HOME Marauder Zulu Pointman Other Products Tailgunners Express ZXR XRay Woobie

Kifaru Pack Setup/Wearing Tips


Proper pack setup can make a world of difference in comfort. To new Kifaru users, how the different straps and possible adjustments are supposed to be used and set up can be quite a mystery; they were to me when I got my first Kifaru pack. Using the adjustments the way they were designed can make a world of difference in how comfortable the load is carried. When I got my first Kifaru pack years ago, I asked Mel Terkla what the recommended way of setting up the Kifaru packs was, and his preferred sequence of donning the packs. Since then, I've seen many customers ask the same questions, so I decided to put together this little guide, based on Mel's recommendations and guidance.

Everyone has a different physique - tall, short, thin, fat etc, and Kifaru also has different suspension systems. Getting the pack set up right (for you) will require tweaking, and miles under the belt to figure out what works best. It's also based partly on personal preference. But following the recommended initial setup will get you started in the right direction.

The photos to the left show the main straps and adjustments common to all Kifaru packs.

  • Shoulder straps
  • Lifter straps (on shoulder straps)
  • Sternum strap
  • Hip/Waist belt
  • Upper delta strap
  • Lower delta strap

Note that the shoulder strap is meant to pass UNDER/BEHIND the upper delta strap. I wasn't aware of this until recently as it can be set up both ways. On the Omni suspension system, it's probably not as important as there the packs are all relatively narrow, but on the larger packs, it's more important.


Hip belt position
All of Kifaru's packs have a suspension system that puts much of the load on to the hips. For that reason, the term 'waist belt' might be misleading. For packs with no suspension system, the waist belt is there to stabilize the pack during movement, not to offload the weight from the shoulders. The Kifaru waist belt is meant to be centered on the hip bones (Iliac crests). The Iliac crest can be found by putting your hands on your hips and feeling around. The horizontal stitch running in the center of the waist belt should be centered on the Iliac crests. It should NOT go round your waist/belly. The lumbar pad should sit in your lumbar region, right above your butt.


Shoulder strap length adjustment
This will vary for people of different heights/torso lengths, and also between the different stay-length Kifaru packs. First, locate the metal slider on the top of the shoulder straps where the lifter strap takeoff point is. Center the slider between the bartacks. When correctly adjusted and worn, the slider should sit right on top of your collarbones but below the height of your shoulders.


Donning - Lifting the pack up

Start out by making sure that all adjustments are loosened, especially the lifter straps and deltas.
I used to just lift the pack up and hoist it on my shoulders. Worked fine for a light pack, but not good for the back with heavier loads. Mel recommended that for a heavier pack, stick a knee out and lift the pack onto your knee/thigh. That way, it'll be at a level where you can slip your arm through a shoulder strap, get the pack on one shoulder, and swing it around. Bending forward slightly at the waist helps keep the pack from slipping down your back while getting the other arm through. Note that there are other methods of hoisting a large pack - use which one works best for you.


Shoulder straps
While leaning forward at the waist with a straight back, get the pack high on your back, so the lumbar pad sits in the lumbar region. Leaning forward gets the weight off the shoulder straps and allows your to cinch them down more easily. Pull the shoulder strap ends down and back. Do not overtighten the shoulder straps. Sometimes it helps to give the shoulders a quick shrug to make the pack 'jump' up onto the back a bit while pulling on the shoulder strap ends at the same time.

NOTE: when pulling on all straps, the direction of pull should follow the line of the strap as much as possible, so it's not off an an angle from the tension locks. In these pictures, I'm not always pulling along the correct angle (I'm just grabbing the end of the strap in some cases), but the red arrows show the intended direction.


Hip belt
Click the hip belt buckle, and ensure that the centerline of the hip/waist belt is centered on the Iliac crest of the hips. It should NOT be around the waist. The top of the buckle is about 2 inches below my belly button. If you're covering your belly button with the buckle, it's too high. Pull the belt straps forward (still at a downward angle since you're still bending over at the waist). The hip belt should be TIGHT - almost crushing the Iliac crests. All pressure should be around the hip bones, not your belly.


Delta straps
Reach back on both sides, and at the same time, snug up the lower delta straps (left pic) by pulling forward (and up slightly). Snug them just enough to put tension in the webbing, DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN. Do the same for the upper deltas - snug them up in the direction of the strap (forward and down), without overtightening them.


Lifter straps
Stand up straight, adjust the shoulder straps if necessary, making sure that they're snug, but not overtightened. The lifter straps will not work if the shoulder straps are overtightened. Reach up and pull forward on the lifter strap ends. Snug them up, do not overtighten. How much lift you get will depend on your torso length and the length of the stays. For the shorter packs like the Marauder and Zulu, you probably won't be getting any shoulder lift. In that case, snugging up the lifter straps just brings the top of the pack closer to your body a bit.

At this time, Mel then buckles the sternum strap. I've done it earlier (after snugging up the shoulder straps) in these pics. The sternum strap should be about 2" below your collarbones (it's a bit low in these photos). It should not be too low as that may restrict breathing by preventing your rib cage from expanding. It should not be tight, and can even be a bit loose.

Doffing the pack - when doffing the pack, Mel goes through in a reverse sequence and untensions all straps. Of course, if you need to drop the pack quickly, you just click out of it, but untensioning all straps before you drop it (if you have time) makes it easier to don when you put it back on. Otherwise, you may be fighting the waist belt or the shoulder strap might be too tight. Mel loosens the straps in this order:

  1. Lifter straps
  2. Sternum strap
  3. Upper delta straps
  4. Lower delta straps
  5. Hip/waist belt
  6. Shoulder straps

Following the above tips should give you a good starting point. Vary the adjustments when using the pack to see what effect each adjustment has on the feel of the pack on your back. Vary the weight distribution between hips and shoulders when hiking to give either one a rest or relieve pressure. I've found that sometimes the hip belt has to be loosened up a bit when hiking up a steep hill, and tightened downhill. You'll get to know what works for you depending on the terrain you're covering.

A note about bending aluminum stays

Even though I was aware that the aluminum stays could be bent/shaped to fit my back better, I neglected to do so and just left them the way they came with my first Kifaru pack. After a conversation with Mel, who was fiddling around with his, I bent the stays on the Pointman to better fit my back. When wearing the pack, I had noticed that a pressure point right on the top of my butt, but ignored it because it didn't seem like a big deal. However, after reshaping the stays, it made a world of difference. Duh - I should have done it right at the beginning. My back has more of a curvature to it than normal, so bending the stays was necessary for me. If you've got more of a standard curvature, you probably won't need to adjust yours. Ever since I bent the stays on my first pack, I always do it now.
To fit the stays to my back, I loaded up the pack with about 30 lbs, and tightened up all the straps as I normally would. I took note of where the bottom of the stays were, and of all the gaps and pressure points they made with my back. I then took them out of the pack, held them up against my back (while looking in the mirror), and bent them to fit the contour of my back. I did one first, then did the other, using the first one as a reference. I installed them in the pack and checked the fit/feel. I made a couple of minor adjustments after that. The aluminum can be bent by hand over the edge of a table etc. The adjustments must be done with the pack loaded - your posture (and curvature of your back) is different when you've got an empty pack on your back. Before starting to bend the stays, it's also advisable to trace the sotck curvature of the stays on a piece of paper, so you can always return it to the stock curvature if you mess up and need to start over.

Strap management - for keeping the loose strap ends tidy, I've found ITW's Web Dominators to work very well:





©opyright by MilitaryMorons.com. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction, Duplication, Distribution Strictly Prohibited.

Unless mentioned otherwise, content and images are the property of militarymorons.com and are not in the public domain.
They are not to be used without permission. Please Contact me for permission to use any images or content herein.