Regardless of the brand, size, colour or material, the best backpack for you is one that fits. Most people think that the size of the backpack you need corresponds with your height, but this is not actually true. The backpack has to fit your torso length, not your height. As a result, many people end up with backpacks which don’t fit correctly and cause pain and discomfort as a result.


You will need to recruit a friend and grab a tape-measure to take your torso measurement. You can measure your torso by tilting your head forward and finding the C7 vertebra, this is the bony point where your shoulders slope and join your neck. You should be able to feel it when you tilt your head forward. This is the top of your torso.

The bottom of your torso can be found by tracing your ribs down to your hip bone. The point where the hip bone starts is caused the iliac crest, this is the bottom of your torso. If you draw a line across your back at the point where this occurs, your mate can measure the distance between the C7 and the line across your back where the iliac crest lies. This number is the length of your torso. When shopping for backpacks, make sure you buy a backpack which matches your torso length.


The correct torso length should be sufficient, but it is worth checking your hip size as well as this is where you will carry the weight of the pack. The hip size is not the same as your waist size. You wear your trousers and jeans lower than your backpack so knowing your waist size is not enough.

To measure your hip size, find the iliac crest like you did when measuring the torso size. Wrap the tape measure around you, staying on this line. This is your hip measurement, check it against the backpack size you are buying, and if you need to change the hip belt size, ask the manufacturer or retail store to see if they can adjust it.


Many modern backpacks feature an adjustable torso feature which allows you to change the suspension according to your torso size. If your backpack is giving you trouble and causing you pain, your first port of call should be to adjust the torso size. If it continues to cause you back pain, take it to a store, they should be able to reset the suspension system and set your pack to your torso measurements for you.


When you get a brand-new backpack from the manufacturer, presumably you will have ordered a backpack which fits your sizes, but you will need to set it up to match your measurements. The hip belt, shoulder straps, load lifters and sternum strap all need to be set to your measurements.

Start with around 15 kg of weight in the pack to simulate your load. Set the hip belt by putting the pack on and ensuring the hip belt sits across the iliac crest. If it is too high or low, adjust the shoulder straps accordingly. When you fasten the buckle, you should have at least an inch of clearance either side of the buckle. If not you need to change the hip belt for a smaller or larger size.

The load lifter straps connect the shoulder harness to the back panel of the backpack. These should be set to a 45-degree angle. If you have less or more than this you will be putting pressure on your shoulders.

The sternum strap should be set at a width which maintains total movement of your arms. If you tighten it too much it will disrupt the total fit of the backpack, so ensure the movement is not restricted, but don’t over tighten.


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John Steele

John loves cooking at home and outdoors, travelling, fishing and discovering a new life. He's got loads of experience he wants to share while he adventures through retirement.