How to Fit a Backpack, and Choose the Best Pack for You

Ever use something for a while and convince yourself it’s either too large or too small, only to later learn you never adjusted it correctly in the first place? Knowing how to fit a backpack is one of the reasons local gear stores like us at Tahoe Mountain Sports are so valuable. We don’t just carry backpacks from the brands you love – we also know how to properly fit them. These instructional videos and descriptions will help you pick the perfect pack for your next big off-road adventure, as well as adjust all the straps so it fits just right. For the interview, we called on Andy Yorkin of Gregory Packs to answer some FAQs about fitting and choosing a backpack. We’ve also embedded some videos on proper pack fitting, so be sure to watch those for more information. For even more info, our Backpack Fitting Videos go into even further detail on how to properly fit backpacks, specifically several different styles from Deuter Backpacks.

Interview with Andy Yorkin of Gregory Packs

TMS: What’s the #1 most important fit feature in a backpacking pack?
Andy: The number one, most critical fit feature on a backpack is the frame size. The size of the pack must match the torso length of the user. All too often we find people who have the wrong size and find the pack uncomfortable. The key to the Gregory fit is to transfer the load of the pack onto the hips through a lumbar pad and waistbelt.

The Gregory fit video (above) lists the following as how to tell you have a proper fit… any others? 45-degree angle in shoulder straps, curve in harness lined up with crease in underarm, waist belt with at least four inches between padding, bottom of waist belt level with top of thigh when leg lifted.
That pretty much covers it. But be careful with the shoulder strap angle – 45 degrees is good for larger packs over 75 liters but for packs that are between 65 and 75 liters, this angle comes down to 25 degrees and continues down to 10-to-15 degrees for 35-65 liter packs. Shoulder straps should wrap ‘around’ your shoulders, 2” below the C7 vertebrae.

*Our women specific backpacks, which we have one of for just about every pack series, are built explicitly for the female anatomy with appropriate curves in the harness as well as slightly thinner waistbelt and harness widths. In addition, most of the back-panels are cut to be a little more narrow to accommodate the typical female body type. Ladies love Deuter’s women-specific backpacks. Here’s an informative article all about ’em: Deuter Slim Line Women’s Packs

If a pack shopper does not have access to Gregory’s Fit-O-Matic, what’s the best way to figure out torso length?
You’ll need a friend to help, but it’s not too difficult. First start by finding the C7 vertebrae at the base of your neck – it’s the big bump and can easily be found when you look down at your toes to stretch your neck. Next, find the top of your iliac crest, the most prominent bone on the top of the pelvis. Find this by placing your thumbs on your sides at your waist. From here, run an imaginary line across to your spine and measure up to the C7. We’ve found that the majority of men are in the 18” – 20” range and women within the 16” – 18” range.

What pack capacities do you recommend for different trip lengths?
The appropriate pack capacity is a tricky one as it depends a lot on the individual as well as the time of year. Some people looking to be light and fast might pack smaller loads while others might prefer bringing along additional creature comforts and thus require more space. In general, a 30-50 liter pack will be sufficient for one to two nights on the trail and 50-75 liter packs will hold what’s needed for 3-5 nights out.

What do you look for in a pack? Which little features make the big difference for you personally?
For me, I like well thought out organization without too much clutter. I prefer a clean look on the outside with select pockets on the inside. Basically, a streamlined pack without all the bells and whistles.

Bonus: In case you’re craving even more backpack knowledge, here are a several videos regarding proper pack-fitting and adjusting with Deuter packs, the brand that takes up most of our backpack inventory: How to Fit a Backpack with Deuter Packs

Now that you’re equipped with knowledge on how to fit a backpack, shop for backpacks online and hit the trail! In addition to Gregory packs, we have a huge selection of Deuter backpacks, Boreas Gear, The North Face backpacks, Osprey packs and more.

Boreas Erawan 70 Backpack
MSRP: $159.95

The North Face Banchee 65 Backpack
MSRP: $238.95

Deuter Aircontact 75+10 Backpack
MSRP: $288.95

Osprey Exos 48 Ultralight Daypack
MSRP: $189.95

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