How to choose a Backpack for the Right Fit

How to choose a Backpack for the Right Fit

By: Melanie Gagon

When I was a beginner hiker I felt overwhelmed with all of the different outdoor products on the market. There are hundreds of hiking backpacks to choose from so choosing the right pack can feel like a daunting task. I randomly picked a rope sling pack I thought looked cool and quickly found out that for serious hiking it wasn’t practical at all. Nothing is worse than when you aren’t even halfway through your hike and your body aches and your shoulders hurt from having the wrong pack, or not having it adjusted properly. I’ve tried different styles and brands over the years and I’ve learned what I like and don’t like about certain packs and have found the ones that I love. I have a day pack that I use for hikes without my kids and I have a child carrier to use with my kids when we go on family hikes. So when you are looking to buy a pack also take into consideration your specific needs and what you will be using it for.

One of the most important things to consider is going to be comfortably carrying all of your supplies you will need on your back. Being able to carry all of your necessities is one thing, but doing it comfortably is a must! One important thing to note is that If you do get blisters or bruises your pack either is not adjusted properly or you’re carrying too much weight. You shouldn’t get blisters from a pack that is fitted right. Since everybody is different, different packs will work and fit differently for each person. Definitely pick a pack that works for your body and don’t sacrifice comfort for style. Let’s walk through how to measure your body to find the perfect pack for you! Whether you are looking for a backpack for day hiking, or a multi-day framed backpacking pack...measuring your body and adjusting your pack will be the same.

A hiker is wearing a TETON Sports backpack near a desert landscape.

How to Measure Your Body

Some packs are adjustable for torso length so it fits people for different heights, but if you’re looking at one that isn’t you will need to find your torso length first.

Find the bump on the top of your spine and the bump on the top of your hip bone and measure that distance. That length should tell you what size you are; S, M, L, XL.

A hiker is wearing a TETON Sports backpack near a desert landscape.

Adjusting the Pack

Make sure to put some weight in your pack when adjusting it, so you will know how it feels when you are actually using it.

  • The first thing you want to tighten is your hip straps. Make sure your hip straps fall on your hips (not your waist) so feel for the top curve of your hip bone and place your pads right over that. The hip strap should be tight, but not too uncomfortable. This will help keep the majority of the weight distributed to your legs instead of pulling on your shoulders.
  • Next you’re going to tighten the shoulder straps so the pack hugs your shoulders. Pull down and back on the ends of the shoulder straps to tighten them. The shoulder straps should fit closely to hold the pack body against your back.
  • Once you have your hip straps and shoulder straps tightened you’re going to pull down on the load lifters so your pack sits level (you don’t want it to be leaning back.) To do this angle the straps to a 45 degree angle and tighten.
  • Last is the chest strap, tighten this so there is a little tension but it isn’t pulling against your chest. This strap should fall about 2 inches below your collarbone. To measure this distance I do about three finger lengths.

A diagram showing a female hiker wearing a TETON Sports backpack with instructions on adjusting the straps.

A good pack should last for years, so it’s definitely something worth investing in! Once you’ve found the right pack and it’s adjusted properly you’re ready to hit the trails! Happy adventuring!

About the Author: Melanie Gagon

Melanie was born and raised in Utah and has been exploring the outdoors and going on adventures with her family for years. She has a BA in American Literature and a passion for writing. She’s a mother of two energetic boys that love the mountains and Utah desert just as much as she does. Her and her husband enjoy the simple life and love raising their family in the wild outdoors.