How to Size and Fit Your Backpack for all of Your Hiking and Backpacking Adventures

If you are looking for the best backpacking pack, learning how to size and fit your backpack is so important to guarantee the best ergonomics and a more comfortable backpacking experience. Below, we're going to talk about how to measure your torso length to find the right pack size for your body, and how to adjust the for different kinds of straps to distribute the weight properly.

If you prefer visuals, you can check out the Alpine Diva/Alpine Sisters YouTube channel here:

Determining What Size Backpack You need

Choosing the right size backpack is so important both for your comfort and for protecting your spine and body from injury. The first step is to determine what size backpack you need.

With a tape measure, you are going to measure your torso length. There are two points you’re going to measure from: the center of your iliac crest, and your C7 Vertebrae. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that terminology:

To find your iliac crest, first put your hands on top of your hip bones. Imagine a line from your hands to the center of your spine. That’s your first measuring point.


To find your C7 vertebrae, you’ll start by putting your chin down. Notice the part of your spine that sticks out—that’s your C7 vertebrae.

Now measure the length from these two points.


Backpacks have torso length ranges, so buy one that falls into your torso length range.

How to Fit a Backpack

Once you have the right size pack, put it on with about 20 lbs. in it and adjust the straps.

First is your hip belt: center the padding of your hip belt onto your hip bones. Once you fasten the belt, you can tighten it (pretty tight!) so that the vast majority of your pack weight is being carried by your legs, not your shoulders.

Second are your shoulder straps: tighten these so that the pack is snug against your body, but not too tight that it impedes on your movement or alters your posture.

Next are the load lifters: tighten them to bring the top of your pack closer to your body, which will help you stay balanced.

Finally, the sternum strap: tighten this just a little to help remove weight from your shoulders, but not so tight that you hunch.

Once the backpack is fully adjusted, you’re ready to hike! With a little bit of practice, you should be able to adjust these four straps relatively quickly.

If you're looking for a new backpack, check out our curated Backpacking Collection.

Happy trails!

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