Find the Perfect Outdoor Backpack – Part 2

Finding the Perfect Outdoor Backpack can be a lot of fun, but you have to know all the details before making a wise decision.  This is Part 2 of a 3 part article.

Part 1 reveals the styles and sizes of backpacks

Part 2 (this one) discusses how to measure yourself for the perfect fit

Part 3 talks about the options and features available

Outdoor Backpack - MeasurementThe Fitting Room:

Now that you know what size pack you need, find one that fits you.  Packs are sized according to torso length.  To measure your torso length, have a person go to the base of your neck and find the top vertebrae or bone sticking out.  It will be sticking out further than the rest and should be just below the neck.  This is where you will place the end of a measuring tape.  Then put your hands on your hips and find the top of your hip bones.  Again these should be the part that sticks out the most.  Put your hands in such a way so that your thumbs are on your back and pointing toward each other.  Then your friend will take the tape down your back and draw a line from one thumb to the other.  The distance from your top vertebrae to that line is your torso length.  (A picture is worth a thousand words.  Hopefully the picture will help you.)

Manufacturer’s Sizes:

  • Extra Small: Less than 16”
  • Small: 16” to 18”
  • Medium: 18” to 20”
  • Large: More than 20”

Some packs do not come in different sizes, but the straps and support structure are adjustable to multiple torso lengths.

Most backpacks belts have a large range of adjustments for waist size, but it helps to know your size before you look at backpacks.  Some backpacks even have multiple belt options, so if the one that is on it is too big or small, it can be taken off and an appropriate sized belt put on.

Hey, What’s The Big Idea?:

We had to go through all of that just to get to the good part, trying on the outdoor backpack.  The big idea is weight distribution.  Your hips should be holding approximately 80% of the weight of the pack.  Your shoulders should hold the rest.

You want to try on many different models and manufacturer’s backpacks to find the right one.  It should be comfortable when empty, but also when loaded.  Adjustments should be made to all of the straps in order for a good fit.

Straps, Belts and Lifters, Oh My:

There are many items to adjust the fit of a backpack to get it feeling comfortable:

  • Hip Belt: Make sure the hip belt is resting on the hip bones.  A good hip belt will be well padded and adjustable.  Some hip belts can be (after the pack is purchased) form fitted to your body.
  • Shoulder Straps: They should be resting on the middle of your shoulders.  Not too close to the neck (or this could cause strain).  Not too far out to the arms or the shoulders will not be carrying enough of the weight.
  • Sternum Strap: This is a strap that is attached to the shoulder straps at chest level and connects the two shoulder straps together.  It helps by keeping the shoulder straps in place while moving around a lot.
  • Load Lifters: These are straps that connect to your shoulder straps and further up the pack to help position the load onto your shoulders.
  • Stabilizer Straps: These are located on the hip belt and help pull the load toward your body to stabilize it.

You can adjust all of these items to increase the comfort of the outdoor backpack.  You will also want to make adjustments while on the trail.

The Grand Finale:

A good salesman will help you try on the packs and also help with adjustments.  After you find a few packs that fit you well when they are empty, load them up and try them on again.  Many stores will have weighted bags that they can fill the backpacks with in order to simulate what you will feel on the trail.  Try on all of these again with the weight and adjust them to find the best fit.

Now on to Part 3 which talks about the options and features available

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