Adjustable Torso Length Backpacks 101

There are two kinds of backpacks you can buy – ones with fixed length torsos and one with adjustable length torsos. Fixed length packs tend to be a little lighter weight than packs with adjustable lengths, but they either fit you or they don’t. Adjustable length backpacks can be sized to fit your exact torso length and are much better for beginning hikers because you can dial in the exact torso length you need and experiment with different lengths to learn what feels best.

Backpacks with Adjustable Length Torso Sizes

When you adjust the torso length of an adjustable frame backpack, you’re increasing or decreasing the distance between the shoulder harness from the hip belt. The goal is to adjust the torso length so that most of the weight in the pack is carried by your hips and not your shoulders. If the distance between your shoulder straps and your hip belt is too short, you’ll feel the weight on your shoulders, it will be uncomfortable, and it will quickly fatigue you. If the distance between your shoulder straps and your hip belt is too long, your backpack will pull you backward and off-balance.

Different backpack manufacturers have different adjustable frame systems but they all do the same thing.  For example, Granite Gear uses the slots in the plastic framesheet (above) to raise or lower the point where the shoulder straps connect to the backpack’s frame behind your shoulders. Other backpack manufacturers like Osprey (below), use a velcro-based “rip and stick” system that lets you slide the shoulder straps up or down the back panel of your pack, but is much easier to adjust. The advantage of these rip and stick adjustment system is that you can dial in your exact fit even if it’s between sizes, usually measured in one-inch increments. This can matter a lot.

Osprey Kestrel 28 - Back
Osprey Airscape Adjustable Torso Length Frame

Best Backpacks with Adjustable Torso Lengths

Most backpack manufacturers make backpacks that have adjustable frame systems, but Osprey is by has the best available selection by a long shot the manufacturer with the best selection of adjustable internal frame backpacks based on volume, features, pack weight, and price is by far Osprey Packs. Deuter, REI, Gregory, and Granite Gear also make excellent backpacks with adjustable internal frames but they don’t have the variety that Osprey offers.

If you’re looking for a good multi-day backpack with an adjustable length torso, I recommend the following men’s and women’s models.

Men's ModelWeightWomen's Model
Osprey Atmos AG 654 lbs 9 ozOsprey Aura AG 65
Osprey Exos 582 lbs 10 ozOsprey Eja 58
Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 601 lbs 3.6 ozUnisex-only
Gregory Paragon 583 lbs 8 ozGregory Maven 55
REI Trailbreak 603 lbs 13 ozREI Trailbreak 60
Six Moon Designs Flight X2 lbs 4 ozUnisex-only
Granite Gear Blaze 603 lbsGranite Gear Blaze 60
Osprey Kestrel 483 lbs 9 ozOsprey Kyte 46
Gregory Zulu 653 lbs 11 ozGregory Jade 63
Elemental Horizons Aquilo 752 lbs 13 ozElemental Horizons Aquilo 75

Another popular option, especially for kids, scouts, and small adults, is to buy a backpack with an adjustable external frame. Kelty has the best selection available for this style of pack.

Adjustable Length Backpacks: Pros and Cons

If you are a new hiker or backpacker, buying an adjustable frame backpack is a safe way to ensure that you get a backpack that fits you and is comfortable. These packs are very reliable, durable, and can carry heavy loads if you need them to. The only downside to adjustable length frame backpacks is that they can be a bit on the heavy side (over 3.5 pounds) if you need a higher volume model over 60L in capacity. If you need a backpack bigger than 60L, I’d advise you to find the lightest weight backpack that will fit your body type and size. Some adjustable length frame backpacks are unnecessarily heavy (7-8 pounds) and there are lighter-weight alternatives available that will likely meet your needs.

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About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 8500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 3000 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its backpacking gear reviews and hiking FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip has hiked all 650+ trails in the White Mountains twice and has completed 9 rounds of the 48 peaks on the White Mountains 4000 footer list with over 510 summits in all four seasons. He is also the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire. Click here to subscribe to the SectionHiker newsletter.

 

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