As a follow up my last article, Proper Packing Prevents Potential Post-hike Pain, I’d like to walk through the steps to properly adjusting your pack. An improperly adjusted backpack can put such strain on your body that a few simple changes to how it sits on your frame will make you think it’s an entirely different pack. Even if you carried your last load very comfortably your new load is likely to have a different distribution of weight making this a good practice with each new load.
Before I begin, having the correct size backpack for your torso size is critical. You’ve heard that you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole? Well you also can’t fit a 22″ torso into a 15″ frame pack. Check here for info regarding how to pick the backpack that’s right for your bod. Now, that being said, lets light this candle!
First, start by loosening the hip stabilizer straps (if equipped), the hip belt, and shoulder straps, and load lifters. These last are attached at the top of the shoulder straps and connect the shoulder strap to the frame. Now if you have a partner with you, have them lift the pack for you as you slip your arms into the shoulder straps. If not use something nearby like a fence rail, or even the hood of your car, to support the weight of the pack as you center the load on your back so it sits right in the center. With the pack centered fasten and snug up your hip belt. This is where you want most of the weight to ride so cinch that bugger up pretty tight if you can.
Next, pull down on the actual shoulder straps (not the load lifters) until the tops of the straps just barely touch the shoulder tops
Now, pull down on the load lifter straps drawing the pack inward toward the body. Don’t over tighten these. You want a nice comfy tension for stabilization, but definitely not a pinching on the front of the shoulder area. I find it helpful to do this with the sternum strap attached (if equipped). This pulls the shoulder straps in toward the chest centerline. Some of you gals may not find this last tip quite as helpful as the fellas.
Finally pull forward on the load stabilizer straps near the bottom of your shoulder straps on each side. This provides a little extra lift so you should feel the load lift off your shoulders even a bit more. If not, go ahead and loosen your main shoulder straps just a hair.
The easy part now is to simply test for comfort. Walk around a bit. Is the load stable and comfy? Is the weight resting on your hips as opposed to your shoulders? Do you feel pulled back, or pushed forward? If any of these things are the case, have someone else try to troubleshoot the problem with you while the pack is on, it’s pretty tough to make changes with 35 lbs hanging from your back. If all else fails drop the pack and start over, it may just be a step you missed.