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Beginner Basics: Fitting A Backpack

Even the best backpack isn't comfortable if you don't fit and adjust it correctly. To start: Pick a pack that's the proper gender and general size for you. For example: women's small or men's medium.
Photos by Jennifer Howe /
  • Step 1: Load the pack with about 20 pounds, then loosen the hipbelt, shoulder straps, hipbelt stabilizers, and load lifters.
  • Step 2: Put on the pack. Snug the hipbelt and shoulder straps slightly. Check to make sure the overall torso length is comfortable and shorten/ lengthen to taste.
  • Step 3: Properly sized, there should be no gap atop the shoulders, and the load lifter anchor point should be at collar-bone level.
  • Step 4: The hipbelt should sit over your pelvic bones.
  • Step 5: Once the basic torso length, hipbelt and shoulder strap length is dialed in, snug the hipbelt stabilizer straps.
  • Step 6: Snug the load lifter straps for a more stable load.
  • Step 7: Fasten the sternum strap. Position it properly between chest and collarbone level.
  • Step 8: If the sternum strap is too low, it will restrict chest expansion and breathing.
  • Step 9: When correct, it will keep the shoulder straps from slipping outward during scrambles, while letting you breathe deeply.
Step 1: Load the pack with about 20 pounds, then loosen the hipbelt, shoulder straps, hipbelt stabilizers, and load lifters.
Image 1 of 9

Step 1: Load the pack with about 20 pounds, then loosen the hipbelt, shoulder straps, hipbelt stabilizers, and load lifters.


Page 1

This is what I should have had when I first got my backpack .

— John B

Great little article as it helps remind us what things to visually check on our fellow hikers pack adjustments. It is easy to to get your own pack dialed in and easy to forget that your fellow hikers may not know how to adjust theirs properly. Use the Golden Rule!
— Wayne Hobbs

I was very impressed on the fitting a backpack article. Very well written.
— Mom

Keep a stiff upper lip
— Mom

Simple and accurate info. I think it's the first time I've seen the proper emphasis on the sternum strap location. Most other references tends to gloss over this very important point, or flat out get it wrong. Nicely done, Thanks.
— Old_Mountaineer

Who is this guy? I've seen him in a couple of tutorials that I've been reading in the past half hour or so, I like how thorough his tutorials are. Learned more than I would have watching TV that's for sure. I just ordered this magazine today I can't wait to read it.
— Bead_Ogg

Anybody guess what kind of pack that is? One picture has a little "m" by the hipbelt and the shoulder strap says something on it... Are those faux-leather shoulder straps?
— Irishman

3 and 4 are reversed. You need to get the hip belt in place first and then check the shoulder strap placement.
— GerryR


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