Have you bought a backpack, only to discover that the shoulder straps made your shoulders sore or rub you the wrong way? I’ve certainly owned a few backpacks that needed some extra padding on the shoulder straps.
While you can stuff socks or clothing under your straps for temporary relief or wrap foam pipe insulation around them, I prefer a more permanent and cleaner-looking solution. Here are a few alternative methods that I’ve used to address this issue, from simple hacks to ones that require a little sewing.
Fleece Wrap w/ Safety Pins
Take a piece of fleece, wrap it around a shoulder strap, and use safety pins to secure it. You can cut fleece from retired clothing, or buy a piece at Walmart or fabric store. It doesn’t need to be a fancy brand name fleece. You could replace the safety pins with some quick and dirty hand sewing if you find fleece to be a reasonable solution.
Fleece Wrap w/ Sewing Machine
If you have a backpack with adjustable length shoulder pads that connect it to your pack with a webbing strap and buckle, it’s pretty simple to slide a fleece tube onto your straps.
Measure the distance from the top of the strap to the sternum buckle, which will determine the length that the padding needs to be. Then measure the circumference of the shoulder strap with a flexible measuring tape at its widest point. Add ½” to this measurement for a seam allowance. For example, if you measure around your straps and get 6”, add ½” to this. If you determine that you need them 12” long, then you would cut a rectangle that is 12” by 6 ½”. Fold the fabric lengthwise. Stitch the edges together with a ¼” seam allowance. This will result in a fabric tube. For a clean finish, you can turn the tube inside out so that the unfinished edges don’t show. (Shoulder straps w/ fleece padding picture) Slide your tube onto the strap then re-attach the webbing to the strap buckle.
If you can’t get the strap through the buckle or the bottom of the shoulder strap is sewn onto the pack and won’t come off, you’ll have to sew the fleece while it’s wrapped around the strap. This is can be a little awkward, but it’s not a showstopper.
Spacer Mesh w/ Sewing Machine
I’ve found that 1/4″ Spacer Mesh (sold at Ripstop by the Roll) is superior to fleece for padding because it maintains its cushion longer over time and picks up less dirt. This material is used by pack manufacturers for breathable, padded areas on backpacks. It comes in 60” width and is sold by the linear foot. I found that 12” was enough for my project.
However, you will want to overstitch the edges on the top and bottom of the tube so that the fabric doesn’t fray or stretch out. Fleece does not need this treatment.
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