Ask George: Is height an indicator of backpack frame size?
Sep 7, 2010
Being specialists in carrying stuff on your back comfortably, we get a lot of questions via the phone lines here at Gregory world headquarters about getting your pack to fit correctly.One is: If I am a medium frame size in one pack brand, will I be a medium in another brand? Another question we get is: Can I tell what frame/torso size I need based on how tall I am? And the answer is: Not necessarily to the first question. And a big fat no on the second. Here’s the deal. For sure, not all packs will fit the same, because not all pack manufacturers measure torso length/frame size in the same way. So, just because you are a medium in one brand of pack doesn’t mean you’ll be a medium in another. It’s worth making sure, whether you are buying Gregory or another brand, that you are getting a frame that matches your torso length. At Gregory, we measure from two distinct, and relatively easy to find, points on your body: Your C7 vertebrate and your iliac crest. The C7 vertebrate is the largest vertebrate at the base of your neck (most easily found by looking down at your shoes and feeling for the most obvious protrusion at the bottom of your neck, as this will extend the C7). The iliac crest is the very top point of your hip bones (not to be confused with the boney side of your hip or waist). Find that point, extend it around to the same height on your spine, then measure the distance from there to the C7. That will give you a measurement, which will equate to a Gregory frame size. You can find those measurements and the frame sizes to which they correlate here. When double-checking your pack’s fit, there are two key components. The first thing is that you’ll want to be sure the shoulder straps wrap ‘around’ your shoulders, rather than extending straight off your shoulders to the pack. The yolk of your pack (where the shoulder straps meet the backpanel) should be about 2 inches below your C7 vertebrate. Also, with your pack on, and weighted with 20 pounds, you should be able to lift your leg up to a 90-degree angle without the waistbelt getting in the way. A pack that has a torso length that is too long for its wearer will not allow for you to lift your leg up unimpeded. Visuals on a lot of this are on Gregory's fit page. With regard to the question about height, it’s a common misconception that a person’s height will be an indicator of the length of one’s torso. Think about it. One person who’s 6 feet tall might buy pants with a 30-inch inseam, and another who’s also 6 feet tall might buy pants with a 34-inch inseam. And that effectively means 4 inches of difference in torso length for two people who are the same height. One of those persons might take a medium frame while the other might need a large frame. Pack ‘comfort’ ultimately comes from the successful transfer of weight from your pack onto your body’s skeletal structure. Clearly a superior pack suspension and design is a good place to start, but an ill-fitting pack, no matter how good of a pack it is, will not be able to transfer the load as it’s supposed to. Without getting the pack’s frame size to ‘fit,’ this task is near impossible. Trust me; I’ve seen firsthand what an inch or two of ‘extra’ volume (or ‘upsizing’ a pack frame for the extra volume) can do to ruin a backpacking experience. Folks, it ain’t good.