Buying basics: Backpacks

It is important to purchase the correct backpack — one that fits both you and the intended usage. Here is how to make sure a pack is right for you.

How to make sure a pack is right for you


If your pack doesn’t fit just right, it will bug you every time you shoulder it. The key to a good fit is investing extra time while shopping.

1. Despite what some people say, size matters. Make sure you get what you need:

  • Gear-intensive day trips to short weekend hikes: 40 to 60 litres

  • Weekend to lightweight week-long trips: 60 to 75 litres

  • Gear-intensive multi-day trips to full-on expeditions: 80 litres plus

2. Measure your spine length, from a spot in line with the top of your hip bone to the bump at the base of your neck. Check the in-store chart for the appropriate pack size.

3. To get a good idea of how the pack will feel on the trail, borrow some gear from the store and fill it up. Loosen all the straps and put the pack on. Tighten the hipbelt and shoulder straps first, then the hip and shoulder stabilizing straps.

Now, go for a walk. The hipbelt should sit on your hip crest, not your waist, and the pack’s weight should rest on your hips. Straps should have room for adjustment. The shoulder straps should come down from the pack by no more than 45 degrees. And the whole package should be comfortable.

4. Try swapping out shoulder straps and hipbelts if possible.

5. Try a few different models and ditch any that aren’t comfortable. Any pain in the store will only get worse on the trail.