Recreational hikers carry heavy loads while often walking long distances over uneven terrain. Previous
studies have suggested that not only the load mass but also the position of the load may influence load
carriage. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of vertical load position on gait and
subjective responses of female recreational hikers. Fifteen experienced female hikers walked for 2 km
over a simulated hiking trail carrying 30% BW in three vertical load positions (high, medium and low).
Lower limb and trunk kinematic, electromyography (EMG) and ground reaction force (GRF) data were
collected together with heart rate (HR), ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) and discomfort measures.
Although HR, RPE and discomfort measures were not able to discern statistical differences between load
positions, the high load position was the most preferred by participants. The high load position also
resulted in a more upright posture (p < 0.001), decreased gastrocnemius integrated EMG compared to
the medium (p ¼ 0.005) and low load positions (p ¼ 0.02) and a higher first peak deceleration vertical
GRF compared to the low load position (p ¼ 0.011). However, the absolute differences were small and
unlikely to be functionally relevant in load carriage studies. Based on the findings of this study, a high,
medium or low load position cannot be preferentially recommended for healthy, experienced, female
hikers carrying 30% BW.