Rucksack Sizing and Fit

Avoiding Common Rucksack Fitting Mistakes

Choosing the right rucksack can mean the difference between a memorable adventure and a painful ordeal. Far too often, eager hikers overlook the importance of proper backpack fitting, only to find themselves miles into a trek with shoulder pain or an aching back.

With years of experience leading expeditions and teaching outdoor skills, I’ve seen firsthand how selecting and adjusting your pack is as crucial as any other gear preparation.

Remember this: wearing both shoulder straps isn’t just common sense—it’s essential for balance and health. The value lie in knowing not just that you should wear it correctly, but precisely how to adjust each strap for peak comfort and efficiency.

Keep reading to learn why paying attention to fit might be the most important step you take before hitting the trail. Get set; let’s make every journey comfortable!

Key Takeaways

  • Measure your torso length accurately to find the right backpack size for a comfortable fit and better weight distribution.
  • Avoid common mistakes such as over – tightening the sternum strap, buying a pack with the wrong torso size, bringing a backpack that is too big, or packing excessive items to prevent discomfort and strain on your body during hikes.
  • Prioritize essentials and carefully consider each item’s necessity and versatility for strategic packing to lighten your load without sacrificing preparedness.

How to Properly Fit and Adjust Your Backpack

A hiker adjusting backpack straps in a sunlit forest.

– Measure your torso length by standing up straight and using a flexible tape measure from the base of your neck to the top of your iliac crest.

Measuring your torso length

Finding the right backpack starts with knowing your body. Your torso length is key to a comfortable fit.

  • Stand up straight and tilt your chin to your chest. This helps find the base of your neck.
  • Feel for the bony bump at the base of your neck. This spot is where you’ll start measuring.
  • Ask someone to help you with the next part. They will find the top of your hip bones, also known as the iliac crest.
  • Have your helper place their hands on your hips so their thumbs reach around to your back.
  • Imagine a line running from thumb to thumb. This marks the bottom of where the backpack will rest.
  • Use a flexible tape measure or a string that can be held against a yardstick later.
  • Measure from the bony bump down to that line across your back. Keep the tape straight!
  • Note this measurement in inches; it’s crucial for choosing a backpack size.

Using your torso length to find the right pack size

Once you’ve measured your torso, it’s time to use that number to pick out the perfect backpack. It’s like finding a shirt that fits just right. A pack that matches your torso length will feel better and won’t hurt your back or shoulders.

Look for bags labeled with different sizes like small, medium, or large. These labels match a range of torso lengths.

You can tell if a backpack is the right size when you put it on and it rests comfortably on your hips without reaching too far up your back or sagging down low. The shoulder straps should curve nicely over your shoulders without any gaps.

If the bag has a hip belt, make sure it sits on top of your hips where you can tighten it to take some weight off your shoulders.

Having the correct pack size means better load distribution across your body which makes carrying easier and safer. Your lower back will thank you! So always aim for that snug fit—it keeps things in place while you move around outdoors or through busy places with lots of people.

Measuring your hip size

Measuring your hip size is a key step to ensure you get a backpack that fits well. It helps the pack sit comfortably on your body, making it easier to carry heavy loads.

  • Find a flexible tape measure. You’ll need this to wrap around your hips.
  • Locate your hips. The widest part of your hips is the spot you will measure.
  • Stand naturally. Keep relaxed and avoid sucking in your belly while measuring.
  • Wrap the tape around. Put it around the top of your hips where they are widest.
  • Read the number. The tape should be snug but not too tight when you record the measurement.
  • Note down the inches or centimeters. Use this information for finding the right backpack size.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

A hiker struggles with an oversized backpack on a steep trail.

Over-tightening the sternum strap can restrict your breathing and movement, while buying a backpack with the wrong torso size or bringing one that is too big for your needs can lead to discomfort and strain on your body.

Packing too much weight in your pack can also cause unnecessary strain, so it’s important to carefully consider what you truly need for your trip. Always make sure not to underestimate distances and time when planning for a hike or adventure.

Wearing the backpack incorrectly

Incorrectly wearing a backpack can lead to back problems and injuries. It puts extra pressure on the neck, shoulders, and back. This can cause spine and posture issues over time.

When worn improperly, backpacks could contribute to health problems for your upper body. The weight distribution becomes uneven when it’s not worn correctly. This leads to strain on specific areas of your body.

Overtightening the sternum strap

Overtightening the sternum strap distorts the chest and can make it hard to breathe. It’s important to use the sternum strap to keep the shoulder straps in place and ease off on the armpits, not to constrict breathing.

When fitting your backpack, ensure that the sternum strap allows for comfortable breathing and doesn’t press too tightly against your chest.

Remember, a properly fitted backpack will distribute weight evenly across your body without jeopardizing your ability to breathe normally. Improperly adjusting this strap can cause discomfort and affect your posture during long treks or hikes.

Buying a pack with the wrong torso size

Make sure you always measure your torso length before buying a backpack. This is crucial for finding the right fit. Getting a pack with a too long or too short torso measurement can lead to discomfort and even injury, so it’s important to get this right from the start.

The number one reason why backpacks don’t fit properly is due to selecting the wrong torso size, so be sure to pay attention to this detail when shopping for a new backpack.

Now let’s delve into how wearing the backpack incorrectly can also affect its fit and performance.

Bringing a backpack that is too big

After making sure that you have the right torso size for your backpack, it’s equally important to avoid bringing a backpack that is too big. A backpack that is excessively large can lead to imbalance and discomfort while carrying it around.

It may cause strain on your back and shoulders, as well as hinder your freedom of movement during your outdoor activities or travels.

Additionally, a backpack that is too big tends to tempt you into packing unnecessary items due to the extra space. This could result in carrying an excessive load, leading to fatigue and potential muscle strain over time.

Packing too much

Avoiding the pitfall of packing too much is crucial for a successful backpacking trip. Many beginners tend to overestimate their needs and pack excessive items, which can lead to unnecessary strain and discomfort.

It’s important to prioritize essentials and pack only what is truly necessary for the journey. Common mistakes include carrying multiple pairs of shoes and bringing excessive bathroom items, so it’s essential to be mindful of these tendencies.

Packing strategically not only lightens your load but also ensures that you have everything you need without being weighed down by unnecessary items. By carefully selecting versatile clothing and essential gear, you can streamline your pack while still being well-prepared for your adventure.

When preparing for a backpacking trip, evaluating each item’s necessity and versatility is key to avoiding overpacking. With careful consideration, it’s possible to strike a perfect balance between preparedness and practicality in your packing approach.

Underestimating distances and time

Underestimating distances and time can turn a backpacking trip from fun to exhausting. First-time backpackers often make this mistake, leading to physical exhaustion and running out of supplies.

Lack of experience and research about the trail can contribute to underestimating the difficulty of the hike.

This mistake can lead to costly mishaps and ruined trips. It’s essential to take the time to properly fit and pack a rucksack, as well as plan for the actual duration of the hike. Avoiding common rucksack fitting mistakes will help prevent underestimating distances and time associated with backpacking trips.

Expert Tips for Proper Fitting

Adjust the hip belt, fit the shoulder straps, utilize load lifters, and adjust the sternum strap for optimal comfort and support. Learn how to properly fit your backpack for a more enjoyable outdoor adventure!

Adjusting the hip belt

To adjust the hip belt properly, follow these steps:

  1. Position the hip belt above your hips and on top of the hip bones for proper support.
  2. Buckle the waist belt and adjust it so that the padding sits on the hip bones for comfort.
  3. Ensure that the hip belt is snug but not overly tight to provide stability and weight distribution.
  4. Make sure there are no gaps between the padding and your body to prevent rubbing or discomfort during movement.
  5. Double – check that the belt is centered on your body to evenly distribute the load.

Fitting the shoulder straps

To properly fit the shoulder straps, follow these steps:

  1. Tighten each shoulder strap to ensure the backpack fits closely to your body without causing discomfort.
  2. The shoulder harness should wrap over your shoulders and rest slightly below the top of the shoulders, providing a snug but not constricting fit.
  3. Both shoulder straps should be secured firmly, ideally with padded backing for added comfort, and avoid overtightening to prevent them from digging into your shoulders.

Using load lifters

After properly fitting the shoulder straps, the next important step is using load lifters. These magical little things help distribute the weight of your backpack, putting less strain on your shoulders and more on the waist belt. Here’s how to use them properly:

  1. Understand Their Purpose: Load lifters are designed to lift the weight of your pack off your shoulders, reducing strain and improving comfort during your hike or travel.
  2. Adjust Them Correctly: Proper use involves adjusting them to make a 45-degree angle with the pack. This prevents overtightening, which can put more pressure on your chest and make it difficult to breathe.
  3. Distribute Weight Effectively: When adjusted correctly, load lifters assist in distributing the weight of your backpack, reducing strain on your shoulders and transferring more weight to the waist belt for better support.
  4. Avoid Overtightening: Overly tight load lifters can increase pressure on your chest, hindering proper breathing and causing discomfort. It’s essential to find the right balance when adjusting them.
  5. Relieve Shoulder Strain: By effectively distributing weight and reducing strain on your shoulders, load lifters can significantly improve your overall comfort while carrying a loaded backpack.

Adjusting the sternum strap

Before we delve into adjusting the sternum strap, let’s ensure you are well-versed with using load lifters.

  1. The sternum strap should be fastened across your chest at an appropriate height.
  2. Adjust the sternum strap to rest comfortably, ensuring it doesn’t hinder chest movement or breathing.
  3. It should sit flat across your chest, not too loose or too tight, allowing for natural upper body movements.
  4. Be mindful of not overtightening the sternum strap, as this can distort the fit and restrict chest movement.
  5. Ensure the sternum strap is adjusted to sit just below your collarbone and is parallel to the ground for optimal comfort and support.

Recommended Shopping Practices

When shopping for a backpack, it’s important to try on multiple options to find the best fit and comfort. Consider prioritizing comfort and fit over extra features, and don’t hesitate to consult with an expert if needed.

Trying on multiple backpacks

When it comes to finding the right backpack, trying on multiple options is crucial in ensuring the perfect fit for your body. Here are some tips for making the most out of this process:

  1. Take your time and try on several different backpacks in various sizes and styles to find the one that feels best on your body.
  2. Pay attention to how each pack distributes weight and fits your torso length, hip size, and shoulder width.
  3. Walk around with each pack on, adjusting the straps and waist belt to see how they feel with movement.
  4. Consider bringing along any gear you typically carry to see how well it fits in each pack and how comfortable it feels when fully loaded.
  5. Seek input from a knowledgeable salesperson or gear expert who can provide guidance based on your specific needs and preferences.

Considering comfort and fit over features

When trying on multiple backpacks, it is essential to prioritize comfort and fit over features. Ensure that the shoulder straps provide a snug and comfortable fit without rubbing against your neck or leaving space between the backpack and your back.

Look for a pack that distributes weight evenly to avoid discomfort and pain during extended use. It’s crucial to choose a backpack with proper posture and positioning on your body, accounting for torso length and hip size for optimal support.

To ensure maximum comfort, take time to adjust the hip belt, shoulder straps, load lifters, and sternum strap according to your body’s unique contours. Consult with an expert if needed when selecting a backpack that not only suits your storage needs but also prioritizes ergonomics.

Consulting with an expert

Hiring an expert can help you avoid common rucksack fitting mistakes. They can provide tips for proper fitting, suggesting the right pack size based on your torso length and hip measurements.

These professionals offer guidance to ensure that your rucksack is suitable for your specific activities and load requirements, leading to improved comfort and functionality when using a rucksack.

Moreover, their advice can lead to a better overall shopping experience when selecting a rucksack, helping prevent errors in choosing the right one for your needs.


In conclusion, by avoiding common rucksack fitting mistakes, you can ensure a comfortable and safe backpacking experience. Implement the practical strategies and tips discussed to prevent discomfort and strain on your body.

Have you measured your torso length and adjusted the backpack accordingly? Take action now to enjoy a pain-free outdoor adventure. Remember, proper fitting is crucial for preventing back pain and muscle strain while hiking or backpacking.

Emphasize the importance of finding the right pack size for your body to achieve an enjoyable and successful trip.


1. What is the right way to choose a daypack or rucksack?

When picking out a daypack or rucksack, make sure it fits your back well and doesn’t hang too low.

2. Can I use a rolling backpack for hiking trips?

A rolling backpack is better for sidewalks and halls but not great for trails. For hiking, get a rucksack that fits snug on your shoulders.

3. Why should I adjust the webbing on my rucksack?

Adjusting the webbing straps helps hold your rucksack close to your body so it’s more comfortable and won’t move around as you walk.

4. Is wearing a ball cap okay with my rucksack?

Yes, you can wear a ball cap, but first put on your pack properly to ensure the cap doesn’t push against the bag or feel too tight.