Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Get right fitting backpack for your day hike

A good-fitting backpack first requires that you know your torso size.
Photo courtesy of dreamstime.
When purchasing a backpack, you’ll need to find the right size. Known as fit, it's typically measured by your torso size, or in inches; some companies will generalize the torso sizes and list them as small-medium-large.

To determine your torso size, you'll need a tape measure and someone who can take the measurement for you. Measure your back from the vertebrae at the neck’s base to the point in the small of your back that is level with the top of the hipbones. The neck's base is the 7th cervical vertebra and easily can be found simply by tilting your head forward; the vertebra will be a bony bump. The top of the hipbones can be found by placing your hands on your hips; the space between your thumbs and fingers is the spot to measure from.

Once you've measured between those two points, write down the number. While shopping for backpacks, check the backpack tags to determine which ones will be the best fit.

Usually, for men extra small sizes are good for a torso size of up to 15.5 inches. A small fits 16-17.5 inch torsos. Medium or regular is good for 18-19.5 inches. Large or tall fits torsos that are 20 inches and up. Always remember that companies do vary in their sizes, and a small for a man means a something entirely different than a small for a woman.

Always fit yourself for a backpack before buying it. Select one that rides comfortably on your back, that doesn’t chafe, and that doesn’t stress the shoulders and pull on your neck. When fitting it, load it lightly with about 15-20 pounds of gear. Stores usually have pillows and sacks for doing this. Adjust the straps. The shoulder straps should be snug but allow your arms to move freely while the hip belt should rest comfortably on your hipbones. Next, look for padded straps and a padded waist belt for comfort and sewed joints to ensure sturdiness.

If properly sized:
g There will be no gap between the straps and the shoulders, and the load lifter anchor point will be at the collar bone.
g The hip belt will sit over the pelvic bones
g The sternum strap will sit between the chest and collarbone, and it won't slip outward during scrambles uphill. A sternum strap that is too low will restrict chest expansion and hence your breathing.
g The backpack and its parts, when you walk, will not alter your natural posture, balance or movement.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.