Carrying backpacks is a somewhat repetitive process that we don’t usually put too much thought into. With one swing, they are on our shoulders, and we leave them in whatever position that seems comfortable enough.
But knowing how to carry a backpack properly can prevent long term shoulder, neck, and back pains. And much of this correct way is determined by where it sits on your back – the best position being a few inches above your waistline.
If you’ve not been paying attention to how to wear a backpack properly, then it’s time for you to give it a thought and remove that pressure from your back. Think about your posture when you grow old, will you?
The Wrong Ways to Wear a Backpack
Before we go on to talk about where a backpack should sit on your back, let's take a look at the wrong ways people tend to carry their backpacks.
1. One Strap Method
Wearing a backpack on one shoulder is one of the most stylish ways of carrying a backpack around. With my backpack on one shoulder and both hands in my pockets, it's hard to not feel on top of the world.
However, this way puts a massive amount of pressure on only one of my shoulders. And when done continuously, it can affect posture.
That's not where the pain ends! Carrying a backpack in this manner can put a lot of pressure on the neck and may cause serious neck pains. So, the "one strap method" is definitely not how to wear a backpack properly.
2. Backpack in Front
A way of carrying a backpack you don't see often is with it in front - similar to carrying a baby carrier. This method makes it easier to reach in your backpack and get whatever you need from it. But if you think that the one-strap method is the ONLY method that puts pressure on the neck, then you are in for an unpleasant surprise.
I can't stay five minutes without having to massage my neck when I carry my backpack this way! Again, this method is not a proper way to carry a backpack.
Using the low-on-the-back method will make your shoulders cry out for help. At first, I didn't even realize how low my backpack was until I noticed how much I had loosened the straps. So, whenever I adjust my backpack when I'm putting on a coat, I try to make a conscious effort to readjust the straps to ensure that it sits at a proper angle on my back.
The low-on-back method will also make you lean forward a lot which may make it difficult to stay balanced when on the move. If the strap is giving you a tough time, you should place it correctly or have the mechanism checked out. But this method of carrying a backpack is definitely not one you'll want to use often.
Factors That Affect How to Wear a Backpack Properly!
No hard and fast rule governs where a backpack should be placed on your back. The reason for this is our varying anatomies as humans. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
So, where should a backpack sit on your back, and what determines this position?
1. Torso Length Positioning
Your torso length is the most important measurement when deciding where a backpack should sit on your back. It is measured from your seventh vertebra to the level of your hip. With that said, I don't expect anyone to know this measurement off the top of their heads.
You'll need help from a friend to measure it accurately. First, bend your neck slightly down. The bone you feel at the base of your neck is the seventh vertebrae, so you'll want to measure from that distance down to your hip level.
Your backpack should sit two inches from your shoulders and should not extend more than two inches above your hip level. Also, make sure that its width is not bigger than your torso's. If that is the case, carrying your backpack around could be extremely difficult.
2. Waist Belt Positioning
The next thing I like to look at when deciding where my backpack should be placed is the position of the waist belt. In this case, you don't want the belt to be too low, or else there would be too much pressure on the pelvis. However, your belt being too high will make it difficult for you to breathe.
The spot to wear your waist belt is determined by the iliac crest – the upper right part of your hip. Your waist belt should be about an inch above the iliac crest.
3. Shoulder Strap Positioning
The next thing to look at when determining where a backpack should sit on your back is the position of the shoulder strap. This may be a little bit difficult, so you can stand in front of the mirror to get it right.
Your backpack's shoulder straps should align with your upper back and shoulders. Always try to keep the space between the straps and your shoulder's backside as small as possible.
4. Load Strap Positioning
The top section of your backpack is attached to the shoulder straps by the load straps. The standard angle these straps should be at is 45 degrees. However, you can deviate by 15 degrees to compensate for your build.
Always keep the load balanced around your hips by pulling them back. Place the anchor points on your backpack shoulder straps at 1 to 2 inches from the top of your shoulder.
The Proper Way to Wear a Backpack
- Wear both straps to prevent body pains.
- Make sure the shoulder straps sit comfortably on your shoulder.
- Use your chest or waist strap if your backpack has one. They help in distributing its load. How so?
When you fasten the chest strap, for example, the pressure on your shoulders reduces because your chest is now bearing part of it. Another advantage is that the chest strap helps you to maintain the position of both shoulder straps.
- Adjust the straps when you wear clothing of different thickness, or when carrying out various activities like hiking.
Knowing where a backpack should sit on your back will help you move around quickly while saving you from neck, shoulder, and back discomfort. Take time out to get a backpack of the right size that suits your needs. Also, make sure you use it correctly. Your backpack should make your load lighter to carry and not add to it!