How to Choose and Fit a Backpack

Fitting a backpack
Nothing is worse than hitting the trail only to realize you’re stuck with an uncomfortable backpack. Chafing straps, poor padding, and no adjustability can make an exciting trail experience feel like a chore.

That’s why finding the perfect backpack fit for you is so important before ever going outside.

Whether you’re hiking in the wilderness or commuting through the city, there are a few steps to take to make sure you choose the right fit for you.

Unlike outdoor clothes and shoes, you only need two measurements to fit a backpack: your torso length and hip circumference.

To measure your torso length, follow these simple steps:
  • Stand upright with your chin slightly down
  • Locate your C7 vertebrae, that bony bump at the base of your neck
  • Standing up straight, place your hands on your hips and feel for your iliac crest. This is the bone that protrudes on the side of your waist)
  • Measure the distance between these two points. It helps to have a measuring ribbon and some extra help for this step.

If you’re planning on carrying heavy loads long distances, look for a pack with a hip belt. This strap helps distribute weight in the pack more evenly by placing the load on your hips instead of squarely on your shoulders.

Here’s how to properly fit a hip belt:
  • Find the bony area on either side of your hips, this is your iliac crest where the hip belt should sit.
  • Using a measuring ribbon, measure the circumference of your hips.
  • Most packs have adjustable hip belts, so be sure to find a pack that measures within your range.
Your hip belt should fit snugly, but not too tight. Try sliding a finger or two between the straps to ensure you have enough room to move.

Along with fitting your torso length and hip belt, there are a few other tips for fitting your new pack.
  • Adjustable straps and components: When looking for a new backpack, check for adjustable shoulder straps and hip belts. This lets you fine-tune your pack’s fit according to your body shape and carrying load.
  • Load capacity: Consider how you’ll be using this backpack. The pack you bring with you to tackle the Appalachian Trail will need much more room than the pack you bring for a local hike. That said, overpacking can leave you stuck with a heavier load and more strain than necessary.
The outdoors is more accessible and enjoyable with the right backpack. By measuring your torso length, and hip belt, and finding the right fit for your body, you’ll be able to travel further with everything you need.