What Are The Loops On My Backpack For: Backpacking External Attachment Guide


What are the loops on my backpack for?” “Should I use all of them?” Well, if you are new to hiking and backpacking or just purchased your first backpack, chances are good you are still looking at your pack and asking yourself these two questions.

Of course, any outdoor trip will require you to bring plenty of equipment and it’s a no-brainer that those backpack attachments will come in handy when packing those gear pieces that you need to access quickly. Also, if you were hiking in the rain and have to carry home some wet rain pants, outside of the pack is the perfect place to keep these separate from your dry clothing.

So, it is essential that your backpack comes with loops and equally important that you know how to use them. But just like most backpacking skills, learning how to hook your hiking and camping gear to the exterior of your carrier is most effective when observing how other backcountry adventurers do it and tweaking it a little bit to meet your specific needs.

To make it easier for you, we have compiled a quick guide that lays out the different types of backpack loops and how you can use these while packing your pack to carry as much gear as possible.

Types of Backpacking External Attachments

Compression Cords

These will mainly be found on packs meant for long trips and expeditions. Most climbing and backpacking packs will have compression straps on the sides where you can attach bulky gear like tents, sleeping bags, or winter shoes.

If your pack has these, make sure that the weight of your attachments is balanced both on the right and on left to make it easy for you to carry on the trail.

Also, check whether you can reverse the straps in such a way that you can secure your equipment to the back of the pack instead of carrying it on the sides. Compression straps that allow you to do this will have male and female clips on opposite sides instead of being stitched on to the backpack. One good thing about cords designed this way is that they allow you to fill the pack’s side pockets with snacks, water bottles, and other smaller items you may need on the trail.

Keeper Loops On Shoulder Straps

If you are a serious hiker, you want the gear that you will be using the most within arm’s reach. Think about your GPS, compass, camera, walkie-talkie, map case, or even a pair of binoculars. Your best bet will be to add extra pockets to your shoulder harnesses where you can store these smaller items for easier access.

“But what are the loops on my backpack for if their attachment points are not strong enough to hold heavy gear?” – you may ask!

Well, you are right. Not all backpacks will come with good hooking points on the shoulder straps to attach weighty pockets. Therefore, when deciding on the best pack to buy, consider carriers with small daisy chains or horizontal keeper straps where you can clip your external pockets onto snuggly. It would also help to get something with metal or plastic rings where you can secure heavier gear like the GPS.

Hanging Lids

Most hikers will call these floating pockets or floating lids because instead of being stitched onto the pack, they are attached to it using webbing straps. A good example of a hanging lid is the pocket found on top of the backpack that campers use to compress bulky gear like tent bodies, ropes, or sleeping pads.

Attaching heavy objects between the floating pockets and the top of the pack will help you keep the weight aligned closely with your core muscles and spine rather than on the back or sides of the backpack where you can easily lose balance.

Hip Belt Loops

Hip belts for backpacking packs have loops, webbing straps, and pockets on the outer side. You can secure almost any equipment you want for them.

Whether you are preparing for a mountain climbing or winter camping trip, these will provide great attachment points for climbing gear like quickdraws and carabiners. They are also the perfect place to hook your insulated water bottle holders when hiking or camping in cold weather.

Tie Out Cords

Lightweight backpack manufacturers today have devised a new way for hikers to whip up custom gear fastening points on their carriers – tie-out loops. These function like the daisy chains but weigh much less, which makes it easier for manufacturers to introduce a good number of them to a pack. You will find them on the sides of the pack, the top of the lids, and even on the back.

The best thing about tie-out cords is that you can hang a great deal of equipment including wet tarps, solar chargers, or even an extra pair of hiking boots. All you need to do is get a few straps and strap locks and you will have enough hooking points for your gear. Some manufacturers will have these included in their packs so if you come across one that has them, don’t think twice about spending a few bucks on it.

When creating a rigging system for soft items like clothing, use a cord that is elastic so that you can pack as many clothes as possible. For heavier gear like winter shoes, first aid kits, or tent poles, consider a non-elastic cord, as this is more durable and less likely to break.

Bottom Loading Loops

Large backpacks or those designed for longer trips come with loops that hang at the base of the pack. While these may be a great place to attach your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, wet tent, or even your hammock casing, any gear that hangs from them can be a pain in the backside since it can dangle into your legs or behind while you walk, causing you to lower your pace.

If you are taking a long trek, you would be better off strapping bulky equipment on the sides or between the floating pockets and the top of the bag rather than using the bottom loops. But hey, we are not saying that loops on the bottom of the pack are useless – absolutely not! If you can’t hang anything down there, you can always use the loops to hang your pack upside down to dry after cleaning.

Ice Climbing Gear Holders

Most climbing backpacks come with extra tool attachment points where you can hook up walking or climbing ice axes to the pack. A good example is the shaft holder that allows you to secure the ice ax in place and ax loops that hold the pointed end of the ax safely so it doesn’t spear you in case you tumble and fall on the trail. Usually, shaft holders have a buckle, elastic keeper, or webbing cords to ensure that your gear is secured safely.

Sternum Straps

These are found on the shoulder straps and their main purpose is to keep the shoulder harnesses in position. If your backpack has sternum cords, it is less likely to slide off your arms when you move. The straps also pull the shoulder loops inward to allow you to move your hands-free on the trail.



Here is a list of other backpack attachments that you may find on the outside of your pack.

Pig Snout

Do you see those diamond or square-shaped patches with two cuts on the back of your pack? These are attachment points and they too have a purpose. You can fasten your carabiner and any other items you choose to keep on the exterior of your backpack using the pig snouts. Most campers argue that these two lash points resemble the pig’s nose, hence the name.

Grab Handles

A typical backpacking pack will have a cord at the top, usually between the shoulder harnesses. This is commonly known as the grab handle or haul strap and as the name suggests, it is what you use to lift the backpack when you want to strap it on the back.  Just grab it with your left hand and lift the pack, and then using the right hand, swing the pack to your back so you can strap the shoulder cords.

And if you need to drag your pack while on the trail to give your back and shoulders a little breather, you can use the grab handle to get this done. In most cases, haul straps will be fully padded grips. If you have a larger bag, you may notice that you have several of these to make carrying your luggage even much easier.

Hydration Port/Eyelet

This is just a small hole in the backpack where you can pass a tube, wire, or cable from the inside of the pack to the outside. If you brought your AM/FM radio, you can listen to your favorite music on the trail as you pick berries, climb hills, or take pictures of the beautiful landscapes. And you don’t have to carry the radio by your hands – just stash it in the pack, plug in your earphones and pass them through the fabric using the eyelet. Easy peasy!

Luggage strap

Just like travel backpacks, some outdoorsy packs come with a wire harness on the rear panel where you can attach the handle of a smaller pack to it. This is a very convenient feature, especially when planning a long trip where you will be required to bring plenty of gear.

You can stash the most frequently used items like maps, GPS, flashlight, or even the first aid kit in the small pack and hook it up to the larger backpack using the luggage strap. Just be careful if the larger backpack is too bulky, though, as it may outweigh the smaller one causing it to topple over when you stand it up.


You may also find a variety of G-shaped hooks around the backpack. While these have various uses, they are mostly clipped on compression straps, floating lids, and tie out loops to attach items like tent bodies or sleeping pads.

The problem with these hooks is that they will only be effectively operational if they fit snuggly onto the loops. So make sure to tighten these properly when you hook your gear so it doesn’t become a nuisance when you start to move.


These are more of hardware pieces than loops and are used to fasten together sternum straps and hip belts. Most are made of plastic but occasionally, you may bump into metallic ones too.


Just as the name suggests, these are used to alter the length of your straps so they can sit properly on your body and the items attached to the outside of the pack. Usually, they will have a tab that pulls outward to untighten the straps and inward to make them firmer.

If your shoulder straps feel a little loose such that they make the backpack dangle into your backside while you walk, make sure to adjust them before you leave for the trailhead. Otherwise, it will be too difficult for you to do a long trek and even if you try, you will have to stop along the way to make the adjustments.

Globo Surf Overview

It goes without saying; external attachments are an important part of your backpack. They extend their volume so you can carry more equipment when required. Pointy items, bulky gear, and everything else that you don’t feel comfortable putting inside the pack can be looped on the outside.

Still wondering, “What are the loops on my backpack for?” Probably you haven’t heard that they can get you, fitter, too. As you have more space to attach as much gear as you can, your pack will be heavier, which will force your body to work extra hard to keep you moving. The result? You will burn more calories, get slimmer, and of course feel much happier.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


  1. How To Choose A Camping Backpack, wikihow.com
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!