Zach has taken multiple big game species across the Rocky Mountain states. He is highly regarded in the Western hunting community as an exceptional elk caller and as an expert in DIY elk hunting on public lands. Additionally, Zach has successfully taken many deer across the West. He is also a well-published writer, writing for several print and web titles.
Make sure your next hunt is spent in comfort with a properly fitting backpack. To help you pick out your next hunting backpack, here are three tips to answer the question, “How to fit a backpack?” and find a perfect fit for your next hunting adventure.
Proper pack fitment begins with finding the correct torso length. You will likely need an assistant for this measurement to be as accurate as possible. Measurements can be taken with a soft tape measure. To begin, place your hands on your sides with your thumb (rear) and index finger (front) cupped around your torso. Next, slide your hands down until they hit the top of their hip bones and stop. This point is known as the Iliac crest. Imagine a line between these two points and use it for the bottom measurement of the torso. Now, bend your neck forward, pushing your chin to your chest. Use the bony bump, the C7 vertebra, on the back of the neck as the top torso measurement point. Measure along the spine between these two points to find your torso length. Top-of-the-line hunting backpacks have an adjustable torso length. If you are ordering a pack online, be sure to order the correct backpack size to match your torso measurement. If you are making a purchase in a retail store, have a sales associate help you measure your torso and set the torso adjustment accordingly while trying on backpacks.
As crucial as torso length is the waist size of the hip belt. As a general rule, when the torso length fits someone, the waist belt typically will fit as well. It’s best practice, however, to measure to be sure. Take the waist measurement with a soft tape measure along the Iliac crest, identified in the first step. Since this line is higher than the beltline, you can’t simply go off of pant size. The backpack’s hip belt needs to adjust both larger and smaller to account for less or more layers to cover all weather conditions while in the field. As in the first step, if you are ordering a pack online, be sure to order the correct waist size to match your waist measurement. If you are making a purchase in a retail store, have a sales associate help you measure your waist size and suggest only correctly sized backpacks.
Once you have identified your torso length and waist size, the last step to ensure proper fitment is pack adjustment. It’s best to do this with some weight in the pack. Before you start, loosen all of the straps and load the pack with a moderate amount of weight (most retail stores will have weighted bags available). First, tighten the hip belt to a comfortable setting with it sitting on top of the hips. Second, tighten the shoulder straps. They should fit snuggly around the shoulder without a big gap on the back. If there is a gap, you can make tweaks to the torso length to close the gap. Now, adjust the load-lifter straps, which should be at approximately a 45-degree angle. Lastly, adjust the sternum strap. The sternum strap should be about an inch below your collarbones. If you can’t adjust the sternum strap to ride here, you need to find a different, better-fitting backpack. Riding too high is worse than too low. This strap is meant to keep the shoulder straps in place and take some stress off the shoulders. If it’s not situated correctly, the pack will be uncomfortable, especially under field conditions.
Final Thoughts on How to Fit a Backpack
Once you have all of these adjustments made, the bulk of the weight should be riding on your hips and not on your shoulders. When properly fitted, a heavy backpack will feel comfortable and much lighter than it actually is. Conversely, a poorly fitted pack will feel much heavier than it is. Below are three hunting backpacks from the Mystery Ranch Backpack Hunting lineup that are fully adjustable, and that are likely candidates to fill your perfect hunting backpack search.
Mystery Ranch Hunting Backpacks
With the same unique 270° zipper access as the Beartooth, the SAWTOOTH 45’s low-profile silhouette and ingenious organization hit the mark for backcountry hunters. Built on our Guide Light MT Frame™ utilizing burly yet lightweight fabrications, it incorporates the patented OVERLOAD feature with the newly designed, quick-attach frame capture for easier access to the shelf for packing out your harvest. It’s roomy enough for a fast and light overnighter as well as being perfectly suited for dawn ‘til dusk hunts where coming out by headlamp is the norm.
For more information, visit https://www.mysteryranch.com/sawtooth-45-pack.
The BEARTOOTH 80 pack is built for the hunter who values organization and varied access to the essentials. Built on our new Guide Light MT Frame, this pack offers major load-hauling capability and features a quick-attach frame capture for easier Overload feature usage. The unique 270° “duffel-style” zipper opening offers easy access no matter how it’s packed – from the top, side, or bottom. Multiple pockets both outside and on the main opening’s inside flap keep all the essentials close at hand.
For more information, visit https://www.mysteryranch.com/beartooth-80-pack.
Like its namesake – the Bob Marshall Wilderness – this expedition pack is expansive, accessible, and full of surprises. Sitting on the sturdy, new Guide Light MT Frame, you can load it from the top via the shroud access, get to all your gear from the side through the full-length, dual side zips and store a sleeping bag in the bottom Speedzip. After a long stalk and a clean shot, the OVERLOAD feature allows you to push the weight limits of what’s humanly possible on a pack out. Expedition hunts feel like second nature when you carry the MARSHALL.
For more information, visit https://www.mysteryranch.com/marshall-pack.
Hunt DIY is a comprehensive resource for DIY hunting adventures. Zach Bowhay and other HuntDIY contributors share their knowledge and experiences from years of successful — and not-so-successful — hunts through articles with high-quality imagery and videos. Hunt DIY strives to show the average hunter — one with a busy lifestyle and on a modest budget — how to produce above-average results. Follow Zach Bowhay and his hunting friends and family into the backcountry.