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How to Fit a Backpack

When you embark on a multi-day backpacking trip, the last thing you’ll want to deal with is a poorly fitted pack that bounces around on rough terrain, digs into your shoulders, or rubs your lower back raw after just a few miles. The Backcountry video crew caught up with camp buyer Ashley Tucker in the southern Utah wilderness to go over the essential steps to properly fitting a backpack. Happy trails are on the horizon.


Video Transcription

Hi. I’m Ashley with and we’re going to talk about fitting your backpack. Fit is the most important aspect in choosing new backpack, and there are three keys to proper fit; torso length, which is not your overall height, a waist spot that fits comfortable and snug around your hips, and shoulder straps that conform completely around your shoulders.

Torso length is the distance from your C7 which is the most visible protrusion on your upper spine, and your rear shelf on your hips. Have a friend take a flexible tape measure and measure your torso length. If you’re a back packer whose torso length falls between sizes, there are some packs that have shoulder harnesses that can be repositioned. These are a ladder system of adjustable points.

Keep in mind that men and women’s packs are cut differently. Women’s packs such as this have torso lengths that are shorter and narrower. Shoulder straps and hip belts will fit the female form. The weight of your backpack should be carried primarily in your hips. Your upper torso, shoulders, back, and pectoral muscles will secondarily carry the weight. To make sure that your back pack will fit comfortably and stable, account for the load you’ll be carrying and adjust the three following straps.

Load lifter straps are stitched to your shoulder straps and connect to the top of your pocket. Once you adjust it to a 45 degree angle, your load will be closer to your back and will not sag on your lower lumbar. If the straps’ angle is greater than 60 or less than 30 degrees, the pack is not an ideal fit for your torso length.

The stabilizing straps attach to the hip belt and the lower portion of the backpack. They can be adjusted to bring the load closer to your hips and improve balance. The sternum strap is a mid-chest strap attached to the shoulder straps. It provides added balance in case your pack shifts abruptly in varied terrain.

If you have further questions on fitting a backpack or choosing your backpack, contact our Gearheads at

Want to learn more about what you’ll need on your next backpacking trip?  Check out our Backpacking Guide.


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