How to Keep Backpack Straps From Slipping Off Shoulders 

 February 4, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

Backpacks are a comfortable, convenient, and stylish way to carry your belongings around. However, many people tend to experience one or both straps slipping off their shoulder and wonder how this can be solved.

Backpack straps can be prevented from slipping off shoulders by creating memory on its webbing, cinching them up snugly, rolling the webbing ends up, or tying the straps together in front or in the back. Inexpensive tools such as Velcro tape, buckles, and shoulder pads can also help.

man holding backpack by straps

These are tried and tested methods for preventing backpack straps from slipping off, but it also helps to understand why it happens in the first place. Read on to find out everything you need to know about preventing it.

When backpack straps slip off your shoulders, it’s uncomfortable and can get annoying. But if you want to prevent this from happening, it helps to understand why it happens.

Here are the most common reasons why backpack straps slide off, and easy do-it-yourself solutions for each of them:

A new pack: Though not all new backpack straps slide off, those that do need some breaking in by creating memory on its webbing. To do this, put some weight inside your back, wear it with both straps in place, then gently push down on the triangles. In older backpacks, you can tell when the straps have memory in them when there is a slight kink or indentation in them.

The presence of kinks or indentations on the straps prevent it from sliding up and down, and thus solving the problem of backpacks falling off.

Loose straps: Another common reason why straps slip off is simply because it’s too loose. To correct this, pull the straps tightly by holding on to its loose ends, and then firmly pull it up. Make sure that the straps hug your shoulders and the pack is lifted higher in your back and on rests on top of your hips.

Dangling straps: In some cases, backpack straps still continue to slide off shoulders because excess straps continue passing through the D hole or buckle, which is meant to make strap length adjustment easy while also holding it in place. If this happens, you can wrap the webbing up and tuck it into the D hole/buckle to keep it secure and prevent it from loosening up again. Alternatively, you can tie the excess strap into a knot after it has been adjusted to your desired length.

If these steps don’t work, just connect the straps in front or in the back. A sternum or chest strap on the front of the pack does this job perfectly. Tighten the sternum strap in such a way that it’s around an inch under your collarbones comfortably. Your arms should be able to move freely.

But if your backpack is not equipped with a chest strap, you can purchase detachable chest straps, and even use some rope or tape to do the job front or back.

There are also other useful tools that you can purchase at an inexpensive price to keep backpack straps from slipping off your shoulders:

  • Velcro or fastening tape comes in an array of lengths and sizes. This tape is effective at helping you secure excess backpack straps after rolling it up. Another way to use Velcro tape is by attaching it to each strap either in front or in the back, and creating a makeshift sternum or back strap.
  • Backpack shoulder pads are designed to prevent the straps from slipping off and also prevent thin straps from digging into your skin. Adding another pair of backpack shoulder pads on top of the existing pads, or using them if your pack doesn’t have any, are an easy and effective way to add grip and prevent the straps from slipping.  Look for anti-slip shoulder cushion pads for the best results.
  • The buckles of your backpack straps may be old, or of poor quality. Over time, buckles can lose their efficacy in securely holding the straps. If you think that the buckles have become too smooth, you can replace the buckles with a good high-quality version that has a strong grip.

You may also want to think about the size of your pack. If your backpack is too large for your frame, this can cause the straps to slip off. Be sure that next time, you purchase a backpack that is well suited for your size to reduce the chances of the straps falling off.

Last but not least, remember that the correct length of your shoulder straps is 2 inches lower than the top of your shoulder blades. A properly-fitted pair of shoulder straps will not fall if they are at the correct length; there shouldn’t be too much space between the straps and your shoulders either.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to tie a backpack strap to prevent it from slipping off shoulders?

The simplest method of tying backpack straps to prevent it from slipping through the buckle is by using the dangling part of the strap, and creating a simple knot, very much like how you’d tie your shoelaces up. You could also use a tough tape such as electrical or duct tape, looped around both the dangling and looped parts of the strap several times.

What’s the best way to tighten a backpack strap to prevent it from slipping off shoulders?

When done correctly, assuming your backpack and its buckles are of good quality and size, tightening a backpack strap is all you need to do to prevent it from slipping.

The first step is to wear the backpack, and then pull the dangling end of the straps to tighten it. If your strap has shoulder pads, the cushion should be resting comfortably on the top of the shoulders. When you walk, the backpack should be parallel to your back; it shouldn’t sag or shouldn’t be too high.

Next, ensure that there is equal distribution of weight by holding each strap next to one another and measuring them. They should be the same length since uneven straps will not just slip off the shoulder, they will also cause strain in the neck and shoulders. If you end up with a long dangling strap, fold it once or twice and tuck it inside the buckle. Some people find that cutting the remaining material, save for a 4-inch allowance, is helpful if this excess strap won’t be used in the future. The ends of the cut strap can be melted off with a lighter.

Last but not least, tuck the remaining strap into the buckle. You can add reinforcements in the form of rubber bands or tape to make sure that it stays in place.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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