Even after carefully loading your backpack, it still may feel uncomfortable once you get it on. You almost certainly will need to adjust its straps for the best fit – even if you’ve already done so on previous hikes. The amount of clothes you wear, what is in the backpack that was or wasn’t there the last time you hiked, and even minute changes in your body shape from exercising or weight gain/loss can alter how it fits on you.
Start with the hip belt. If it’s loose or too tight, the buckle may not be positioned correctly. If shifting that doesn’t work, you’ll need to tighten or loosen the strap as needed.
Next, go to the shoulder straps. If they feel loose, pull down on ends of the straps to tighten. If they are too tight, you probably will need to take off the backpack and loosen the straps. Be sure that each strap is even with the other or the pack will sit lopsided on your back.
In tandem with the shoulder straps, you may need to adjust the lift-loader straps. These are located near your shoulders just below your collarbone. Tightening the lift-loaders takes pressure off your shoulders.
Finally, take care of the sternum strap. Typically it’s too tight across the chest; in that case, loosen the strap. Don’t allow it be too loose, however, as that will allow the backpack to shift on your back; should that occur, tighten the strap.
Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.