How to Fit a Backpack Properly?

how to fit backpack properly

Do you want to know how to fit a backpack properly? It is an essential item you will need when going on an outdoors adventures. If it is not adjusted right you can hurt your back, pinch your shoulders or damage your muscles. (source)

So, to avoid these bad experiences, the crucial thing is to get the right size of the backpack and adjust it properly. Choosing it depends on your hiking style, personal preferences and two measurements: your hip size and torso length.

Here’s the deal:

If you carry a minimal weight while hiking, then you probably want a lightweight bag with the small frame. On the other hand, for a heavier load, you should choose larger and stronger pack, with the sturdier frame. With it, you can carry that extra weight comfortably.

Follow our instructions to fit your backpack properly, so that your adventure can be more enjoyable.

Select the Right Size

The first thing you need to do is measure your torso length. It is not difficult as it may sounds. You will need a help from a friend and a soft tape measure.

The torso length is the distance from your C7 vertebra (the bony bulge at the bottom of your neck) to the iliac crest (the top of your hip bone). So, using the soft tape you need to measure the length from the top of the torso to the bottom. Knowing the exact size will help you when purchasing the right backpack.

Correctly fitting a backpack is extremely important because it will keep you comfortable while hiking. Otherwise, you are going to have a bad experience. You can injure your back or bruise your hips.

The next step is to measure your hip size. It’s going to be an important load-bearing structure on your backpack, so you need to make sure that it’s comfortable. To measure it, take a soft tape and wrap it around your waist.

men carrying different sizes of backpack

Adjust the Fit

Once you get the right backpack, the next step is to adjust the fit. But before you do that, make sure to put about 20 pounds of weight in your pack. This way you will be able to feel if it suits you well.

When you set up the bag, make sure that all the straps are loose enough, so you can adjust them right. The first thing you need to do is clasp and tighten the waist belt. It needs to be comfortable enough because you don’t want to feel any pressure.

Snug down and tighten the shoulder straps. Connect the sternum strap in front of your chest. It is important to make sure that every strap is snug and everything fits properly.

Waist Belt

The top edge of the waist belt must be about one inch above the iliac crest. The best way to measure this is to put your thumbs on it and make sure that the top of that bone is just below the top of the waist belt. That means that the weight of your backpack (about 65%) is now transferred to your hips.

backpack waist belt

Shoulder Straps

The next step is to adjust the shoulder straps. They are also load bearing structure of your backpack, but there is less weight on them to carry. It should fit the shoulder, leaving no space between the back of your shoulders and the pack.

shoulder straps

Sternum Strap

Your sternum strap must be nice and tight to provide extra balance. It is attached to the shoulder straps and holds them in place. You don’t want it to be too tight because you don’t want that straps to pinch on your neck.

On the other hand, make sure they are not too loose so they can’t come off.

sternum strap

Torso Length Adjustment

The next step is to adjust the shoulder strap and torso length. If you have some space between the shoulder and this strap, you can modify that with the torso length adjustment that is built into the backpack. So, all you have to do is decrease the distance from the shoulder strap to the hip belt.

On the contrary, if you notice that the waist belt is coming up high on your hips, that means the distance from the waist belt to the shoulder strap may be too short. So, make sure to adjust that also.

torso length adjustment

Load Lifter Straps

The load lifter straps that pull the pack close to your back should be at 45-degree angle. They attach the top part of the pack to the shoulder straps. It shouldn’t be too loose, because it will sit back too far, and if it’s too tight it will pinch your shoulders.

So, the 45 degrees is a perfect angle that will keep your bag nice and fit.

load lifter straps

“By leaning forward, you shift the weight of the load onto your spine bones. That means your spine does the work instead of your muscles. You lose free exercise, promote round-shouldered posture, and cause back pain. Instead of rounding forward, stand straight. Use your muscles to keep your body upright and your chin in. You will get a free core muscle workout and you won’t be sore after a day of carrying.” said Dr. Jolie Bookspan for Worlds Together Travel Network.


To enjoy your adventures, it is crucial to have a right backpack that will fit you properly. It will provide you extra comfort and you can wear it without feeling any difficulties. The perfect fit also depends on the amount of weight in your pack.

Don’t be afraid to make some minor adjustments while you are hiking. This way you will relieve the pressure on one certain part, just for a little while. You will also ease the pain in your shoulders and back and avoid some injuries.

If the bag is lighter, you will be able to make quick adjustments. This means that you will be more comfortable while hiking and have a better time on your adventures. If you carry a lot of weight, make sure that you choose the right pack that will fit properly.

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