Have you ever wondered how to properly size and fit a backpack? Purchasing a new backpacking pack can help you get in more miles and enjoy your outdoor adventures with much more comfort than a traditional pack. However, this is only possible if your pack fits correctly.

Determining your torso length and hip size is key to purchasing a backpack that is right for you. Each person is unique, and you may find that someone the same height as you needs a different sized pack. Your torso lengths may vary enough to mean the difference between two sizes.

Below, you'll find a short video and checklist that explain how to measure yourself for a backpack and check its fit. We'll also provide a few additional resources to help keep you hiking toward happy trails ahead!

How to Size and Fit a Backpack: Video

Check out our quick, two-minute video for clear steps and visuals on how to size your next Gossamer Gear pack. A transcript for the video is available directly through YouTube.

How to Size and Fit a Backpack: Step-by-Step

The traditional way to size yourself for a pack is to measure your torso length. To do so:

  1. Get a soft measuring tape or piece of string.
  2. Locate your C7 vertebra by bending your head forward and feeling for the first bump along the back of your neck.
  3. Locate your iliac crest by cupping your hip bones on both sides and finding the center point on your spine, where your thumbs should be pointing.
  4. Use your string to measure from your C7 vertebra down to the midpoint between your iliac crest.

To measure yourself for a hip belt, wrap a soft measuring tape or piece of string around the top of your iliac crest, where the top third of the hip belt should rest.

Tips to Ensure a Comfortable Backpack Fit

Each of the product pages for Gossamer Gear's backpacks includes a link to our sizing guide. This page will show you the suggested torso lengths, typical heights, and waist sizes for each of our pack and hip belt sizes.

These are the general torso measurements that fit with each of our backpack sizes:

  • Small: 11.5" to 15.5" - Generally fits people 5' 6" and under
  • Medium: 15.5" to 19.5" - Generally fits people 5' 5" to 6'
  • Large: 19.5" to 23.5" - Generally fits people 6' and up

These are the general waist measurements that fit with each of our hip belt sizes (note: packs typically come with a medium belt; other sizes are sold separately):

  • Small: 22" to 32"
  • Medium: 28" to 45" 
  • Large: 32" to 50"

To check your pack for a proper fit, it's important to load it with about the same weight you would while hiking and notice the angle of your shoulder straps at the top of your shoulder. They should be level width or comfortably wrapped around the top of your neck for a correct fit:

  • Too high and the straps may pinch your neck.
  • Too low and you might not get proper weight transfer to the belt.

If you think you're between sizes, the best thing to do is to order both sizes so you can compare and dial in your preferred fit.

Remember, these are just general guidelines. Use your best judgment and feel it out with your body to find a pack that will fit you comfortably for miles to come.

Gorilla 50

Take Your Well-Fitted Backpack for a Hike 

Now that you know how to properly size and fit a backpacking pack, it's time to hit the trail!

Make sure to check out some of our other resources on the Light Feet blog for help choosing which pack is right for you, reducing condensation in your tent, and much more:

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July 20, 2015 — Gossamer Gear