Backpack fitting guide

A well fitted backpack is one of the most important pieces of kit on any hiking trip or expedition

The packs we carry range in capacity, from tiny 11 litre day packs to huge 80 litre rucksacks, but the fitting procedure will always be the same.

If you are going to be spending hours, days or even months walking and exploring on hills, mountains and footpaths, almost everything you need to survive will be carried on your back. Having heavy loads sitting in the wrong place can make you feel off balance and cause rubbing on your shoulders or back pain.

Here are some ways to ensure that your backpack is right for you:

Once you've decided on the sort of capacity you'll need (see here for a capacity guide), have a look at the size ranges. Most packs will come in sizes small, medium or large. There are devices we can use to measure the length of your back if you are unsure of where to begin. Torso length is defined by the space between your C7 vertebrae (neck) and your Iliac crest (the top of your hipbone).

Straps and Fitting

When you've found the correct length pack, weight it with something heavy in the bottom and light in the top. Loosen all the fitting straps and swing the pack onto your back, bending at the knees. Pop the hip belt directly over your hip bones, and clip the buckle. Don't pull the straps too tight.

Next, pull down, and back, on the shoulder harness straps. The harness should be long enough that the buckle is sitting on your sides between your armpit and hip.

Now that the pack is on, have a look in the mirror or ask someone to check that your pack is not sitting too high on your neck. The part of the harness where the two shoulder straps meet should be sitting just below the C7 vertebrae. The straps should be sitting flat and not bunching up or digging in to your neck. Someone should be able to slide a hand between your shoulder blade and the harness.

At this point, the weight in the rucksack should be comfortably sat close to the middle of your back.

Try it out

Now, have a walk around the store. Notice how the bag moves with you. The hip belt should stay over your hipbone and not ride up toward your waist. If you can feel it on your belly button it's too high.

Bend down and pick things up, reach up high, and stomp around! The rucksack should feel comfortable. Look up; can you move your neck up and down or is the frame restricting your movement? If something is hurting or making you feel off balance, now's the time to to re-adjust the pack and find out if it's the right pack for you. Every brand makes lots of packs in different shapes and sizes, as well as with different features. If one pack is pulling on your shoulders or slipping off, try another type.

Imagine you are giving your friend a piggy back. If they wrap their legs around you, you can carry them much easier than if they hang off your shoulders and drag their legs behind you! This is the same feeling as using a backpack. - and is why a hip belt is so important!

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