Pack Fitting Gone Wrong — How to Correct Common Mistakes

Pack Fitting Gone Wrong — How to Correct Common Mistakes


The article below was written specifically for our legacy K3-generation pack systems. If you have one of our current-generation K4 Pack Systems, please refer to the updated version of this article...

K4 Pack Fitting — Before and After Examples

All Exo pack systems feature the adjustability you need to fit your unique body shape and size. The process for adjusting the pack to you is a simple one, and is best explained in our detailed fitting video...

Watch: K3 Fitting Video

That video shows you what ideal pack fit looks like, but it can also be helpful to know what improper pack fit looks like. What are the "issues" to look out for and avoid?

In this article we will take a look at several photos from real Exo customers and highlight the areas where their pack was adjusted improperly or could be improved upon for optimal fit, performance, and comfort.

If you haven't watched the fitting video yet, please do so before reading this article. Many of the concepts we discuss below will only make sense when you understand the context and background explained in the fitting video.

First Example — "JON"

Before we dive into addressing fit and adjustment for Jon, or anyone else, we need to establish a very important principle...

When fitting a pack, start at the bottom (with the hipbelt) and then work up. You do NOT adjust the fit of a pack by starting at the top (with the shoulder harness) and working down.

With that principle of order in mind, let's take a look at Jon's fitting and adjustment.

Jon's Pack Fitting Photos

  • The 1st arrow points at Jon's hipbelt, which is positioned too low. You can see that the hipbelt is riding on his "waist" line, and not up on the "iliac crest", which is the highest point of the hip bones. This causes the lumbar pad to ride down on Jon's butt. And because the pack's hipbelt is not able to work with the physical bone structure of Jon's hip bones, the pack will be prone to sagging even further. The first and most important step in pack fitting is to start by making sure the hipbelt is centered on the crest of the hips.
  • The 2nd and 3rd arrows highlight separate issues that are also interconnected in certain ways. To begin addressing these areas, we need to ensure that the shoulder harness and load-lifters are loose before the pack is put on. Looking specifically at the 2nd arrow, you'll see a noticeable gap between Jon's shoulder and the pack shoulder harness. This is caused, in part, by the load-lifters being pulled too tight or starting with too much tension before the pack is put on. The K3 Frame's shoulder harness also has a fitting indicator (as discussed in the fitting video), and you can see that the reference point is too far back, whereas it should be up on the top of the shoulders. If the reference point remains that far back after fixing the hipbelt positioning (Step 1), Jon would want to raise the shoulder harness position on the frame.
  • The 3rd arrow points at Jon's load-lifters, which are pulled-in tight and do not have much of an angle. Once Jon fixes his hipbelt positioning (Step 1) and shoulder harness adjustment (Step 2), he will automatically have a better angle on the load-lifters. It is important that the load-lifters are not pulled in too tight — just snug.

After Jon walked through our fitting and adjustment advice, you can see that his hipbelt is riding on the crest of his hips and the lumbar pad is seated in the small of his back. The frame's shoulder harness now contours Jon's shoulders without any big gap, but also without any pressure down on his shoulders. The fitting indicator on the harness is now up towards the top-center of his shoulder, not back towards the scapula. Jon now has a significantly improved load-lifter angle and there's no major tension in the load-lifter adjustment. These changes will create a massive improvement in comfort and performance for Jon.

Second Example — "JIM"

Jim's Pack Fitting Photos

  • You can see a big gap between Jim's upper back and the pack's shoulder harness. Our frame is designed to have a gap in the middle of the back for ventilation, but the upper back and shoulder blades should be in contact with the frame and shoulder harness.
  • With the bag and frame leaning back and away from his body, Jim will experience a lot of instability, feel like the pack is shifting around far too much, and that the weight is pulling away from him. We want to correct this by adding more tension to the shoulder harness, bringing the top end of the frame closer to Jim's back. As we do that, we will evaluate the shoulder harness' fitting indicator and load-lifters.
  • Bonus tip: To further improve stability, mobility, and feel, Jim should compress the bottom of his bag further, keeping the weight of the gear in his bag in a more vertical position against the frame. If you are loading a pack but not using the full capacity of that bag, avoid having the load "slump" down in the bottom of the bag. Learn how to best compress our larger bags in this video: Compressing Your Pack for Day Hunting.

After we corrected Jim's fit, he has a lot more stability in the pack. Even when hiking off-trail through difficult terrain with a loaded pack, Jim will feel the pack working with him, not against him.

Jim wrote in after we got him fitted properly and said...

"I followed your suggestions and now the pack fits perfectly and is incredibly comfortable. Thanks for taking the time with me!"

Third Example — "JOE"

You are probably starting to know what to look for in these photos. So what do you see that Joe could improve upon?

Joe's Pack Fit, Side Profile

Joe's Pack Fit, Front Profile

  • In the side-profile photo you can see some "pinching" in the shoulder harness, which is caused by too much load-lifter tension. You'll also notice that the fitting reference point on the shoulder harness is far back, and that the load-lifter angle is non-existent.
  • In the front-facing photo you can see that Joe's sternum strap is riding high, up on top of his collarbone and towards the base of his neck. This is a key indicator that the torso length is set too short and that the shoulder harness needs to be raised up on the frame.

Remember, though, let's start at the bottom and work up. Before we make adjustments to the shoulder harness or load-lifters, we need to make sure that Joe's hipbelt is positioned properly.

After working with Joe to dial-in the adjustments, you can see that the hipbelt is riding on the hips, the "pinch" in the shoulder harness is gone, the load-lifter angle has increased, the harnesses fitting reference is positioned properly, and the sternum strap is riding across the center of his chest.

Joe wrote in after we got him fitted properly and said…

"Thanks for all the help on dialing in my system. It really means a lot to know that you guys are behind your gear like this. I had a successful hunt today and packed all the bone-in quarters and extra meat in one pack out. The packout was 1.5 miles climbing and descending, and overall, it was a great experience."

Perfecting Your Pack Fit

We hope these examples, along with our detailed fitting video, will help you find your perfect pack fit.

Being able to see photos of yourself wearing the pack is truly helpful, so we recommend that you grab a friend or family member and have them take photos of you wearing your pack. The most helpful photos are full-length from the front and the side. Once you have those photos, compare them to the before and after shots you see in this article to ensure your pack is adjusted properly.

As always, we are happy to help you directly. If you want a second opinion on your pack adjustment, send your photos to us by email to

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