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general pack fit help (with bonus harness attachment question!)
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Joseph Evans
general pack fit help (with bonus harness attachment question!) on 01/15/2014 22:12:32 MST Print View

Hi all,

I picked up two packs recently (both killer deals) in the hopes of lightening my load, but one has a very restrictive return policy (my fault), so I'm unable to use them both under normal conditions before choosing. I'm coming from a gregory baltoro 70, which weighs a lot, but 'seems' to fit well. I say that it SEEMS to fit well because I'm questioning whether its the packed weight on my last few trips that causes mild discomfort after extended periods of time, or if its the packs fit.

Anyway, I'm looking for some insight on pack fit, because after playing around with both packs loaded with weight, I've started to second guess what I thought was right (load lifters like this, straps like that,etc).

A preamble:
-the boreas is a 60l, while the osprey is a 65l
-both packs are packed in the exact same way, with the same amount of weight.
-water bottles, weights, and blankets fill out the pack (not real gear)
-both packs cover the same torso range
-the osprey has an adjustable torso, while the boreas does not.
-about 30 pounds is loaded in each pack.
-taking a picture of a red pack, while wearing a red shirt, was a stupid idea.

osprey atmos 65
osprey frontosprey side

Boreas lost coast
60boreas frontboreas side

For the record, the Boreas feels like the more comfortable pack. I feel like the weight rests more securely on my hips due to the lack of a trampoline style back. Because of the mesh back panel, it feels like the weight of the osprey is located about 2-3" from my back (which I guess, technically, it is).

Which brings me to the BONUS QUESTION:
The Boreas harness attachment location is new to me. Does the attachment being so low on my back impact the fit (both the osprey and my gregory have a similar location that runs off my shoulders with a little bit of a dip) in a negative way? The harness attaches slightly above the foam back panel in the image below.attachment

Thanks in advance for any help and/or brow beating you can throw my way.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Pack fit help... Need more pictures. on 01/15/2014 22:45:06 MST Print View

It's hard to tell from your pictures. I'm gonna need you to lose the shirt. And make an expression like you want to eat the camera.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: general pack fit help (with bonus harness attachment question!) on 01/15/2014 22:50:45 MST Print View

It almost seems like your torso is longer than you think. The Osprey is almost right, but the load lifters could meet the shoulder straps a bit more forward, and have more of a 45-degree angle. The Boreas looks awful! I've never worn one, so it may be hella comfy, but it looks like a shoulder-killer to me.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: general pack fit help (with bonus harness attachment question!) on 01/15/2014 22:52:34 MST Print View

It is hard to tell from the photos. The Osprey looks approximately correct, and the Boreas looks a hair too low.

The normal method is to load it up with 20-30 pounds of sugar sacks, and then walk around the block.


Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: general pack fit help (with bonus harness attachment question!) on 01/16/2014 00:18:55 MST Print View


Just my two cents -

Osprey a tiny bit too short, but fine, provided that is really where you will be wearing the hip belt, which looks a little high to me. Exactly like you have put most of the weigh on your shoulders and haven't been carrying it there for the past 5 hours. Otherwise the osprey is likely too short.

Boreas is without doubt too short. Should have the next longer size IMHO. It looks most correctly adjusted in the last picture, where the torso length is clearly way too long.

The above said, go with the one that feels best, provided you test them enough (and in the right way) to be sure you really know. One thing for that kind of pack, in which I assume you would not be carrying a trivial amount of weight, is to check to make sure it is adjusted to get most of the weight on your hips. Even if you think this is "not your style", for a big pack (many of us will argue for ANY pack with a frame) it probably should be, and even so after a long day it might *become* more your style. Then after it is adjusted in this way (what some of us would call the "right" way for it to be adjusted) see how the pack feels when balanced with the weight almost entirely on your waist.

FWIW my rule of thumb on this issue (and a lot of other folks, including apparently Dan Mchale based on seeing pictures of his his custom-made packs on the people he built them for) is that the "ideal" torso length is where the shoulder straps attach to the back of the pack *right at shoulder level* (i.e. the top goes straight back). Above a little or below an inch or inch and a half will probably be fine. Otherwise the comfort starts to degrade.

This fit check is only meaningful when the pack is properly adjusted. I specifically mention this because, especially in picture for the first pack but maybe a little in the first pictures of the second pack it looks like you might be *cheating* a bit.

Having the pack adjusted correctly is %80 of the game for fitting, but there are some other sub factors. The pack should be loaded realistically. It should be checked when your shoulders are held at the level they will be at most when hiking, such as when using trekking poles (or not). Also you need to walk around, as much as you can at least - the comfort is not just related to the static hang but how stable it is when moving, especially side-to side, and how stable you feel when carrying you normal load on your normal terrain.

There is specific physics and all behind this we could get into, but the rule of thumb above (straps close to straight back) is basically simple, and should be followed after ignoring rated torso length, which should be relied upon ONLY to get you in the ballpark.

Edited by millonas on 01/16/2014 01:16:59 MST.

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: general pack fit help (with bonus harness attachment question!) on 01/16/2014 02:57:24 MST Print View

I agree with Bob Gross's assessment.

The Osprey looks about right and the Boreas looks too small.

Still only you can tell for sure after loading the packs and seeing if you can get nearly all the weight on your hips at will. 30 pounds should be more than sufficient to test this out, as Bob indicated above.

My personal opinion is that the rule of thumb that Mark Millonas mentioned about the pack straps going straight from your shoulders to meet the pack is only applicable to packs that don't have very substantial frames. Others will disagree, but that's just my opinion.

I have always prefered to get the straps to hug my shoulders as much as possible while still allowing me to put at least 80% of the load on my hips. I find that packs with good frames will allow you to have tighter fitting shoulder straps, and both of those packs you are trying out should have fairly substantial frames so I think it's applicable here.

Again though, you're just going to have to try them both out with some real weight and see how that goes.

I like the suspension on the Osprey Volt 60 a whole lot more than the Atmos line. I hate how the trampoline style mesh backpanel places the load so far away from your back. Sounds like you're in the same boat. If you can still return those packs, then trying out another model might be a good option.

Edited by dmusashe on 01/16/2014 03:03:43 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: general pack fit help (with bonus harness attachment question!) on 01/16/2014 08:43:57 MST Print View

Both have frames that are not tall enough to make the load lifters truly effective. To me they both look too short.

With respect to the Boreas, you are wearing that belt lower on your illiac and at a weird slant. Given that, the pack may work 'okay' if you can match how you are wearing the belt in the Osprey pack.

Joseph Evans
Thank you!!!! on 01/16/2014 12:59:29 MST Print View

Thanks for your help/insight guys! I really appreciate the knowledge, and the time it took to type up some of these responses. Thank you!

I'm going to monkey with the torso on the osprey and throw a picture up after work (mainly so I can better understand fit. I still don't like the back panel). I really like the suspension on the boreas, so I'll most likely trade that one for a larger size.

ps. thanks for the rec for the volt. it looks like a straight forward, simple pack that is only 3oz heavier than my atmos. The aether (the only other osprey in this size range without the trampoline back) is over a full pound heaver!

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Thank you!!!! on 01/16/2014 17:40:54 MST Print View

"My personal opinion is that the rule of thumb that Mark Millonas mentioned about the pack straps going straight from your shoulders to meet the pack is only applicable to packs that don't have very substantial frames."

Just the opposite is the case. Not to go into too much detail as there have been several long, long threads on these issues just in the past year. Some things brought up here are related. In the ideal situation the load lifters are only there to make micro adjustments in order to get the weight off of your shoulders by counteracting any net downward force. I think people who have never used a perfectly sized pack think the lifters are something fundamental instead of being what they were originally intended as - micro compensation (to remove the weight on your shoulders) for both small deviations from perfect torso length, and for changes in torso length at different times of the day and for different loads. They shouldn't be used to awkwardly attempt to compensate for a bad fit, but unfortunately that is how I see them being used in the majority of cases I see when I pass people on the trail.

Two things are especially important about having the straps go as straight back as possible on *heavy* packs are that in a heavy pack (as far as I'm concerned) you want to get the weight mostly on you hips as the consequences for not doing so are the greatest for discomfort. If the straps are straight back it is physically impossible for there to be any weight *down* on you shoulders. Second point, if they are straight back there is the shortest length of strap from the shoulder turn to the pack, and hence the least degree of freedom (usually close to the greatest stability)for the pack to fall back or otherwise allow the pack to wobble on the ends of the pack straps. If your effective torso length never changed and you had the perfect length with the straps vertical at the top, you would not need the load lifters at all on a pack with a *solid* frame. Of course the pack is going to sink down a bit due to weight of gear, compression over time, fatigue and other factors. When it does you can cancel the downward force on your shoulders by readjusting the load lifters a bit. In terms of the physics this transfers the downward force back to you hips and off you shoulders. The degree to which you need to do this is personal, of course. But all of these things are important for a heavy pack with a frame to support this process, and all of these are easiest with the minimum "wraparound".

In contrast, using a frameless pack you can/will never have them go strait back, even if you tried. It is impossible because you HAVE to have force down on you shoulders, and therefore the straps MUST wrap around. So IMHO, just the opposite. Only with a good solid frame will you ever be able to approach the vertical configuration where there is no weight on your shoulders. Some peoples' personal tastes are to have a significant amount of weight on their shoulders, but I think that might be a separate issue. And even those folks are probably going to want to relieve the weight at some point, if only to give their shoulders a short breather.

Edited by millonas on 01/16/2014 18:18:55 MST.

Richard Fischel
i've tried on a lot of packs and boreas was one of the few that i could never really dial in the fit on 01/16/2014 19:47:42 MST Print View

to me their torso sizing is incorrect. i've got a 19 inch back length and thought that their size large which is for 20" + torsos was too short. they need another larger size increment. i’ve worn packs with plenty of shoulder strap wrap, but i can’t think of any that had the same amount of wrap on a frame pack as the boreas. it's hard to tell in the pictures, but it looks as if the load lifters are almost flat, which is one of the signs that a pack, at least as it's set up is too short. but i guess they must be doing something right, it’s an award winning pack.

Edited by RICKO on 01/16/2014 20:08:45 MST.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: i've tried on a lot of packs and boreas was one of the few that i could never really dial in the fit on 01/16/2014 20:55:54 MST Print View

Yes, this is a perennial issue and frustration. As discussed ad naseum in some threads last year. When objectively measured, say from the middle of the hip belt to the place where the strap attaches to the pack, two packs from different companies (and sometime from the same company!) labled as 19" can have completely different measurement, neither of which is "19". LOL

On top of that company wants to have a few models as possible to cover the consumer spectrum for financial reasons, so they will often fudge the "recommended" range of torso size up, especially on either end of the size spectrum, so they don't have to make as many different sizes. This lead to ridiculous statement on the label like "fits torso length 14" to 17.5 inches". You can be sure that they will rarely recommend any potential customer to NOT buy a pack in one of the available size, so your torso size is going to be "in-range" somewhere regardless. ;-/

So by the time you measure your torso in the prescribed way, that number may not tell you too much, especially when you factor in you personal foibles, body shape and preferences.

The best advice is to use the torso length just to get you in the ballpark for trying things on, and completely ignore it after then. You should look mostly at the wrap around distance (how many inches below, or sometimes even above, your shoulder tops do the shoulder straps attach to the pack. You should be looking at this even if you don't swallow my advice that you should be trying to minimize that distance.

There is one way that worked for me perfectly last year to get a more or less reliable fit if you are ordering online, provided you can get the data from the pack makers. If you already have a pack that you have long experience with, and that you feel fits exactly the way you want (I guess in this senario that pack should be falling apart since it is SO great, LOL) then measure THAT pack from the place where the straps connect to the pack down to the middle of the hip belt. You could alternatively try to figure this out from packs you try on in the store, but the ideal way is if you have used one for real.

Either way, when you measure that pack THAT is your personalized "torso length". If you have a pack, but you think it is 1/2 inch short then add 1/2inh to that measurement. This measurement will often still mean almost nothing in relation to official torso lengths suggested by the company. However, it DOES mean that any pack (of basically the same kind) that has the same measurement from the place where the shoulder straps attach down to the middle of the hip belt WILL be a great fit for you. This at least is an actual quantitative basis for a fit. One you think yo know that number for you, the forget EVERYTHING else.

All you need to do is then get that exact measurement somehow from the pack maker, or over the phone from a dealer and you are set. You could also measure the pack in a store this way, but there you have recourse to trying them on. Whether you ask someone over the phone, of measure yourself, make sure you get the actual measurement, NOT the suggested torso range, or anything else with a fudge factor. If the two number are within an inch of each other the fit should be ok. Best if they match exactly. remember using this method completely subsumes any variability as to how much over wrap you like and so on. The ultimate arbiter for you is that original pack you know is great.

Hope this helps somewhat. It worked like a charm for me last year. Both packs I bought were from cottage industries an it was easy to get those exact number over the phone foe each size they offered. for more commercial pack you can measure for your self in the store.

Edited by millonas on 01/16/2014 21:22:07 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: i've tried on a lot of packs and boreas was one of the few that i could never really dial in the fit on 01/16/2014 21:08:08 MST Print View

Maybe "19" is the new 21.

I've found that different pack makers have different measuring points for the torso measurement, so they all end up with different numbers.


Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: i've tried on a lot of packs and boreas was one of the few that i could never really dial in the fit on 01/16/2014 21:22:59 MST Print View


What I really want to hear is that 50 is the new 30!

But yeah, if a pack has 4 inch waist belt, and the company measures from the bottom instead of the middle that is a potential 2 inch discrepancy. This is the torso equivalent of between a perfect and crap fit.

Edited by millonas on 01/16/2014 21:29:29 MST.

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Volt 60 ounce shaving and the load lifter debate on 01/16/2014 23:26:28 MST Print View

@Joseph Evans,
You can easily take 8 ounces off the Volt 60 by simply removing the lid and the "stow on the go" straps for hiking poles (I don't use poles, but maybe you do), and trimming down the webbing on the waist belt (which is super long out of the box).

You can take another few ounces off by really trimming some other things down if you so desire, but I won't go into that here.

The point is that you can get the Volt 60 down to around 3 pounds and sacrifice very little of the pack's functionality in the process.

The big advantage of the Volt is that it's very easy to dial in a custom fitted torso length, the suspension is really great even up to 40-ish pounds (IMO, anyway), and the pack is relatively inexpensive to boot.

I'd give it a try if I was you and if that's still an option.

@Mark Millonas,
Interesting comments about the shoulder strap issue. I haven't had enough experience with frameless packs to speak with any authority on the topic, my comments simply expressed my general impression of the situation, but perhaps I'm wrong.

As far as the framed packs go, I see what you're saying, but I still don't like to have my own shoulder straps fit the way you advised with the straps going straight back from the shoulders. That simply ensures that every time I unbuckle my hip belt, the pack will sag several inches-- which is less than ideal. That kind of shoulder strap fit also creates pressure points around my clavicles (this is personal though, so YMMV). I much prefer to have my shoulder straps wrap around my shoulders a bit more and do a decent amount of load stabilization/lifting with my load lifters.

Speaking of which, I disagree with you about load lifters. In addition to pulling the load closer into your back for uphills, they are there to lift the load off the trapezius muscle and place more of the force on your chest (a wider and less fatiguable area), and that's exactly how I use them. Just because much older packs didn't have load lifters doesn't mean that they should be used minimally now. They are a useful feature of modern packs.

Can load lifters be misused? Sure, I think that happens all the time. But to argue that their use should be minimized because they were only ever meant to be used for "micro adjustments" is false, IMO. They should be used in anyway that the user wants if it helps him/her achieve a more comfortable fit.

And by the way, what is a micro adjustment anyway? How do you quantify that? 1 mm? 1 inch? I think one man's micro adjustment is another man's macro adjustment.

In the end, I think I get what you're saying, I just disagree... but on the bright side, I love your avatar! :)

Joseph Evans
updated on 01/17/2014 14:18:48 MST Print View

Here is a shot of the osprey with the torso adjusted up one notch. Interestingly (or maybe not so interestingly), this does put more weight on my hips but also absolutely kills my lower back (attributed to the trampoline back, or user incompetence?)

again, 30 pounds with a sleeping bag packed on the bottom and the heaviest objects closest to my back. Also, I'm wearing low rise jeans (the hipbelt is below my bellybutton).


medium torso

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: updated on 01/17/2014 14:25:10 MST Print View

In the photo, there are so many things showing in the area where your back touches the pack that it is difficult to tell what is going on. However, the top of the shoulder straps look approximately correct.


Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: updated on 01/17/2014 14:51:03 MST Print View

Looks ok to me, at least, Joseph.

@Derek By "misused I mostly mean things like having the torso length be 3 inches too short and then hauling on the load lifters nearly until they have scrunched the pack strap all the way to where the load lifters attached. That is one way to lengthen the effective torso length, not definitely not the most comfortable or the way they were intended to work. Surprisingly, I see that quite a bit.

Have you actually tried a well made heavily loaded pack the the torso length that I am suggesting?

Load lifters aren't THAT modern BTW.

Edited by millonas on 01/17/2014 15:01:06 MST.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Everyone is different on 01/17/2014 17:04:14 MST Print View

I don't like my shoulder straps to go straight back either, I want them to be slightly ABOVE my shoulders. No real weight on my shoulders.

I have also had issues with my lower back, but not at light loads like 30 lbs. What I discovered is that it need to stand with correct posture and not let the pack push me around posture wise. Learning what correct posture really is helped a lot in the regard.

BTW, the back clinic basically defined it as "in the middle" of the range of motion. It should be the most comfortable posture. Everyone is different, and I had no trouble determining what is correct for me based on that. But, everyone is different...

I could use the pack as you have it fitted, but it would not be the most comfortable for me. I would adjust it up higher, but that would probably exacerbate the lower back issue. Try making sure you "stand up straight" when the pack is on. Regardless, it doesn't sound like this is the pack for you, even if it fits right.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: general pack fit help (with bonus harness attachment question!) on 01/17/2014 19:26:05 MST Print View

bummer on the return policy, because they're both too short.
sorry. but that's the way it looks from here. and that's why the hip belts are riding up too high.

ya .. is a bummer

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: general pack fit help (with bonus harness attachment question!) on 01/17/2014 19:36:42 MST Print View

See! Ah sweet vindication. I'll take whatever I can get. LOL

Peter is a Mchale fan I assume since he has a link on his web site. I thought my argument via reducto ad Mchale was my most authoritative. ;-)

The last pic looks better, however, if I ignore the way the hip belt looks. It *looks" like it is hanging rather than supporting. Possibly I am just subconsciously jealous that you are thinner than I am.

Joseph, can you squeeze another inch out of the adjustable frame? Might be too much for you, but you could see what it is like.

Edited by millonas on 01/17/2014 19:58:31 MST.