Tighten, Loosen and Adjust
Backpack Straps

By tightening, loosening, adjusting and fine-tuning all the backpack straps you can easily customise the fit of your pack.


First: Get to Know Your Backpack

backpack straps parts of a backpack

6 Steps to a Perfect Fit

Follow these six easy steps and you'll have your backpack fitted, adjusted and tweaked to a T:

  1. Hip Belt (or Waist Belt)

  2. Centre the padded sections of the hip belt directly over your hip bones and clip the belt buckle together in the middle. Tighten the hip belt straps from both sides.

    The hip belt should feel snug but comfortable and angle downwards just a tad from the back to the front. Check that there are still at least
    2.5 cm
    (1") of strap left on either side of the buckle.

  3. Shoulder Straps

  4. Pull the ends of the shoulder straps firmly down and back to tighten them. The straps shouldn't pinch, pull, chafe or slip.

    Make sure the shoulder straps curve smoothly over the tops of your shoulders and anchor to the back of the pack just below them. The bottom of the straps should fall about 8-12 cm (3-5") below your armpit.

  5. Load Lifters (or Load Adjustors)

  6. Tighten the load lifter straps to get the weight off your shoulders. You'll find the ends of these short straps fixed to the shoulder harness near your collarbone.

    When adjusted properly, these backpack straps should sit at a 45-degree angle between the tops of your shoulders and the point where they attach to the back of the pack.

    Straps that are too tight will lift the pack off your hips and add extra weight to your shoulders. Straps that are too loose will drop the pack away from your body and make it hard to carry.

  7. Sternum Strap

  8. The horizontal strap that sits across your chest is the sternum strap. Clip it together, adjust it up or down to just below your collarbone and tighten it slightly (you'll still want to breathe!).

    The sternum strap shouldn't actually take any weight. It's there to pull the shoulder straps closer together so that they don't slip too far over or off completely and you can move your arms easily.

  9. Stabiliser Straps

  10. Along the sides of the waist belt you've got the load stabiliser straps. Tug on these to bring the backpack closer to your body.

    Load stabiliser straps help balance your pack and stop it from swaying back and forth when you walk. If you need freer hip movement, just release them a bit.

  11. Fine-Tuning

  12. Adjust the fit of your pack by tightening or loosening any backpack straps that don't feel right.

    Tighten the shoulder straps or the load lifter straps at the top of the pack to shift weight off your hips and onto your shoulders. Loosen them to take the weight off your shoulders and transfer it to your hips.

    Be sure that all the backpack straps adjust easily but don't slide out of position by themselves. Also check that there's enough spare webbing at the end of each strap to loosen it as much as you need.

Tweak the adjustments until the pack fits snugly and comfortably against your back, and you feel that close to 90% of the weight is resting on your hips.

And when you're ready, head back over to the page on how to choose a backpack for the final verdict!


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