When backpacking, either traveling around the world or long distance walking, all your possessions are on your back. If you have done much of this you will know that your backpack can be pretty heavy. So how well your backpack fits can make the world of difference. An aching back and sore shoulders can ruin the whole experience. So let me give you some help to get a comfortable fit that should make life more pleasant.
The size of rucksack I am talking about is 50L and above. I am going to use an Osprey Atmos AG 65 Backpacking Rucksack in this example.
Use loaded rucksack
When fitting or adjusting your rucksack it is important to do it fully loaded so that the fit is true to how it will sit on your back when actually in use. (You can use any objects for the fitting, just try to match the shape and weight of your real pack).
When loading your rucksack try to place the heavier items at the bottom and against the back of the pack, so that the weight is not trying to pull the rucksack away from your back.
The first step is to measure your torso length. This is measured from your C7 vertebrae in your neck (see the photo below with the finger pointing to the C7) to the top of your hip bone, the Iliac crest. (Again, see the image below).
Stand straight and tilt your head forward, a bone will stand out from the back of your neck that’s the C7. Next place your hands on your hips just above the top of your hip bone with your thumbs meeting in the middle of your back. Now facing forward get a friend to measure the distance between that neck bone and your thumbs following the contours of your back. This measurement is your torso length.
Taking your rucksack adjust the top of the rucksack straps so that the distance between the top of the straps and the middle of the waistband are the same as your torso measurement.
Make sure that all of the straps on your rucksack are loose, then place the rucksack on your back and follow the steps below.
Adjusting the straps
1. Lift the rucksack up (you may need assistance) so that the waist belt sits on your hip bone, tighten the belt so that it holds the rucksack in place. Don’t make it too tight remember it’s all about comfort.
2. Tighten the shoulder straps pulling the rucksack to your body. The rucksack should be firm against to your body. Again not too tight, but so that the rucksack does not wobble around as you move.
3. Next fasten and tighten the chest strap, this will pull the shoulder straps closer together helping to secure the pack to your back. The shoulder straps now lie across the middle of your shoulders. The chest strap can be raised or lowered on the shoulder straps to give the best position. This is usually as shown on the photo below enabling free movement of your arms.
4.On top of the shoulder straps are the top load straps. By tightening these next the load of the rucksack is drawn closer to your back to help the weight travel down to your hips and not pull away from your back. Ideally the top load straps want to be at 45 degrees.
5.Lastly tighten the load straps on the waist belt. The rucksack should now feel comfortable and snug to your back. It should not move around, and not pull on your shoulders. You should also feel the bulk of the weight sitting on your hips. Some final adjustments might be necessary.
Ready to go
If your rucksack is fitted properly about 65% of the weight will be carried on your hips. You will be able to stand up straight on level ground and not have to lean forward. This will help your overall walking ability, and you can admire the views rather than your toes!