When I was at school, the cool way to carry a backpack was slung over one shoulder, straps hanging loose and pretending you didn’t want to be there. Not much has probably changed on that front, but over the years I’ve had to shrug that habit off and figure out the right way to carry a backpack. That’s because with devices like laptops, chargers, notepads and more, I’m often carrying quite a bit of weight around. Over time, if I keep carrying on one shoulder, I’m probably asking for a back injury. So, after some research, I’ve found out the right way to carry a backpack. It’s a little more complicated than just two straps over each shoulder. Here’s the breakdown in 5 easy steps.

1. Start with your straps loosened out

Every time you put your backpack on, you should start with loose straps and adjust them for comfort. That’s because you’re not always carrying the same thing and depending on bulk and weight, straps might sit a little differently each time. There’s also an order to which you should tighten your straps, depending on what your backpack has on it. More on this shortly.

2. Put one strap over each shoulder

Okay, so this sounds obvious, but tell that to my high-school self. The right way to carry a backpack is with one strap over each shoulder. That way you’re distributing weight evenly, centered across your back. This not only helps avoid injury but simply makes things more comfortable to carry day to day.

3. Adjust your hip belt first

If your bag has a hip belt like this backpack does, make sure you clip it around your waist and tighten it first. That’s because if your hips are carrying most of the weight of your bag, your shoulders won’t get as tired in the long run. Keep the strap nice and snug so it really does take the bulk of the weight in your pack.

4. Adjust your shoulder straps second

Next step in carrying a backpack the right way is to make sure your shoulder straps are nice and comfortable. Too loose and the weight of the bag will make you topple backward. Too tight and things are crunching on your back, or unnecessarily high on your shoulders. Keep your backpack shoulder straps pulled forward and firm, limiting sideways movement and keeping things comfortable.

5. Adjust your sternum straps last.

Last up, clip your sternum strap across your chest. These are made to pull the shoulder straps toward one another so your shoulders aren’t being pulled in opposite directions and putting a strain on your back. If you have this strap on your backpack adjust it so there’s a little bit of tension, but don’t make things too tight. Again, the more comfortable you are the easier it will be to carry things for a whole commute, or transit through the airport.

Bonus Tips

If you’re carrying a fair bit of weight in your bag, it’s a great idea to put the heavy stuff at the bottom of the backpack. The first reason is that when things are at the bottom, they aren’t pulling as hard on your shoulders. So, keeping weight lower down will result in longer-term comfort. The other reason is heavy things can crush your lunch or other delicate items. So by having them in first, you’re more likely to avoid any accidents.

For some extra mental comfort, it’s also great to carry a backpack with some anti-theft features built in. Lockable zips, anchor straps, and RFID blocking pockets are all great ways to protect your belongings and your peace of mind too.

To shop backpacks with fully adjustable carry straps, plus anti-theft features, check out the Venturesafe G3 Collection here.

By Tim Hawken – writer, gin lover and travel geek.

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