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Fit n Fill

How to find the right pack for your back

Published online: Apr 30, 2022 Articles, East Idaho Outdoors, Lifestyle, Outdoors Kris Millgate
Viewed 306 time(s)

Sore. Ache. Hurt. Wearing a backpack should not make you experience any of those painful feelings, but it often does. Sore necks, aching shoulders and hurt hips are common complaints on multi-day pack trips. Those complaints are easy to remedy once you know how to avoid wrong sizing and poor packing. 

“Buy a backpack in the same way you buy a shoe. You’re not just carrying it. You’re wearing it,” says Matt Connors, Gregory Mountain Products product line manager. “There’s a specific size that matches your skeleton like a shoe matches the length of your foot.” 

This is how to properly fit and fill your pack before you put it on your back. 


Proper pack fit requires body measurements and budget assessment.

Body Measurements:

The first measurement you need is torso. That’s your spine from the largest bump on the back of your neck to the top edge of your hip. Average torso length is 18 inches. That’s a size M (medium) pack for men and women. Custom adjust S, M and L packs to your exact inches after you choose the general size. 

Next, hip belt. It should be parallel to the skeleton for men and angled for women. It should touch your trunk one inch above your hip bone for both men and women and it should close in front with 6 to 8 inches between ends. 

The sternum strap clips above, not across, the chest on women. Wear snug but not cinched on both men and women. Cinching too tight reduces overall performance of the harness and causes problems with shoulder straps which should wrap all the way around shoulders and down to the back. 

Budget Assessment:

The more you spend, the more options you have. A premium pack for $300 is loaded with extras. Adjustable torso length, rotating hip belt, more pockets, extra durable material. When you drop to $200, you drop the extras. A standard multi-day pack is still durable, but offers less adjustments and fewer pockets. If you only have $100 to spend, you’re not spending the night. You’re buying a day pack with minimal features and not enough storage space for overnight trips. 



Put big stuff in the bottom of the bag or main compartment. Big stuff includes sleeping bags and puffy coats. Those create an evenly shaped base for the bottom of your backpack.


Pack the heavy stuff closest to your back. Your tent, water and cooking kit are considered heavy. Those need to be close to your back and above your hips. Putting your sleeping bag in the bottom first, puts the heavy equipment above your hips.


Pack your clothes along both sides of the heavy stuff. Make your light rain jacket the last item added on the side. Put it closer to the top of the pack if a storm rolls in. 


The top of the main compartment is for anything you want access to during the day when your pack is off your back. It’s the last stash in before you close the pack so it’s first out when you open it. Put your lunch and water filter on the top.


A well-made, multi-day pack has a flap that goes over the main compartment. It’s the lid and it usually has a zippered pouch. Anything you need easy access to, without unpacking, goes in the lid. Things like snacks, head lamp and first aid kit go in the lid. There’s usually an attached clip in the lid so you won’t lose your keys.


This is the quickest access place on the pack. Pockets are for things you want to use while the pack is on your back and you’re on the move. Lip balm, protein bars and water bottles stow great in pockets.  


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