Fortunately, many packs are really designed to fit a range of heights and torso lengths. Get your husband's height, which should allow you to at least characterize his torso length as short, average, or long. This approach would hold true, for instance, if you wanted to purchase a Gregory Palisade ($289; www.gregorypacks.com), a 5,000-cubic-inch backpack that is one of the best buys around. Great pack bag design, superb suspension, comfortable with big loads, and really pretty adjustable. All in all, perfect for weekend trips or the occasional long journey. The "medium" size, for instance, fits torso lengths between 17 to 19 inches, and waists up to 34 inches or so. I'm five-foot-nine with an average build and 31-inch waist, and this is the pack I'd get. If your husband is over six feet, then go for the large; five-foot-seven or so, maybe the small.
Lowe Alpine's Alpamayo ($239; www.lowealpine.com), which has about the same capacity, is even more adjustable, fitting torso lengths from 17 to 23 inches. It's also a good pack, but generally the best packs are built in three or four sizes, which greatly simplifies fit. The Lowe Alpine is more one-size-fits-most.
My advice: Give your best shot to finding the pack that would really be right for him, size-wise. Surely any good outdoor store will be happy to take it back on December 26.
Until December 15, the Gear Guy is unveiling his ten favorite pieces of gear, and in the spirit of the season we're giving it all away. CLICK HERE to find out what makes his all-star Hall of Gear and enter the 2003 Great Gear Giveaway!