How to correctly adjust your backpack for mountain treks
The slope is steep, the ground uneven and the load heavy. The only noises are your footsteps on the trail, the silence of your thoughts and the far-off sound of the wind whistling through the peaks. Your number one ally for taking your mind off the strain on multi-day treks is a correctly adjusted backpack. We will explain how to adjust your backpack to achieve the perfect balance with 70% of the load on your hips and 30% on your shoulders.
Step 1: the main adjustments
Start by making sure the contents are distributed according to their weight to balance your backpack. To make sure your pack is stable, arrange your belongings neatly and get rid of any spare space using the side compression straps or Twin-Compression System, or by rolling up the roll-top. Loosen all of the straps (chest strap, hip belt, shoulder straps and the load lifters that attach the shoulder straps and hip belt to the body of the backpack). For larger models, now is the time to adjust the length of the back to suit your height.
To put the backpack on, start by placing it on a raised surface such as a table. If this is not an option, grasp one of its shoulder straps and lift it using your legs rather than your back. Lean slightly forward and adjust the hip belt, which should rest on the bony part of your hips, just above your buttocks, more specifically on the Iliac crest and Ischial spine. Stand back upright and tighten the shoulder straps, which should press against your shoulders while still letting them move. Modern backpacks have curved shoulder straps, and a lot of Salewa models even come with split shoulder straps so that you can adjust them to fit your chest and shoulders precisely, leaving you free to move and breathe.
Next, fasten and tighten the chest strap, which will take some of the weight off your shoulders and keep the backpack stable by preventing any sideways movement. This strap is generally mounted on a sort of track so it can be positioned at the very top of your chest, just beneath your collarbone, where it can do its job without stopping your rib cage from expanding as you breathe and, for women, without being uncomfortable at the level of your breasts.
Step 2: fine-tuning
At this point you can fine tune everything using the load lifters that attach the shoulder straps and hip belt to the body of the backpack. There should be a space between the top of the backpack and the back of your shoulders so that they can still move. Any loose straps should be gathered up so they do not dangle annoyingly as you walk, with the risk of getting caught on trees or rocks. Your backpack is only the real deal if it is properly balanced and well packed
A well-balanced load will put 70% of the weight through the hips and 30% through the shoulders. To distribute the tension evenly across your back on treks, it is a good idea to loosen the shoulder straps by a few centimetres every half hour and then retighten them. For items you use a lot, such as your phone, cap or water bottle, modern backpacks have pouches and handy pockets that you can access without taking your bag off.