How to shorten backpack straps

I bought a new rucksack. However, how can I tidy up and hide away the myriad straps so they don’t flap about and get caught in things?

How to shorten backpack straps

How to shorten backpack straps

11 Answers 11

I was a light infantry soldier all we used to do was roll each of the ends and use electrical tape to bind them leaving alowences for adjusting straps. I also advise taking a spare roll of tape just in case you need to use the strap and then have to re bind them

I have used rubber bands, kitchen ties, pipe cleaners, half-broken shoelaces and whatever other pieces of small cord I’ve been able to place my hands on. All except the rubber bands worked well but none worked for more than a day or two. The rubber bands snapped too easily and I felt a little guilty about leaving little scraps of rubber lying in the wilderness.

I have also gone out with people that dealt with the strap issue by cutting them off! No straps on the outside means nothing to get caught in nasty bush.

How to shorten backpack straps

The rucksacks that I own, have extra long straps as well. But the manufacturer has provided an elastic band of sorts on the straps to fold them and tuck them within the band (I’ll try to post a pic once I get back home). Another option that I have tried is to tuck these longer straps into the side pockets (water bottle holders) and even tie up a lose knot of sorts on themselves to prevent huge swaying straps.

Personally I have never faced any issues as such with longer straps (They don’t tend to get stuck up somewhere). It’s more of a mental state where I feel the longer straps are kind of a nuisance.

Smaller backpacks often have a fixed back length. When buying a backpack, make sure that it fits your anatomy.

Touring and trekking backpacks usually have an adjustable back section. This makes it a little easier to find the right adjustment – but still, you have to make the right choice in the end.

The following article explains how to find the right back length:

How to shorten backpack straps

The backpack is one of the essential companions on your hikes. To ensure that you travel in comfort and enjoy your .

Outdooractive Editors

Waist belt, shoulder straps and chest strap

Various straps ensure that your backpack fits well. They also regulate how the weight is distributed over your body.

Before you put on the backpack, you should loosen all straps. Then slowly feel your way towards the correct setting by shortening the straps evenly one after the other.

The waist belt

The shoulder straps

How to shorten backpack straps

Now it’s the shoulder straps turn. Adjust them evenly just enough so that the weight of the backpack still rests on your hips.

If the straps are too short, your shoulders will have to work hard. This causes them to tire and hurt faster.

If the straps are too long, the backpack’s gravity center shifts backward. This not only makes it heavier to carry but in extreme cases, it can even endanger your stability.

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Picture this. You are on a hiking trip with friends and family in the Appalachian Mountains. The trip is arduous and you are carrying a lot of gear such as tents and sleeping bags, and people are depending on you because you are an experienced hiker. But suddenly, your backpack strap gets snagged on a branch and snap! The buckle is broken. There is not much you can do about it either; it has come off and you are now at the mercy of the fellow backpackers.

How to shorten backpack straps

You can either; 1 — Wait for fellow backpackers to offer you help (such as distributing your stuff among themselves, 2 — Carry your backpack all the way back to the rest stop and hope someone will have useful advice or, 3 — Fix it on the spot and resume your hike. After all, your backpack is the most useful of your kits, and what good it is on a trip if it is not doing its job properly!

There are a few ways you can repair a backpack strap, and the most ideal way to go about it would be sewing the strap back on, using double threads. But as it goes, not all of us are adept at that art, and all thumbs when it comes to sewing. In this article, we will read about how to fix a backpack strap, learning how to fix a backpack strap without sewing and how to sew backpack straps.

Before starting on a trip that would require you to hike, camp or trek a lot, make sure you carry a set of repairing essentials with you, possibly in a separate backpack zipper or compartment. You never know what kind of issues you might encounter on your trail.

Table of Contents

How to Sew Backpack Straps

So your shoulder strap broke off while taking the backpack off, or because you were carrying too much load. There is nothing to worry about, you can easily sew it back on using a simple backstitch technique. This not only saves you from packing your backpack up and sending it away for repair but also the cost of buying a new one. At the same time, it also saves you a lot of time. Let us start with this guide about how to sew backpack straps.

How to shorten backpack straps

Even the highest quality bags experience wear and tear with use. But some are so well made and loved that they are worth mending many times over. In this post, I want to share how I repaired the leather straps of one of my favorite backpacks.

How to shorten backpack straps

If your bag or backpack has a leather strap that is getting thin or is starting to rip, like the straps of my backpack shown above, then you may be able to repair it by CUTTING OUT the sections that are worn out!

Note: My repair job worked well because I was able to sew the repaired section of the leather strap to the bag itself, thereby reinforcing the joint. If the wear of your leather strap is in a place where you cannot attach the strap to your bag, then you will probably have to overlap the two ends or add a layer of leather or fabric to reinforce the new joint when reconnecting the cut strap.

If you need to remove existing stitches before cutting the strap, I recommend that you use a seam ripper, as shown on the left in the photo above.

The center image above shows a worn strap. And the right image shows the same strap after I cut out the section that was stretched and thinned.

How to shorten backpack straps

After removing the worn-out section from the strap, I sewed the cut edges back together. But before doing so, I suggest that you make needle holes first (as highlighted in green in the left image above). A straight tailor’s awl is great for this purpose.

As shown in the right image above, I used a heavy duty needle for sewing the leather (called a Glover needle or Glover’s needle) and thick waxed thread to sew the strap back together. You do not have to make stitches as large as mine, but make sure to avoid sewing too close to the edges of the leather to prevent them from fraying.

How to shorten backpack straps

A leather sewing palm, like the one shown above, may come in handy if the leather is thick. It is a tool that helps you push the needle through tough materials while protecting your palm from the end of the needle.

How to shorten backpack straps

To re-attach the straps to the bag, I used a sewing awl, which is a tool to hand-sew heavy materials such as leather. It can be used to make straight stitches like a sewing machine (see the photo below).

Again, I recommend that you make the needle holes prior to sewing. (I confess that I did not make the holes ahead of time for this part of the project. As a result, it was so hard to push and pull the awl through the leather that I had to ask my husband to help me with it in the end…thus his hand in the photo.)

How to shorten backpack straps

Here is the result. The stitches are not perfect, but I hope that they are sturdy enough for the straps to last many more years!

Lastly, once you mend the leather straps of your bag or backpack, remember to care for the leather so that it ages with dignity! Here are some suggestions on how to care for leather.

How to shorten backpack straps

If your bag’s lining or pockets are also in need of repair, you may be interested in my post on how to fix a bag’s lining and pockets.

Posted by Ryan McSparran on 14th Jun 2016

In a recent video, Kevin and Luke show us how to properly fit and adjust a Seek Outside ultralight backpack. Perfect fitting will not only be dependent on your specific torso size, but also on the weight of the load that you will be carrying. Here are 3 specific keys that we wanted to highlight from the video:

1. Adjusting the Hip Belt

First, the hip belt should center on your hips with full coverage of your iliac crest, or the uppermost point on your hipbone. You also want the hip belt to wrap around the front of your hips with as much coverage as possible.

There are adjustments that can be made to the hip belt on our packs. The hip belt is attached to the frame with two bolts and locking nuts through a grommet. There are two sets of grommets, giving you adjustability options in where the hip belt rides in relation to the frame curve. The video will show this in more detail.

2. Adjusting the Harness

Next, you will need to adjust of the harness and shoulder straps. Adjusting the pack to your torso size is largely a matter of harness adjustment. Torso length is typically measured as the distance from your C7 vertebrae (the most prominent bone at the base of your neck), down to the height of your iliac crest.

To adjust the harness and change the torso length, start by sliding the webbing completely out of the load lifters and out of the upper ladder locks. With these pieces undone, the harness will fall down from its attachment points, exposing two metal tri-glides on the back side of the harness. Pull the webbing from the tri-glides in either direction to shorten or extend the torso length. With the tri-glides evenly adjusted, replace the webbing through the upper ladder locks and the load lifter straps.

With the torso length adjusted, finish adjusting the harness by adjusting the load lifters and the shoulder straps. You want the harness touching your shoulders, but you should be able to slide your thumbs through. You don’t want the harness pressed into your shoulders but neither do you want it floating above. If you crank down on the load lifters and the harness comes totally off your shoulders, you’ve gone too far and should back off the load lifters.

3. Adjusting the Frame Height

One more thing to consider is frame height. Frame height is a balance of head movement and lift for the load. If you are carrying a heavy load, you might want the frame height to extend to the top of your ears. But you might lose some head movement. With a slightly shorter frame height near the bottom of your ears, you’ll get good head movement with sufficient load lift for moderate sized loads. To adjust the frame height on our packs, frame extenders can easily be added or removed.

For details and more in-depth instruction check out our Backpack Adjustment video:

If you have questions or need help, please give us a call at the shop at 970-208-8108. We’d be happy to help you find the perfect pack and get it fitted for your next outdoor adventure!

Wearing a backpack on one shoulder was an immensely popular trend back in the 80s and 90s, and nowadays it’s coming back in full force. More and more people are throwing their old backpacks and bags away and rush to the market in search of the best sling bags and backpacks, and rightly so – sling bags are not only stylish, but they’re also more compact and substantially lighter than their bulky counterparts.

If you’re for whatever reason too attached to your old backpack and at the same time interested in sling bags, you don’t have to worry too much – you can have both in one. Today we are going to talk about the means and methods of converting a backpack into a sling bag.

How to turn a backpack into a sling bag?

Basically, you’ll need a couple of basic tools, some handyman skills, and a couple of accessories before you start cutting and sewing the parts together.

The first and most obvious mistake you could make is removing one strap and hoping that it would instantly morph your backpack into a sling bag. It will not, even if you patch up the cutaways, you will simply have a one-strap backpack, which is not what a sling bag is.

You will need to cut one strap off, but you’ll also need to tweak with and modify the remaining one with swivel hooks. While you’re at it, you can also replace your old strap if you didn’t like it too much. Let’s talk about the steps you’ll need to take.

Step 1 – Getting the right tools

You will need a pair of scissors, a sewing kit, two 1-inch swivel hooks, and two sliders. Your scissors will need to be durable and sharp enough to cut through the fabric of the strap; depending on the material of the strap, you might even need a pair of heavy-duty scissors. For example, if you have a sturdy leather backpack, ordinary scissors might not be able to cut through.

The sewing kit should be used to patch up the holes where you cut the strap. Now, finding the right color might be a bit hard, especially if your backpack features complex graphics and multiple colors, but if you’re not too confident in your sewing skills (or if you simply can’t find the right thread color), you can use stickers to patch up the cutaways.

Step 2 – Taking measurements

One of the most important steps is taking the measurements. Measure the strap as accurately as possible so that you know exactly how to cut the second one. Note that the straps on most backpacks are generally long enough to reach the diagonal ends.

If the strap on your backpack can’t reach the diagonal end, you will simply need to leave a bigger portion of the second strap.

Step 3 – Cutting the strap

How to shorten backpack straps

Before you decide which strap you want to cut away, you should try carrying your backpack on each shoulder to determine which carrying position suits you more. Try wearing the backpack on each shoulder while it is empty and after that gradually start packing light items until it’s full. This is the easiest way to figure out which carrying position suits you more.

Once you’ve decided which strap should go, use the scissors to cut through the fabric. Try to get as close to the margins where the strap connects to the backpack. You only need to cut out the top end and shorten the bottom end.

Cutting the strap out entirely might prove to be challenging, so you might end up having to cut out a portion of the backpack where the seams connect as well. Use the sewing kit (or stickers) to patch up the hole afterward.

Step 4 – Modifying the strap

Both straps on your backpack are already connected to the backpack, so you will also need to cut away one end of the second strap as well. Make sure that the cut is clean. If your backpack features hook straps, there’s no need to modify the second strap at all, as you will simply need to redirect it towards the other end (diagonally).

If your backpack doesn’t feature hook straps, you will need to install one in it. The hook strap will need to connect to the cut-out strap on the bottom end, which means that if your backpack doesn’t have an O-ring, you will need to install it as well.

Alternative method – cutting out both straps

If you want to carry your new sling bag loose, you might want to consider cutting out both straps and re-stitching one of them in the middle between the locations where the two straps used to be. The process is exactly the same as with cutting out only one strap, although you’ll need to repeat certain steps.

You might want to use this method if your backpack features a complex design where cutting out a single strap might prove to be pointless. Backpacks made of rugged materials and backpack models that feature short straps are best approached this way.

How to shorten backpack straps

Frequently asked questions

Why would I convert a backpack into a sling bag?

Essentially, sling bags can be carried in multiple positions, and this versatility allows you to find the position that feels more comfortable to you. Apart from that, you’ll definitely look cooler and more stylish by having a sling bag than by having an average backpack.

Do I need any special skills to convert a backpack into a sling bag?

Basic sewing skills are the only ones necessary, other than that, every single step down the road is plain and straightforward.

Can I simply cut out one strap and use the other one for my new sling bag?

You could, but this will put a lot of pressure and stress on your shoulder and neck, so you definitely shouldn’t approach your new sling bag this way if you want to avoid back and neck pain.

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I just wanted to post the steps that I take to make shoulder straps for my backpacks.

The materials I used are:
-4mm foam mesh from Rockywood or you could use 3D mesh from thru-hiker
-330d Cordura
– 3/4" Grosgrain
-3/4" webbing
-3/4" Ladderlock

The first thing I do is mark out the pieces I need to cut on the back of the fabric. I cut a template out of mat board to make this task easier. You will need to cut 4 straps out of the foam mesh, 2 facing to the left and 2 facing to the right. I also cut out a left and right strap from the cordura. I use the cordura to give the straps some extra strength, you could by all means leave the cordura out.How to shorten backpack strapsHow to shorten backpack straps

Next I Take all the pieces that I cut out and separate them to their proper sides. You will want the backs of the foam pieces together with the piece of cordura in between them as shown here…How to shorten backpack straps
Once the pieces are together I sew them together
How to shorten backpack straps
I then add a strip of either grosgrain to webbing about 9" up from the bottom curve of the strap. This works good if you use a water bladder to keep your tube in place.How to shorten backpack straps
Next I attach the grosgrain trim. I first measure out how much I will need and cut the proper amount. I then fold the grosgrain in half and put a crease down the middle the length of the strip. This makes it much easier to make sure you have the edge of the strap in the middle of the grosgrain. I then start on one end and sew the grosgrain on the whole way around the strap. The curve of the strap can be tricky so take your time.How to shorten backpack strapsHow to shorten backpack strapsHow to shorten backpack straps
I then change out thread, I use a nice complimentary color of heavy tread and add my ladderloc and webbing. How to shorten backpack strapshere is the underside of the strap How to shorten backpack straps
I then continue to bar tack the whole way up the strap to the top. I leave about 6" between the ladderloc and the first bar tack to attach a chest strap. I then continue to add bar tacks every 2.5" to the top of the strap.How to shorten backpack strapsHow to shorten backpack strapsHow to shorten backpack straps

And that is pretty much it. When you attach the strap to the pack I make sure to run a couple of bar tacks over the webbing so it is sure to hold. The webbing is the strongest part of the strap, the other material just disperse the weight of your pack. Here is a few closeups of the strap attached to the pack.How to shorten backpack strapsHow to shorten backpack straps

So this is how I make my straps. I hope this will be useful to anyone thinking about making a pack. They are really fun to make, they just take some time planning. If you have any questions about any of the steps please feel free to ask!

Locale: South East United States

Awesome guide Chris! Thanks a ton for sharing that, I will definitely be using it on my first pack. Quick question, where did you get the exact shape for the straps? Was that just a common sense move or did you base it on something? how do they feel? I have seen a lot of different strap shapes, some with more or less drastic curves, and am trying to figure out the benefits of the varying styles.

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth

Thanks for taking the time to take the great photos and add the step-by-step instructions. Very helpful.

I have a new pack idea in the works. The first thing I thought when I saw your was "How's he making those straps?"
Thanks for sharing.

A strap running through a buckle is typically easy to loosen and tighten as desired. Usually, it stays in place. Sometimes, however, it slowly (or quickly) works its way loose, as though the thickness or smoothness of the webbing doesn’t quite match the size or shape of the buckle. What can I do to make the strap more grippy?

The specific problem I have is with a new backpack (no wear and tear), and it happens in dry conditions (not wet and slippery). There are two places where it happens:

  • On the hip belt, where the straps even have cloth-elastic bands wrapped around, right next to the buckles, but only function to keep things tidy, not grippy.

How to shorten backpack straps

  • Where the stop of the shoulder straps are tightened/loosened against the top of the pack.

How to shorten backpack straps

One method could be to add a separate clasp, as per this question. Also, I imagine I could intentionally soak it in sea water and then not rinse it, leaving the salt crystals to gum up the works (I know this happens to kayak gear and it’s usually a nuisance). Other techniques? I consider replacing either the strap or the buckle to be too drastic a solution.

How to shorten backpack straps

6 Answers 6

The solution on my backpack/bike helmet is a rubber band/hair tie like cord around the straps just below the buckle. In order to readjust the buckle you have to loosen the elastic cord around the straps and pull it away from the buckle.

Not sure exactly why this works, but I haven’t had any problems with my helmet coming loose or backpack straps loosening either.

How to shorten backpack straps

If you’ve got the strap to the perfect length and want to maintain that length, you can sew a small fold in the strap, similar to what’s used at the end to stop the whole strap running through. Slitting the stitches means you can change your mind later. Realistically this won’t help for a waist belt that needs to adjust to different clothing, except as a backstop to limit the slippage.

These buckles work by friction between the two layers of webbing that want to move in opposite directions, so you need to increase the friction, probably by increasing the pressure. One way to do this is to sew another layer of webbing on the outside, but this could be a fairly tedious task if the region that needs building up is long. You’d probably need to find lighter webbing of the same width as the existing strap. You may be able to test this by just threading a length of webbing through the buckle with the strap, and pinning it.

Another way (that I haven’t tried) should be to build up the buckle itself. Depending on the shape, a couple of cable ties around the past that presses together the two straps should be enough.