how to fit a backpack

How to Properly Fit a Backpack: Tips From The Experts

By the end of this article, you will know how to fit a backpack correctly – and keep yourself comfortable on the trail!

A backpack is essential gear for any hiker, camper, or backpacker. But how do you know if your backpack fits correctly? And how do you adjust it if it doesn’t?

There are a few things you need to take into consideration when fitting a backpack, such as a torso length, hip belt, shoulder straps, and load lifters.

This article will explain how to correctly fit a backpack and adjust it for a comfortable and safe fit.

Let’s dive in!

NB: This information applies to adventure backpacks for hiking or backpacking.

how to fit a backpacking pack

How to fit a backpack correctly.

You should measure the length of your torso when purchasing a suitable hiking backpack to determine the appropriate size. After that, it’s crucial to try on various packs and correctly adjust all the belts and straps to locate one that perfectly fits your body. 

Spend some time finding the ideal fit, and you’ll have a dependable, cozy backpack to hit the road or the trail. Check out the tips below for fitting your backpack correctly.

Choosing the Right Bag — Torso Length

One of the most important things when choosing a backpack is ensuring it fits your torso. Torso length is the distance from your iliac crest (the hip bones) to the C7 vertebrae (the knob at the base of your neck). Many think they can measure their height and use that as their torso length, but this is not always accurate.

fitting a backpack
measuring torso length

There are a few different ways to measure your torso length. 

  • Have someone else measure it for you. 
  • Measure it yourself. To do this, you’ll need a tape measure.

First, find the bony protrusion at the base of your neck. Then measure from the top of the C7 vertebra to the waistline. This is your torso length.

Once you have your torso length, you can use that measurement to choose a backpack that is the right size. Most backpack manufacturers will list the torso length range that their bags are designed for. For example, a backpack designed for people with a 16-18 inch torso would be too small for someone with a 20-inch torso.

Related: Backpack Sizes and Volumes: The Ultimate Guide

Adjusting the Backpack for Your Body

Backpacks are necessary for anyone who likes to hike, camp or spend time outdoors. But even the best backpack will only do you good if it fits your body correctly. 

When choosing a backpack, it is important to find one that is the right size and fits well. A backpack that is too small will be uncomfortable, and you may only be able to carry some of your belongings. A backpack that is too large will be bulky and difficult to maneuver.

how to measure torso length for backpack
woman carrying a backpack

Before you begin, find a comfortable place to sit with your backpack on. Make sure the backpack is loaded with about 10-15% of your body weight, as this will help you to adjust the straps properly.

Here are some tips on how to adjust your backpack for a perfect fit:

Put your backpack on your body.

The first step is to find the right strap. The right strap is the one that goes over your right shoulder. The left strap goes over your left shoulder. Once the straps are in place, you can put your arms through the straps and then put the backpack on your back. Ensure that the backpack is level and that the straps are not too tight or loose. You want the backpack to stay still on your back while you’re walking.

Waist belt 

Assuming you have packed your backpack with all your gear, you must adjust the straps to ensure a comfortable and snug fit. Locate the waist belt and put it around your waist. Adjust the position of the waist belt so that the padding sits on top of your hip bones before fastening it.

backpack hip belt position
backpack waist belt

The padding of the waist belt should extend to the top of your hip bones and wrap around to the front of your stomach but not entirely encircle it. The belt should be tight enough that you can still breathe but loose enough that you can move your hips.

Once you have adjusted the belt, tighten the side straps to keep the pack close to your body. 

Also Read: The 9 Best Hiking Safety Tips Everyone Needs To Know

Shoulder straps

Shoulder straps help distribute the backpack’s weight evenly across your shoulders, making it more comfortable to carry.

how to adjust a backpack
shoulder straps

The shoulder straps should be snugly wrapped around your shoulders and upper back without squeezing your armpits. Otherwise, you would strain your back and neck muscles. 

A large portion of the weight should still be on your waist belt. Ideally, the backpack’s shoulder straps would be attached a few inches below the top of your shoulders. 

Load-lifter straps

Most backpacks have load-lifter straps, which are positioned over the top of the shoulder straps. They will help stabilize the load and take some strain off your shoulders.

how should a backpack fit
load lifter straps

To properly adjust load-lifter straps, start by loosening them all the way. Next, put the backpack on and tighten the straps until the pack is close to your back. The load-lifter straps should make a 45-degree angle with the shoulder straps. If they don’t, adjust them until they do.

Finally, tighten the load-lifter straps until the pack feels snug and secure.

Sternum strap

The sternum strap may be located in different positions depending on the backpack model. Still, it is common near your chest in the middle of the shoulder straps. The sternum strap allows your arms to move freely, eases pressure on your shoulders by pushing the shoulder straps closer together, and preventing them from falling out of place.

where should a backpack sit on your back
sternum strap

To adjust the sternum strap:

  • Start loosening it until it is loose enough to slide back and forth.
  • Position the strap so that it lies flat against your chest.
  • Tighten the strap until it is snug but not too tight. You should be able to fit two fingers under the strap.

Related: What is Backpacking? A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners.

While On the Move

For comfort, make minor adjustments here and there. The waist belt must support your complete backpack even if you remove the shoulder and sternum straps. Your leg muscles can support the backpack’s weight for long.

How to fit a backpack – Tips to look out for 

  • Leaning slightly forward will help you maintain balance as you hike because your center of gravity is slightly shifted backward by your backpack. The backpack’s weight will fall on your back and strain if you carry the bag for a long time.
  • Shrug your shoulders to ensure the waist belt is on top of your hips when wearing the backpack. Adjust the waist belt to a snug fit when shrugging, then relax your shoulders. The top of your hips should be where the backpack rests.
  • While hiking, take off your backpack when you stop for a break. Stretch out to relax your muscles.
  • Shift more weight onto the waist belt and loosen the shoulder straps if your shoulders become worn out. Later, you can tighten the shoulder straps and slightly loosen the waist belt. 

Final Thoughts

As a hiker, you can choose the right backpack, fine-tune the suspension to perfectly fit your body, and make your next trek more enjoyable.

This article will make it easier for you to fit your backpack for any adventures! Please comment below if you have any additional tips on anything we missed!

Related: How to Hike in Hot Weather: Tips for the Summer

               How to Make Backpack Straps Shorter: Best Guide for 2022

How is a backpack supposed to fit?

The pack should sit an inch above your hips and not go past your waist. When wearing different clothing, reposition the straps, so they are neither too tight nor too loose. As you walk, your bag shouldn’t swing side to side.

How should a backpack sit on your back?

The top of your hips should be where the backpack rests. Take off your backpack when you stop for a break while hiking. Stretch out to give your muscles a break. Shift weight onto the waist belt (slightly tightened) and loosen the shoulder straps.

Is it better to have your backpack tight or loose?

Muscles may be strained by bags carried across the chest, over the shoulder, or with just one strap. Ensure you use both shoulder straps. Adjust the straps, so the backpack is snug against your body. The pack shouldn’t sag down to the butt but should instead lay evenly in the center of the back.

Are bigger backpacks better?

More room is available with larger backpacks. As you go up in size, even the identical backpack in small, medium and large will provide you additional liters of capacity. Though it depends on your height, there is little flexibility in the size you pick. 

Should there be a gap between a backpack and your back?

You should place your backpack in the center of the chest, across the sternum. Examine the pack’s placement with your back as well. The pack should fit as snugly as possible to keep the center of gravity close to your body, with the smallest gaps.

Why is my backpack so uncomfortable?

Ensure the backpack you’re wearing is appropriately sized and suited to your body if it’s hurting you, pulling in an odd direction, or making you feel uncomfortable. Even if you’ve gone backpacking before, you must be aware that some backpacks come in several sizes.

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