Adjusting Backpack correctly??

7:51 a.m. on October 26, 2007 (EDT)
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I purchased a Cresent 90 by Osprey in 2002 and after accident was never able to use it even once since it's purchase. I now am in top shape and ready to hit the trails again but having trouble with adjusting it for fit.

I'd like to know the best place to physically go where the staff would have the most training and knowledgeable so I get a proper fit.
I'm not a tall man by any means 5'5" and need to know if I was originally fitted properly when first purchased. From what I can tel measuring my back myself I read 19.5. I have a larger back for my size and wear between a medium and a large shirt.
Any advice??

3:13 p.m. on October 26, 2007 (EDT)
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Adjusting it yourself is pretty straight-forward, although the "associates" at most stores (even many outdoor specialty stores) don't know how t do even the first steps. There have been several posts on Trailspace on how to do the adjustments in the past, but not remembering where they are, here are the basic steps:

1. Load your gear in the pack correctly (heavier items close to your back and high, lighter items low and farther from your back - actually this is high density and low density, since lots of small items that are individually light can add up to a small, very dense, very heavy group). If you are going to be scrambling or skiing, the heavy items go low, but still closer to your back, to keep your center of gravity close in but low.

2. Tighten all the "packaging" straps - top of the bag, cinch down the lid, tighten the straps that shrink the bag. This makes the load more compact and firm so it will stay close to your back and won't bounce around.

3. Loosen all "carrying" straps - shoulder, waist, "load lifters", sternum strap, etc (Osprey is pretty good about keeping these somewhat to a minimum, but still has an excess in my opinion).

4. Put the loaded pack on and fasten the waist strap. It should ride at the top of your pelvis (the hip bones at your sides. This way, your legs and hips carry most of the load, since they are the strongest part of your body. You should just be able to insert a finger inside the places where the belt padding contacts your hips - not too tight and not too loose. You want it to hold the load in place without cutting off circulation.

5. Tighten the shoulder straps to pull the pack against your back.

6. Fasten the sternum strap and tighten it to keep the shoulder straps from shifting outward, but not so tight to restrict breathing.

7. Tighten the load lifters to take a little of the load from directly bearing on your shoulders.

At this point, get a look at yourself sideways in a mirror. The shoulder straps should go over your shoulder then down slightly in back. They should not go straight back from the top of your shoulder or, worse yet, upwards to the attachment point. The load lifter straps should go up from the top of your shoulder at a 20-45 degree angle, not straight up and not straight back from your shoulder. This will tell you if the pack is indeed the right size.

From your shirt size, I would expect you would need a "large" pack, though you could use a "medium". Your back measurement should be from the C7 vertebrum (that's the large one at the base of your neck in back) to the top of your pelvis where the spine attaches. The 19.5 inches also indicates you could take a large, but could use a medium. There is enough individual variation that you really would have to carry a load around for a while for each one to see. My Osprey is a large, and my back measurement is close enough to yours to say "large" probably is ok.

5:01 p.m. on November 7, 2007 (EST)
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Nice thorough explanation, Bill. Take note of #4. Packs are often put too low on the hips. Backpack companies like Gregory and Granite Gear have instructions and often diagrams which help. Here's a description from REI:
http://www.rei.com/LearnShareDetailArticlesList?categoryId=Camping&url=rei/learn/camp/fitbkpk.jsp

12:45 a.m. on November 16, 2007 (EST)
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I just want to give props to the crew at my local REI. I spend a good amount of time there and after a few visits you figure out who to talk to about what. Alex for boots, Jill for tents and bags, Alex again for packs. Of course have your folks that are there just for a paycheck and don't know squat but they usually put them over in the clothing section.

If you go to your store ask around as to who the best person would be to talk to about the pack, it might be the guy or girl over in the hiking boot section or the person covering the counter at the electronic gizmo section. They are always willing to step away from where ever they have been assigned and help you out.. in my experience at my local REI.

12:11 p.m. on November 16, 2007 (EST)
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REIs vary greatly in their personnel. We now have 11 in the SFBay Area (Monterey store just opened, though I'm not sure the Santa Cruz-Monterey folks want to be included in the SF area). Of the closest to me, Mountain View is ok for backpacking, lousy for climbing. San Carlos is mediocre for both, as is Fremont. Saratoga is good for climbing if you get one of the 3 real climbers (especially Luc) and good for backpacking. Berkeley has one good person in climbing and one is backpacking, but a large number who seem to be rank beginners. Most of the people in all of these seem to know nothing about GPS and other electronic widgets (strange for Silicon Valley, nerd-center of the universe), or about maps or compasses. Even the "clothing" people seem to have a hard time finding the item you spotted in the sale catalog that just came in the mail when you show them the mailer and ask where it is to be found (usually turns out to be on a rack with a large, red "SALE" sign on it). I often get the impression that most of them are just working there because it is "a job" that has the benefit of giving good discounts to employees. I have friends who work at some of them who say that everyone goes through training, but confirm that too many just aren't interested in actually learning about the products.

Still, way too often REI and their eastern counterpart EMS are the only game in town for gear of reasonable quality.

By the way, I had a conversation with a couple friends who work for REI, one a climber and the other a geocacher who works the electronic widgets counter, about why the selection of climbing gear has decreased so much in the past 5 to 10 years. Reason is that the lawyers are very worried about the liability issue. Seems that some people have bought gear, thinking it would automatically make them climbers. When they got into trouble, they would threaten suits. So by minimizing the gear (particularly ice climbing gear), the lawyers think they will lower the exposure. So I guess clothing is less risky?

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