What Are Backpack Straps Made Of: An Epically Cool Guide [2021]

The goal of our articles is to help the new hiker and backpacker understand their gear and how to use it to have a better experience in the outdoors.

This involves answering questions that may seem pretty basic but are important for people who haven’t been into the outdoor that long.

For new hikers, a backpack can seem pretty intimidating.

All the gadgets and straps are complex in the beginning, but once you understand how they work, you will be able to effectively use your pack to its utmost capability, both in carrying capacity and comfort.

So if you have been wondering “what are backpack straps made of”, you will find the straps on most backpacks are made from nylon webbing but you can get other materials depending on the type and use that the pack is designed for.

We delve into everything that goes into backpack straps and best practices on how to use them, so buckle up, tie your boots tight and join us in learning more than you ever wanted to know about backpack straps.

Let’s dive right in!

What are backpack straps made of?

Backpack straps are most commonly made from nylon webbing, but you will also find ones made from polyester and Dyneema.

a man wearing a hiking pack with a lot of straps

Nylon is a synthetic material that is strong with low stretch. It resists moisture absorption, so it will dry quickly when wet.

While it can be cut, nylon webbing is abrasion-resistant, leading to a high level of durability.

Polyester has many of the same properties as nylon, but has less stretch and absorbs less water.

Polyester isn’t as strong as nylon, so more material needs to be used for the same strength, which will lead to a heavier weight.

Dyneema webbing is used in some high-end, ultralight backpacks. It is lighter and stronger than nylon, but is also slipperier, so any buckles have to have more grip.

Dyneema is much more cut-resistant, so it is well suited for ice axe loops and other roles that might be exposed to sharp objects.

The webbing from any material is a weave of thread that makes a flat ribbon that is strong and stretch resistant.

It will have enough texture that friction buckles will hold when under tension. The flat webbing spreads the pressure out when used to connect of cinch down against the pack when compared to a rope or a cord.

The shoulder straps and hip belt of a backpack are made of nylon webbing that is padded with foam.

This cushions the shoulders and hips from the load of the full pack, making it more comfortable to carry for long periods.

What makes for good backpack straps?

The best straps for a backpack will use webbing that is supple and easy to pull through the buckles.

a backpacking backpack next to a tree

If the straps are too stiff, it is difficult to tighten them, making adjusting the pack more difficult than it needs to be.

For most adjustable straps on a backpack, a width of 1-3 centimeters will give a good balance between strength, weight and compression ability.

Occasionally you will see thinner straps such as the compression straps on the Osprey Exos, which are only 5 millimeters, in an effort to save weight.

The Exos is one of the best packs for tall people because it’s available in many sizes and is highly adjustable.

Hip belt straps are often 5-6 centimeters for increased strength and load dissipation, as the hip belt should bear most of the weight of the pack.

What are the straps on backpacks called?

Let’s quickly go through the most important backpack straps.

Shoulder Straps

These straps are webbing that has padding attached. There are two of these straps to hold the pack centered on your back.

backpack shoulder straps

The bottom of the shoulder straps will have a friction buckle which allows you to tighten them down to your body.

Chest Strap

This is a short strap that connects between the two shoulder straps at chest height to keep them from slipping off of your shoulders.

The height of the chest strap should be adjusted, so it sits about an inch below your collarbone. Only tighten the chest strap enough to keep your shoulder straps from slipping off.

If you do it up too tight, it will pinch your neck and lead to discomfort.

Hip Belt Strap

The hip belt is wider webbing straps with padding on the sides to put the weight of the pack on your hips.

a group of hikers at the mountains

When fitting the pack, the middle of the padding should wrap your hip bone to transfer the load from your upper body to your legs.

Once the buckle is done up, you will pull on the straps on either side to cinch the hip belt tight.

Load Lifter Straps

These short straps are attached between the top of the shoulder straps and the frame of the pack.

Once your pack is on and adjusted, you can tighten the load lifter straps to pull the weight closer to your body, thereby increasing the comfort.

Not all backpacks have load lifter straps. In general, the backpacks from reputable brands such as Osprey, Gregory, and Deuter do.

Top Lid Straps

Top loader backpacks such as this Osprey Stratos model have straps with adjusters to secure and tighten the top lid of the pack.

Besides keeping the top lid in place, the top lid can act as a wide strap to secure items, such as a tent or jacket.

I often secure my rope this way when going rock climbing.

Compression Straps

Once your pack is loaded, you should use the compression straps on the side of your pack to cinch down your gear.

compression straps on a backpack

This keeps it from moving around as you hike and pulls the weight closer to your body, which will increase comfort.

Auxiliary Straps

Usually located on the rear of the pack near the bottom, auxiliary straps allow you to attach gear to the outside of the pack.

This will usually be things like a tent in a bag or foam sleeping pad that is too bulky to fit in your pack.

Ice Axe Loops

Most packs have one or two small closed loops near the bottom of the pack. You would slide an ice ax through the loop and flip it upside down.

The shaft is then secured by straps or shock cord higher up on the pack. This allows you to safely carry an ice axe or a shovel on your pack during times you don’t actively need it.

Parts of a backpack strap

Here, we will see the different parts of a pack strap.

parts of a backpack strap

You may think it’s pretty straightforward, and it almost is.

Strap

This is the actual strap. The woven material is used for either securing items or carrying the load.

Buckle

Depending on the specific strap, it may be an adjustable buckle that needs to be threaded, such as the shoulder straps or a quick connect buckle like the ones used on the hip belt or chest strap.

Both types of buckles have a friction locking function that tightens when the tail of the strap is pulled on. The buckles have a small tab that releases the tension when pulled up.

Anchor

Most straps on a pack are anchored at one end. This can be stitched in or have a buckle that gets threaded back on itself to lock in position.

The stitched anchors allow a pack to be a little lighter, but will take away a bit of adjustability.

How long should backpack straps be?

This will vary depending on your size and which strap we are talking about.

a man standing on a hill

It isn’t uncommon for hip belt straps to be way too long, which means a lot of excess when the pack is tightened down.

When the hip belt is tight, you don’t want much more than 20 centimeters of strap dangling. With any nylon straps, you can cut them shorter and melt the cut with a lighter to keep them from fraying.

In general, you want the straps to be long enough to get around anything you want to secure with adequate slack to be able to pull it tight.

The actual length will differ for each type of strap.

Conclusion

Now you know that most backpack straps are made from nylon webbing and the benefits. Straps are used all over your backpack, each serving a different role in safely securing your load.

If you haven’t already, it is a smart idea to explore your pack and become familiar with all the straps.

Learn the job of each strap and how it works, even the ones you might not use, like the ice ax loops, because you can often find new roles suck as attaching a collapsible shovel for winter camping.

Send us your questions and comments on what topics you would like to know about.

Our goal is to provide out readers with the information they need to become more competent outdoors people and be safe while enjoying the wild.

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Asen Stoyanchev

Founder of this website, Asen is a passionate hiker and writer who is also a gear nerd. He’s been featured on many established hiking websites where he gives hiking advice & tips. When he is not trekking with his family or friends, he is writing articles and product reviews. Asen spends most of his time in Bulgaria but he constantly travels the world in seek of more unforgettable experiences. Read more about Asen here.

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  • August 5, 2021
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