How to choose the perfect frame height for your hunting backpack

You learn many things about how to choose the proper backpack for hunting.  From materials, suspension system to capacity and features for carrying your gun/bow, selecting an adequate pack for hunting is a challenge for most.

One of the many aspects to observe while scrolling through the many options is to figure out if the frame height of the pack will work for you or not.

Why check the frame height of the backpack?

No backpack will be good for hunting if it’s not comfortable, and numerous features and elements on your pack affect the level of comfort. A comfortable backpack will properly take the weight from the shoulders to your hips.

Shoulder muscles get tired very quickly even when you’re only carrying a medium weight, whereas your hips and legs will take much heavier loads for a long time; it’s because they have the largest muscle groups.

The backpack frame should be tall so that the load lifting straps can draw the shoulder harness, giving best fit to the shoulders; the mechanism makes the frame capable to transfer loads from your shoulders to the hips and legs.

For years, backpack manufacturers only made specific sizes for their backpack, forcing you to choose between small, medium, or large frame heights. Nowadays, many models come with features for adjusting the frame’s height for best fit, according to the weight of your load.

Your torso length and expected loads will affect the frame height you need for the backpack. To give you an idea, here’s what the frame height should be relative to your torso length and weight of your load:

  • Torso length 15-16”- the frame height should be 24” for loads ranging from 30 to 50lbs. Go with 24” if the load goes over 50lbs
  • Torso length 17-19”- you can choose a backpack with 24/26″ frame height for 30lbs load and 26″ for loads ranging from 30 to 50 lbs. If your load is heavier than 50lbs, make sure to select a pack with 26 or 28″ frame.
  • Torso length 20”+- go with 26” frame for 30lbs loads and 26 or 28” for 30-50lbs loads. Choose a pack with 28” frame if your load goes over 50lbs.

Adjustable frame height

Some prestigious manufacturers developed articulating frames and suspensions to ease out selecting the frame height on your backpack.

You no longer have to buy small, medium, or large frame height; you can now purchase one frame and adjust it to your specific needs. You will find 24” frames that allow adjustments to 26” or 28” with the frame extensions.

How do you know the best frame height for your needs?

Finding the torso length is just one step to take before selecting the proper frame height; you should always consider the expected load weights.

How do you know the best frame height for your needs

Figuring out the torso length

Torso length actually refers to the distance between the bump (C7, a vertebra that sticks out) and the bottom of your back.

It’s not possible to measure your torso length on your own so call someone to give some help. Have someone use a soft measuring tape, placing it in the center of C7. You should also identify the hipbones’ top points, drawing an imaginary line across your back between the points.

The distance between the tiny bump (C7) and that imaginary line that connects the iliac crests is known as the torso length. If you need to use words like “short” or “long,” 15″ is considered to be a short torso, whereas a 22″ is considered to be a very tall one. Most adult males have an 18″ torso.

What do you do next?

When your torso length ranges on the lower part (15 or 16”), you should find backpacks with a base frame height of 24″ as the most comfortable options.

People with torso lengths ranging from 17 to 19” will find reliable and comfortable all three frame heights. They should pick the frame height according to the expected load weight, though.

Hunters with torso length in the upper end of the scale (20″ and up) will find packs with 26 or 28″ frames comfortable for their hunts.

How does the expected load impact the frame height?

It’s matter of time until you see that it’s more comfortable to carry a taller frame for heavy loads than it is with a shorter frame. If your torso is 15” long, a pack with a 24-inch frame will be considered a tall frame for you.

A hunter with 18in torso planning to carry over 50lbs weights should use a backpack with 26 or 28 in the frame.

Backpack hunters will have to carry cumbersome loads, especially when they come back from the hunt, so 28in frame backpacks will make the most reliable choice for all torso heights. The reason for this is the reality that a taller frame eases out your efforts to carry cumbersome loads; these backpacks will also ensure effective load distribution, and 70% of it will be concentrated over the shoulder blades. You will experience a nice balance while backpacking without feeling “tipping.”

If possible, you should check yourself in the mirror after altogether loading your backpack. If your load is light, the frame height will go below your ear; for medium loads, the frame will go mid to low ear. Any heavy loads will take the frame mid-ear and higher.

Sizing and fitting your hunting backpack- never skip any!

Look for backpacks that provide various adjustments so that you find the best fit, according to your trail and load. You should continuously adjust the hip belt, harness, and shoulder straps on a pack with adjustable frame height.

Sizing and fitting your hunting backpack

Shoulder harness adjustment

Two ladder locks may provide shoulder harness adjustment; you should also touch them when wearing the pack. You tighten the adjustment straps before putting the backpack on and loos them for raising the harness when wearing the backpack. It takes a bit of practice to get it right, but it’s an essential skill to develop when backpack hunting.

Hip belt adjustment

It would help if you moved the lower frame’s connection to a grommet extending from the belt for hip belt adjustment.

The top grommet allows fit for long torsos, and the bottom grommet works for people with a short torso. Because the grommets are held by a nylock nut and a machine screw, you will need some essential tools to adjust the grommets at home and not on the trail.

What is the backpack’s weight distribution? Why is it important?

If you go backpack hunting for the first time, you might not consider weight distribution important. After all, you only need to pack your gear, close the pack, and be on your way. However, there’s a lot of science behind comfortable backpacking and weight distribution is crucial. It matters for balancing, saving energy, stability on your tracks, and even reducing the risk of injuries.

Backpack weight distribution refers to what and how you pack your backpack. The rule of thumb is to pack the heavy items as close to your back as possible. Also, you should load at the height of your shoulder blades. This way, you place the weight on the hip, which will improve your comfort throughout the day.

What type of backpack do you carry?

Let’s start by highlighting that various types of backpacks will have specific principles in terms of weight distribution. At large, we need to talk about internal and external frame backpacks as they’re the most used with hunting.

When using an internal pack, you should put the heaviest items at the center. If you decide to use an external frame pack, you will have to pack the heaviest items on top. Regardless of the type of backpack you use, keep in mind to have the heaviest items as close as possible at your back. Learn about the ups and downs of both the internal and external frame packs before buying one for your hunting.

How will your trail be?

Even if hunting takes you on rugged and soft trails alike, it’s understandable why some general rules are valid for all types of terrain. When your hunting takes you on flat surfaces, you will only need to pack the heavy items at the top of the backpack for comfortable carry. However, if you need to climb a lot, you shouldn’t put the heavy items at the top. If you leave the heavy items at the top, you will compromise stability. Even if it’s not a big problem when walking on a flat surface, it will be dangerous on your trail is rough.

Improve stability to save your energy

If you don’t understand why weight distribution can save you energy, think about the physics behind a lever mechanism. When you pack the heavy items close to the center, you will use less energy to carry. At the same time, you will improve your stability. Again, improving your stability may not matter on a flat surface, but it will make a real difference when climbing. If you walk on a plain surface, you can put the heavy items toward the top, making the hip carry more weight.

If the terrain is rough and includes climbing, you should lower the heavy items to improve stability. Otherwise, you risk falling backward. Spend some time by spreading the medium-weight items around the heavy items. Also, fill the lowers part of the backpack with lightweight things.

Balance the backpack

Stability isn’t only about not falling backward and forwards. You should also consider having a good left and right balance. Therefore, you have to think about using the pack’s side bags; place one water bladder on every side to obtain balance.

How should you manage weight distribution?

Now that we highlighted the main aspects of weight distribution, we need to talk about handling it in real life. It depends a lot on the terrain you encounter, the type of your backpack, the hunting gear, etc.

The rule of thumb is to always start by packing the sleeping bag because it’s voluminous yet lightweight. You won’t have to use it until you camp at the end of the day. Always place the sleeping bag at the bottom of your pack. Next, divide your items into light, medium, and heavy categories. Think about how often you will use the items throughout the day. For example, you don’t want to put your water recipient/bottle at the bottom of your backpack.

Think of your backpack in terms of the heavyweight zone, medium-weight zone, and lightweight zone. If you have one heavy item that you need to use during the day, you can make an exception and place it in an easy-to-access area.

How should you manage weight distribution

Here are some tips for efficient weight distribution

No matter how perfectly your backpack fits you, you still need to consider several aspects to carry it comfortably.

Check out the gear

If you go hunting for several days, you should check out every morning if your items are still in their designated place. It might take some trial and error until you create the perfect balance, so play with the items a bit. You need to discover the ratio that works best for you.

Be efficient

Inexperienced backpackers think that their backpacks are items. However, they often have plenty of room to pack their things. For instance, you can put your clothes in a pot and the food snacks in the open spaces in your backpack. You should fill all the areas, but don’t overdo it.

More item means a higher need for efficient weight distribution

The more items you put in your backpack, the more you need to handle the weight distribution efficiently. It doesn’t mean you should take things lightly when using a small bag. A small backpack can be difficult to carry if you’re not packing your items with weight distribution on your mind.

Use dry bags

We recommend you put your clothes/gear in dry bags so that they remain dry and have a clear overview. Dry bags are excellent when hunting, hiking, camping, etc.

Attach gear externally only if necessary

We don’t recommend you attach too much gear externally to move weight away from the center. Since carrying all your items in the pack will be challenging, you might have to attach some gear. If you attach items, you should connect them at the top.

Seek to attach lightweight items on the bottom. If you plan to secure things, make sure to attach the light, durable, and cumbersome items like the sleeping bag. Some items will be simply to pack inside the bag (the ice ax, for instance), so you won’t have another option but to attach them to the backpack.

Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!