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Those who own, or have recently purchased, an Osprey backpack have probably already done plenty of research on things like capacity, weight, appropriate size for torso length—all the heavy hitters.

But equally important is the issue of proper fitting, which, to be fair, really doesn’t come into play until the pack is ready to hit the trail. That’s why we’re here to explain in detail how to adjust Osprey backpack.

A proper-fitting backpack is one of the best assets a hiker can have. Improper wear can lead to discomfort in the short term, and structural wear and tear over time, which is why a proper fit is essential from the beginning.

Start with sizing

If you haven’t already purchased your pack, be sure to bring your measurements to the store with you to ensure that you get the right size.

Remember that height is not the key factor when it comes to pack size, but rather torso length. This measurement is impossible to determine on your own; you’ll need a friend to help, as well as a flexible tape measure. Here’s how to determine torso length:

  • With head tilted forward, feel for a protruding bump where the neck meets the plane of your shoulders. This is the C7 vertebra, which determines the TOP of your torso length.
  • Slide your hands down your ribcage (one on either side) to the iliac crest (the top of your hipbones).
  • Stretch out your thumbs so they’re pointing toward your spine, then draw a visual line connecting them. This is the BOTTOM of your torso length.
  • Stand up straight, then have your friend measure to determine the distance between the C7 and the visual line between your thumbs. This is your TORSO LENGTH.

Once these measurements have been determined, you’re ready to start shopping for your Osprey backpack. The salesperson will be happy to assist you in choosing the right size for your torso length.

Determining the proper fit

When deciding what size pack to buy, there are several factors to consider:

  • Harness length
  • Hipbelt
  • Shape of pack

The harness length usually corresponds to pack size, and can be adjusted based on the torso measurements.

A harness should terminate 2″ to 3″ below the armpit, and the webbing below the padding should not be able to touch the sides of your body during movement.

Hipbelt adjustment

The hipbelt can likewise be adjusted—it should fit snugly but comfortably, without digging into the ribcage or upper thighs when climbing. As men’s and women’s hips are shaped differently, our Osprey packs are specifically designed for optimum comfort based on gender.

The shape of the pack is usually a matter of personal preference, and should depend largely on what recreational activity it will be used for.

Again, as the center of gravity differs from male to female perspectives, it’s important to purchase the right shape to suit your specific needs. See our handy guide for tips on which size and model to buy.

Adjusting the pack

Once you’ve got your backpack home and out of its wrapping, it’s time to load it up so you can adjust the fit. Check out a visual guide here.

1. Pack it up

To ensure the proper fit, you’ll need a full pack. This doesn’t mean you have to put all of your trail gear in it right away—you can just as easily estimate the right weight using bags of beans and rice, or whatever gear you have handy in the closet.

Of course, if you’d rather strive for verisimilitude by loading up whatever you’ll usually be carrying, who’s to stop you?

2. Start with a loose fit

Before beginning, the compression straps should be tightened. Everything else—the shoulder harness, sternum strap, hipbelt, and load lifter straps—should be loosened.

3. Hipbelt fitting

  • Adjust the pack so that the hipbelt is resting over your iliac crest (the tops of your hipbones).
  • Close the hipbelt buckle.
  • Tighten the straps, so the center of the hipbelt pad is directly over your hipbones.
  • At this point, the padded portion should wrap around your hips with about 1″ clearance between the pad’s edge and the buckle’s center.
  • When the hipbelt fit is correct, the buckle should be resting directly above your belly button.

4. Shoulder harness

  • Pull the ends of the shoulder strap down and behind you (get a friend to help the first time, if necessary, though it’s also important to be able to do this on your own).
  • Ensure that the pack is drawing closer to your body as you tighten the straps.
  • The straps should reach all the way around your body, with no gaps between the harness and your shoulders.
  • The anchor points (the lowest points on the shoulder harness) should reach no lower than 2″ below the tops of your shoulders, or 3″ to 4″ below the armpits.
  • Be sure that the hips are carrying the bulk of the load, and not the shoulders, as the hips are designed to bear more weight.

5. Load lifters

Casual day-hikers may be unfamiliar with this term, and indeed, these straps are the most commonly misidentified and misused when it comes to fitting.

The load lifters are the straps that sit on the top of the shoulder harness, going back at an angle to connect with the back panel.

It’s important to fit them so that there’s no pressure on the shoulders or collarbone; the straps are designed to keep the pack from tilting too far from the body, not to keep it bound to the upper shoulders.

  • Gently tighten straps until the slack in the webbing tightens.
  • Check the mirror: The strap should be at a 45 degree angle to the back panel.
  • Ensure that there are no gaps between your back and the shoulder harness.
  • Move around the room to check for undue pressure on the collarbone and shoulders, and loosen the load lifter strap if there’s any discomfort.

6. Sternum strap

  • Buckle the sternum strap, adjusting so that both sides rest about 2″ below your collarbone.
  • Gently snug the strap down, so that it’s centered over your shoulders.
  • Take deep breaths to make sure that the fit isn’t so tight that it interferes with your breathing.

7. Fine-tuning

Shrug your shoulders and take a few laps around the room to see how everything feels. If necessary, snug the hipbelt stabilizer straps to bring the pack in closer to your torso.


And that’s about it for how to adjust Osprey backpack. If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to visit our website for more information. Congratulations—you’re ready to hit the trail!