The following is a guest blog by RVOPS:
If you're planning on traveling by foot on your next trip to Rocky Mountain National Park like most people do some of the time, you'll need to carry some items with you when you leave the car and set off on the trail. Even a short hike to a scenic overlook with a planned duration of an hour or less is worth considering carrying something extra. Your options are to get a pack, or to stuff cargo pockets, have cameras and binoculars swinging around your neck, and hands full of water bottles and trail maps at the same time.
An appropriately sized pack for your purpose is both more comfortable and safer. A loose stone or wet mossy patch can lead to a slip, and if your hands are full with an expensive camera and spare lens, the inclination to save the lens may well result in a nasty bruise or worse on you. Having a comfortable pack with your extra supplies makes it an easy matter to set off immediately as you park the car, and reduces the odds of forgetting any important items.
Even on short hikes you should carry some water. Having a wet weather top and warm clothing to add may prevent an early return to the car, as well as a wasted afternoon. If it's all pre-packed you will be less tempted to decide not to bother with the small first aid kit. Putting a trail map in the pocket of the pack will prevent it from being inadvertently lost when you set it down to take a photo.
The trade off on any pack is the comfort and convenience afforded by extra items readily available, and the extra weight and effort of carrying the items. A proper load carrying system will mitigate the weight and effort needed to carry it. The traditional knapsack style pack used by many for short hikes is designed to carry a few items and keep hands free but greatly lacks in comfort and in reducing the effort required to carry them. Distributing the weight evenly allows the stronger back and leg muscles to do the work without compromising balance.
Load carrying equipment is a generalized term coined by the military that recognizes that a bag with 2 straps over the shoulders is not the most effective way to carry items. RVOPS carries a selection of packs with a variety of features. Adding a waist strap that allows some of the weight to be distributed to the waist and hips rather than biting into the shoulders is a vast improvement. An additional chest strap that will stabilize the load so it does not shift and chafe at every stride is even better. Once you add pockets on the straps for the trail map or to stow a lens cover quickly you are well on your way to a useful and comfortable way to carry things into the great outdoors.