How to Measure Your Torso Length for a Backpack 

 September 28, 2021

By  Keith Terrell

Before going out to buy the perfect backpack for yourself, it is important to know the measurements you should buy. If the backpack is not the right size, it will gradually start causing lower back and neck pain.

To buy the right size, you need to know how to measure your torso length and your hip size. The following is an easy-to-follow way to measure both, your torso and your hip size. The latter half of the post also briefly delves into how you can choose the right backpack for yourself.

Measuring your torso length is extremely easy.

Hiker Backpacking

You will, however, need a friend to help you out since it will be hard for you to extend your arm to the back. Stand straight with your head tilted slightly forward. 

  • Step 1 - Ask your friend to find the tiny bony protrusion at the nape of your neck where your shoulders join the beginning of the neck. This is your seventh cervical or C7 vertebra as it is commonly known. The top of your torso begins at this point.
  • Step 2 - On each side of your body, put your hands at the end of your ribcage and slowly slide them down to your hip. With your fingers pointing forward and your thumb on your back, think of the area between your two thumbs as an imaginary line.
  • Step 3 - With a measuring tape, ask your friend to measure the point from your c7 to the imaginary line between your two thumbs. This is the measurement of your torso length.

Measuring Your Hip Size

The next step is to measure your hip size. Since most of the load of your backpack will be on your hip, it is of utmost importance to wear a backpack that sits correctly on your hip. Though, if you find a backpack that fits your torso length, chances are low that it won’t fit your hip correctly. Nevertheless, it is best to be safe and know the measurement of your hip.

  • Step 1 - Place your hands on your hips the way it was described above. Your hand is over an area called the iliac crest. This is the area where the arching bones sit on your pelvis.
  • Step 2 - Take the measuring tape and make it go over the top of the hip. This line is slightly above your belt line so measuring your hip size is not the same as measuring your pant waist size.

Using Your Measurements to Choose the Right Backpack Size

Use the numbers from the measurements above to find the right backpack size. For example, if your torso length is 22 inches and your hip size is 15 inches, those are the dimensions you’re looking for in a backpack.

Adjust the Straps

Most backpacks also have adjustable straps so the best thing is to be able to wear the backpack when you’re out to buy it and then adjust the size to see if it’s the right fit. Different companies may have different standards of size so it is best to try the backpack on.

Put Dummy Weight In

You should also fill some dummy clothes or heavy items in the bag to see how it carries a load. When you’re out backpacking or trekking, you’re bound to carry some load with you on your back. If the straps dig into your skin or if the pack is sagging after you put the load in, you need to look for a pack that has greater reinforcement and strength.

Hiking Backpack with Sleeping Mat

Check the Fit

When you lift the backpack, shrug your shoulders. Buckle the hip belt and then tighten the shoulder straps to a snug fit. Once you do this, the weight you have put inside the bag should feel like it is evenly distributed across your torso and back. The most important thing to check is that there are no visible gaps at the top of your shoulders after you have adjusted the straps. If there is a gap, it means the weight is disproportionately collected at the bottom of your back.

How to Choose a Backpack

There are a few things you may need to consider before choosing a backpack. The following is a brief guide to the things you may want to consider before buying a pack for your next hike or for school:

Types of Backpacks

There are several types of backpacks that you can pick from. The decision you’re making will be based on what you need the pack for and where you intend to take it. Some common types of packs are:


Backpacks also come in different materials. Based on what purpose you expect your backpack to fulfill, you can decide on a suitable material. For example, if you need a backpack for school it may not need to be weather resistant but you will be putting a fair amount of weight in the pack so you will need it to be made of sturdy material. The following are some common backpack materials:

  • PVC fabric
  • Nylon
  • Canvas
  • Polyester pack cloth

Shape and Size

The shape and size of your pack are of utmost importance. Again, depending on the purpose of your backpack, you will need to settle on a shape and size.

Backpackers walking a trail

The size, of course, will be guided by how much capacity you require. The shape may still be more flexible but if you’re going on a trek, you may need a pack that distributes the weight more evenly and is spread out over your back.

Final Thoughts

Finding the right backpack can be a task. Often, the pack may seem perfect when you go out to buy it but after using it a few times, the discomfort may start to creep in. This is why it is of utmost importance to check every aspect of the pack before buying it. Know your measurements, know the accurate purpose for which you’re buying the pack and finally, always do a load test to see how much the pack can endure.


About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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