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How to Fit a Travel Backpack

The wrong luggage can ruin your trip. But a properly-fitted travel backpack will be a joy to carry.

If your backpack doesn't fit right, you'll know. You'll feel the weight pulling on your shoulders. You'll feel the tension in your neck.

With the right fit, you'll forget that you even have your bag on. Read on to learn how to get the perfect fit for your body.

How to Measure Your Torso

Start by measuring your torso along your spine. Use a soft tape measure and ask a friend to help.

Bend your head forward to find the vertebra that sticks out at the top of your spine. That bone is your C7 vertebra. Start your measurement there.

Place your hands flat at the top of your hip bones with your thumbs pointing towards your spine. Use your hands to create a "shelf" that your backpack will rest on.

Have your friend measure from your C7 vertebra to the shelf you made with your hands. That distance is your torso length. Write this number down for later when you're adjusting the height of your bag.

How to Get the Perfect Fit

Just like when you get a new pair of shoes, you need to try on and test out a new backpack. You should even go for a walk in it, too. 

When your backpack arrives in the mail, try it on and do a test pack before your trip. Make sure that the bag is comfortable on you especially with some weight in the pack. 

You'll know you have the fit right when most of the weight is transferred from your shoulders to your hips. Keep adjusting the fit until you have that "aha" moment.

We encourage you to test your bag for up to 30 days with the Tortuga Home-Try On Program. Send it back to us—no questions asked—if it's not a perfect fit.

Step One: Adjust Your Shoulder Straps

The first step to fit your Travel Backpack is to adjust the height of the shoulder straps to match your torso length.

Place your backpack so the backside with the shoulder straps is facing up.

You'll find the height adjustment panel sewn to the shoulder straps and attached—with velcro—to the padding on the back panel of the bag. Separate the two pieces by pulling apart the velcro.

Use the tape measure to measure the distance of your torso length up from the bottom of the backpack. You want the distance from the top of the adjustment panel (top of the shoulder straps) to the bottom of the bag to match your torso length. Slide the height adjustment panel up or down as needed. If you measured your torso length as 18", make sure the top of the adjustment panel is 18" from the bottom of the bag.

Then fasten the velcro securely to make sure that the adjustment panel and shoulder straps stay in place.

Try your bag on. If the fit is off, move the height adjustment panel up or down to get a better fit.

If it seems right, move on to packing the bag. You can perfect the fit at the end of this process.

Step Two: Pack Your Backpack

You won't know if your backpack is comfortable if you only test it when it's empty.

For the best test, pack some clothing in the main compartment and your laptop in the computer sleeve before putting on the bag. You don't have to pack exactly what you would on a trip, but make sure to pack approximately the same amount of stuff so the weight is as close to a real-world situation as possible. 

test backpack

Step Three: Put Your Backpack On

Put the shoulder straps on first, then clip the hip belt around your torso.

Tighten the hip belts so that the bag's weight is transferred to your strong hip and leg muscles. The bag shouldn't feel heavy on your shoulders. 

fitting backpack

Step Four: Adjust Your Backpack's Straps

Adjust the height of the shoulder straps by pulling on the webbing at the base of the foam sections.

Move the sternum strap up or down so that it's just below your collarbone, then tighten until the bag is taught against your body.

Tighten the hip belt until it's snug, but not tight. The base of the hip belt should rest right on top of your hip bones. If the belt is too high or too low, it won't properly transfer weight from your shoulders. Loosen the shoulder straps if the hip belt is too high, and tighten if the hip belt is too low.

Pull forward on the load lifter straps at the top of your shoulders.

backpack fitting

Step Five: Walk Around with Your Backpack

In order to tell if your bag will be comfortable enough for a long walk through a city to your Airbnb (or a sprint through an airport terminal), walk around for a few minutes. Pay attention to where you feel the weight of your luggage. Is it hanging on your shoulders? Or is it on your hips? 

You should feel 80% of your bag's weight on your hips, not your shoulders. With the right fit, your strong leg muscles—not your weaker shoulders—will do most of the work.

If the fit is off, go back to Step One and adjust the shoulder straps up or down as needed.

If you have questions about travel backpacks, sizing, or fit that aren't answered on this page, contact us. We'll help you get the perfect fit.

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