Becoming a Backpack Hunter

5 Steps to Properly Putting on a Backpack

By Josh Kirchner

The following piece is an excerpt from Josh Kirchner’s new book, “Becoming a Backpack Hunter: A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting the Backcountry.”  

Step 1: Loosen Everything 

Start off by loosening the suspension system on your pack (shoulder, waist, load lifters). This is necessary in making sure that everything lines up properly and molds better to your body. You don't want any of these straps fighting you when putting a pack on.  

Step 2: Waist Belt 

Next, shoulder up the pack and go for your waist belt. Do not yank on the shoulder straps first. The positioning of the waist belt is somewhat of a personal preference, but a good starting point is to make sure the top of your hip bone is in the middle of your waist belt. Buckle it and cinch this down until it's snug to the point where it feels like it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. As you spend more time in a backpack, you might find that you like the waist belt a little higher than this. That's totally fine.  

Becoming a Backpack Hunter

Step 3: Sternum Strap 

The sternum strap is in place to control how far apart your shoulder straps are from one another. It's also to ensure that they stay in place better while hiking. Some folks like them closer together, while others like them farther apart. Again, this is personal preference. I like to set the sternum strap to where my shoulder straps sit in the crease between my shoulder and chest.  

Step 4: Shoulder Straps 

Once your sternum strap is set, it's time to move on to the shoulder straps. Most folks have the tendency to really yank on these to get them super tight. I am going to suggest that one doesn't do that. Because we want most of the weight on our waist, the shoulder straps just really need to be snug, but not too snug. I'll tighten these just until I can feel the strap form to my shoulder, without feeling any weight from the pack. I think of shoulder straps more as a way to keep the pack stable and in place, rather than a load carrier.  

Becoming a Backpack Hunter

Step 5: Load Lifters 

Load lifters are these magical little straps that do exactly what they sound like they do. They are made to help bring the weight in close to your back and aid in lifting the load a bit off of your shoulders. It is imperative that these are loose before getting the shoulder straps set. If they are not, the shoulder straps won't conform to the shoulder right and everything is out of whack. Remember, this is a process. After those shoulder straps are set, give the load lifters a pull just until you can feel them get snug. Again, a lot of people tend to pull these as tight as they can, before even putting the pack on. Start loose and go from there. Having them too tight will put undue pressure on your chest and having them too loose will make the pack fall backwards and away from you. We want the weight high and tight. This is the last step in the process. When done right, everything on the backpack will be working together, which is what you want. 

To dive in deeper and read more, “Becoming a Backpack Hunter: A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting the Backcountry” can be purchased in both paperback and kindle forms through Amazon.