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How to Adjust Your Internal Frame Backpack

Jessica Kalmar

You have just purchased the perfect frame backpack, and youre about to embark on your first wilderness excursionbut do you know how to properly adjust the suspension system? This instruction set will demonstrate how to adjust the straps of an internal frame backpack to ensure that the weight is evenly distributed. An ill-fitted backpack can cause skin chafe, accidents from loss of balance, and back and shoulder soreness or injuries. A properly fitted backpack will lessen your load and provide maximum comfort during an extended hiking trip. REMEMBER: Whenever you put your backpack on, take the time to ensure the straps are properly adjusted around your hips, shoulders, and sternum. TIP: Before you leave, its a good idea to practice adjusting your pack. Follow the steps below, and dont forget to add some weight to your pack (20 to 30 pounds) to replicate field conditions. It will take a longer time to find the perfect fit at first, but after a few runthroughs, it wont take more than a minute to strap on and adjust your backpack.

Hip Belt: Broad band that buckles around the hips and carries the majority of the weight Stabilizer Straps (hips): Adjustable buckle that tightens around the hips to bring the pack closer to the lower body Shoulder Straps: Over-the-shoulder adjustable straps located under your armpits that bring the pack closer to the upper body Stabilizer Straps (shoulders): Adjustable straps located near your collarbone that pull the weight of the pack away from the shoulders Sternum Strap: Thin strap that closes across the chest and distributes the weight on the shoulders

Shoulder Stabilizer Straps Sternum Strap Shoulder Straps Hip Belt Hip Stabilizer Strap

Image: Jessica Kalmar, 2011

1. Unbuckle and loosen all the straps on your backpack. 2. Put your backpack on, leaving the hip belt open at your sides. 3. Center the hip belt buckle between your hip bones and buckle the hip belt across your hips. Pull the stabilizer straps so that the belt rests atop your hips (Figure 1). 4. Pull the shoulder straps down to tighten them until the backpack hugs your back (Figure 2). NOTE: The anchor points of the shoulder straps should be around your shoulder bladesnot behind your neck or your mid-back. 5. Pull the shoulder stabilizer straps forward to pull the extra weight from your shoulders. You shouldnt feel the weight of the backpack on your shoulders (Figure 3).
Figure 2

Figure 1

6. Buckle the sternum strap across your chest and pull the strap to tighten it (Figure 4).
NOTE: Your arms should still be able to move freely. The sternum strap should not impede your breathing. 7. Pull the hip stabilizer straps as tightly as possible across your hips so that the hip belt now carries the majority of the backpacks weight (Figure 5). 8. Loosen the shoulder straps slightly if they now feel too tight. NOTE: Listen to your body. If any pain ensues from wearing your backpack for an extended period, adjust the straps to find an optimal arrangement. You may also be carrying too much weight, so try to remove some unnecessary items from your backpack.

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5
Images: Jessica Kalmar, 2011

These instructions provide a basic outline for adjusting your backpack.

For alternative but similar instructions: expertadvice/articles/backpacks+ adjusting+fit.html; For instructions with detailed illustrations:; For an instructional video:
All mountain images: Open Clip Art, 2009