Truth be told … backpacks are one of the last equipment purchases you will make. Until you are ready … beg and borrow. Use each overnight experience as a training tool for what does, and does not, work on the backpack you are wearing. Through this trial and error you will quickly determine what you want, and don’t want, your backpack to have.
Your goal is to wear a backpack you don’t know is riding along with you. Maybe, you will forget it is even there! Fitting a backpack involves patience and making incremental changes until you find the perfect fit. And, once you find that fit it is unlikely you will shift a strap again.
Here are a few reminders of what to do once you have put on your backpack. If you are not comfortable it will be frustrating. Only make one modification at a time so you can easily determine what is, and is not, working. Be persistent in fine tuning your backpacking buddy.
1. Did you know that backpacks come in various sizes and not just in cubic inches of fillable space? A backpack needs to be the right size. To determine your size simply measure the length of your torso – measure from the little bone that protrudes from your spine on the back of your neck down to the top of your hips to get the correct pack size.
Small: 16 to 17.5 inches
Medium: 18 to 19.5 inches
Large: 20 inches and up
2. Load your pack with all of the gear, equipment and essentials you will be carrying. Loosen all the straps except the compression straps which reduce the extra air space in your backpack once it is loaded. Adjusting straps with an empty backpack does not provide you with an accurate feel of your weighted pack and will more likely require a new fitting.
3. Adjust the hip belt first. The belt should rest on your hip bones not your waist. Center the buckle around your belly button and tighten the straps.
4. Adjust the shoulder straps. These straps are designed to wrap around your shoulder and fit snuggly to your shoulder with no gaps. Take your pack off to readjust these straps. Once you get your shoulder straps properly positioned the next step is to pull down on the webbing material that is at the bottom of your shoulder straps. This will tighten your pack fit.
5. Fine-tune the load lifting straps. The load lifting straps should leave the shoulder straps either directly from the top of the shoulder or just slightly forward. Try for a 45-degree angle with the shoulders and the top of the stays. Pulling on the load lifting straps will pull the load closer to your center of gravity (weight on shoulders) and loosening the load lifting straps will put more weight onto the hips. You will adjust these as you are backpacking on a day to day basis.
6. Position the sternum strap. This should be a few inches below your collar bone. You will instantly notice the difference of having this strap connected.
7. Tighten the compression straps on your hip belt. This prevents swaying and assists with agility because of the limiting bounce.
Now that you have adjusted all of the straps take a walk. We promise, it will be FUN!