Backpack Fit 101: Measuring Your Torso Length

Backpack Torso Length: A backpacker with the perfect backpack for his torso

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Imagine setting off on an exciting backpacking trip, only to be hindered by an uncomfortable, ill-fitting backpack. That’s where the secret to a great backpacking experience comes in: measuring your torso length.

In this post, we’ll simplify the process of finding the perfect backpack fit by focusing on your torso length. No complex terms or confusion here – just straightforward steps to ensure your backpack feels comfortable.

Interested? Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Measure from the base of your neck to the iliac crest midpoint at the top of the hips. Stand straight during the measurement. We’ve provided images below.
  • Match your torso length to the backpack manufacturer’s size chart – usually extra small, small, medium or large.
  • Also measure your hip size at the iliac crest to ensure the hipbelt fits properly for optimal load distribution and comfort.

The Torso Length Measurement Process

Let’s dive into the process itself. Don’t worry; it’s simpler than it sounds. All you need is a flexible tape measure and a friend (or a mirror) to assist you.

Step 1: Finding Your C7 Vertebra

  • Start by standing up straight with your head in a natural position.
  • Gently tilt your head forward and feel for the first significant bump at the base of your neck. That bump is your 7th cervical (C7) vertebra.
  • This C7 vertebra marks the top of your torso length.
Measuring Your Torso Length: C7 Vertebra

Step 2: Locating Your Iliac Crest

  • Keep standing upright.
  • Place your hands on your hips, just above your hip bones.
  • Now, imagine drawing an imaginary line across your back, connecting your hip bones. This imaginary line indicates the midpoint of your iliac crest.
  • This midpoint is the bottom of your torso measurement.
Measuring Your Torso Length: Iliac Crest

Step 3: Measuring Your Torso Length

  • Have your friend take the flexible tape measure.
  • Stand still and straight, allowing your friend to measure the distance between the C7 vertebra (top) and the imaginary line at your iliac crest (bottom).
  • This measurement represents your torso length.
Measuring Your Torso Length: Torso Length

Remember, accuracy is key here. Ensure that you stand naturally and avoid holding your breath or arching your back.

Backpack Sizing for Your Torso Length

Backpack Torso Length: A backpacker on the trail with a somewhat ill-fitting backpack

Now that you’ve measured your torso length, you might be wondering how to translate that measurement into choosing the right backpack size.

Your Torso Length, Your Backpack Size:

On most backpacks, you’ll find a sizing chart that correlates torso lengths to specific pack sizes (e.g., extra-small, small, medium, large). Match your torso length with the manufacturer’s sizing chart recommendation.

Your torso length will probably be between 15-20”. REI defines sizing as:

  • Extra small: Up to 15”+
  • Small: 16-17”+
  • Medium/Regular: 18-19”+
  • Large: 20”+

If your torso size falls between two options, here’s what you can do:

  • If you’re carrying a lighter load (less than 22 lbs or 10 kg), then the smaller size is a good choice. However, if you plan to carry more than 22 lbs, go for the larger size.
  • Keep in mind the weather as well. On sunny days, the smaller size might be better, but in cold, wet conditions or when you’re bundled up in layers, you might need the larger size.

Importance of Hip Size Measurement

We’ve discussed measuring your torso length, but there’s another crucial factor for a well-fitting backpack: your hip size. The often overlooked hipbelt is vital for weight distribution and a comfortable hike.

The Hipbelt’s Vital Role: The hipbelt carries over 80% of your pack’s weight, reducing strain on your shoulders and enhancing balance and comfort. A well-fitting hipbelt prevents back pain and discomfort on long hikes.

How to Measure Your Hip Size:

  • You’ll need your flexible tape measure or a piece of string.
  • Stand up straight and find your iliac crest, the top of your hipbones. This is slightly higher than your beltline.
  • Wrap the tape measure or string around your hips at the level of your iliac crest.
  • Note down the measurement to determine the correct hipbelt size.

These waist measurements are common standards employed by most backpack manufacturers:

  • Small: 22″ to 32″
  • Medium: 28″ to 45″ 
  • Large: 32″ to 50″

Women’s-Specific Packs

In terms of backpack fit, it’s crucial to recognize that backpacks and bodies vary. Female adventurers have a specific consideration: women’s-specific backpacks.

Why Women’s-Specific Packs?

  • These packs consider the anatomical differences between men and women, such as narrower shoulders, wider hips, and a lower center of gravity.
  • Shorter torso length options: Women’s-specific packs often offer shorter torso length options, catering to a broader range of body sizes.
  • The result is a backpack that better aligns with the female body, providing improved comfort and stability.

It is worth mentioning that some women may find that a well-fitting men’s pack works better for them, while others will prefer the tailored design of a women’s-specific pack.


In this post, we’ve simplified the process of finding the perfect backpack fit by focusing on your torso length. No complex terms or confusion here – just straightforward steps to ensure your backpack feels comfortable.

Now that you have your torso length and hip size measurements, you’re all set to pick the right backpack. So, get out there, hit the trails, and enjoy your well-fitted backpack that’ll make your trip truly special.

Interested in an ultralight backpack? Check out our TOP 5 guides for the lightest backpacks on the planet.


Can you be tall with a short torso?

Absolutely, when it comes to selecting a backpack, your body proportions, including having a tall stature with a short torso, play a crucial role. It’s common for individuals to have varying body proportions, and this can impact how a backpack fits. If you’re tall with a short torso, you might find that certain backpacks designed for taller individuals may not fit your torso comfortably.

Should backpack be on hips or waist?

Your backpack should primarily rest on your hips, not your waist. The hipbelt of the backpack should sit snugly on top of your hip bones, also known as the iliac crest. This positioning ensures that the majority of the pack’s weight is carried by your hips, reducing strain on your shoulders and providing better balance and comfort during your hike. The waist, which is slightly higher than the hips, should not bear the brunt of the load to prevent discomfort and back pain.

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