Man in a yellow jacket with a properly fitted hiking pack.

Hiking packs get heavy, even for the ultra-light enthusiasts among us. Hauling it onto your shoulder can strain your back as well as the pack itself. Since you’re probably invested in keeping your gear and back in top condition, there is a methodology for lifting your loaded hiking pack. To prevent wear and tear (on your body and pack seams alike), follow these easy steps for pain-free lifting.

Loosen Straps

To make your pack easier to put on, slightly loosen the straps before attempting a lift. It will reduce the degree you need to twist your back, thus reducing the chance for injury.

Take the Haul Loop

A man in a yellow Patagonia jacket demonstrating how to lift a Patagonia hiking bag from the haul loop.

Stand with your feet apart and your legs slightly bent. Place your loaded hiking pack upright on the ground with the back facing towards you and grasp the large, webbed loop at the top. This loop is specifically designed and reinforced for lifting, so it can handle the strain. Don’t pull from the shoulder straps, but you can keep your other hand on them for control.

Slide it Up

Bend your knee, so your thigh can act as a shelf for the pack. Holding the loop, slide the hiking pack up along your leg and let it rest on your thigh. Higher up is better for your stability. Remember when you loaded your pack and placed the soft, bulky items in the bottom? No need to worry about bruising. If you are worried about your balance, you can stand near a sturdy object such as your car or a tree.

Slip it On

A man tightening the hiking back for a secure fit.

Hold the hiking bag with the hand opposite to the leg the bag is resting on. Slip your arm and shoulder as far as possible into the shoulder strap. Then use momentum, but not jerky motions, to swing the hiking bag fully onto your back. You can keep a guiding hand on the haul loop as you bring it across your back. Bending forward at the waist can help with your balance and keeping the pack straight along your spine. Slip your other arm through the straps on the other side.


A man with the chest strap secured for a proper fit.

Keep leaning forward until you have put on the hip belt. This will stabilize the pack and reduce shifting when you straighten back up.

And just like that, you have safely lifted your loaded hiking pack. Once you are wearing a large hiking pack, adjust the hip belt and load-lifter straps near the shoulders. Change the straps as often as comfortable during your hike; this will help reduce muscle fatigue by alternating which muscle groups are more active. And when taking your pack off, just repeat this process in reverse. Your back and bag will both thank you for taking care of them with the proper lifting technique. For more information on any of your hiking adventures, visit us at your local Sun & Ski Sports.