Though it’s easy to think you can handle swinging that 70-pound pack up onto your shoulders in a “sack of potatoes” motion, it’s also easy to strain your back doing this. It’s best to take some precautions so you don’t end up flat on your back, missing an entire day in the backcountry.
There are a number of safe approaches to loading your backpack. Regardless of which you choose, keep in mind the fundamentals of lifting: knees bent, back straight, and a willingness to ask for help.
The first technique can be done on your own.
Step 1: Stand behind the backpack holding the straps. Place one leg close to the pack with knee bent.
Step 2: Slide the pack up your leg to rest on your thigh.
Step 3: Twist your torso (carefully) so you can slip the same arm as the leg on which the pack rests into the appropriate shoulder strap.
Step 4: Stand up and let the pack slide around your back so you can place the other arm through the strap.
The second approach requires assistance.
Step 1: Ask a hiking buddy for help.
Step 2: Have them pick up the pack from the front so you can slide it on, just as a gentleman would hold a lady’s jacket for her.
Step 3: Adjust all your straps, securing your pack, before they let go.
Step 4: Turn around and help your buddy put on their pack!
If you are out alone and need assistance, or just don't feel like asking for help, you can locate a stump, log, or rock to set your pack on. It’s ready to be put on without much—or any—lifting. This approach seems to work best during breaks.