Gear Guy

Should I have my husband try on a pack before I buy it as a gift?

I want to buy a new pack for my husband for Christmas. Is it possible to use his measurements to find the right size without taking him with me, or is this the sort of thing he has to try out for himself? Any recommendations on a good pack to take out on weekend backpacking trips? Sally Athens, Ohio


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Well, packs can be a little tricky, though the rigmarole isn’t quite as fussy as buying shoes, when the salesclerk needs more than, “Well, he’s sorta small and sorta big, but close.”

Palisade Palisade

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;, 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;, 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.

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