10 Best Adjustable Torso-Length Backpacks

10 Best Adjustable Torso-Length Backpacks

Backpacks with adjustable torso lengths let you change the distance between the shoulder straps and the hip belt so that most of the weight rides on your hips, making it easier to carry. Traditionally, backpack companies have dealt with torso length by forcing you to choose one of their fixed length sizes, which may or may not fit you very well. For instance, if the torso length of a backpack is too short, all the weight will ride on your shoulders and make them sore. If it’s too long, the backpack will pull away from your back and throw you off balance. But backpacks with adjustable torso lengths give you the ability to match your exact personal measurements. It’s a lot like owning a custom-made backpack that’s made just for you, without having to pay extra for it.

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

Here are the 10 best adjustable length backpacks we recommend. See the linked reviews for details about each.

1. Osprey Atmos AG 65/Aura AG 65

 

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 is one of the most comfortable backpacks ever made with a ventilated “anti-gravity” suspension system. Featuring a lightweight, yet rigid frame, this 9-pocket top loader has an adjustable torso and hip belt, ensuring a personalized fit. You can adjust the torso length by raising or lowering the shoulder straps to make the hip to shoulder pad distance longer or shorter. The hip belt can also be lengthened a few inches if it’s short by pulling out its side wings. After that, the Atmos AG’s ventilated mesh back panel contours automatically to the body, distributing weight and providing an outstanding fit. A women’s version called the Aura AG 65 is also available. Osprey makes more adjustable length backpacks than any other pack manufacturer. It’s why so many people use their packs. Read our Atmos 65 Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Osprey | REI | Backcountry

2. Osprey Exos 58/Eja 58 Backpack

Osprey Exos 58
The Osprey Packs Exos 58 is a lightweight minimalist pack favored by thru-hikers, section hikers, and weekend backpackers alike. Weighing 2 lbs 10 oz fully configured, it has a rigid frame that makes it good for hauling heavier loads up to 30-35 pounds. The top lid can be removed if not needed, dropping the pack weight close to 2 lbs 5 oz ounces. Ultralight details and back ventilation make the Exos a good backpack for hiking in hot or humid conditions. Read the SectionHiker Exos 58 Review. A women’s model is available called the Osprey Eja 58. Read the SectionHiker Eja 58 Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Osprey | REI | Backcountry

3. Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack

Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60
The Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60L is an ultralight ventilated backpack with a hybrid external frame that lets you adjust the amount of curve and airflow it provides. Made with waterproof and extremely durable woven Ultra 200 and 100 fabric, the 19.6 oz Arc Haul Ultra 60 is a roll-top with side water bottle pockets and a front mesh pocket for external gear storage. The torso length is adjustable by raising and lowering the shoulder pads, while the hip belt is available in multiple lengths. The Arc Haul Ultra can haul up to 30-35 lbs comfortably. While strictly speaking, the Arc Haul is an ultralight backpack, its large 60L capacity makes it a popular choice with lightweight backpackers. Sizing is Unisex, but female-friendly. Read the SectionHiker Arc Haul Ultra 60L Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Zpacks.com

4. Gregory Paragon 58 Backpack

Gregory Paragon 58 Backpack

The Gregory Paragon 58 is a lightweight ventilated backpack designed to fill the void between minimalist ultralight backpacks and the monster-capacity backpacks that Gregory is known for like the Denali 100 or the Baltoro 75. Weighing 3 lbs 8 oz, the Paragon 58 has an adjustable length torso and adjustable length hip belt. The Paragon fits men with a torso length of 15-22 inches and is available in multiple volumes. A women’s version called the Maven 55 is also available. Read our review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry

5. REI Traibreak 60 Backpack

REI Trailbreak 60

The REI Trailbreak 60 Backpack is a multi-day backpack with an adjustable-length torso so you can get a custom-fitting pack that matches your unique size for optimal comfort. The torso length on the Trailbreak 60 can be adjusted by lifting or lowering the shoulder yoke, which is attached to the back of the pack by velcro. When you buy a pack designed to carry heavier loads, this is a must-have. Loaded with pockets and features, the Trailbreak compares quite favorably to the other premium packs in terms of features, pack weight, and price. The women’s-specific version is called the REI Trailbreak 60. Read our Trailbreak 60 review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI

6. Six Moon Designs Swift X

Six Moons Swift X
The Six Moon Designs Swift X is a 45 liter adjustable length backpack that weighs 36 oz. Available in XPac or LiteSkin (which we’d recommend since it’s even more abrasion resistant). It has a durable stretch Lycra front pocket and side water bottle pockets, solid hip belt pockets, and a removable Delrin frame stay. Six Moon Designs is one of the few lightweight pack makers to provide vest-style shoulder straps as an option as well as multiple hip belt lengths so you can dial in a great fit. Read our Swift X backpack review.

Check out the latest price at:
Six Moon Designs

7. Granite Gear Blaze 60 Backpack

Granite Gear Blaze 60

The Granite Gear Blaze 60 is a great multi-day backpack with a roll top-style top, with an optional top lid. The torso length is adjustable by raising the shoulder yoke higher or lower on the frame sheet. The mechanism is quite simple to understand and there’s little chance of the shoulder straps slipping if they’ve been inserted properly. The hip belt length is also fully adjustable, which is a rare feature found on very few backpacks.  A women’s Blaze 60 with gender-specific shoulder straps and a hip belt is also available. Read our Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry

8. Osprey Kestrel 48 Backpack

Osprey Kestrel 48
The Osprey Kestrel 48 is a multi-purpose backpack that’s big enough for weekend backpacking trips, but nimble enough for peakbagging and day hiking. It uses Osprey’s Airscape adjustable length frame, which is lightly ventilated and has a simple velcro mechanism that lets you raise or lower the shoulder strap yoke to adjust the length of the torso. A women’s version is also available called the Osprey Kyte 46. Read our Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Osprey | REI 

9. Gregory Zulu 65 Backpack

Gregory Zulu 55

The Gregory Zulu 65 is a ventilated and adjustable torso-length backpack that rivals the Osprey Atmos 65 in comfort. This multi-day, top-loading backpack comes with front panel access and a sleeping bag pocket for easy gear access and organization. The pre-curved hip belt has large pockets capable of holding a smartphone or other trail essentials, while the new perimeter wireframe provides a lively and responsive carry. A rain cover is included. See the women’s Jade 63 for the gender-specific version of this comfortable backpack. Read our Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REIMoosejaw

10. Elemental Horizons Aquilo 75L Backpack

Elemental Horizons Aquilo 75 Backpack

The Elemental Horizons Aquilo 75L Backpack is the perfect pack for pocket lovers with 5 external pockets (not counting hip belt pockets) that let you store lots of oversized gear that won’t fit in most mainstream backpacks. It’s also astonishing lightweight for its size weighing just 45 oz (2 lbs  13 oz) with a maximum recommended load of 45 lbs. It has three tiers of side compression straps, a fully adjustable torso length, and is available in five hip belt sizes. A women’s Aquilo 75L backpack is also available.  Read our review.

Check for the latest price at:
Elemental Horizons

How to Choose a Backpack

What are the most important features to consider when choosing a backpack? How important is pack weight and getting a frame or hip belt that can be adjusted to fit your personal dimensions? What is the difference between a unisex and a gender-specific backpack and why would you pick one over the other? We answer all of these questions below and many more.

Backpack Sizing

The two most important backpack sizing variables are your torso length and the circumference of your hips. Torso length is not the same as your height but measures the distance between the top of your hip bones and the C7 (bulging) vertebrae on your neck. Tall people can have short torsos and short people can halve long torsos, so it pays to measure this correctly. Hip size is not the same as waist size or pant size and should also be measured separately. Measure the circumference of your body over your hip bones, where a hip belt should rest. Do this while wearing the clothes you expect to hike in. A cloth tape measure is the best thing to use for measuring both of these numbers.

Adjustable Length Torsos and Hip Belts

The majority of backpacks have fixed torso lengths and hip belt sizes, which can make getting a good fit difficult because people’s body shapes and proportions vary so much. Some premium packs let you adjust the length of these components so you can get a personalized fit. While they generally weigh a bit more, getting a well-fitting backpack is usually worth it.

Gender-Specific Sizing

Men and women have very different anatomical needs when it comes to fitting a backpack. Men tend to be taller and broader across the shoulders with squarish hips, while women have bosoms and curvier hips. Some backpack manufacturers make shoulder pads and hip belts that are gender-specific and address these differences. For example, many backpacks have J-shaped shoulder straps and sternum straps designed for men that crush female breasts. Most women prefer an S-shaped shoulder strap that curves around their chest and is more comfortable. The same holds for hip belts.

Backpack Volume

A 6o liter backpack is the sweet spot for most thru-hikers, weekend backpackers, and multi-sport adventurers because it gives you plenty of space for food, fuel, and gear. While you can go lower and higher, this is a good place to start looking, since many packs are available in smaller and larger volume models. When evaluating a backpack, it’s important to find out how the manufacturer calculates its pack volume. Some manufacturers only count closed storage while others add in all of the open pockets too. That can lead to an inflated number that you’ll regret when it starts pouring rain.

Ventilated Backpack Frames

Everyone sweats when they carry a loaded backpack. So many people prefer buying packs with ventilated frames that leave an air gap between your back and the pack to help dry your shirt faster. It’s a comfort thing.

Backpack Frames

There are basically four types of backpack frames. The one you choose will be dictated by the amount of weight you need to carry.

  • Rigid perimeter frames that are internal (hidden) or external and can hold the most weight. These are required if you want a backpack that has load lifters.
  • Frame stays, which are metal rods inside a backpack to keep it from collapsing on itself and prevent objects from poking you in the back. They are very lightweight and good for moderate gear loads. They can usually be removed and bent to match your back shape.
  • Thin and flexible plastic frame sheets that are sewn into the back of a pack, but are not removable. They hold the least weight.
  • External frames that are visible on the exterior of the backpack. They’re found on backpacks designed to carry heavy loads. They’re convenient for carrying awkwardly large gear because you can lash it to the frame and don’t have to carry it inside the pack bag.

Pockets and Organization

Different people have different styles of packing needs. Some prefer lots of pockets for organizing their gear and others don’t. Some people prefer using a hydration bladder and others prefer using water bottles, as long as they’re reachable while wearing the backpack.

External Attachment Features

Gear can be carried inside a back or attached to the outside using webbing straps or elastic cord. If you have to carry bulky or awkwardly shaped gear like a foam pad, a large tent, a packraft, paddle, snowshoes, trekking poles, an ice ax, or bear canister, it pays to get a backpack that has special straps or places that you can attach gear to.

Durability

If you plan to hike in tough desert or mountainous terrain or off-trail, it’s best to get a backpack that has as little external mesh (pockets) as possible, because these are usually the first things to get ripped up on a backpack. Zippers can also be a point of failure. Some fabrics are also thicker and tougher than others. When comparing fabric durability, those with higher denier counts (100D vs 210D) tend to be most abrasion and puncture resistant.

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6 comments

  1. Phillip – I agree with all your choices but am curious why the Deuter packs with their VariQuick system didn’t make your list (or the top 10).

    • Deuter has made a massive overhall of their product line over the past year and because of supply chain issues, it is simply not clear what packs they will be selling this year and if any of them will be available. I’ve been in touch with their reps and even they don’t know.

      • Ah, thank you for the information. I didn’t realize they had such a large overhaul (my Deuter is a few years old and still going strong). Will be interesting to see what they do.

      • I had the same thought as Don did regarding Deuter. I’ve tried several different packs over the last 9 years and always found Deuter’s to be the most comfortable for me but also the easiest to adjust the torso length. Will be curious to see what changes Deuter may be making.

  2. I wish I had looked into one of these packs long ago, as I think I’m between a small and medium torso.

    • That is certainly one of their benefits. For example, I have an 18.5″ torso most of the packs I can get have torso lengths of 18 or 19″. Getting the exact right size makes a difference!

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