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Rucksack Fitting Guide

If you are going hiking or backpacking and carrying a heavy load for long distances, it is important you have a rucksack that fits you correctly. You need to buy a rucksack with an adjustable back system and you need to ensure you alter the back system to suit you.  Remember, every body shape is different and a rucksack that fits one person will not necessary fit you.

Rucksack fitting is normally required for rucksacks of 40 litres and above. When fitted correctly, the padded waist belt will rest both comfortably and securely just above the hip bone. Here are some examples of rucksacks that we recommend be fitted.

If the rucksacks back length is right for you, the upper straps will sit on the shoulders and attach to the pack roughly 4 to 5cms below your shoulder line.  If the fit is good it will feel like you're strapped into a comfortable car sports seat. When the rucksack is fully laden you should have 20 to 30% of the weight on your shoulders and the other 70 to 80% sitting on your hips. 

Bear in mind when you try to carry a rucksack it will feel totally different when it’s loaded so make sure you’ve got some weight in it when fitting. Laden rucksacks will show up any potential problem areas instantly. When the rucksack is fully laden you will obviously feel it but it should still be a comfortable carry. You will also find that as you walk around you may have to make a few adjustments - as the weight/contents will shift - to maintain a comfortable and stable load.

Trying on various rucksacks is like trying on hiking boots; each brand will feel different so an ill fitting 50 litre rucksack in one brand might feel totally different when wearing a different brand.

Rucksacks feature different back systems according to the brand or range. Choose one that you find uncomplicated, easy to adjust and offers a setting that is right for you. Common mistakes when fitting a rucksack is the back length set too long leaving a gap behind the shoulder or the back length set too short putting too much weight on the shoulders and leaving the waist belt too high up the body.

To test the weight distribution and rucksack settings, get someone to grab the waist belt firmly and swivel it side to side. You should move with it. If the rucksack moves but you stay still, the fit is not correct.  Remember the rucksack must move with you and if the rucksack moves freely to you, you will incur problems with your back and/or shoulders.

There are now many rucksacks available in specific women's fit and they vary from the standard men’s/unisex versions in that the back length of the rucksack has been made shorter and the shoulder straps are narrower and - along with the hip belt – have been given more ergonomic shape. These differences can be very slight and hardly noticeable to the eye, but are very noticeable in terms of comfort.  The fitting of a ladies rucksack is slightly different to the men's in that it should sit slightly higher on the hips but not so high it squeezes your lungs.

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