Backpack Basics: The Elements of Suspension

Some backpacks have more sophisticated suspension systems than others, but the most important thing to know about a suspension system in a backpack is whether it feels comfortable to you.

The basic components of suspension systems in a technical backpack are:

  • Shoulder harness: The shoulder harness is meant to keep the backpack in place, not to support all the weight of your gear. Curved shoulder harnesses tend to provide the best fit.
  • Hip belt: The hip belt may be the most essential element of a technical backpack because it helps transfer weight from your shoulders to your hips and legs. Look for a hip belt that is wide and well-padded. But fit is most important, so be sure to try on several styles before buying one.
  • Lumbar pad: The lumbar pad is the padding on the backpack that sits at the small of your back. A lumbar pad made of high-friction fabric can help keep your hip belt from sliding around as you hike.
  • Stabilizer straps: These straps provide extra support at the shoulders and hips.

Backpacking equipment such as the Osprey Expos 46 Technical Pack, for example, features a hip belt and harness of mesh-covered foam for comfort and breathability.

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