Like any other rite of passage, one thing nearly all of Special Operation Forces troops share in old (er) age are issues with their joints. Back backs, knees, shoulders, necks with pain and arthritis is common from rucking under heavy weight takes its toll. SOF personnel are always carrying a ton of “light-weight” gear from Point A to Point B and beyond. But some help may be on the way.

Dr. Lawrence Rome is a biology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and expert in muscle function and biomechanics. He worked with the Office of Naval Research in an effort to reduce the load that Special Operations Forces have to bear on their frames.

He invented the HoverGlide, a free-floating rucksack with a technology he patented called Suspended Load Technology (SLT), which allows the heavy rucksack to seamlessly move up and down with respect to the person walking or running. This keeps the load at a constant height with respect to the ground. While it looks awkward as hell, it is stable, much like the gunsight on an M-1 tank and presents far less pressure on the rucker’s joints.

It is amazing on how well it works as they explain on the HoverGlide website:
While standing still, a 50 lb load in your backpack exerts 50 lbs of force (static weight). This changes when you walk or run, where the peak force exerted on you can be up to 3x the weight you are carrying.  Suddenly a 50lb pack can put as much force on the body and joints as if it weighed 150 lbs. With the movement of SLT, this additional force over and above the static weight can be reduced by as much as 86%.

The Army has also been working on a similar project since 2005 and has been testing prototypes in field trials for the past four years. The Army version called the Energy Harvesting Assault Pack (EHAP) has a unique feature which is as a portable generator.  Their rucksack will generate more than 3 watts of power an hour if the rucker can maintain a pace of 3 mph, which will keep a personal communication device charged. By the way, our readers will note that the 3 mph pace is below the standard that we deem as necessary for Special Operations troops.

As one can easily imagine there will be some issues in regard to moving parts which can break and the noise factor is something that must be addressed as the Army version can be noisy.

While military applications are still a work in progress, the HoverGlide is marketing three different versions, a civilian large backpack “The Trekker”, a smaller 28-30L daypack and the one that our readers will probably be most interested in, the “Tactical” rucksack.

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It is a perfect size for most needs and especially in training or prepping for Selection and or the qualification courses. It is large enough to carry all of what you’d need as well as have enough pockets to store needed gear where it will be easy to get to.

  • 30L capacity sized
  • Permits you to suspend up to 25 lbs (more weight can be carried but the pack must be locked)
  • The main compartment carries clothing layers, bivy gear, first aid, and off-trail work materials
  • Easy-access secondary pocket stores lunch and layers
    The internal organization holds smartphones, GPS units, pens, documents, and maps secure and easy to locate
  • External stash pocket keeps emergency clothing layers instantly accessible
  • Harness and detachable padded hip belt are constructed of closed cell foam covered in  a 3D breathable “air mesh” to wick water away
  • Internal sleeve holds a two-liter reservoir for hydration on the move
  • Webbing grid on back panel accepts MOLLE units to expand capacity and organize essential gear
  • Exceptionally durable 1000D Cordura pack material resists tears and abrasion and holds weights.
  • DWR (durable water repellent) finish protects contents from light rain and moisture

The HoverGlide is a very intriguing piece of equipment that could eventually help all of our Special Operators reduce the wear and tear on their bodies, which means the future operators may not have the aches and pains the rest of us FOGs have. Check out their video below on how the rucksack works.

Photo: US Army