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How to Fit a Travel Backpack

The wrong luggage can ruin your trip. If your backpack doesn't fit right, you'll have neck and shoulder pain.

But the right backpack will be a joy to carry. You'll forget that you even have it on.

The first step to getting a perfect fit is to measure your torso. Do this before you buy your backpack. Then check your torso length against the backpack's specs and size guide. Your torso length is more important than your height for getting the right fit. 

How to Measure Your Torso

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

Bend your head forward to find the vertebrae 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. Compare that number to the size guide for your backpack found on each product page.

How to Get the Perfect Fit

What's the first thing you do when you buy a new pair of shoes? You try them on and walk around to see how they fit. Since no two pairs of shoes feel or fit the same—despite being the same size—you have to try them on and test them out.

The same idea applies to backpacks. When your backpack arrives in the mail, make sure to 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. 

We encourage you to test your bag for up to 30 days with the Tortuga Home Try On Program.

Step One: Adjust Your Shoulder Straps

If you ordered the Outbreaker Backpack, your first step is to adjust the shoulder straps to your torso length.

Pull up on the velcro tab to unlock the suspension system. Then, pull down to slide the tab out of the webbing ladder.

Measure from the bottom of the Outbreaker Backpack up to the webbing loop that is closest to your torso length. If you're between sizes, round down.

Reattach the shoulder straps starting from the loop that you measured to match your torso. Thread the tab through that webbing loop and the three loops above it. Fold the shoulder straps flat, then reattach by velcro.

Try your bag on. If the fit is off, adjust it up or down by one loop. If it seems about 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. 

Step Three: Put Your Backpack On

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

Step Four: Adjust Your Backpack

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 successfully 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.

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.