How to measure your torso for a backpack?

Ever had problems getting a backpack to fit properly?

I know that I have.

It’s actually a really common problem – with a simple solution!

That’s why I created this guide on how to measure your torso for a backpack. The next time you go to the store you’ll know exactly what you’re doing and feel like a real pro!  

How to measure your torso for a backpack

The nightmare of a poorly-fitted backpack

Imagine you’re walking through a store looking for a backpack. Nothing draws your attention until you finally set eyes on the perfect backpack! This one is exactly what you’ve been looking for. So you don’t think twice before buying it. Everyone will feel jealous when they see you wearing it.

You go back home, throw some stuff inside your new backpack, and decide to give it another try. 

That’s when all the excitement starts to fade away. Something just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t fit properly. 

After a few moments, you realize this isn’t really the perfect backpack for you. It’s simply the wrong torso size! Imagine how disappointed you’d feel. 

I don’t want this to happen to you.  

Let’s fix this problem:

How to size a backpack?

Before you start messing with all the straps of the backpack, you have to make sure that it’s actually the perfect size for you. 

While it’s true that straps help you adjust the backpack, they still have limited range. In some cases, the backpack will not fit your body size even when it has adjustable straps.

1- Average torso length

The average male torso length with backpacks usually falls between 17 and 21 inches. As for women, the average torso length is between 14 and 18 inches. This range may vary dramatically though as we’re all different. 

Height isn’t necessarily an important factor. You could be short and still have a torso length that’s more than average. Or you could be a tall person with a short torso and long legs. So when it comes to backpacks, the only important measurement is the length of your torso. 

But how do you actually measure it?

2- How to measure your torso length?

Your torso length is the distance from your 7th cervical vertebrae (c7), down to the top of the iliac crest. As complicated as this may seem, measuring the torso length is actually pretty easy. It can get even easier if you have someone helping you. 

First, you need to stand upright and lower your chin towards your chest. 

Doing this will make a vertebra stand out around the base of your neck. That’s where the C7 is, you can’t miss it! 

As for the iliac crest, it’s the top of your hip bone.

Second, get a flexible table measure and start following the contours of your spine from the c7 down to the iliac crest. 

Now that you have your torso length measurement, what’s the backpack size that’s right for you?

3- Which backpack size to choose?

In most cases, 14 inches is an XS backpack, S is 16 inches, 18 inches is M, and 20 inches is L.

However, this may vary from one brand to another. Therefore, it’s best if you go to a store in order to test the backpack. 

Most stores have sandbags that you can put in the backpack. This will allow you to give the backpack a real test with some weight on.

Now that you have the right backpack for your torso size, you can start adjusting the straps to make it fit perfectly. 

How to adjust the Backpack for Your Body

Adjusting the straps will help you optimize your backpack for maximum comfort and support. You should adjust the straps whenever you put your backpack on.

Start with all the straps loose and follow these steps:

Step 1:

Loosen all the straps and wear your backpack.

Step 2:

Fasten the waist belt then adjust the position in such a way that the padding rests on top of your hip bones.

In order to get the right height, you can adjust the shoulder straps as well. 

Keep tightening and loosening the waist belt until you finally feel it’s secure enough, but comfortable at the same time and doesn’t pinch you.

Step 3:

Start adjusting the shoulder straps. Tighten them so that they hug your upper back and shoulders closely. 

Make sure you don’t tighten them too much otherwise they’ll start pinching your armpits. In addition, making the straps tighter than necessary can make all the weight fall on your back and shoulders. This will hurt your muscles and you’ll end up with a severe back or neck pain.

Step 4:

Move on to the load-lifter straps. Tighten them in order to bring the upper part of your backpack a little closer to your back. 

If the shoulder straps start pinching your shoulders or armpits, you probably tightened the load-lifter straps too much.

The load-lifter straps shouldn’t be loose. But same as all the other straps on your backpack, you shouldn’t over tighten them to the point that it’s uncomfortable.

Step 5:

Finally, it’s time to put on the sternum strap. Its purpose is to reduce the stress on the shoulders and to prevent the shoulder straps from slipping out of place.

Adjust it so that it pulls the shoulder straps a little closer together. Make sure you’re breathing normally and the strap isn’t too tight on your chest.

On the trail

You bought the amazing backpack, you adjusted it to fit your body perfectly, and now you’re on the move. Here are a few more tips to make your backpacking trip an enjoyable and comfortable experience:

  • The weight carried in your backpack will shift your center of gravity slightly backward. Therefore, try to lean forward a little in order to keep balance while trekking. Don’t lean forward too much though or you’ll end up having all the weight fall on your back.
  • Take a break from time to time when you’re on the trail. During these breaks, make sure you take your backpack off. Stretch out a little and let your muscles relax.
  • If your shoulders start to hurt from the weight, loosen the shoulder straps a little and tighten the waist belt slightly in order to shift more weight onto it. 

Final thoughts

I hope this guide will make it easier for you to measure your torso length and choose the perfect backpack

Don’t forget that your main goal is to make your backpacking trip an unforgettable experience. The last thing you want is to end up with back or neck pain.

So make sure that your backpack fits perfectly, and that you can wear it and walk for more than one hour and still be comfortable.

Thanks for reading. If you have any more tips, or if there’s something I missed in this guide, please let me know in the comments below! 


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