How do I Adjust the External Frame of a Backpack?

How do I Adjust the External Frame of a Backpack?While internal frames have taken the place of external frames in the backpacking market, external frames still provide a reliable and comfortable way to carry gear when adjusted correctly. To find the best fit, adjust your backpack when it's packed with the gear and weight you plan to carry. Take your packed backpack on a few practice hikes to discover any fit issues before you leave for your trip.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Backpack
Step 1
Adjust the height of the backpack frame. Some external frame packs have pins along the sides of the frame that allow you to adjust the length of the frame. The frame should sit so you have a couple of inches between the shoulder straps and your shoulders when you have the waist belt on and shoulder straps adjusted.
Step 2
Loosen all the straps on the frame. Before you put the pack back on to dial in the fit, loosen the waist, shoulder, sternum, and load-lifter straps. It's easier to tighten down the straps to adjust the fit.
Step 3
Put on the backpack and tighten the hip belt. The hip belt should cradle your hip bones. Wearing the pack higher on your waist puts the load, and strain, on your lower back. Wearing the backpack too low on your hips can interfere with your stride and balance.
Step 4
Adjust the shoulder straps. Tighten the shoulder straps so the front on the strap hits the front of your shoulder. With the right fit, the top and back of the strap will sit slightly off you shoulder to keep the weight of the pack from straining your upper body.
Step 5
Position the sternum strap. The sternum strap keeps the shoulder straps in place and the load of your pack toward the center of your body as opposed to the outside of your shoulders. Move the sternum strap so it sits about three or four inches below your collar bone.
Step 6
Find the load-lifter straps. These straps sit just above your shoulder straps. When you tighten these straps, your load moves toward your body. This keeps the weight of your pack close to your center of gravity to help keep you balanced and make the load easier to carry.

Article Written By Kathrine Cole

Kathrine Cole is a professional outdoor educator. She teaches rock climbing, backpacking, cycling, and bike maintenance classes. She is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School, a Wilderness First Responder, and a Leave No Trace Trainer.

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