How do I know if my backpack is too small? 

How do I know if my backpack is too small

Hiking without a backpack doesn’t feel like hiking. Backpacks may be one of the most important gears for any hiker or mountain climber. There are a variety of backpacks available online, along with that there are sites where you can get the right fit for your size. But sometimes things go wrong and we buy the backpack that is not for or too small for our size, especially when the specification of the backpack on the website is confusing. Today we will discuss how to How do I know if my backpack is too small?

How do I know if my backpack is too small? 

A small backpack can cause shoulder pain if you wear it for a few minutes. Add weights in your backpack to see if the weight is distributed equally, and also make sure the backpack is sitting on the top of your hips. If the backpack is above your hips in the middle of your back somewhere then the backpack is small. 

There are different ways for you to figure out that your backpack is small for you. Most beginners make the mistake of buying smaller backpacks that don’t fit their size but that’s totally fine as I also made the same mistake when I bought my first backpack. I have written some ways by which you know if your backpack is small or not. Besides that, I have also written a guide on how to choose the right backpack for you. 

Shoulder pain or tight straps

Yes, this is the first sign which shows that your backpack is small according to your size. The reason for that is when you hike or walk with a small backpack your backpack is unable to reach your hips, which means the backpack is not sitting in the right place. So, the amount of pressure that has to be distributed through hips is now on shoulders, as shoulders are the only ones supporting the backpack. If you hike with this small bag then, you’ll surely get tired easily and also you will experience a lot of pain in your shoulders and upper back. However, this is only true when you buy a fixed torso length backpack if you have a small backpack but its torso length is adjustable then you will not experience too much pain. 

Sometimes, fixing your torso length lower also makes walking difficult as the distance between your body and backpack increases when you have a smaller backpack, especially from the top part of the backpack which will make your backpack slide here and there when you take the next step. 

Hangs over your lower back

As I have told in an earlier example, fixing a lower torso length is not a good idea, but if you have a backpack that has a fixed torso length then it’s easy to know if the bag is too small for you. If you have a backpack that doesn’t sit on the upper part of your hips and is only able to hang around your lower back then it’s definitely a small backpack for you. 

Some people confuse it with the height of the person but height is not the way to judge the right fit for you, sometimes it’s the width of your lats. What I mean is, if your lats are wide or you are a broad person then you may likely need a longer backpack or straps to cover your body. 

Your torso length is bigger

Sometimes, it is common to make mistakes in taking measurements. So I would suggest you take the help of any other person while taking measurements. However, if have taken measurements of your own then, check it again and match it with the backpack. If your torso length is 18 and your backpack’s maximum torso length is 17 or even 18 then the backpack is small for you. 

Your hips are wider

Well, a lot of people make mistakes in this, they only measure the torso length and buy the backpack based on that. Or sometimes we neglect that part because it doesn’t seem that important, but that’s the most important part to measure when you buy a backpack. If your backpack is not the size of your hips or it is too small and your hips are wider then that means your backpack is smaller for you and not the right fit. 

Well, sometimes the reason can be different also. Our body shapes change throughout our lifetime, and because our backpacks are of good quality, they last longer and we use them for years. So, in case our hips or shoulders get wider than the backpack which we bought  3 years earlier, they get smaller for our body. 

I have personal experience in this, I started hiking with my brother from an early age, so when we were eighteen we bought the backpacks online. And the size is great, we were satisfied. But as we joined the gym a year later, our body becomes broad, and hips also width increased as we are in the gaining phase, and the age we were in, is the best time for the body to increase. Anyways, after 2 years the same we bought, rarely fits us. They look too small so we have to buy a new backpack for ourselves. 

What backpack size do you need? 

There are a lot of different ways that brands use to describe the backpacks category. Sometimes you will see xs-s(extra small and small) while sometimes the brands only have categories in small. After getting your measurements, check what bag fits you well. Make sure, sometimes brands have small sizes from 14 to 17 and medium from 17 to 21. In this case, if your size is 17, then you should go with medium size because that’s the perfect size for you. 

Your backpack should have enough space 

0l-10 l

If you are going on a day hike that is too small, then this backpack is fine as you can carry some. Snacks and a water bladder in it. If your day hike is of long hours then you need a bigger backpack as this is insufficient and small for that trip. 

12l-25 l

This is one. of the best ranges for day pack backpacks. You can get enough space for your important gear and storage for personal items. A 22-liter backpack is the best to go on a day hike. For more information, you can read this article-Do i need a backpack for a short hike?

25l- 40l

These are the types of backpacks that you really need for a multiday hike. It can carry around 50 shirts in it, that’s a good amount of space to store most of your essential items. 


This is a big one which is rarely used and mainly when you are going on a thru-hike in Europe or elsewhere where it takes 5 days or more. This is a huge backpack and it’s unnecessary if you use it on daily hikes or multi-day hikes, all you will do is hurt your shoulders with weights. 

How to choose the backpack for your size? 

To choose the right backpack for your size, you need two measurements. The first is torso length and the second is your hips.

 Measure torso length 

To measure the torso length, first, you need measurement tape. Don’t use a scale because it is not flexible. 

  • Step first – stand straight and put both your hands on the upper side of your hips. Your thumbs should be straight pointing inwards and in the straight line to the curve of your lower backpack. 
  • Second step- start measuring from the neck joint. To know the point, put your head down and look down to the floor, the bone that pops out besides your neck is where you have to start measuring. 
  • Step3-Measure from that point to the point where you put your hands ah ch is basically the top of your hips. 

That’s how simple it is, to measure the torso length. You can get the best measurements by taking the help of a person. You can also measure by yourself if you have enough flexibility. But make sure when you measure yourself, take the measurements thrice and divide it by 3 to get the average and best accurate measurement. When you measure yourself, most of the time you will get little different measurements. So, always get three measurements to be sure. 

Measure the hip circumference

To measure the hips, all you have to do is measure your hips with tape and make sure the tape is on the widest part of your hips. Now, this is where a lot of people may get confused and make mistakes because there are torso lengths on the sites but you will not know if the backpack is fit and sits well on your hips. Also, the hip belt which is used to carry most of your backpack weight will not fit well if the size is not fit. 

Before buying the right backpack make sure there is a slight difference between men’s and women’s backpacks. The number is shoulder straps. Shoulder straps in women’s backpacks are wider and curvy to give extra space because of the breast. Men’s backpacks are pretty simple and you will have straight straps. Another difference is the hip belt. In women’s backpacks, the hip belt is curvy and makes a triangle-like shape, this is made to support the women’s curvy back. 

Conclusion- to check if your backpack is tight or not. Try it by putting weight inside and keep it there for 5 minutes. Make sure you don’t feel pressure on your shoulders. Moreover, your backpack should sit on the top of your hips, if it’s up then the backpack is small and is tight for you. Further, make sure the hip belt is comfortable and not too tight and should come lower below your stomach. If it’s on your stomach then the backpack is small for you.