How to fit a rucksack

A step by step guide to help you find the perfect fit for your bag - wherever you're taking it

Zoe, Digital team and Cotswold Outdoor
08 April 2019

There's nothing worse than achy shoulders and back pain while you're on a hike. But having a correctly-fitting rucksack can keep you comfortable and injury free.

To help you stay comfy, our partners at Cotswold Outdoor have outlined the key steps to finding the best fit for your bag. If you're in any doubt, you can pop into a store for a free rucksack fitting with one of their experts.

1. Find your hip bone and prepare your rucksack

With your fingers, find the uppermost part of your hip bone. Your hips will form the foundations of how your rucksack sits on your body and support the majority of the pack’s weight.

Now, fill your rucksack with improvised weights, such as tinned food or bags of rice. We do this to simulate a fully loaded rucksack, as this is when you'll need comfort the most. Take care to weigh the pack evenly and pad it out if necessary, then put on the weighted rucksack and allow it to hang freely from your shoulders.

2. Attach the hip straps

Next, fasten the hip strap. Some people find it most comfortable to have the top of the hip strap in line with the top of the hip bone. , Some people may find it more comfortable to have the strap slightly higher.

To get the hip straps at the correct height, you may need to either lengthen or shorten the main shoulder straps, so that the main body of the bag is moved up or down the length of your back. The hip strap should feel tight and secure once adjustments are made.

3. Assess the shoulder straps

Once the rucksack has been adjusted to achieve the correct hip strap position, you should assess how well the shoulder straps fit. The tops of the shoulder straps should be just tucked in behind your shoulders (as seen in the example above), with the rest of the strap following the natural contours of your back.

4. Adjust the back length

If the shoulder straps don't fit correctly, you’ll need to remove the bag and adjust the back length. This process will vary depending on the manufacturer of the bag. Some use large Velcro panels that separate, whilet others use webbing and pull cords that lengthen and shorten.

It may take a couple of attempts and readjustments to get the perfect fit, but achieving the correct back length will allow the shoulder straps to follow the curvature of your shoulders.

5. Additional straps and features

Finally, depending on your individual rucksack, there may be other straps and attachments which can be adjusted to aid comfort. We have outlined the three most common, and how to adjust them for the perfect fit.

Load stabilising straps

Load stabilising straps are two thinner straps that go from the shoulder straps up to the main body of the bag. Tightening these brings the bag closer to the body and stabilises the load. They should be at an approximately 45° angle from the top of the shoulder.

Hip belt stabiliser

Some packs will have hip belt stabiliser straps, which pull the weight of the pack towards the body and reduce the movement of the bag when you walk. Tighten these to a comfortable tension.

Sternum or chest strap

The sternum or chest strap is a thinner band that prevents the shoulder straps from moving apart as you walk. This strap should be in line with the bottom of each armpit.

If you’d like an expert opinion, Cotswold Outdoor’s in-store experts are all trained to offer free rucksack fittings. Simply pop into a store to be measured for a new pack, or bring your old one to have it adjusted for the best possible fit.