How to Properly Fit a Framed Backpack: A Step-by-Step Guide

Hiking, backpacking, and even long travels demand a reliable backpack. If you've opted for a framed one, it's essential that it fits correctly. An ill-fitting backpack can be the source of aches, pains, and even long-term injuries. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to ensure your framed backpack fits like a glove.

1. Know Your Torso Length

Before you even start adjusting straps, it's vital to know your torso length, which is a key measurement in getting the right backpack size.

How to measure your torso length:
- Stand straight and locate the bony bump at the base of your neck (this is your 7th cervical or C7 vertebra).
- Place your hands on your hips and locate the top edge of your hip bones (iliac crest).
- Have someone measure the distance from the C7 vertebra down your spine to a point level with the top of your hips. This is your torso length.

2. Adjust the Torso Length on the Backpack

Not all backpacks have adjustable torso lengths, but if yours does:

- Loosen all the straps.
- Adjust the harness up or down according to your measurement. Your hip belt should sit right on top of your hip bones, and the shoulder straps should wrap around your shoulders without any gaps.

3. Load Your Backpack

For fitting, it's best to load your backpack with some weight. This will mimic real-life conditions. Around 15-20 pounds should suffice for this.

4. Loosen All Straps

Before placing the backpack on, make sure all the straps are loosened - this includes shoulder straps, hip belt, load lifter straps, and sternum straps.

5. Wear the Backpack

Slip into the shoulder straps and let the backpack rest on your back.

6. Adjust the Hip Belt

Your hip belt should encompass your iliac crest. Buckle it and tighten. You should feel the weight of the backpack transferring onto your hips, which is crucial as your hips should bear most of the load.

7. Tighten the Shoulder Straps

Pull down and back on the ends of the shoulder straps. The strap should follow the contour of your shoulder and not have a gap. However, it shouldn't be so tight that it's lifting the pack off your hips.

8. Adjust the Load Lifter Straps

These are small straps connecting the top part of your shoulder straps to the backpack. Tighten them slightly, creating an angle of about 45 degrees. They shouldn't be too tight; their primary function is to keep the pack close to your body and stabilize the load.

9. Fasten the Sternum Strap

This should sit an inch or two below your collarbone and help keep the shoulder straps in place.

10. Final Checks and Adjustments

- Walk around and feel the fit. Jump a little, lean forward, and backward. The pack should feel like an extension of your body.
- If you experience any pain or pressure points, re-check your adjustments. Pay attention to how the weight feels; it should be primarily on your hips.

Hauling Out Meat: Adding Weight and Balancing the Load

If you’re a hunter or someone who occasionally needs to transport fresh game, there's an added layer of complexity when it comes to fitting your framed backpack: hauling out meat. Ensuring that your backpack can handle the extra weight, while also ensuring your comfort, is crucial.

1. Choose the Right Pack

Not all framed backpacks are created equal when it comes to hauling meat. Look for a pack designed with hunting in mind. Many of these will have a separate compartment or shelf that allows you to securely place the meat between the pack's frame and the main storage compartment.

2. Evenly Distribute Weight

When adding meat to your pack, it's crucial to balance the weight. If you’re packing out several pieces, try to evenly distribute them. This ensures the pack remains balanced and won’t pull you to one side, which can cause discomfort and increase the risk of injury.

3. Use Game Bags

Game bags protect the meat from dirt, flies, and other contaminants. They also make it easier to handle and pack the meat. Opt for breathable, lightweight game bags.

4. Pack the Meat Tightly and Close to Your Back

Meat, especially when it's a large amount, can shift inside your pack as you walk. To reduce this, pack the meat as tightly as possible. Ideally, it should be positioned close to your back, which will help in maintaining your center of gravity. This is especially true for heavy hauls as the closer the weight is to your spine, the better.

5. Re-adjust Straps and Checkpoints

After you've added the meat, you'll likely need to re-adjust the pack on your body. Make sure to go over all the points mentioned in the guide above to ensure a good fit. Remember, the weight distribution will now be different, so take the time to get it right.

6. Plan for Multiple Trips

Sometimes, it's not feasible or safe to haul all the meat out in one go. Be prepared to make multiple trips, especially if the terrain is challenging or if you're far from your base.

7. Consider Additional Gear

If you know you’ll be hauling out meat, consider additional gear like extra lashings or a freighter shelf. These additions can make it easier to secure and carry heavier loads.


Hauling out meat adds a new dimension to backpacking. By preparing correctly and adjusting your pack accordingly, you can ensure that the precious cargo is transported safely without compromising on your comfort. Remember, "Back to Basics" is not just about fitting your pack but adapting it to every situation.

A well-fitted framed backpack can make all the difference in your outdoor adventures. It not only minimizes discomfort but also reduces the risk of injury. While the process might seem intricate initially, once you've adjusted one a few times, it becomes second nature. Here's to many pain-free and thrilling adventures ahead!