A new pack is a big commitment! Choosing the right size, type, style and, let’s be honest, colour, is a big decision, since if you make the right choice you might have that new partner for life.

That’s why I’m sharing this handy post from Trailhead’s blog: How to Fit a Backpack, which outlines the six steps in ensuring you’ve got a great fitting pack whether you’re going for a day hike or hauling your gear through portage after portage.

Step 1: Loosen Up 

Before putting on the backpack, loosen all the pack’s straps and put a bit of weight in it. 10-20lbs should suffice depending on the size of pack. 

Step 2: It’s all about the hips

  • Most of the packs weight should be carried by the hips.
  • The hip belt should sit directly over your hip bones. Then, fasten the buckle and tighten the hip belt, keeping it snug, but not too tight.
  • If the hip belt is too loose, too tight, too high or too low you may need to try a different pack.

 Step 3: A weight off your shoulders

  • Tighten the shoulder straps so that the pack will fit snugly against your back, keeping the load forward.
  • Shoulder strap anchor points should be 1 to 2 inches below the tops of your shoulders, have a buddy check for you if a mirror isn’t handy.
  • Don’t forget, your shoulders should not carry most of the weight. That’s a job for your hips.

 Step 4: Load Lifters

  • Not all backpacks come with load lifters, theyare often provided on packs used for higher volume to carry heavier loads and are not required on smaller or ultra light packs.
  • Located above the shoulders, the load-lifter straps should angle back towards your pack at a 45˚ angle.
  • Tug the load lifters gently to pull the weight off your shoulders, being careful not to over tighten the straps and create a gap between your shoulders and the straps.

 Step 5: Sternum Strap

  • The sternum strap should sit comfortably across your chest. Buckle the strap and tighten it to pull the shoulder straps inwards, letting your arms move freely.
  • If tightening the sternum strap doesn’t keep the shoulder pads on your shoulders, you probably need a different pack with a narrower shoulder harness.
  • To stabilize the pack, pull the stabilizer straps on either side of the hip belt snug.

Step 6: Final Adjustments

  • If your pack has stabilizer straps (they’re on either side of the hip-belt), try pulling those so the body of the pack moves towards the hip belt stabilizing the load.
  • At this point you might also want to try loosening the shoulder strap ever so slightly to shift more weight to your hips.

Your pack should now be properly adjusted. Move around a bit to make sure everything is comfortable and make any last minute adjustments. Have a great hike!

Thanks Trailhead! As a little bonus, here is a quick video from Eastern Mountain Sports covering the same basics:

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