How to Properly Wear a Backpack? [Keep On Reading]

There are a few things that you have to know before you start hiking or camping. One of the most important things is to stay comfortable at all times. That often involves having a comfortable backpack that you can wear whenever you go somewhere!

There is somewhat of a difference between regular backpacks that you wear to school and backpacks that you can take on hikes. When it comes to outdoor trips, it is that much more important to have a good backpack. It should not be uncomfortable, but it should still carry all the weight you need.

To add to it all, it is not only about the backpack – it is also about properly packing it. I will tell you more about this, selecting a good backpack, adjusting it properly, and all other backpack-related things you need to know.

So, if you want to learn more about the topic, keep on reading!


Properly Wear a Backpack

Step By Step Guide - How to Properly Wear a Backpack 

If you are new to hiking and do not know anything about hiking gear, it could be intimidating to choose a backpack. Some come with a lot of padding, others are 30L or 60L, yet another group comes with some extra straps. There is a lot to consider, but you have me to make a choice easier for you!

After choosing the best backpack for your body type, you need to learn how to adjust everything around the backpack to fit properly. This is a very important step as having an improper backpack can cause many back or neck pain. So to avoid making a big thing from all this, I want to give you a simple step-by-step guide that will tell you everything you need to know. Let’s get right into it!

Step 1 – Choose a good backpack

With backpacks, I would always recommend that you invest in a quality one from a specialty store. Depending on what you need your backpack for, the store clerk can make you choose the perfect one for you.

At the same time, you will need some help with the measurement. Backpacks come in various sizes. Here is a quick guide:

  • XS-size, which is about 17 inches long
  • S-size, which is 19 inches
  • M-size, which is 21 inches
  • L-size, which is about 23 inches long

Depending on your torso length, you can choose between one of these sizes. So, check your torso length from the lowest part of your neck to your hip bone.

The length that you get for that part of your body will determine the length of your backpack. Remember – correct fit is key, especially if you plan to take the backpack on long trips.

Step 2 – Put the backpack on

After you buy the backpack, you need to put it on and adjust the straps to make it fit perfectly. I will go strap by strap and tell you all about it. For now, all you need to remember is the order in which you need to make the adjustments. That is - waist, shoulder, load, and sternum strap for last.

Step 3 – Adjust the waist strap

More often than not, a larger backpack that should carry a heavier load will come with a waist strap. That is the strap that goes around your waist, and it should help distribute the weight and relieve you should shoulder pain.

The waist straps should go about the hip bones and around your entire waist. You should be able to buckle it in front. Adjust it so that it is not too tight and not too loose – it should be perfect and make you feel comfortable.

Step 4 – Adjust the shoulder straps

After the waist strap, you need to focus on the shoulder straps. They are very important and can help you avoid a lot of shoulder and back pain.

With shoulder straps, it would be best if you adjust them to being below the top of your shoulder. If you make them too tight, they will press on your arms and armpits and might even cause some nerve damage. If you have loose straps, you will end up with poor posture.

Again, make the shoulder strap comfortable enough so that you can wear the backpack without any pain. Depending on your clothes, you might need to do some readjustments every once in a while.

Step 5 – Adjust the load lifters

Next, you need to take care of the load strap. Load lifters are straps that go from the shoulder strap to the highest part of the backpack. These straps should help you with carrying heavier loads more without any problem.

When adjusting these straps, you need to make sure that they are set at a 45-degree angle. When you have set them properly, you will know when your entire backpack and shoulder straps feel positioned comfortably.

Step 6 – Adjust the sternum strap

Last but not least, you need to adjust one more strap: the sternum strap or chest strap. You can use this strap to hold the shoulder straps closer together, and you can find it below your collarbone. The chest strap helps relieve shoulder pressure as well as allow more comfortable arm movement.

If you make this strap too tight, your shoulder straps will start feeling very uncomfortable. Adjusting all straps properly will make you feel better, so you should find a good balance between them all.

How to Properly Wear a Heavy Backpack?

You have to be very careful with heavy backpacks because you do not want to overdo it. A backpack should be no heavier than 20% of your body weight. Anything heavier will be too much weight for your shoulders and back.

If you are planning on carrying heavy loads for longer, it is key that you do the strap adjustments that I discussed before. They will help you stay cozy and feel pleasant throughout the trip.

Finally, something to keep in mind is that you should take off the backpack whenever possible. That means that you should take it off when you are taking breaks. Also, if you are wearing layers and taking some off, remember to re-adjust the straps to fit your body in the best way possible.

Travel Backpack

How to Properly Wear a Travel Backpack?

Travel backpacks are often heavy backpacks, especially if you are planning on going hiking or camping. With this type of backpack, aside from the straps, you should also pay attention to how you do the packing.

You should always remember to pack larger, heavier items near your spine. You can put lighter items on top of the heavier ones. This type of packing will make the trip much more enjoyable.

Backpack On One Shoulder

Is Wearing Your Backpack On One Shoulder Bad?

There are a few things that you should never do with backpacks:

  1. You should never wear it in front because it can be very uncomfortable.
  2. You should never wear the backpack low on the back because you will immediately feel a lot of back pain.
  3. You should never wear your backpack with only one strap on!

Wearing a backpack with only one strap can cause a ton of problems with body posture, muscle pain, as well as back pain. All these problems come from putting all the pressure on only one side of your body. That is a big no-no, especially if you are planning on taking a heavier backpack.

The best thing to do would be to put on the backpack with both shoulder straps and then adjust the extra straps. Trust me, your body will thank you, and you will thank yourself years later!


As you can see from this guide, wearing a backpack the right way is not that hard. All you need to do is have the right size backpack with all your straps intact and adjusted at all times. Also, make sure that you pack everything in a neat way and according to the steps I mentioned above.

I hope that you liked this guide and put my tips to good use on your next trip. Let me know in the comments what you thought about it, or if you have any other tips, you think I should include. I cannot wait to read all about it!

Andrew Mullen

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