How To Fit A Backpack Correctly

Learn how to fit a backpack with our simple step by step guide. Every rucksack and backpack is different with different types of straps, harnesses and compartments. Fitting a backpack is easy once you know how and doing it correctly will make sure you avoid an injury.

You will most likely need to readjust for pack a number of times during your holiday. When should you do this?

  • As your pack gets heavier will all those wonderful souveneirs and shopping
  • As your pack gets lighter - if your hiking and are slowly eating through your food stores
  • When your pack is too full and decide to hang and strap items to the outside

With a properly fitted and properly packed backpack we were able to hike for 14 days straight on the Annapurna Sanctuary hike in Nepal!

Before you learn how to fit your backpack, make sure you have the right backpack for your style of travel. And also have learnt how to pack it correctly with everything you need to take with our backpacking checklist.

Putting on your backpack can be a bit tricky. It is the most likely time that you will injure yourself. Making sure your backpack is not to heavy and packed correctly will also help you put on your backpack easier.

Step By Step Guide To Fitting Your Backpack

1. Loosen All Straps

To get a backpack fitting correctly, you should start with about 5 to 10 kilograms in your pack with all of the straps loosened. This includes the shoulder straps, the harness, the chest straps, and stabilizers. 

Your pack may have some or all of the straps described in the instructions below. Just do your best to follow our instructions and you are well on your way to learning how to fit a backpack and being a comfy backpacker. 

2. Pick Up By The Top Handle

Pick up your bag by the handle located at the top of your harness. This handle is designed to take a heavy load. Do not use the shoulder strap at this step. The most common repair required required to packs is replacing the stitching on the shoulder strap. This damage is the result of people picking up their heavy pack incorrectly and "swinging' it over their shoulder - not a good idea! 

3. Start Gently

Rest your backpack on your knee, then slide one arm into the shoulder strap. Gently wiggle the pack around so that you can put your other arm through the other strap. 

Then stand up with your pack resting comfortably on your shoulders.

4. The Hip Belt (Or Main Harness)

Do up your hip belt nice and tight. The hip belt should sit straight across the top of your hip bones. When the fitting guide is complete you should feel most of the weight through this strap, not through your shoulders. 

When choosing a pack, it is best to buy a pack with a good hip harness system that has enough padding. We have found that the One Planet range are the most comfortable.

5. The Shoulder Straps

Gently pull down and back on the shoulder straps located underneath your armpits. This should feel comfortable, but not too tight.

Remember your shoulders shouldn't take the majority of the weight.

6. The Chest Straps

Do up your chest strap and clip. This strap helps share the load and prevents the shoulder straps from slipping. It should be sitting across your pecs.

7. The Hip Stabilizers

Check that your hip stabilizers (the straps on each side of the hip belts, but towards the back of the pack) are pulled tight. This will prevent your backpack from swinging too much when it is heavy.

8. The Shoulder Stabilisers

Check that your shoulder stabilizers (the straps located on each side above the shoulder) are pulled tight also. 

We have backpacked through Europe and many other countries. This is our main travel style - I highly recommend it!


If you are hiking or backpacking, you should refit your backpack when the weight or your pack changes. If you're hiking, you have eaten it. If you're backpacking, you have probably bought some souvenirs. 

We hope that you have learnt how to fit a backpack. You might also find interesting our advice on how to pack a backpack or our page on backpacking. Don't miss our handy packing accessories. Make sure you can fit everything in and keep all your gear safe. 

› How To Fit A Backpack

Popular Pages

Winter Clothing Tips