A sternum strap helps keep your hiking bag secure and stable as you move. It also keeps the main straps of your bag properly centered on your shoulders. They require proper fitting to make sure they provide stability without restricting the chest muscles or hindering breathing.

A proper fit is the most important feature of camping backpacks. Once you have chosen your potential day hiking pack, you can customize the fit by adjusting the straps. Be sure to check the fit of the different types of straps on any hiking bag, whether it is a small hiking pack or a camping backpack for a week-long trek.

Wearing a Sternum Strap

Adjust your sternum straps last when fitting your bag. The strap should sit about an inch below your collar bones, but you can shift it up or down according to comfort. Buckle the strap, and then tighten it. Your arms should be able to move freely, and the shoulder straps should lie flat over your chest.

Don't Overtighten

A common mistake is overtightening the sternum strap. This distorts the fit of your pack and can restrict your chest. Take the deepest breath you can—if you feel pressure preventing you from breathing, your sternum strap is too tight.

Adjust

You can experiment with your optimal strap adjustments on the trail. Often times, it is actually helpful to vary the adjustments to give alternating muscle groups a break. Get a feel for what length works best for you while carrying your pack. Some people prefer to hike without a sternum strap. This decreases your stability and might affect the placement of other straps on bags which rely on the sternum strap for a proper fit. However, there are plenty of hiking bags that have optional sternum straps. Just make sure to check the product specifications before committing either way.

Since everybody is different, there is no one-size-fits-all bag. Before you buy camping backpacks, put some weight in a model you like, and walk around the store to get a sense of how the hiking bag feels. Check to make sure the straps are easily adjustable and will properly fit. For more info on hiking bags or hiking in general, visit us online or at your local Sun & Ski Sports.