ill-fitting pack

7:05 p.m. on May 14, 2007 (EDT)

Hi- I have an Osprey Isis pack bought for me a few years ago and it never has fit right. I took it to REI and to another outfitter for help, but every time I wear it on even overnighters I get a sore back and hips, and I know to pack centered and low. Do you all have any tricks for making an almost-fitting pack fit better?

9:20 p.m. on May 14, 2007 (EDT)
4,404 reviewer rep
6,007 forum posts

Unfortunately, packs are like shoes - if they weren't fit right to begin with, they won't ever fit right without major modifications. I am assuming that "sherrie" is a woman's name, in which case, the Isis is the right model. However, there is enough difference company to company (and even models within a given company) that sometimes you can't get a pack of nominally the right size to ever fit comfortably (I haven't been able to get any Gregory or Arc'teryx pack to fit me, but Osprey, Dana, Lowe Alpine all fit fine).

Having said that, a lot of "pack fitters", especially at the large "general outdoors" stores like REI, EMS, Sports Authority, etc, do not really know how to adjust a pack that is actually the right size. This has been discussed on Trailspace before, but to save a lot of searching, here is a brief summary that should help:

1. Loosen all "carrying" straps

2. Put the pack on and fasten the waist belt so that the pack rides on your hips (the Isis is a women-designed pack with a shaped waist belt). Tighten the waist belt so it is snug (2 fingers between you and the belt is about right).

3. Tighten the shoulder straps so they are snug (not so tight they cut circulation, of course).

4. Now fasten the sternum strap and snug it down (but not so tight it interferes with taking deep breaths) You probably will need to shift the sternum strap up and down to find a comfortable location. The sternum strap is primarily to keep the shoulder straps from sliding off your shoulders, and doesn't carry any load. I don't have an Isis in front of me, but as I recall, there is no adjustment on the pack where the shoulder straps attach for shoulder width (few current internal frame packs have this adjustment anymore).

5. Next start tightening the tensioning straps - it helps here to have a companion. First the load lifters (the straps that go from the pack to the top of the shoulder straps), then the hip/waist belt tensioners. The load lifters help lift the load off your shoulders, and hence off your back, and the waist belt tensioners help with keeping the load mostly transfered onto your hips, letting your legs do the main work.

Since your legs do the main carrying (when the pack is fit and adjusted properly), and the weight transfer to your legs is via your hips, you may well get some soreness in your hips (from the pressure) until you get into shape. But if everything is adjusted properly (and the right size) you should not have a sore back, even when carrying half your body weight. By the way, start at 1/4 your body weight or less and do a half-hour walk around the block (or better, on a local trail) to build muscle endurance. Without knowing your body weight, 1/4 your body weight in the pack or less (much less!) is more than enough for a weekend backpack. That is, 15 to 20 pounds should be plenty, including food. And, actually, if you are in that pack weight range, you shouldn't be having sore back or hips unless the pack is grossly mis-fit.

12:38 p.m. on May 16, 2007 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
77 forum posts

Most decent outfitters carry several different makes and models of backpacks. You should really try different models out at the store before settling on one pack. Most stores has bags of weight that they load you and the pack up and you can walk around the store shoping while get a feel for the pack. If something doesnt feel right, you can try the adjustments on the pack. If it still doesnt feel right, try another brand. It took my wife two years to find a pack that she really liked. She ended up with a Gregory Deva and she loves it. Also, I would suggest to do some searches on the pro/con of the different packs and how they adjust, how to carry the weight, how to pack them, how to size them to the torso and what size would fit you best. There are many of web sites along with many books on backpacking.

12:56 p.m. on May 16, 2007 (EDT)
4,404 reviewer rep
6,007 forum posts
adjusting gift packs

The pack was bought for sherrie, so this is a case of trying to adjust the existing pack to fit comfortably for backpacks. You are right, of course, that (as I noted in my post) there is enough difference among different makes of pack and even different models from the same manufacturer to really require going to a (or several) good outfitters to work with a good pack fitter and try several different ones. But that's hard to do when someone buys the pack for you (or in my case, you win a drawing - only drawing I won in my life, but luckily the pack was the right size and fit quite well).

sherrie - sometimes good outfitters will exchange for another brand or model, but usually only if they carry the one you are trying to exchange, and often only if you can produce the original receipt. The Isis is a good pack. I hope you can get it adjusted to be comfortable.

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