- For the size of your pack; your torso needs to be measured, not your height. Some packs have adjustments for the shoulder straps and hip belt allowing it to fit your torso. Packs are also sized as one-size-fits-all, or come in S-M-L for men or women or unisex or are adjustable. Just because you are a man or woman does not mean you should limit yourself to a pack labeled for your gender; it's how it feels on you. It could be a Large woman's pack but if the hip belt doesn't sit properly on your hips or even wraps your hips such that it can be buckled then try a man's pack.
- For volume of the pack, it's usually expressed in LITERS, not the weight you plan on carrying. The amount of gear a pack can hold will vary depending upon the manufacturer including outside pockets in the volume or not or them rounding up or down from the math based upon height, width, thickness.
Three weeks ago I went to REI looking to get a fitting and seeing what size it would take to hold all my stuff. I had a woman help me get a size fitting but every pack she had me try on was a woman's large and the hip belts were too small - duh, yes I have rather large hips. Then if I could get the hip belt to fit, the pack would ride up, off my hips, when I tightened the shoulder straps and tensioners. I was about to ask for someone else to help me because I was getting frustrated and she did not seem to grasp that maybe I should be in a "man's pack" when she said "My shift is over and this is going to take a while" and got someone else to help me. The young man who took over was very helpful. I must have tried almost 10 packs from 5 or 6 different (Osprey, REI, Deuter, Gregory, Arc'teryx, etc.) makers just for fit, not even getting to how much stuff it would hold. In the end there was only ONE pack that "fit" (more on this later) - a Arc'teryx Aerios 45L Men's backpack. It fit my hips and was comfortable but it was a giant sack with a roll top; the tightening system is all elastic chords including the chest strap and just 2 pockets on the outside, one on each side. I bought it; it wasn't cheap either.
After about a week at home, I just felt that this wasn't the right pack, so I went back to the web and did more research. For every pack, there are hundreds of reviews on why such-and-such pack is good, not right or bad. I was convinced that this 45L was tooooooo big and from my newest round of research, I decided that I would specifically look at Mystery Ranch and Osprey in 35+L volumes.
I contacted Good Sports Outdoor Outfitters, (Jordan to be exact) a family owned store down in San Antonio, for another pack fitting, to verify size and to see if my stuff will fit in a smaller volume bag without being crammed and have space for a bottle of scotch, when (not if) I visited a distillery, or possibly 2, or 3 bottles.
This morning, I put all my stuff in the car, including the pack I bought at REI and headed down to the store arriving just around noon. Jordan and I talked a bit about distance, terrain, weather conditions and what I planned on carrying. I then told him about the pack, still in the car, and what I was interested in and why.
Starting fresh, we selected the Mystery Ranch Scree 32 L, he was actually shocked I knew about it because it is a specialty pack (they make packs for the military) and no other store in the area carries it; I was interested in this pack due to the 3 zipper closure and the pockets outside and inside. We went over putting it on, tightening the shoulder straps, the belt and tensioning the pack on my back. The pack did fit but damn, it would not hold my stuff and the internal pockets were too small for most of the filled stuff sack, sadly it was not meant to be.
Next up was the Osprey Talon 36 one of the most popular packs. It fit ok but I didn't like the way the straps felt on my shoulders; it has a square edge, not rolled like the Scree, but my stuff literally stuffed the pack full, no room for any thing extra let alone an airline sized bottle of scotch. Conclusion - a 35-ish L pack was not going to cut it unless I really compressed all the stuff sacks and removed some non-essential items OR changed out some of the items I had (rain gear, cold weather clothing) so I back to a 40+L pack.
I was confused...
After more discussion, I brought the Arc'teryx Aerios 45L pack in from the car and put my stuff in it and put it on. It was comfortable and though it was bigger than I needed, it would do.
We took a break and Jordan and I discussed boots.
It's now two months until I leave so now is the time to get my over the ankle "boots" and get them broken in. When I started training I bought a pair of Oboz hiking shoes (below the ankle) - full shank and water proof with a rounded toe box. They feel good on my feet but I now realize they are just a bit too small because if I wear a thicker sox they are tight across the ball of my foot and after an 8 mile walk my feet swell and my toe tips are rugging the inside; this is not good so I should get shoes a half size larger.
I also wondered if I really needed over the ankle boots; the tour company has suggested them as part of their general equipment list but for most of the trip I am walking on either pavement, the road side (packed dirt and gravel), or dirt tracks that were once a rail road bed. To a lesser amount I will walking on tracks innfields which will have some water and rock but not in massive boulder fields like on the northern Appalachian Trail (AT). As as side note, the videos I am watching of various AT through hikers, the majority are NOT wearing over the ankle boots; some wear hiking shoes, trail runners, even a Teva style sandal.
Having said all of this, Jordan measured my feet, with the socks I will be wearing (a liner and and an outer sock). A few boxes of shoes were brought out and I tried them on and settle on the Northface FastPack IV shoes that are waterproof, full shank and weigh less than the Oboz - shoes ( 20 oz vs. 26 oz).
Here is Jordan helping with the shoe selection. Time to checkout.
The Osprey Atmos 50L has an adjustable molded hip belt, shaped shoulder straps, outside pockets, and a removable top lid for extra storage. The hip belt adjustments were wonderful and I liked how it felt but it was even bigger than the one I had already purchased and I just could not accept it.
Now I was conflicted AND confused.
Once again I tried on the Arc'teryx Aerios and Jordan then told me somethings about the pack - it's geared towards fast, light multiday trips which is why it's so light, has lots of elastic chords, is a large sack with no pockets and has a roll top closure. Jodan also talked about how the Arc'teryx are over engineers which is why they are very expensive. Then, in front of a mirror, Jordan pointed out that the pack is too long for me as evidenced by the gap between the top of my shoulders and where the shoulder straps attach to the pack this results in the weight being mostly supported by the belt and not really along my back PLUS their is no way to adjust the torso length; yes it was comfortable now but after 13 miles of walking what would my hips think??
I was still conflicted about what to do. Jordan then went into the back of the store and brought back a woman's large Osprey Archeon 45L. It has shaped shoulder straps, a molded hip belt, tensioners and adjustable shoulder strap position - but no adjustable hip belt like the Osprey Atmos 50. I tried it on and it fit. Then we loaded my stuff which fit very well with room to spare for a bottle of scotch and surprisingly it seemed more full than the Arc'teryx Aerios 45L. The hip belt felt a little high so we adjusted the shoulder straps and when I put the pack back on it felt GOOD. I walked around a bit and pondered a bit more.
I decided that it would be the Osprey Archeon 45 and along with my shoes, checked out.
Jordon was so helpful and was amazing for the amount of time he spent with me.
On the way home we went out for dinner and chocolate cake.
Here are pictures of desert which is almost gone and me with the pack when I got home.