When you’re hiking through a gorgeous landscape the last thing you want distracting you from the views is a pack that’s rubbing you up the wrong way. Ruby was sick of it and threw herself into an outdoor store to fix the issue once and for all. Now she’s converted and preaching backpack fitting from the rooftops.

I will openly admit my ignorance here on We Are Explorers – home of many ‘in the know’ adventurers – when it comes to hiking backpacks, to be honest, I never thought that much about them.

I only ever did day-hiking trips and when I travelled internationally, I thought the cheapest one I could find on eBay would suffice. After one too many shoulder bruises, painful back massages and snapped backpack straps, I decided to suck it up, walk into an adventure store and get a decent backpack that would sit on my hips, rather than my shoulders. A decent kit would mean I’d be more likely to do more daring multi-day trips, because I had the gear to support me.

ruby bisson, get fitted for a hiking backpack, photo by Rhianna, mr timbuktu,

I met a lovely fella called Scott at the local Paddy Pallin store in Sydney. It was the first time I had really walked into an adventure store to look at goods. Usually I’m in bed, making binge purchases after a long day inside a white-walled room and I compensate by purchasing things for the outdoors.

Buying A Backpack Is Like Buying A Shoe

Scott told me that buying a backpack is like buying a shoe and that unless you know your size, you should come in and get fitted. Everyone at Pallins is trained in fitting hiking packs appropriately and he said that if you walk into an adventure store and the team isn’t, it’s not worth shopping there. Getting fitted makes a huge difference and you want experts to help you with the process.

He had this T-shaped device that measured your hips and your torso. As everybody is different and some of us have really long or really short torsos compared to our hips, our backpacks need to be adjusted accordingly to prevent immense suffering on mountain climbs.

You Want The Weight On Your Biggest Muscles

If you think about it, your hips and legs hold up your entire body. Rarely, after a general day of living, do we come home with aching legs (unless your work is dominated by physical activity). But if we hold a 3 litre bottle of milk out from our shoulders, after a couple of minutes we’d probably struggle to keep holding it out without shaking like a cat in the snow.

With your hiking backpack, you want to keep the weight on your larger muscle groups and you do this by making sure your hipbelt fits like a lover’s hand around your waist.

I ended up going with the Osprey Xena 70 because I needed a backpack that would stick to my back, not roll around. My main mode of transport is a motorbike, so a kit rolling around at the top isn’t great when I’m taking corners. It also means that balancing on your hands and knees as you’re scrambling up a rock face is more streamlined. It was only by being in the store and seeing the packs in front of me that I could understand (and ask about) their different features.

Custom Comfort

One of the impressive features of this backpack is their custom moulded belt fitting. By threading out the hipbelt of the backpack and placing it inside what could only be described as a glorified popcorn-machine, they heat-mould the Bioform or Isoform hipbelts. After about 12 minutes, you wrap it around your waist until it cools down, and it will mould to your body in the process. This maximises comfort, load control and support when you’re out adventuring.

This is something that couldn’t have been done online, and something I didn’t even think about when choosing a kit. When I walked into Paddy Pallin, I assumed I’d just walk up to the wall and pick one that was big enough, fit around my waist and looked good, but I was pleasantly surprised. Turns out backpacks aren’t something you can take off the shelf and walk away with – I didn’t know they could be so damn comfortable!

ruby bisson, get fitted for a hiking backpack, photo by Rhianna, mr timbuktu, sunset, silhouette

Ruby ended up being given her backpack in exchange for writing about her experience at Paddy Pallin and the the tech wizardry behind her Osprey Pack. She’s already taken it hiking in 5 Australian states.


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