What Are All Straps on a Backpack Used For?

When you see a pack, probably the first thing you notice are those numerous straps hanging around. So what are all straps on a backpack used for? Keep reading, all of them are explained here.

There are at least five types of straps on a backpack:

  1. Straps used for gear attachment only.
  2. Straps with dual use for the pack compression and gear attachment.
  3. Straps used for comfort and packs stabilization.
  4. Straps used to carry the pack.
  5. Straps used to close the pack.

All of them are discussed in detail below.

What Are All Straps on a Backpack Used For top picture

Terminology

This text is about straps and not about cords. I assume you know the difference. The cords are round in cross-section, and you can usually find them on the front of a pack. Straps are at various sides of a pack.

In some ultralight packs you have side cords instead of side straps. This is simply to reduce weight. In this case, their purpose is the same as of the side straps discussed below.

Also, I am not describing various loops, this is address in my separate post. These include trekking poles loops on the bottom, some packs have attachment loops on the lid, most packs have a carry handle loop on the top, etc.

In many of the pictures below, I am using my own Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 pack simply because it has almost all the straps discussed in the text.

Backpack straps used for gear attachment

1. I am sure you have seen such straps on the bottom of a pack, sometimes also on the front, and sometimes on the lid. So what are the straps at the bottom of backpacks for? These straps are in place to attach items like a sleeping pad or anything similar.

Sometimes these straps are more on the front, across the zippered access to the bottom compartment. So the purpose is the same.

Bottom compression straps.
Bottom compression straps.

2. You can have some sort of daisy chains on the front and on the lid. They are usually in pairs and they offer multiple attachment options with the help of a cord. They could also be put in the group of attachment loops. One example is shown below, this is Mystery Ranch Scree 32 Backpack.

Daisy chains on the front of the pack.
Daisy chains on the front of the pack.

Backpack straps used for the pack compression and gear attachment

So what are compression straps on backpack? These are straps used to cinch the pack and to make it more compact. This may also bring the load closer to the body and make the pack more stable.

1. Typical examples of these straps are those that you have on the sides of a pack. Smaller packs may have one on each side, while bigger packs usually have two on each side, so we speak about lower and upper side compression straps.

Dual side compression straps.
Dual side compression straps.

Some packs can have three side straps on each side, but such examples are a bit rare.

The purpose of these straps is dual. You can use them to simply cinch the pack. This is useful if you want to stabilize the load. In particular, in the beginning of a self-supporting tour you may have more stuff in the pack, like food for example. So as you spend the food, the pack’s content may reduce and you may want to use the straps to cinch the load.

But with such side straps you can also keep in place some elongated items that you attach on the side. Such an item can be placed in the side pocket and then kept in place with the upper side strap.

2. Yet another example of this type is the top compression strap that crosses the collar. Not all packs have this feature. With this you can cinch the collar when the pack is over-full, and compress the load.

But you can also put a tent here and keep it in place with this top strap, and then cover it with the lid. You can see this in my separate post where I show it in a picture. Similarly, here you can store your climbing rope and fix it in place with this strap. See how it looks in my pack:

Top collar compression strap.
Top collar compression strap.

3. Some packs have extra straps on the front. These can be used for compression and also to carry extra stuff. You can fix long items here like skis. The picture below shows them in the incredibly popular Teton Sports Mountain Adventurer 66 pack:

Front straps.
Front straps.

Backpack straps used for comfort and packs stabilization

There are two of this type on most packs. They include:

  • Dual load lifter straps, one on each side behind your neck. Their role is to stabilize the load in particular when the pack is full. When you pull them, the upper part of the pack gets closer to the body.
Dual load lifter straps.
Dual load lifter straps.
  • Sternum strap. So what is a sternum strap on a backpack? This is a single strap that you have on the front on the chest. It connects the two shoulder straps. You can see it in the picture below. The purpose is to keep the shoulder harness at an optimal width and to prevent the shoulder straps to slide off the shoulders. In many packs you have an emergency whistle integrated in this strap.

Straps used to carry the pack

These straps include:

  • Dual straps that connect shoulder straps with the pack’s body on the sides of the pack. They are partly visible in the picture above.
Sternum strap between the two shoulder harness straps.
Sternum strap between the two shoulder harness straps.
  • Front pull straps on the hip belt. These are the widest and strongest on the pack.
Hip belt with its front straps.
Hip belt with its front straps.
  • Sometimes, in good packs you have V-shaped straps on each side of the hip belt that connect to the main front strap with buckle. The picture below shows how they look:
V-shaped side straps on the hip belt.
V-shaped side straps on the hip belt.

Straps used to close the pack

1. These are usually dual lid straps that are attached to the lid from the front side. They connect the lid to the front of the pack, the picture below. Some packs have only one strap for this purpose, you can see it in the Teton Sports Hiker 3700 Pack.

Lid straps.
Lid straps.

But there are packs with a roll-top closure without lid and without such straps. Also, panel loading packs with a zippered access to the main compartment are without such straps.

2. Some packs also have lid straps that make it a floating type. In this Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 pack this is particularly convenient because the collar can be expanded. This gives those +10 liters in its official name. For this, it is good that the lid can be adjusted, so you lift it up to cover the extended pack.

The picture shows where they are located. You have the same design in all Deuter’s packs with the numbers +5, +10, +15 in their names. But this feature is available in most of the packs on the market, even if they do not have such an expandable collar.

Floating lid straps.
Floating lid straps.

In my separate text you can read also how to use such a lid to attach a sleeping bag to a day pack.


So I stop here, and hopefully I have managed to describe what all straps on a backpack are used for. As you realize, there are several different groups of straps on a backpack, they are there for reason and all play an important role. Not every pack has all of them of course.

Check also my related text about carrying a tent when hiking and a text about loops on a backpack. Note that these attachment elements are the main difference between hiking and standard backpacks as discussed in my separate text.

If you need help and have questions, please use the comment box below. Thank you for reading.

 
Me on Jalovec.Hi, I am Jovo, the founder of this OutdoorsFAQs site and several other outdoor sites. I have been mountaineering for almost 40 years already, and I have created this site to use as a reference for various questions that I receive in my sites. Being a theoretical physicist by profession, I tend to base my answers on facts and on my own personal experience.

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