How to Choose and Fit a Backpack

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Hit the trail with a pack that fits your trip and your body. This infographic shows you how. It includes instructions for measuring your size and making all the right adjustments for a custom fit.

backpacking infographic

Gear up for hiking season with a pack that fits you and your trip just right. This handy visual guide shows you how, including tips on picking the right capacity, taking your measurements and making all the key adjustments for the utmost comfort.

Choose a Pack that Fits Your Body

Measure along your spine from the base of your neck to the top of your hips.

Choose a Pack that Fits Your Trip

Use the infographic table to help find the right sized pack for your trip.

Customize the Fit

Step 1: Hipbelt

  • Put the pack on your back so that the hipbelt is resting over your hip bones.
  • Close the hipbelt buckle and tighten it. (You should feel most of the weight of the pack on your hips, not your shoulders.)

Step 2: Shoulder Straps

  • Pull down and back on the ends of the should straps to tighten them.
  • Shoulder straps should fit closely to hold the pack body against your back, thus keeping the load forward. Your shoulders should NOT be carrying the weight.

Setp 3: Load Lifters

  • Load-lifter straps are located just below the tops of your shoulders (near your collarbones) and should angle back toward the pack body at a 45-degree angle.
  • Gently tug the load-lifter straps to pull weight off your shoulders.

Step 4: Sternum Strap

  • Adjust the sternum strap to a comfortable height across your chest as needed.
  • Buckle the sternum strap and tighten until the shoulder straps are pulled comfortably inwards from your shoulders, allowing your arms to move freely.

Final Tweaks:

  • Pull the stabilizer straps (if equipped), located on either side of the hipbelt, to snug the pack body woard the hipbelt and stabilize the load.
  • Go back to the shoulder straps and carefully take a bit of tension off of them. This ensures the majority of the weight is carried by your hips.

Need more help finding the perfect backpack fit? Visit any REI store and get more advice from our pack-fitting experts or read more of our tips on how to choose a backpack for hiking.