It may sound like I’m overcomplicating this a bit, but it is absolutely essential to fit and adjust your rucksack properly.  It needs to be right for your particular size and the weight you’re carrying.  That’s why a rucksack has so many straps.

There’s more than one design for adjustments unfortunately, but this checklist should work for a majority of them.  It’s based on the ‘ladder lock’ system.

Checklist for Adjusting y0ur Rucksack

First do all of this with an empty rucksack.  Probably before you leave home.


  1. Open all of the straps to the fullest.Adjusting a backpack step one

2. Use the velcro adjustment to move the shoulder straps up or down.  This will make the back plane longer or shorter.  The velcro itself passed through a number of loops to make this happen.Adjusting a backpack step two


3.  Put the rucksack on and tighten the waiststrap.  It should fit over your hips (on the iliac – the pointy out bits of your hip bones.)Adjusting a backpack step three


4.  Check shoulder straps for height.  Adjust by going back to point 2 until they sit just on your shoulders, but don’t pull you down when you tighten it up a bit.  Remember that these aren’t for carrying weight, only stopping the weight moving you about and throwing you off balance.  It should be comfy.Adjusting a backpack step four


5.  Once the height is set, take it off again and adjust the shoulder stabiliser straps.  These are usually between the shoulder strap and the backpack itself.  Their job is to adjust the backpack’s centre of gravity back and forward.  Pulling down moves it forward, loosening it up moves it away.  Look to have these straps at about 45 degrees.  That’s the point where you shouldn’t have much space behind your shoulder.Adjusting a backpack step five


6..This last part weirdly really helps take the strain.  What you’re looking for is it to be tight enough to pull the shoulder straps forward and stop them slipping, but not too tight that it’s uncomfortable.  Especially for women.Adjusting a backpack step six


Now try it again with some weight in it.  Ideally you’d pack your rucksack with the stuff you’re taking, then try it on.  It also gives you a bit of any idea if you’ve overpacked.

But before you put it on, and after it’s packed…

Get Someone to Help Put Your Rucksack on!

This is mostly for the blokes.  You’re happy to fit and adjust your rucksacks  I know that what we really want to do is hoof the 25kg weight you’ve just packed in a perfectly adjusted carrying device over one shoulder because we’re hard.  I know, I get it.  Doing anything else just completely calls into doubt our masculinity, and we may end up with rival males challenging us for Alpha position right.

But here’s a thought – what looks worse, asking for help to get the rucksack on your shoulders in good form, or asking someone else to carry your bergen off a mountain as you limp along beside them, because you’ve done your back in being macho?

Just a thought…

If you’re wild camping nay-mates then you can prop it up on a rock or bit of a tree.  Don’t be tempted to prop it up low or even worse put it on while sitting on the ground.  That doesn’t work out well.

How to Put on a Rucksack on when it’s packed

So using your mate, a rock or a tree to help take the weight, perch you’re rucksack up and carry out the following routine: 

  • Slip both shoulders gently into the shoulder straps without taking any of the weight.
  • Tighten the shoulder straps to pull the rucksack in a bit, but don’t tighten all the way.
  • Position the waist belt so it sits comfortably on your pelvis.  Tighten it up all the way to where it will be when you walk.
  • Tighten the shoulder straps, making sure that you don’t over-pull and end up exerting a force down through them.
  • Check for comfort and gaps.  Adjust your clothing underneath.
  • Click on and adjust the chest strap.

And you’re done.  Simples.