Today’s dismounted soldier is facing a problem regarding mobile warfare that requires more and more technical accessories resulting in a soldier that is overloaded. Therefore, the military is now considering its options to reduce the overall weight by redesigning every single item that the soldier carries. The cost of remanufacturing and redistributing all these items will be immense. Perhaps a more cost efficient approach is needed, that is properly balancing this entire load with a biomimicry approach while gradually reducing weight periodically.
Human Bipedal Locomotion
As bipeds we use our linear anatomy and gravity to advance in our locomotion. Compared to many land based warm blooded animals, humans are one of the most energy efficient walkers/runners on earth. Our entire anatomy was designed with respect to this concept. How does this blueprint work?
When we walk, we actually lean forward and fall allowing the back leg to swing forward with minimal energy while catching our balance time after time with every foot step we take to advance. The upper body is in a balancing state between falling and staying straight, and we use this leaning weight to propel us forward. We also use our arms as an additional counter balance apparatus.
By having this design (i.e. a linear anatomy working with gravity) it makes us 75% more energy efficient compared to quadrupeds. This would not be possible without “universal gravitation” which is the major contributor in this highly efficient system (instead of using constant muscle energy for locomotion). It is also very important that the human muscle groups are able to rest periodically in-between each foot step (which is similar to the function of the heart, where the rest in-between each beat gives it time to rest so as to help maintain healthy tissues).
Weight gain & Load Management
What is impressive is that Nature designed our bodies to still be efficient even when we have a high increase of weight gain. Nature knows where on the body to add extra weight very effectively (the proper area assures proper locomotion). Therefore you can observe individuals that gain an extra 150 - 450 lbs and are still able to walk at a capable level of efficiency (i.e. basically they are still able to walk). Yet a soldier that is in good physical shape cannot add such an extra weight increase (as load carriage) even for a short period of time (i.e. more than 150 pounds is extremely difficult and over 450 pounds is impossible). Why?
It is for this reason that the average soldier carries “heavy” load carriage as a poor load management system for the human biomechanics. With the backpack located on the back, there are several reasons for “inefficiency”:
1- Instead of placing the load on the skeletal system (like obese people), which allows the muscles to simply balance the load, now the muscular system is in constant effort.
2- The human muscular system has agonist and antagonist group muscle types. They are designed to work together with pre-designed weight equilibrium (proper weight location) positioned correctly on our bodies. Add the weight in the wrong place and this harmony no longer performs efficiently.
3- The human muscles groups are not able to rest periodically in-between each foot step because they are stabilizing our movement (on top of having constant heavier effort) because the upper weight is not balanced and we do not have the ability to function in balancing this load as a “juggling” pendulum. We conclude it is not just the extra load that fatigues the individual: It is a combination of extra load and improper biomechanics.
Designing Soldier Equipment
It is understood regarding the soldier’s operational needs that it is impossible to change the location of the backpack on the individual. What if there was a way to redirect the load in such a way that we would increase the soldier’s walking efficiency (reminiscent of Nature’s design for our bodies)? Placing the backpack in the same area will however redirect the weight via mechanical levers to the proper area on the body according to biomechanics and load management of human locomotion. We believe that this is possible.
The Load Distribution Backpack developped by Mawashi has a unique design that allows for greatly improved redistribution of the weight from a heavy back pack to the human skeletal system (which is highly optimized for load carriage).
It also redirects the weight forward on the body where it is dramatically more effective at being carried. The critical overall benefit is that energy, effort, and fatigue are significantly reduced.
This is a revolutionary improvement for the infantry soldier (and many other military specializations and occupations) in their ability to walk and work more efficiently while carrying a heavy load. This means greater overall performance and safety to all individual foot soldiers in theater.
An additional benefit with the Mawashi load management backpack system is that it is designed to fit and work with current operational gear and therefore no modification to the current operational gear in-service would be needed.
It is our opinion that by employing a novel approach to load carriage (i.e. understanding how the body naturally carries weight and employing the key principles associated with this) we can deliver a major improvement for soldiers when they are carrying a large amount of gear.