Adjust the harness
Loosen all the straps of the harness and make sure all four of the hip belt adjustment straps are roughly equal. Put the pack on and buckle the hip belt.
Do not tighten the shoulder straps until you have completed step 3. Position the hip belt so it is centered over your Iliac crests (the bony part of your pelvis that you can feel on the side of your body) and pull all 4 hip belt adjustment straps until all the slack is removed.
Then tighten the upper pair of hip belt adjustment straps until the belt is comfortably tight. Finally adjust the lower pair of straps. The belt should be comfortably tight.
Next adjust the shoulder straps to be snug but not tight. There should be no tension or weight on the tops of your shoulders.
Next attach the sternum strap and snug it up. Make sure there is still a loop on the non-adjustable side so that your breathing is not restricted. The sternum strap can be adjusted up or down on the shoulder straps until it is at a comfortable height.
On the shoulder straps there is a small square plastic buckle that attaches the load lifter to the shoulder strap. This buckle should be positioned so it sits in the divot formed where the collar bone meets the shoulder socket, just to the front of the chest. If it is above or below this position the load lifters will not function properly. Slide the buckle up or down until it is in the ideal position, making sure the webbing tail stays tight against the buckle. You may need to adjust the torso length on your pack to get this adjustment right.
Finally tighten the load lifter straps and tighten or loosen the hip belt stabilizer straps until the pack is positioned the way you like it.
Follow this same procedure with a loaded pack every time you put the pack on.
A few general rules of thumb:
- Never tighten the shoulder straps before fully adjusting the hip belt.
- By tightening the upper set of hip belt adjustment straps first, the hip belt will conform to the natural curves of the body and lock in around the top of the pelvis providing the pack a solid bony structure to support the load.
- The shoulder straps' primary function is to keep the pack balanced so it doesn't swing wildly as you walk. There should be no weight or tension on the tops of your shoulders.
- The sternum strap is designed only to prevent the shoulder straps from sliding to the outside of your shoulders, so it should never be under a great deal of tension.
- The load lifters and hip belt stabilizer straps should be adjusted periodically throughout the day based on changes in terrain, comfort level, and changes in your load.
- The hip belt stabilizer straps attach the hip belt to the bottom corners of the pack bag and are "load lifters" for the bottom of the pack. They pull the bottom of the pack in to your body or let it move away from your body. A small adjustment on these straps will make a big difference in how the pack rides and how well the load lifter straps function.