5 Tips for a Great Backpacking Pack Fit

Let’s start out by saying, we have all been there…you know the 1 hour into the trail and the weird pressure points and pains start to make their way onto your body and you can’t believe you’ve only been hiking for 1 hour, when it feels like at least 5. So, what is the solution to what feels like a never-ending destination? Well, outside of your regular fitness and endurance levels, the solution may be making sure your pack is the right fit for you.

How to find your proper pack size for backpacking

First off, you may be wearing a pack that is too large or too small for the actual length of your torso. When we wear packs that are too large or too small for us, we can cause all sorts of unnecessary pains and tensions. To find the right pack fit, all you need a cloth tape measure. You’re going to measure from the C7 vertebra down (A.K.A the one that sticks out the most when you tuck your chin to your chest) to the same level as the top of your hip bone, the iliac crest. That distance from those two points will let you know what size pack to select.  Most pack sizes will run XS-XL with the hip band being adjustable. If you find the hip straps fitting a little too tightly, you can get a band extension so it can fit your hips more securely.

Weight distribution for your back and pack

So you have the right size pack, now what? Simple, weight. What you bring with you on your adventure will undoubtedly begin to add up very quickly. We are huge proponents for safety and comfort but if you can sacrifice a few “luxury” items your body will thank you. Our main goal with your pack, no matter what you bring, is to have most of the weight resting on your hips and not the shoulders. About 75% of your packs weight should be felt on the hips. If you feel like your pack is pulling you back and you’re relying on your shoulders, try moving the adjustable hip belt higher onto the hip bones to alleviate some of that stress. Also, make sure the shoulder straps are resting nicely on your shoulders with no gaps, and the chest strap is secured across your chest to help give you that extra security and balance. Most backpacks will have adjustable shoulder straps. Try playing around with these. One boring night at home, put some weight in you pack and go for a walk around the block or even a few laps around the backyard or kitchen will get you on your way to a more comfortable solution. Finding those trigger points early on is crucial.

Final reminders for all backpacking

All bodies are different. What works for one person will almost never work for another. When selecting a pack, go into the experience open-minded and try all of the options at your local outdoor retailer. You may be surprised what you end up with. Finally, do not be afraid to make pit stops. You are the best judge of your body. Take the pack off and have some water and enjoy the views. Backpacking can be a high-exertion activity and it’s good to let your body rest. Be safe, have fun, and know when to call it a day.

Shoulder/Neck/Back pain still prevalent?

If you have tried these tips and tricks and you are still in a significant amount of pain when carrying your backpack, you may have an underlying health concern. Schedule an appointment with us at https://www.unionpt.com/scheduling . We will do our best at Union PT to get you back on the trail as quickly and comfortably as possible. Feel free to bring your pack with you as well and we can try our best to get that perfect fit and weight distribution.

About the author

Katie is our front office coordinator here at the clinic but comes to us with years of experience in the outdoor industry. She worked at REI through college and spent her weekends in the summer backpacking around the Olympics and North Cascades. She has taught multiple workshops for beginners to intermediate backpackers in the PNW and can comfortably answer any questions or concerns you may have when planning your next solo or group backpacking adventure.