Bikes have done it, so why not backpackers? Remove the heavy, shoulder-searing gear from your back and put it on wheels...er..wheel. That's the Monowalker Hiking Trailer for ya.
A unique idea that turns the age-old sport of backpacking on its head, the Monowalker pulls all the weight from your shoulders and neck and puts it on the rear wheel. You still bear half the weight on your hips--which you'd do with a backpack anyway--but the wheeled system is designed to make hiking and backpacking less stressful on your body and more enjoyable. It carries loads up to 100 lbs.
Obviously a big, wheeled man trailer isn't as versatile as a backpack, but for those trips when you can't haul a whole trailer, the Monowalker breaks down into a pack--seems like a great way of hauling gear to a basecamp and then having a backpack for day trips. The trailer also converts to a bike trailer for full-on wilderness versatility. Winter foot travelers already use a similar system in sleds, so I don't see why this wouldn't work for warm-weather terrain.
So that the Monowalker doesn't mow you down on steep descents, there's a disc brake system to keep it in check. The Monowalker also breaks down easily, so if you come to a tight slot canyon or sketchy, exposed traverse where lugging a trailer is impractical or impossible, you can quickly turn it into a regular backpack.
According to the company, they have tested the system out in all types of terrain--from singletrack to scree scrambles--and the Monowalker works without fail. Of course, companies like to say things like that regardless, so I'll wait to see an impartial review.
However, I will say that this system has me intrigued. When I first saw it, it looked a little ridiculous, but after reading a little more, it kind of makes sense. Assuming it works.
And that last point will be a major one considering the Hiking Trailer requires an investment of 755,00 € (app. $1,000). If it works, your shoulders, back and joints may just be worth that price.