Backpacks are the bane of the military’s existence — just ask any soldier or Marine forced to hump a loaded pack over rugged unforgiving terrain. Back and knee injuries, on top of fatigue, make the dreaded rucksack a piece of kit any serviceman or woman would gladly shed.

A new startup called Lightning Packs aims to change that with its “HoverGlide” backpacks. Dubbed the “world’s first ‘floating’ backpack,” these are anything but your run-of-the-mill rucks.

Developed by a team led by Dr. Lawrence Rome of the University of Pennsylvania, these new rucks are designed to reduce the weight of the pack on the wearer, in addition to the wear and tear on the wearer’s body.

The new technology takes the force of the pack off your spine. (Photo from Hoverglide)
The new technology takes the force of the pack off your spine. (Photo from Hoverglide)

Instead of a traditional ruck, which is firmly secured to straps which go over the wearer’s shoulders, HoverGlide uses a patented double-frame and pulley system which allows the pack to “float” while attached to shoulder straps. Similar to shock absorbers, the system — dubbed Suspended Load Technology — reduces the impact on a wearer’s knees, compounded by the added weight of the contents of the pack.

To top it off, the ergonomic design of the ruck reduces the strain on the user’s back, limiting and even eliminating the potential for back injuries. The packs themselves are built to be water-resistant, protecting their contents, and highly ruggedized for harsh environments.

Lightning offers the HoverGlide in a variety of sizes including the “Trekker,” which is slightly smaller in size and capacity to the Marine Corps' current Improved Load Bearing Equipment main pack — which was designed by Arc’teryx and mass-produced by Propper. Other rucks, including models sized similar to one-day-packs and regular commuter backpacks, are also available.

HoverGlide and Lightning Packs can trace their origin to 2002, when Dr. Rome was contacted by the Office of Naval Research with a request to investigate the potential for charging batteries carried by American special operations forces using the kinetic motion resulting from special operators moving around while on patrol.

According to Lightning Packs, the HoverGlide has already been shopped around to the military, specifically the Army and the Marine Corps, and is currently undergoing field testing and evaluation.