Sizing Guide for Backpacks
By Steve Kopitz
Backpacking is a fun and exciting activity that will reward participants with serenity and beautiful views but these trips can also be difficult especially with an ill fitting backpack. Those prepared with a properly fitted backpack will have much more comfort and will be much safer while backpacking.
There are a few key things to measure and be mindful of when purchasing a new backpack. Here we will cover backpack frame size, hip size and torso size. Also we will cover how to determine hip size and torso size as well as general adjustments that you will want to make once you get your backpack.
Correctly Find Your Torso Length
This is the first step to selecting the proper size backpack. Backpacks don’t care how tall you are, they simply care about the length of your torso. There are some simple steps to determine your torso size but you will need to enlist the help of another.
Step 1- You will need to locate your C7 which is your 7th cervical vertebrae. To do this; tilt your head forward and have a friend feel for a bony bump that can be located where your shoulders meet your neck and will be protruding the farthest from the spine.
Step 2- Starting at the C7, which you just found in step 1, measure downward along the spine with a flexible tape measure.
Step 3- Now that you have your flexible tape you need a spot to measure to. You will be looking for the iliac crest; to find this spot you must run your fingers down the sides of your rib cage until you reach the first hard spot which is your hip bone. Place your hands on top of this area and point your thumbs behind you.
Step 4- Now follow an imaginary line between your thumbs to where they meet in the middle. Have a friend measure to this intersection point from your C7 which we found in step 1. Once finished note this measurement as you just found your torso length, congratulations!
Step 5- Keep this measurement handy as we continue on in this backpack sizing guide to get the proper size frame and backpack.
Correctly Choosing Backpack Frame Size
With the hard part of measuring your torso size out of the way here comes the easy part of actually choosing the correct backpack frame size. The following sizing is not going to be 100% accurate for every brand but will give a good reference to rough sizing. Each size can be adjusted slightly to fit a smaller or larger torso close to the size listed.
• Extra Small- Up to 15 ½ inches tall (39cm)
• Small- 16-17 ½ inches tall (40-45cm)
• Medium/Regular- 18-19 ½ inches tall (46-50cm)
• Large/Tall- 20 inches plus (51cm+)
Correctly Determining Your Hip Size
This measurement is to be used in determining the proper size hip belt. These belts are interchangeable and offered in several different sizes.
To measure properly you will need a flexible tape measure; wrap a flexible measuring tape around the top of your hips at your latitude line where you can feel your iliac crest. A backpacks hip belt should straddle your iliac crest sitting roughly an inch above or below your latitude line giving you your hip size.
• Small- 22-27” hip line (56-69cm)
• Medium- 28-34” hip line (70-87cm)
• Large- 35-39” hip line (88-100cm)
• X-Large- 40-45” hip line (101-114cm)
Adjusting Your Backpack
Before adjusting your backpacks straps you will want to have your backpack packed up as it will be when in full use. Start out with all the straps loosened up so you can easily tighten them to the correct length.
Hip Belt: The hip belt is to be securely tightened around your body until the belt is cupping your hips. Once clipped you want to tighten the straps evenly keeping a 1 inch on both sides of the buckle. Properly adjusting the hip strap is imperative as your hips should hold up to 90% of the backpacks weight.
Shoulder Straps: Backpack shoulder straps should be tightened until the pack is tightly fit to your body. These straps are designed to hold the pack against your body and will need to be quite snug for the proper support and weight distribution.
Load Lifters: Load lifters are located just above your collarbone and attach the top of the backpack to the shoulder straps. These straps will need to be adjusted until snug and you can feel some of the weight of the backpack being alleviated.
Sternum Strap: The sternum strap is a small but very important piece on a backpack. This strap is located on the chest and its purpose is to keep your shoulder straps from slipping off. This will need to be adjusted until comfortably tight while pulling the straps in.
Stabilizer Straps: Not all packs offer stabilizer straps; they are found on the bottom near the hip belt. To adjust you will want to evenly pull the straps forward into your body to securely stabilize the load.
Now your backpack should be adjusted properly!
As you can see there is a bit more to selecting and sizing a backpack than most would think. With the help of this guide and taking measurements this process can be stress free and painless. For any backpack sizing questions left unanswered please contact our customer service or simply leave your question as a comment on this guide. Happy backpacking!