Whether you’re backpacking, travelling or just carrying a heavy load on a hike, it is important to know how to fit a rucksack correctly. A poorly fitted rucksack can increase fatigue and even cause injury when worn for a lengthy amount of time. This handy guide will ensure you have the knowledge to fit a rucksack correctly, safely and comfortably.
Loosen all the straps – Before you start packing, make sure you loosen all the straps. It's always best to start from scratch for a perfect fit.
Back length – Many rucksacks have an adjustable back system. There are various types of back adjusters, depending on the manufacturer and model, some use large Velcro panels, others use webbing and pull cords that lengthen and shorten. It's often a trial and error process to find the perfect back length, but if you persevere then the shoulder straps will correctly follow the curvature of your shoulders and the hip strap will be in the correct position (as explained in point 3).
Hip/fin strap – This will allow you to know whether the adjusted back length is correct. The correct position differs between men and women due to their different muscle and bone structures. For men the top of the hip strap should sit in line with the top of the hip bone, for women the middle of the hip strap should sit in line with the top of the hip.
When a rucksack is correctly fitted the hips should carry most of the weight, not the shoulders. Once in position tighten the straps, but be wary not to tighten too much as they can dig into your skin and become uncomfortable.
Shoulder straps – Once you have the hip strap in place it’s time to tighten the shoulder straps. Ideally the point where the shoulder strap begins should be tucked in behind your shoulders, with the rest of the strap gently curving up and following the natural contours of your shoulder. Again you should be wary not to make them too tight, remember the weight of your rucksack should mainly be on the hips, not the shoulders.
Top stabilisation straps/load adjusters – Your rucksack may or may not contain load stabilising straps, which are small straps that connect from the back of the rucksack to the shoulder straps. These should be tightened to an angle of around 30 degrees. They will then ensure that the rucksack doesn’t sit too far away from your back, causing an unbalance.
Chest/sternum strap - The chest (or sternum) strap is the last item to be adjusted. The chest strap should be roughly level with the bottom of your arm pit. This prevents the shoulder straps from creeping outwards during your walk to maintain a balanced and comfortable carry.
Check it – Once you think you have all your straps adjusted correctly you can complete two checks to ensure a correct fit:
- Ask someone to pull at the hip fins firmly, if correctly fitted you should move with it and not remain still.
- Another check is asking someone to move the shoulder straps apart. When fitted correctly they should move, but give a bit of resistance.