How to Adjust a Backpack for a Comfortable Fit

If you are going to cover some miles out on the backpacking trail, you've got to know how to adjust a backpack for a comfortable fit. A properly fitted and adjusted backpack will keep you moving comfortably on the trail even with a heavy load. Whether you consider yourself an ultra light-weight (UL) or a traditional backpacker, these tips will help you adjust your backpack for a great fit.

First of all, you'll want to load some weight into the backpack so you can get a good feel of how it will fit. Then loosen all of the straps and follow the below tips in this order each time you put on your backpack. We've provided the following video for step-by-step tips on adjusting your backpack.

  • Put the backpack on with all straps loose.

  • Tighten the hip belt first. To do this you'll want the padded hip belts covering the iliac crest, the very top of your hip bones. Tighten the straps until they are snug but not too tight.

  • Tighten the shoulder straps next by pulling the straps straight down. Again, don't pull it too tight.

  • Move on to the load lifters. The load lifter straps help pull the weight of your gear closer to your body. Pull the load lifters until the straps are at about a 45 degree angle.

  • Next, fasten the sternum strap. The sternum strap pulls the shoulder straps together to relieve some of the stress on your shoulders.

  • Now that everything is tight, you can loosen the shoulder straps a bit. you should be able to feel the weight of the backpack ease onto your hips. Ideally, about 65% of the weight will ride on your hips.

Backpack Adjustment Share Your Adventure Photo from Gretchen Chamberlain

Those are the adjustments you should make to ensure a comfortable backpack fit. You should be able to carry your load more comfortably and efficiently when you follow these tips to adjust a backpack for a proper fit. For more information on choosing the right backpack check out this backpack guide or follow these tips for finding your torso length for the right sized backpack.

Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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