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Context: I'm a heavy guy - at my widest point, about 58 inches (147 cm) around, and one of the ways I exercise is to incorporate it into some other activity (walking or cycling to the shops, commuting by bike to work, walking where practical while on holiday). I live in the east of England, so recent experience of hill country is limited, but I have done some hiking as a child/teenager in the Lake District and on Dartmoor/Exmoor while at University.

I enjoy camping and have successfully done some bikepacking between commercial campsites, so am interested in backpacking/camping. Based on my experience bikepacking and various instructional videos, I expect to need about a backpack of about 60 litres capacity for a multi-day hike of 10-15 miles per day in moderate country (liable to increase as my confidence grows or if weight starts coming off).

Unfortunately, the backpacks I've tried in the past tend to be optimized for someone much slimmer than me, which becomes noticeable in inadequate length of the chest strap and (particularly) the waist belt. In some cases, when carrying a loaded day bag, the length of the shoulder straps has also been a problem, as they can cut off circulation to the arms over time. A less important but still 'nice to have' thing is good airflow - unsurprisingly, I sweat more heavily than most, so I have been impressed with some suspension-style backpacks.

Can anyone recommend backpacks or manufacturers that cater for the fatter hiker? Spending is not a particular issue, but availability in the UK may be (I can import, but it would impact the ability to try before buying).

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  • Welcome! Specific product recommendations are off topic here, but there's a good question in here about finding and fitting packs. You might want to wait until suitable shops are open again to allow trying on, especially as you won't get much use out of it for the next few weeks (I'm also in England) – Chris H Jan 10 at 12:21
  • Sorry that I cannot help you with your question, but thought it would be interesting to note that Henry VIII measured about 57 inches in circumference, as shown by his armor. I think that was the waist, but am not sure. – ab2 Jan 10 at 16:42
  • frame challenge: 60L can be a lot, depending on weather and distance to civilisation. A lighter/smaller sleeping bag, a simpler tent or tarp, re-supplying in towns and villages, hiking in warmer season, having access to water streams, all can make your pack a whole lot smaller (In those conditions my overnight pack is about 30L for 2-season camping, for example) – njzk2 Jan 13 at 14:34
  • @njzk2 in much of the UK there's too much farming runoff to trust the streams, but then villages aren't too far apart. A light tent is better than a tarp on campsites and wild camping options are pretty limited, though you can of course use a tarp as a simple tent (I do occasionally). Tarps aren't as popular here as we don't have a reliable dry season; even in summer you'll need to carry full waterproofs and probably a bit of warm clothing – Chris H yesterday
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    @njzk2 that's reasonable. I'd rather compromise on weight than spend the money. Hopefully a range of views will help the OP towards a decision – Chris H 23 hours ago
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Chest and waist or hip belts can often be extended or replaced with longer ones. While it's possible to lengthen them, modifying the shoulder straps in any more significant way is much harder. If you do need to modify straps, the more standard the fittings, the easier it will be.

So it's more important to get a pack that fits, and that puts the lower belt in the right place, than to find belts that work as standard. The lower belt on a pack that size should sit in a way that it can take some weight without having to be so tight it squeezes you.

My mountaineering pack, long out of production (a Karrimor Alpiniste), has a more generous hip belt than my more ordinary packs - that might be a direction to look in.

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