How to Fit a Backpack | Properly Size and Fit Your Backpack for Backpacking

Are you planning an exciting backpacking adventure? One of the most crucial aspects of backpacking is ensuring that your backpack fits you properly. A well-fitting backpack can make a world of difference in terms of comfort, weight distribution, and overall enjoyment of your trip. Abbybags will guide you through the process of sizing and fitting your backpack to ensure an ideal fit. Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a beginner, these tips will help you find the perfect backpacking companion.

Importance of a Properly Fitting Backpack

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s first understand why it is essential to have a backpack that fits you well. A properly fitting backpack:

  • Enhances Comfort: A well-fitted backpack reduces strain on your body and minimizes discomfort during long hikes.
  • Improves Weight Distribution: By distributing the weight of your pack evenly, you can prevent excessive strain on your shoulders, back, and hips.
  • Increases Stability: A properly fitting backpack ensures better balance and stability, especially on uneven terrain.
  • Reduces Potential Injuries: An ill-fitting backpack can lead to back pain, shoulder pain, blisters, and other discomforts that can hinder your backpacking experience.

How to Fit a Backpack | Properly Size and Fit Your Backpack for Backpacking

Measuring Your Torso Length

The first step in finding the right backpack size is determining your torso length. Your torso length refers to the distance between the base of your neck (C7 vertebrae) and the top of your hip bone (iliac crest). Follow these simple steps to measure your torso length:

  1. Stand up straight with your head forward.
  2. Have a friend measure the distance between the C7 vertebrae (the bony protrusion at the base of your neck) and the top of your iliac crest.
  3. Alternatively, you can measure it yourself by placing one hand on the base of your neck and the other on the top of your hip bone. Draw an imaginary line between your thumbs and measure the distance.

Finding the Right Backpack Size

Now that you have measured your torso length, it’s time to find the backpack size that suits you best. Backpack sizes are typically categorized based on torso length ranges. Refer to the sizing guide provided by the backpack manufacturer to determine your pack size accurately. Keep in mind that different brands may have slight variations in their sizing charts.

Adjusting the Torso Length of Your Backpack

Once you have the right backpack size, you need to adjust the torso length to ensure a proper fit. Follow these steps to adjust the torso length of your backpack:

  1. Loosen all the straps on your backpack.
  2. Put the backpack on your shoulders and fasten the hipbelt around the top of your hip bones. Make sure it’s snug but not overly tight.
  3. Tighten the shoulder straps until they are comfortably snug against your shoulders, keeping the pack centered on your back.
  4. Tighten the load lifters (the straps connecting the top of the shoulder straps to the top of the backpack) to a 45-degree angle. This angle helps pull the pack closer to your back and improves load distribution.
  5. Adjust the sternum strap (the strap that connects the shoulder straps in front of your chest) to a comfortable position. It can help prevent the shoulder straps from slipping off your shoulders.

How to Fit a Backpack | Properly Size and Fit Your Backpack for Backpacking

Checking the Fit

Once you have adjusted the torso length and straps, it’s crucial to check the fit to ensure everything is in place. Here are some key points to consider while checking the fit:

  • The backpack should feel snug against your back, with the weight of the pack resting on your hips.
  • The shoulder straps should wrap comfortably around your shoulders without digging into your skin.
  • The hipbelt should sit on top of your hip bones, transferring the weight of the pack to your lower body.
  • The shoulder straps and hipbelt should make an “X” shape on your body, with the center of gravity aligned with your spine.
  • The shoulder straps should not lift off your chest or pull you backward.

Adjusting the Load Lifters and Straps

To fine-tune the fit and optimize weight distribution, pay attention to the load lifters and straps:

  • If the backpack feels too heavy on your shoulders, tighten the load lifters slightly to shift some weight to the front of your body.
  • If the backpack feels unbalanced or pulls away from your body, adjust the load lifters to bring the pack closer to your back.
  • Avoid overtightening the sternum strap, as it may restrict your breathing or cause discomfort.

Considering Your Body Type

It’s essential to consider your body type when selecting and fitting a backpack. Different backpacks are designed to accommodate various body shapes and sizes. Some backpacks may have adjustable harnesses, allowing you to customize the fit further. If you have a shorter orlarger torso length than average, look for backpacks specifically designed for your body type to ensure a comfortable fit.

Load Your Pack Properly

Now that you have properly sized and fitted your backpack, it’s time to load it up for your backpacking adventure. Here are some tips for loading your pack:

  • Place heavier items closer to your back and towards the middle of your pack. This helps maintain balance and stability.
  • Distribute the weight evenly between the main compartment and external pockets, if applicable.
  • Use compression straps to secure the load and prevent it from shifting during your hike.
  • Pack frequently used items in easily accessible pockets or compartments.

How to Fit a Backpack | Properly Size and Fit Your Backpack for Backpacking

Adjusting and Fastening the Shoulder Straps and Hipbelt

When it comes to backpacking, having the right backpack is essential. The best backpack is one that fits your body well and allows for proper weight distribution. Adjusting and fastening the shoulder straps and hipbelt correctly is crucial to ensure a comfortable and secure fit. Let’s explore the steps to adjust your backpack properly.

Firstly, determining the correct torso size is essential. Your torso measurement is the length from the seventh cervical vertebra (C7) to the imaginary line at the top of your hipbones. To measure your torso length accurately, stand upright with your head forward and feel for the bony bump at the base of your neck. This is your C7 vertebra. Next, place your hands on your hips, with your thumbs pointing to your back. The top of your hipbones is where you should measure from. This measurement will help you choose the right backpack size for your torso.

How to Fit a Backpack

Once you have the right backpacking pack, it’s time to adjust it to fit your body correctly. Start by loosening the shoulder straps and hipbelt, allowing you to put the pack on your hips comfortably. Position the hipbelt in the middle of your hips, so it wraps around snugly but not overly tight. The hipbelt should carry the majority of the pack’s weight, transferring it from your shoulders to your hips.

Now, adjust the shoulder straps. Pull them until the pack feels secure on your back. The straps should be tightened enough to keep the shoulder harness close to your body but not so tight that they cause discomfort or restrict your movement. Make sure the edges of your shoulder straps remain in line with the outside edges of your shoulders.

To fine-tune the fit, locate the load lifters on the top of your shoulder straps. These are small straps that angle from the pack’s top towards the pack’s frame. Gently pull them to tighten the upper part of the pack closer to your body. This adjustment helps distribute the weight evenly and improves stability. Be careful not to overtighten the load lifters, as it may cause unnecessary pressure on your shoulders.

Why is Properly Fitting Your Backpack Important?

Properly fitting your backpack is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable outdoor experience. Whether you’re embarking on a day hike or a multi-day backpacking trip, having a well-fitted backpack can make a world of difference. Let’s explore why it’s important to ensure your backpack fits correctly.

Weight Distribution: A properly fitted backpack allows for optimal weight distribution. When the pack fits your body well, it transfers the majority of the weight from your shoulders to your hips through the hip belt. This relieves strain on your shoulders and back, preventing discomfort and potential injuries during your adventure.

Stability and Balance: A well-fitted backpack enhances stability and balance while hiking. When the weight is centered and secured close to your body, it minimizes shifting and swaying, allowing you to maintain better control over your movements. This is particularly important when navigating uneven terrain or traversing challenging trails.

Comfort: Comfort on the trail is crucial for an enjoyable outdoor experience. A properly fitted backpack reduces pressure points and hotspots, preventing chafing, rubbing, and soreness. It eliminates unnecessary friction between your body and the pack, allowing you to hike for longer periods without discomfort.

Proper Load Transfer: Adjusting your pack ensures that the load is correctly transferred to your hips, which are better equipped to handle weight compared to your shoulders. The hip belt should rest comfortably on the middle of your hipbones, with the belt padding positioned on your iliac crest. This positioning maximizes support and minimizes strain on your lower back.

Ergonomics and Posture: The shoulder straps and load lifters play a crucial role in promoting proper posture and ergonomics. When the shoulder straps are adjusted correctly, they keep the pack close to your body and prevent it from sagging or pulling you backward. This allows you to maintain a more upright posture, reducing strain on your neck, shoulders, and spine.

Efficient Energy Expenditure: A well-fitted backpack minimizes energy waste by optimizing your body’s biomechanics. When the pack fits correctly, you can move with more efficiency and expend less energy. This allows you to hike longer distances and tackle more challenging terrain while feeling less fatigued.

Personalized Fit: Every individual has a unique body shape and size. Backpacks come in different sizes and offer adjustable features to accommodate a range of torso lengths. By measuring your torso length accurately, you can choose a backpack that fits your body properly, providing a personalized fit that enhances comfort and performance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How often should I adjust the straps of my backpack?

It’s a good practice to check and readjust the straps of your backpack at the beginning of each day of your backpacking trip. This ensures that the fit remains comfortable and secure throughout your journey.

Q: Can I use the same backpack for different activities besides backpacking?

Yes, backpacks can be versatile and used for various activities like hiking, camping, or traveling. However, it’s essential to consider the specific features and requirements of each activity when selecting a backpack.

Q: What if my backpack doesn’t fit properly even after adjusting the straps?

If you have followed all the proper fitting techniques and your backpack still doesn’t feel comfortable or secure, it might be worth considering a different backpack model or brand that better suits your body type and preferences.

Q: Can I borrow a backpack from someone else for my backpacking trip?

While it’s possible to borrow a backpack from someone else, it’s crucial to ensure that the backpack’s size and fit are suitable for your body. A backpack that doesn’t fit you properly can lead to discomfort and potential injuries during your trip.

Q: How can I maintain the longevity of my backpack?

To prolong the lifespan of your backpack, avoid overloading it beyond its recommended weight capacity. Clean and store your backpack properly when not in use, and inspect it regularly for any signs of wear or damage.


Fitting a backpack properly is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable backpacking experience. By measuring your torso length, selecting the right backpack size, and adjusting the straps accordingly, you can ensure an ideal fit. Remember to consider your body type and load your pack properly for optimal weight distribution. With the right backpack and a well-fitted pack, you’ll be ready to embark on your backpacking adventure with confidence and comfort.

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