Update: Finding THE Backpack

In one of my first posts, “Finding THE Backpack”, I wrote about the struggles of finding a backpack that will suit your body type & size.

I recently received a few emails from women needing further details and advice, mostly on the hip belt issue.  Christy, a reader from California, was one of them.  After her backpack shopping experience, she was kind enough to provide me with a few different models that she found fitted her well and accepted that I share this info with you!  Christy mentioned to me she is a US size 22 or 2X/3X and is 6 feet tall.

Christy said her experience at REI, a well known US chain of over 100 stores specialized in outdoor gear, was great and that she found 4 models that fit her hips and body size… thanks to a helpful store associate.

black diamond speed 40 backpack


Capacity: 40 liters (also available in 30 l)
Designed for: Men/unisex
Size: M or L
Color: Yellow or Black (at REI)
Yellow, Grey or Lava (at Black Diamond Equipment)
Suggested Retail price: 159.95 US
*Click here for full specs from the Black Diamond Product Page*
Note: there is a 2013 “old” model and a
“new” model available on the Black Diamond website

north face terra 55 backpack


Capacity: 55 liters (also available in 40 l)
Designed for: Women
(there is also a Men version)
Size: XS/S or M/L
Color : Dark Blue & Lavender or Yellow & Aqua
Suggested Retail price: 169.00 US
*Click here for full specs from The North Face Product Page*



gregory j38 backpack


Capacity: 40 liters
Designed for: Women
Size: XS, S & M
Color: Red, Dark Grey or Purple
Suggested Retail price: 179.00 US



gregory sage 55 backpack


Capacity: 55 liters (also available in 35 l)
Designed for: Women
Size : XS, S & M
Color: Blue, Red or Gray
Suggested Retail price: 199.00 US



Note that each backpack offers different “sizes” (from X-Small to Large, depending on the brand), to better suit your hips and torso length.  The capacity might differ slightly (± 2 liters), depending if you opt for the smaller or larger version of each bag.

If you were lucky enough to find other bag that accommodates you, as a plus-size traveler, feel free to share it with us in the comments below or via CONTACT ME !


  1. A suggestion I have to make is go into your nearest outdoor store and get fitted. I’d recommend Osprey brands because if the hip belt is too small (as it will be for most of us plus size backpackers,) the store will order another hip belt for free to replace it, due to the Osprey guarantee. I bought an Osprey Ariel at REI and they were able to replace the hip belt for a larger one! 🙂 Otherwise, I’d recommend eBags Mother Lode Weekender (the backpack I ultimately brought along with me) or the Tortuga, which I’m eager to try and buy!

    • Indeed, fitting is a crucial step, you are right.
      Some might not fancy get measured by strangers, but most of the time, the store associates are super nice and polite and worst case, bring a friend who can do the measuring and poking with the advice of the sales person! 🙂
      What bag did you end up buying?

  2. First of all, I wanted to mention (in case any readers don’t know) that an important thing I found out about backpacks is that the size is actually based on the length of your torso, not the size of your waist! So although I wear a 3x shirt, I wear a Medium backpack (boo yah!) You can find youtube videos that will show you exactly how to have a friend measure your torso height.

    I am shopping for a backpack right now. I am 5’7″ and weigh around 330 lbs. So I wear about a size 28 pants. I have read a lot of good reviews about the Osprey Aether, which is the men’s version of the Osprey Ariel. (One major selling point for the Osprey bags is they have an awesome *forever* warranty. Even if you buy the pack used, and even if it is 50 years old, they will repair the pack for free. If they cannot repair it, they will send you the money for a replacement.) Everyone is saying this is the most comfortable pack they’ve ever owned yadda yadda yadda. (Sounds good to me!) The salesman suggested the Ariel instead because it is made specifically for women. The basic differences is that the hip belt has more cushion and the shoulder straps are narrower and angled not to squish our chest.

    I went to the store to try the packs on and the LARGE-size belts were too small. I *could* snap them if I super sucked it in and squished the belt as tight as possible, essentially cutting me in half. When I measured the large, it was around 54 or 55 inches. (The men’s large was slightly bigger, but not big enough.) I’m probably a good 6-8 inches bigger than that. Two years ago, however, I was 40 lbs lighter and wearing a size 24. At THAT point, I think my waist was about 55″ so it might have fit. Anyway, the dude says they do make an extra large and that they could order the XL belt for me. He says they would not charge any extra if I just have them swap the belts out while it is brand new. The unfortunate part is, I couldn’t get an ACTUAL FEEL for the pack without the belt fitting. Some brands have belt extenders that you can clip onto the existing belt, but each clip is different. I don’t believe the Osprey’s have belt extenders that they sell(??)

    The store sold the older version of the pack as well–on sale for 40% off, which is ~$100 cheaper!!! (The new version was made in 2012.) The DOWNSIDES to the older pack are mainly that the hydration pack is inside the bag and harder to get to…and the new style (padding is more comfortable) hip belts will not fit into the older bags. He said they are “discontinued” so if I need a new hip belt down the line, it may be hard to find one. I know there are some other upgrades as well, such as pocket sizes, etc.

    The other thing I wanted to mention is that I was unsure what size pack to buy (still am), but I have a better idea now. I noticed that the 55L, 65L, and 75L only vary by 1oz for each size. So I thought “man, I should get the biggest size, if it’s only an ounce or two heavier. Then I’ll have the perfect pack for ANY occasion!” Well, there were some flaws to my way of thinking. People keep telling me not to get one too big because I’ll want to fill it. Ok sure, but what if I have self-control??? Well, here’s the kicker. When I tried them on in the store (only the 55L and 65L), I could already tell that my HEAD had more space and was more comfortable in the 55L. I would have the ability to wear a hat if I wanted and the pack wouldn’t be smacking me in the back of the head, like it seemed the 65L might, especially if I wanted to look up (or stretch my neck?) for any reason.. We didn’t actually put weight into the backpacks, so I didn’t get a true feeling for them, but I did think “Ok if I’m wearing this thing all day, every day, for 2 months….every little thing is going to make a difference in a big way.”

    Ok that’s all I can offer at this point. Sorry I wrote so much, but I know I always appreciate information overload when I’m shopping for an expensive/important item!!!

  3. I’m so glad I found this site! I was at REI this morning trying on backpacks and the guy kept trying to push me toward a $299 Gregory. First, no way in hell am I spending that much on a pack. $200 should suffice according to everything I’ve read and second, the shoulder straps were supremely uncomfortable. This article gives me some specific models to check into. Thanks!

    • Keep us posted on which model you get and how it works out for you, Sara!
      Happy shopping & happy travels! 🙂

  4. I bought a Deuter 45+10 last year. ( still only planning on travelling) It’s a lightweight pack but with large capacity. I’m hoping to do a year long trip with it so it’s got to carry four seasons. It’s the only backpacking item I bought brand new. Everything else is thrift store purchases.
    Thanks for the great reads, lots of info here!

  5. Great site and resources. I just returned from my first quick trip carrying only my North Face Borealis pack. My circumstances only allow for 1-3 day trips so I can get it all in my daypack. I had big problems with the shoulder straps digging into my arms. Between my chest and upper arms. I am still able and prefer to use a day pack with a hip strap. Any ideas on day packs with more comfortable straps?


    • Hey Diane, I just realized I never responded to your comment! (My bad, I was in Peru when you wrote!)
      I am still looking for a decent daypack that would have a hip strap that fits… So I’m afraid I don’t have a recommendation for the moment 🙁
      Maybe the smaller models featured in THIS POST could do it…?
      Keep me posted about your quest! 🙂

      • I’m looking at something to travel with. I’m not hiking. I was looking at the Tortuga because I loved the features. Especially that you could load it like a suitcase, you can tuck the straps in and carry it. It also offers a strap. The zippers are lockable. Anyway I wear a 20w pants and I was wondering how the waist belt would be on this. Does anyone know? TIA

  6. would love to find a list of “city style” backbacks (things we can feel good or stylish wearing around city touring… do you think you might do a plus size post about that (please)?

    • Hey there! That is definitely something I’ve been looking into… I don’t have a more precise moment when that will come out, though, sorry! But stay tuned… and I hope you will find other good stuff on the blog until then! 😉

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