the shoulder straps themselves have long been an established component of backpack design. There's nothing in the simple term "backpack" that suggests they're necessary, however. The ME-2 is most definitely a backpack; it just doesn't throw straps over your shoulders.
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The ME-2 pack wasn't developed out of novelty, but out of necessity. ME-2 creator Candace Spears, an avid hiker, found herself unable to carry weight on her shoulders after a major rafting injury. Many a hike demands a pack, and Spears wasn't about to give up her active outdoor lifestyle. Instead, she approached the problem with a little ingenuity and hard work and came up with a design that keeps the weight off the shoulders.
The main components of the ME-2 pack design are the custom carbon fiber frame and hip and torso belts. These combine to keep the pack stable while pulling weight and stress off your shoulders, neck and upper back, spreading it down your torso.
The ME-2 pack is a little trickier to put on than the average backpack. A support strap lets you sling the pack over your shoulder to keep it in place while you fasten the hip belt. Both the hip and torso belts secure closed and tighten around your body, providing a snug, personalized fit.
Beyond serving as an option for those with medical conditions, the ME-2 is also billed as a way of freeing up upper body movement, making it functional for climbing, hunting and other activities that entail a lot of use of the hands and arms. We'd question how well it stays in place compared to a traditional backpack with shoulder straps, hip belt and chest strap, especially on longer hikes and adventures, but it certainly looks like an interesting alternative.
Beyond the reconfigured support system, the ME-2 is a fairly standard backpack. It's made from nylon ripstop and has a variety of pockets, including side water bottle pockets. The back is cushioned and includes an air circulation channel. The pack holds 1,514 cu in (25 L) and between 20 and 25 lb (9 and 11.3 kg). It weighs 2.4 lb (1 kg) empty, according to the specs listed by ME-2.
ME-2 is hosting a Kickstarter campaign with the aim of getting its unique take on the backpack off the ground and out hiking. Pledges for a one-size-fits-all backpack start at US$260, an estimated $100 off retail.