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10 Best Adjustable Length Backpacks of 2019

10 Best Adjustable Length Backpacks

Adjustable length backpacks let you change the torso length of a backpack so it does a better job of transferring weight from the shoulders to the hips. Traditionally, backpack companies have dealt with torso length by forcing you to choose between small, medium, or large frame heights which may or not fit you well. If a backpack frame 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 adjustable length backpacks give you the ability to resize a backpack’s length to match your exact personal measurements. It’s a lot like having owning a custom-made backpack that’s made just for you (without having to pay extra for it.)

Make / ModelWeightPriceWomen's Specific Model
Osprey Atmos AG 504 lbs 3 oz$240Osprey Aura AG 50
Gregory Paragon 583 lbs 8 oz$230Gregory Maven 55
REI Traverse 704 lbs 14 oz$249REI Traverse 65
Deuter Futura Vario 50+104 lbs 9 oz$230Deuter Futura Vario 45+10
Kelty Redwing 503 lbs 11 oz$140Kelty Redwing 40
Granite Gear Blaze 603 lbs$270Granite Gear Blaze 60
Osprey Kestrel 483 lbs 9 oz$180Osprey Kyte 46
Gregory Zulu 553 lbs 9 oz$200Gregory Jade 53
Exped Lightning 602 lbs 9 oz$229Exped Lightning 60
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+104 lbs 6 oz$220Aircontact Lite 60+10

The torso length adjustment mechanisms on these packs are very easy to understand and use. They’re so simple and lightweight that you have to wonder why all backpacks aren’t adjustable to eliminate the fit problems that so many people experience when buying new backpacks.

1. Osprey Atmos AG 50 Backpack

Osprey Atmos AG 50

The Osprey Atmos AG 50 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 its 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 50 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 Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw

2. Gregory Paragon 58 Backpack

Gregory Paragon 58

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 just over 3 lbs, the Paragon 58 has an adjustable length torso and quick-adjust hip belt, with hip belt pockets that move with the adjustment to maintain easy access. 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 | Moosejaw

3. REI Traverse 70 Backpack

REI Traverse 70

The REI Traverse 70 Backpack is a multi-day ventilated backpack with an adjustable-length frame, swappable shoulder straps, and interchangeable hip-belts, so you can get a custom fitting pack that matches your unique size and shape for optimal comfort. The torso length on the Traverse 70 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 Traverse compares quite favorably to the other premium packs in terms of features, pack weight, and price. The women’s version is called the REI Traverse 65Read our review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI

4. Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 Backpack

Deuter Futura Vario 50+10
The Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 is a 50 liter backpack with a 10 liter extension collar that lets you carry more gear and supplies if needed. It’s a ventilated backpack with an adjustable frame and a well cushioned hip belt that provides all day comfort. A simple-to-use webbing strap located behind the shoulder straps lets you raise or lower them and easily adjust the torso length. The hip belt wings also flex with your hips as you walk, making it easier to maintain your balance when scrambling over rocky trails.  Read our review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw

5. Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack

Kelty Redwing 50

The Kelty Redwing 50 is a versatile backpack than can be used for multiple functions, ranging from weekend backpack trips to international travel. It’s panel loading style makes it easy to pack clothes and gear, while an adjustable torso provides an excellent fit. The torso length is controlled by raising or lowering the shoulder strap yoke using webbing straps connected to the hip belt. You can even make length adjustments while you’re wearing the backpack, it’s that simple. The women’s model is called the Redwing 40. Read our review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw 

6. Granite Gear Blaze 60 Backpack

Granite Gear Blaze 60

The Granite Gear Blaze 60 (new in 2019) 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 up on the framesheet. 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 | Moosejaw

7. Osprey Kestrel 48 Backpack

Osprey Kestrel 48
The Osprey Kestrel 48 is an 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:
REI  | Moosejaw

8. Gregory Zulu 55 Backpack

Gregory Zulu 55

The Gregory Zulu 55 (updated for 2019) is a ventilated and adjustable torso length backpack that rivals the Osprey Atmos 50 in comfort. This multi-day, top-loading backpack comes with a 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 wire frame provides a lively and responsive carry. A rain cover is included. See the women’s Jade 53 for the gender-specific version of this comfortable backpack. Read our Review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw

9. Exped Lightning 60 Backpack

Exped Lightning 60

The Exped Lightning 60 is a minimalist, roll top backpack with an adjustable torso length. The frame is a single aluminum stay with the top horizontal cross-piece. The torso length is adjusted by raising or lowering the shoulder yoke along the aluminum stay using a simple webbing strap mechanism that locks firmly in place when secured. It’s very lightweight, intuitive, and easy to use. A women’s version of the Lightning 60 is also available. Read our review.

Check for the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

10. Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack

Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack

The Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 is a multi-day backpack that can go big when you have to carry a lot of gear and supplies. It has an easy to adjust shoulder yoke system so you can dial in the prefer torso length. A separate bottom compartment with zippered divider holds your sleeping bag, while the floating top lid can be raised when you need to use the extension collar or carry extra gear. The S-shaped shoulder pads and a pre-curved hip belt provide excellent comfort, while cushy mesh-covered foam provides all day comfort. The Aircontact Lite is available in multiple volumes. The women’s model is called the Aircontact 60 + 10 SL. Read our review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw

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 ave 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 a S-shaped shoulder strap that curves around their chest and is more comfortable. The same goes holds for hip belts.

Backpack Volume

A 6o liter backpack is the sweet spot for most thru-hikers, week-end 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 their 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 frames 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, and ice axe, 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.

Methodology

How do we know what the 10 best adjustable length backpacks are? We survey our large readership to ask. If you’d like to participate in our surveys, be on the look up for the gear raffles we run every few weeks on SectionHiker, where we give survey participants a chance to win. Or sign up to the weekly, award-winning SectionHiker newsletter, so you never miss out on an opportunity to participate. We hate spam, so we’ll never share your email with anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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4 comments

  1. Leaving ULA out of this review seems odd, since their packs, like my Circuit, some with an adjustable hip belt.

  2. I managed an outdoor shop that sold Osprey packs. We carried all the big models, Atmos, Kestrel, Stratos, Exos, Volt, and a good selection of their convertible travel packs and day packs.
    A coworker bought the Atmos, I went for the Exos, since it was so much lighter than my Dana Terraplane.
    IMHO, the Stratos was actually the most comfortable pack in their line. The Kestrel wasn’t even a consideration.
    One slow day, I put the exact same 30 lb load in each pack. The Stratos 50 won, even over the venerable Atmos. The Exos isn’t as comfortable nor is it adjustable, but it is a pound lighter, so I took that.
    Also, the lid on the Kestrel is not removable which is a big drawback for me. Neither is the lid of the Stratos 36.
    The water bottle pockets on the Kestrel were a real pain, too. Too deep and top access only. Meaning your bottle could not be accessed while wearing the pack. WTF.
    My two cents!

  3. For Christmas of 2017 I picked up the previous model Futura Vario 50+10 on clearance as a gift for a friend. I wanted a lot of adjustability because I didn’t have a clue about his torso length or even if he’d ever been measured.
    He’s 6’1″, I’m 5’7″, it was adjustable to fit either of us very comfortably. Very close to a true one-size-fits-all solution, I could have been inches shorter and my friend could have been inches taller, we could have been lighter or heavier – the pack would have worked.

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