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Adjustable Torso Backpacks 101

Adjustable Torso Backpacks

There are two kinds of backpacks you can buy – ones with fixed torso lengths and one with adjustable torso lengths. Fixed torso length packs tend to be a little lighter weight than packs with adjustable torso lengths, but they either fit you or they don’t. Backpacks with adjustable frame systems can be sized to fit your exact torso length.

Backpacks with Adjustable 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, 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 backwards 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 let’s you slide the shoulder straps up or down the back panel of your pack, but is much easier to adjust.

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 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, and Granite Gear also make excellent backpacks with adjustable internal frames.

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.

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 Torso 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 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 frame  backpacks are unnecessarily heavy (7-8 pounds) and there are lighter weight alternatives available that will likely meet your needs.

Updated 2018.

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One comment

  1. Maybe it’s a two pack world. Probably 95% of new backpackers will only do a night or two on the trail at a time. Consider starting with less than 40 liters (eg 5 gallon bucket) and work up. Something like a one-size-fits-all DIY G4, Zimmerbuilt Quickstep, zpacks zero, or the like, would be a good start. Once the trail days and weight adds up to 3-+… or over low teens/lb, or the season changes from summer to winter, a better riding adjustable pack would be in order.

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