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How to Wear a Hiking Backpack (Properly) – 4 Easy Steps

The first time I went on a backpacking trip, I was so excited to hit the trail that I didn’t pay much attention to how I was wearing my backpack.

I just strapped it on and took off without much thought. But after a few hours of hiking, I noticed that my shoulders and back were aching, and I was struggling to keep up with my group.

I realized that I needed to figure out how to wear my backpack properly if I was going to enjoy the rest of the trip.

So, during a break, I asked my more experienced friend for some advice. He showed me how to adjust the straps and belt, distribute the weight evenly, and maintain good posture while hiking.

After making these adjustments, I was amazed at how much more comfortable I felt, and I was able to hike with much more ease and confidence.

Since then, I’ve made it a point to wear my backpack properly on every trip, and it’s made a huge difference in my overall hiking experience.

Through this article, I hope to pass along these tips and tricks that I’ve learned to others who are just starting their hiking journey, so they too can enjoy the great outdoors without any discomfort or pain.

Key Takeaways

  • Wearing a hiking backpack properly has several benefits, including improved comfort, stability, and posture.
  • Choose the right backpack that fits your body size and has enough space to carry your gear.
  • Adjust the straps, hip belt, shoulder straps, load lifters, and sternum strap to ensure a comfortable and secure fit.
  • Organize your gear and load your backpack in a way that distributes weight evenly and improves your balance.

Benefits of Wearing a Hiking Backpack Properly

Wearing a hiking backpack properly has several benefits, including:

Improved Comfort: By wearing your backpack properly, you can distribute the weight of your gear evenly, reducing strain on your shoulders, neck, and back.

Increased Stability: A well-fitted backpack will be stable on your back and won’t shift around, even on steep or uneven terrain.

Better Posture: Wearing your backpack properly can help you maintain good posture while hiking, reducing the risk of back pain or injury.

Now, let’s dive into the step-by-step guide on how to wear a hiking backpack properly.

Step 1: Choose the Right Backpack

a man trying on new hiking backpack

Before you even put on your backpack, it’s important to choose the right one.

When selecting a backpack, consider its weight, capacity, and the length and difficulty of your trip. A general rule is to choose a backpack that weighs no more than 20% of your body weight.

For day hikes, a backpack with a 20-35 liter capacity should suffice, while overnight trips require a larger backpack with a 35-50 liter capacity. For multi-day trips, choose a backpack with a capacity of 50-80 liters.

Consider the terrain and conditions, such as a sturdy frame for rough terrain or a waterproof design for wet conditions.
Make sure to measure your torso length and waist size to find a backpack that fits comfortably.

Step 2: Adjust the Straps to keep your Hiking Backpack Fit

Once you have your backpack, it’s time to adjust the straps.

Start by loosening all the straps, then put on the backpack and adjust the hip belt so that it sits comfortably on your hips, with the padding centered over your hip bones.

Tighten the hip belt snugly but not too tight.

a girl adjusts the hip belt of hiking backpack

Next, adjust the shoulder straps so that they sit comfortably on your shoulders without digging in or sliding off.

Make sure the load lifters (the straps that attach the top of the backpack to the shoulder straps) are snug, but not too tight.

Finally, adjust the sternum strap so that it sits comfortably across your chest, with the shoulder straps forming a “V” shape.

Step 3: Load the Backpack

Before you load your backpack, organize your gear so that heavier items are near the center of the backpack and closer to your back.

This will help distribute the weight evenly and improve your balance.

pack clothes in hiking backpack

Once you have organized your gear, place it in the backpack and adjust the compression straps to compress the load and reduce the volume of the backpack.

Make sure the weight is evenly distributed and the backpack feels balanced.

Step 4: Adjust the Final Details

After you’ve loaded your backpack, adjust the final details to ensure a comfortable fit.

a man adjusts the sternum stap of hiking backpack

Make sure the backpack’s weight is evenly distributed between your hips and shoulders, and adjust the straps as necessary.

If you feel any pressure points or discomfort, adjust the backpack until it feels comfortable.

Notes when wearing a Hiking Backpack

  • Keep your posture upright with your shoulders back and your core engaged. This will help you maintain balance and reduce strain on your back and neck.
  • Your center of gravity should be over your hips, not behind them. Make sure the weight of your backpack is evenly distributed and close to your body to maintain balance and stability.
  • Don’t forget to take frequent breaks to adjust your backpack and give your back and shoulders a rest.


Wearing a hiking backpack properly is essential for a comfortable and safe hiking experience.

By choosing the right backpack, adjusting the straps, loading the backpack properly, and making final adjustments, you can ensure that your backpack is comfortable and stable on your back.

Keep in mind the notes and tips provided and learn from personal mistakes.

With these tips and techniques, you can confidently hit the trails and enjoy all the beauty that nature has to offer.

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