Rucksack Fitting Guide

Our step by step guide to help you achieve the most comfortable and efficient fit...

Whether you are traveling on a gap year, summiting a mountain, or doing a challenge such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, your rucksack is an absolutely vital piece of kit. But once fully packed, it is also likely to be your heaviest so making sure it fits correctly is very important.


Below you can see our step by step guide to help you achieve the most comfortable and efficient fit. However, if you wish to be totally sure, we would always fully recommend that you take your rucksack into one of our many stores to receive free fitting advice from our expertly trained members of staff.

Follow The Stages Below:

1. Locate Your Hip Bone

With your fingers, carefully locate the upper-most part of your hip bone. Your hips will form the ‘foundations’ of how your rucksack sits on your body, eventually supporting the majority of the pack’s weight.


Once you have done this you will also need to add some weight to your rucksack. Several tins of food and bags of rice make good improvised weights. It is important to simulate the sensation of a fully loaded rucksack, so take care to weight the pack evenly and pad it out if necessary. Now carefully put on the weighted rucksack and allow it to hang freely off both shoulders.

2. Attaching The Hip Straps

You now want to get the hip straps around your hips. For men you want the top of the hip strap to line up with the top of the hip bone. Women can have the strap in the same position; however some women may prefer it slightly higher, with the middle of the hip strap in line up with the top of the hip bone.


To get the hip straps at the correct height and around the right section of hip bone you will probably need to either lengthen or shorten the main shoulder straps, so the main body of the bag goes up or down the length of your back.

3. Assessing The Shoulders Strap

Using steps 1 and 2 fasten the hip belts so they are in the correct location. At this stage the hip belt should be tight and secure but the shoulder straps will most probably be slightly loose.


You can now assess the length of the back piece and decide if it needs adjusting. Ideally you want to have the beginnings of the shoulder straps just tucked in behind your shoulders (like the example above), with the rest of the strap gently curving up and following the natural contours of your shoulder.


4. Adjusting The Back Length

If the back length is not correct then you will need to remove the bag and make some necessary adjustments. This process will vary depending on the manufacturer of the bag. Some use large Velcro panels that separate, others use webbing and pull cords that lengthen and shorten.


It may take a couple of attempts and readjustments to get the perfect fit, but persevere and you will be able to get the right back length; which in turn will allow the shoulder straps to correctly follow the curvature of your shoulders.

5. Additional Straps And Features

Finally you may also have noticed that there are a number of additional straps other than the ones for shoulder and hip adjustments. These can be adjusted to aid comfort, but there are three main ones you need to consider.

Load Stabiliser Straps

Load stabilising straps are two thinner straps that go from the shoulder straps up to the main body of the bag. Tightening these brings the bag closer to the body and stabilises the load. They should roughly be at a 45° angle off the top of the shoulder.

Hip Belt Stabiliser 

Some packs will have hip belt stabiliser straps. These pull the weight of the pack towards the body and reduce the amount the bag can shift about when you walk. Tighten these to a comfortable tension.

Sternum Strap

The sternum or chest strap is a thinner band that goes across the chest and stops the shoulder straps from opening apart whilst you move. This is a small, but effective addition which should ideally be in line with the bottom of each armpit.

Come And See Us In Store

Our Rucksack Fitting Service

Every member of Cotswold Outdoor staff is expertly trained in how to correctly fit and adjust and rucksack. This completely free service involves a consultation in which your needs are assessed after which a highly accurate measurement of your back is taken, ensuring that the best pack is selected for you.


If you would like to receive a free rucksack fitting service, then please visit us in one of our many nationwide stores.