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Backpack Sizing - Is There a "Close Enough" Zone

I'm in need of a new backpack and have a quick question about sizing.

I've measured my torso and it comes in at 21½".  Most of the packs I am looking at are adjustable up to 21". Normally, I'd say that the extra ½" of my torso length isn't a problem but since I'd be adjusting the pack to its maximum allowed length, would I be better off looking for a pack that adjusts to 22" (which narrows my choices) or am I overthinking this?

 

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“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.
9 Replies

Good question and I don't know the answer.  If you can, try out a 21" pack and one adjusted precisely.  Fit is everything, especially with heavier weights.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

"Close enough" only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.....

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@Dad_Aint_Hip  Good question - I too have had a similar dilemma. For my smaller packs (day packs, hydration) I have gone with "close enough." For my long-haul packs (65 L and up) I have gone for the precise fit. My torso is around 21 1/2, and the Osprey Atmos (65 L), Large, 20-23 inches, fits and hauls like a dream. Likewise, for bigger loads, I have used the Kelty Coyote 85 which, although not as high-end as Osprey (or other brands) has a great fit with its "Fit Pro technology," which is basically two straps that slide everything into place. Ultimately the only way you are going to know if the pack fits is to go to the shop and try it on. Have them load you down with 10 lbs or so, walk around the shop and see how it feels. 

Happy trails!

@Dad_Aint_Hip  IDK either. 
All I can say is, when I went in for a fitting, and changed sizes, it was like a load being lifted off my shoulders! (Sorry)

They gave me a smaller size And I couldn’t believe how good it felt! However I just couldn’t believe that I took a size lower and went back for a double check and sure enough they said I had the right size and oh my gosh it made so much difference, for the better!

REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes

@Dad_Aint_Hip Great question!

As several others have pointed out, the correct answer is 'it depends'. It depends on the weight you are carrying, suspension system in the backpack, and how well the pack fits the rest of you (hip belt and frame shape). Generally speaking, you will likely be fine with a pack that is built for a 21" torso. One thing you'll want to pay attention to is the load stabilizer straps and whether they are coming in at a 45° angle to the pack when it is on you and filled with a bit of weight. There is a good photo of this in the Expert Advice article, How to size and fit a backpack.  If they are too low, that could be an indicator of an improper fit and may lead to discomfort on the trail. Your best bet is to try the pack on and help get fitted by a pack fitting expert. It is much easier for them to examine the pack and how it fits your body when you are wearing it than it is to do it yourself in the mirror!

Out of curiosity, which packs are you looking at? That could also help us advise as well.

Hopefully this helps, thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.
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It is going to depend on the pack and getting fitted is best. Whether you are over thinking it depends on how much you are going to spend, what that amount of money means to you, how convenient it is for you to return the pack to REI (assuming you buy from them) if it is a disaster fit wise and how sensitive you are about comfort.  For some it's a big deal and makes or breaks their day/trip.   For others it is no big deal.  It is probably more critical to get a "perfect" fit if you typically carry a heavy load. 

Whether 1/2 an inch matters is debatable because a torso measurement...particularly one you do yourself isn't that accurate and because sized packs usually cover a 2 inch range.  Packs that can be adjusted over the full range are likely to be less comfortable at the extremes than packs that are sized and only have minimal or no torso adjustment within that size.  That is partly why both kinds exist.  The key word is "likely".  A pack that works for me might not work for you and if you are between sizes then you may find that either sizing up or sizing down is more comfortable...or you may find that pack just doesn't work for you or a full  adjustable works better.  My daughter had to get refitted and the pack was exchanged for different size after she used it for a couple of times with a full load and found the original size was uncomfortable.  

Based on that since you are at the upper end of a typical Large torso size, if you can't be fitted  I would probably start with a Large torso size pack over a fully adjustable one. 

As an example, one of the most comfortable packs for carrying heavy loads is the Gregory Baltoro 85.  I'm not necessarily recommending this pack for you.  I'm just using it as an example I am familiar with.  It comes in torso sizes of...

S: 16 - 18 inches
M: 18 - 20 inches
L: 20 - 22 inches

Within those sizes there are two positions where the shoulder straps can attach which means that each position covers nominally 1 inch.  Now that pack allows you to switch out the shoulder straps or the belt for S, M or L  which can fine tune it to your anatomy but for most,  the standard size shoulder straps and belt work fine.

My torso is 19 inches and I use a older generation Baltoro 70 M which I have set to the shorter torso setting.  At that time Gregory gave the Medium size as 18-19.5 with the large starting at 20 so in theory the longer setting should fit me better.   However I found that after a day or so the longer setting pinched something in my neck which immediately went away when I changed to the shorter one.  Since then I have found it to be consistently comfortable all day, fit wise, carrying 40+ # loads...ymmv 

 

 

 

@OldGuyot  Great analysis 

REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes
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Close enough should only be used in small day packs.  As you use larger packs, where and how the belt fits, directly impacts your carry of weight and comfort.  especially when you consider multi-day or thru-hiking. 

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.
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Thank you, everyone! And @OldGuyot  - that was a really helpful write up!

I definitely will take advantage of an in-store fitting. After all, to have that resource and not take advantage of it would be sheer stupidity on  my part. Just another reason I am a member of REI.

But, still, I am an avowed spec-jockey - the guy who loves to research and pour over gear specifications to get a sense of what each item provides and doesn't. And it was during this that I came up with the question.

@REI-JohnJ  As for the types of packs, I am leaning heavily toward either Deuter or Gregory. I really would like to stay around the $225 mark (give or take a bit either way). Since I am primarily going to be going on weekenders and the occasional long-weekend (4 day, 3 nights), I'm looking at 55-65L packs so those two brands are within my budget.

Of course, I am open to other quality packs (including the REI-branded packs).

As always, thanks for the answers!

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“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.
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