How to fit your rucksack properly - a step by step guide

Working with Cotswold Outdoor, we've identified some areas of preparation and outfitting for a walking holiday that are essential to get right if you want to really enjoy the trek. In the first part of the series, read on for our step-by-step guide to help you achieve the most comfortable and efficient fit for your rucksack. 

Did you know?

As an HF Holidays' Member you're entitled to 15% off at Cotswold Outdoor!

How to fit a rucksack for a perfect walking holiday

Your rucksack is an essential piece of kit for any adventure, and once fully packed, usually your heaviest. Having a correctly-fitting rucksack is really important to keep you comfortable on long treks and avoid injuring yourself.

We've outlined the key steps below to help you achieve the best fit. If you're in any doubt, simply pop to a store for a free rucksack fitting with one of our experts.

1. Locate your hip bone and prepare your rucksack

With your fingers, locate 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. Many people find it most comfortable to have the top of the hip strap in line with the top of the hip bone; however, 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, with the rest of the strap following the natural contours of your back. 

If the shoulder straps don't fit correctly, you will 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, whilst others may 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.

4. Adjust the back length

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, below:

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 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.

Our in-store experts are all trained to offer free rucksack fittings. This involves an initial consultation to assess your needs, and a highly accurate measurement of your back, to help select the best pack for your adventures. 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.

Don’t forget that HF Holidays’ members receive 15% discount at Cotswold Outdoor. Full T&Cs apply.