Backpacks come with a number of straps that let you adjust your load for maximum comfort. This article and video discuss how to properly adjust those straps so that 80% to 90% of the load weight rests on your hips.

Before getting started, you may want to be sure you have the right pack size.

The Steps to a Great Pack Fit

First, loosen all of the pack's straps and hipbelt. Start by putting about 10 to 15 lbs. of weight into the pack to simulate a loaded pack. If making these pack adjustments at home, follow the steps below in front of a mirror. Get a friend to help if possible, or visit an REI store for more assistance.

Step 1: Hipbelt

  • Put the pack on your back so that the hipbelt is resting over your hip bones.
  • Close the hipbelt buckle and tighten it.
  • Check the padded sections of the hipbelt to make sure they wrap around your hips comfortably. Keep at least 1" of clearance on either side of the center buckle.
  • If the hipbelt is too loose or tight, try repositioning the hipbelt buckle. If this doesn't solve the problem, you may need a different pack (or hipbelt).

Step 2: Shoulder Straps

  • Pull down and back on the ends of the shoulder straps to tighten them.
  • Shoulder straps should fit closely to hold the pack body against your back and thus keeping the load forward. They should NOT be carrying the weight.
  • Have your helper check to see that the shoulder strap anchor points are 1" to 2" inches below the top of your shoulders.

Step 3: Load Lifters

  • Load-lifter straps are located just below the tops of your shoulders (near your collarbones) and should angle back toward the pack body at a 45° angle.
  • Gently snug the load-lifter straps to pull weight off your shoulders. (Overtightening the load lifters will cause a gap to form between your shoulders and the shoulder straps.)

Step 4: Sternum Strap

  • Adjust the sternum strap as needed to a comfortable height across your chest.
  • Buckle the sternum strap and tighten until the shoulder straps are pulled inwards comfortably from your shoulders, allowing your arms to move freely.
  • Pull the stabilizer straps located on either side of the hipbelt to snug the pack body toward the hipbelt and stabilize the load.

Final Tweaks

  • Pull the stabilizer straps, if equipped, located on either side of the hipbelt to snug the pack body toward the hipbelt and stabilize the load.
  • Go back to the shoulder straps and carefully take a bit of tension off of them. This ensures the majority of the weight is carried by your hips.

Now you're ready to go!

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