How To Adjust Camping Backpack (Easy Way)

A good backpack is one of the most essential pieces of gear for any adventure, whether it’s a day hike or a week-long backcountry trip. 

But finding the perfect backpack is more complex than simply picking one with all the bells and whistles. 

The best packs for you depend on what you need to carry, how much your load will weigh and if you’ll be walking or biking to your destination. That said, there are some general rules that apply across the board:

How To Adjust A Backpack – Backpacking Tips
Adjusting your camping backpack is important for overall comfort and safety when in the outdoors.
Follow manufacturer instructions and make adjustments incrementally to find the most comfortable fit.
Make sure to distribute the weight of the backpack evenly for better balance and posture.
Always be mindful of the load you are carrying and try to pack only necessary items.
Regularly inspect and maintain your backpack for durability and longevity.

Chest and hip straps

The straps on a backpack are used for multiple purposes.

The chest strap helps to keep the pack from shifting as you move around, and it is a good idea to tighten this strap so that it’s snug against your body.

Hip straps help to stabilize the pack and prevent it from bouncing up and down while you are walking. If you are hiking or climbing with your backpack, these straps need to be tight enough so they can support its full weight (or nearly so).

When assembling your camping tent, it’s important to take your time and carefully follow the instructions to ensure proper setup. Check out our easy fix guide for step-by-step instructions and helpful tips to make the process smoother.

Shoulder straps

To adjust the height of your backpack’s shoulder straps, loosen the strap and slide it up or down until you find a comfortable height.

To adjust the width of your backpack’s shoulder straps, pull on one end of the strap and move it closer or further away from your body depending on how much room you need between yourself and your pack.

To adjust the length of your backpack’s shoulder straps, pull on both ends equally until they are as long as needed for comfort and better support.

Shoulder Straps

AdjustmentHow to do it
HeightLoosen the shoulder strap and slide the adjustment mechanism up or down until you find a comfortable height. Adjust both straps equally.
WidthPlace the backpack on your back and adjust the shoulder straps so that they sit on the top of your shoulders. Use the load lifters to fine-tune the width of the straps. Ensure that the straps are not too wide or too narrow.
AngleCheck that the straps are not twisting or chafing against your skin. Use the harness stabilizers to adjust the angle of the straps if necessary.
PaddingAdjust the amount of padding on your shoulder straps based on your comfort level. Some backpacks come with adjustable padding inserts that can be removed or added to suit your preference.
TightnessYour shoulder straps should be snug but not tight. Adjust the tightness of the straps by tightening or loosening the adjustment mechanisms. Ensure that the weight of the backpack is resting on your hips and not your shoulders.

Note: Different backpacks may have different methods of adjustment, so always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specifics on how to adjust your shoulder straps.

Padding and lumbar support

Adjusting the lumbar support is one of the most important considerations while adjusting your backpack. A good-fitting backpack will have a curved, padded area that supports your lower back and offers comfort when you’re carrying heavy loads. If you find that your pack doesn’t offer enough support for your lower back, this can cause pain and discomfort over time—not to mention it may lead to injury if you don’t take proper care of yourself.

The best way to ensure that you have enough padding and lumbar support in place is by trying on different packs until you find one that feels comfortable on your body type and carries the weight well on its own without any additional adjustments needed further up or down from where it should be worn (usually around waist level). 

You should also consider how much padding there is before purchasing a new model because some come with more than others; however, some users prefer less since they provide more mobility while hiking through rough terrain like mountainsides or forests filled with thorny bushes everywhere!

A good camping chair can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors. Follow our easy way guide to properly assemble your camping chair and ensure maximum comfort while you’re out in nature.

Frame size

The frame size is the length of your torso. It’s not adjustable, so it can be difficult to find a pack that fits perfectly if you have a short or long torso. 

If you have a short frame and want to carry more weight in your backpack, try switching from an external frame to an internal frame. 

The internal-frame will give you more room for additional gear and provide better support for the load on your back.

If there’s one thing we hope you take away from this article, it’s this: when buying camping equipment like backpacks and tents, don’t just look at price! 

Make sure they’re comfortable before purchasing them by testing them out first if possible (or asking someone else who has experience with them).

Suspension system

The suspension system is the part of your backpack that distributes the weight of your gear across your back and hips. 

Adjustable suspension systems are more comfortable than fixed systems, because they can be adjusted to fit your body type. 

The adjustable straps can also be adjusted for load size, so you’ll feel less strain on long treks through the wilderness.

Staying safe while camping should always be a top priority. Before heading out on your next trip, make sure to review our easy tips on outdoor safety, including how to avoid wildlife encounters, stay hydrated, and more.

Top lid

The top lid is a storage compartment on the top of the backpack. It is usually smaller than the main compartment and used for small items like a map, compass, sunglasses or snacks. To adjust this compartment:

  • Open up the backpack and remove all contents from inside (a good time to clean it out as well!)
  • Unzip both latches (one on each side) under where you would put your arms when wearing it 3) Slide up or down depending on how much room you want in there

Top Lid

AdjustmentHow to do it
RemovalIf your backpack’s top lid is detachable, simply unsnap it from the backpack to remove. This can be especially helpful if you want to save weight or streamlined profile.
HeightSome backpacks have an adjustable top lid so that you can choose the height based on your carrying requirements. Adjust the lid by loosening the straps, shifting the lid to the correct position, and tightening the straps again.
AttachmentMake sure the top lid is securely attached to the backpack to avoid it flapping around. Secure it well by fastening all buckles and straps properly.
StorageUse the top lid storage compartment for small, frequently accessed items like a map, compass or snacks for the trail. Consider keeping frequently accessed gear such as a lightweight rain shell or headlamp in the top lid for easy access.
CustomizationSome backpacks have a removable top lid and the replaced with a compatible saving device as per your needs.

Sleeping bag compartment

The sleeping bag compartment is usually located on the top of the backpack and attached to a zipper. You can open it and put your sleeping bag in it, or you can use it for other things such as clothes or food.

When choosing a sleeping bag compartment, make sure that it’s large enough for your needs. If you are prone to overpacking, get one with more space so that everything has its own place inside. 

Also, consider whether or not you plan on accessing this part while walking around (if so, think about getting one that opens from the bottom).

If you’re towing a camping trailer with your vehicle, it’s important to make sure the brakes are properly adjusted to ensure safe and smooth travel. Follow our easy fix guide for step-by-step instructions on how to adjust and test your trailer’s brakes.

Compression straps

Compression straps are usually located on the sides of the pack and can be used to secure your sleeping bag or tent. 

They can also be used to secure a sleeping pad. You should pull the cord tight until there is no more slack in it, which will make it easier for you to walk around with a heavier load without feeling like you’re going to fall over from being too top-heavy.

Tool loops & lash points

The tool loops and lashing points on the side of your backpack are great for securing heavy gear like a hatchet or machete. 

You can also use them as extra storage space. Tool loops are often padded with foam inside to prevent blisters, while lash points have a hook-and-loop design so you can attach gear without worrying about it falling off.

Good garden drainage is crucial for healthy plants and a comfortable outdoor space. Our guide outlines 13 ways to improve garden drainage, from installing French drains to creating rain gardens, to help you create a better environment for your outdoor activities.

Hydration system compatible

A lot of camping backpacks come with a built-in hydration system, but if yours doesn’t, or if you want to use your own, there are several ways to attach a hydration bladder.

The most common way is by using the quick-disconnect hose and bite valve that comes with some brands of hydration bladders. 

This will require you to attach this piece of equipment onto your backpack somewhere that it won’t get in the way when packing or unpacking. 

Most packs have loops on either side near the top of a shoulder strap where it can be clipped into place without interfering with other straps or zippers.

A less common method is to simply run the hose through one side or both sides of an external pouch (like some CamelBaks) and then clip it on as well. 

This may work better for large backpacks that don’t have many loops inside them where you could otherwise mount a bladder compartment; however, keep in mind that there are fewer places available for stowing items this way so consider how important having easy access will be when deciding whether this option might work best for you.

Expandable collar/sacks and overflow pockets

Expandable collar/sacks and overflow pockets are two of the easiest, most convenient features to use when packing your bag. 

The expandable collar is a collar around the top of your bag that can be expanded to fit more clothing inside, while overflow pockets are side pockets on your backpack that will store extra items like a water bottle or hiking poles.

When you’re packing your backpack, first place everything you want in it into one of these two categories: either things that need to be kept handy during your hike but aren’t essential and can be stored in an overflow pocket or things that need to stay secure inside of another part of the pack (like sleeping bags) and should go into an expandable collar or sack.

Once you’ve got everything sorted out, pack these items as needed: if something needs access during the day (like toiletries) then put it in an overflow pocket.

If something doesn’t need access until later on in the trip (like food) then put it into another compartment like a top pouch or front-loading pocket inside one side panel of the pack near where your shoulders connect with straps so they won’t get crushed when carrying heavy loads during hikes from point A through C back again.”


So, there you have it! We hope that this guide has helped you understand how to adjust your backpack. 

The most important thing is to adjust the straps and buckles so that they fit snugly but not too tight around your body, as well as getting the right size for your body type. 

The next step is to  take a test run with it don’t forget to wear shoes, because bare feet can cause blisters!

Further Reading

Check out this article on for further advice on adjusting your backpack.

Learn how to properly adjust and fit your backpack with this guide from Salomon.

For more expert advice on adjusting your backpack and finding the right fit, head over to REI’s website.


What is the proper way to adjust a backpack?

The proper way to adjust a backpack depends on the pack’s design and your specific needs. However, some key steps include adjusting the shoulder straps, hip belt, load lifters, and sternum strap to ensure a comfortable, secure fit.

How tight should a backpack be?

A backpack should feel snug but not constricting. Ideally, the weight of your pack should be evenly distributed across your hips and shoulders, with little-to-no pressure on your spine.

Why is it important to properly adjust a backpack?

Properly adjusting your backpack can help prevent discomfort and possible injury, while also ensuring that the weight of your pack is distributed evenly and efficiently.

How do you know if a backpack is too heavy for you?

If your backpack feels too heavy or unsteady when you put it on, it may be too heavy for you. Other signs of an overly heavy pack include pain or discomfort in your shoulders, neck, or back, and difficulty breathing.

Can you wear a backpack too low on your back?

Wearing a backpack too low on your back can lead to poor posture and increased pressure on your shoulders and upper back. For the best support and stability, a backpack should sit high on your back, with the shoulder straps snug against your shoulders and the hip belt resting on your hips.