When we bought a new pack (50L+, multi-day backpacking) for my wife in 2013, the (obviously experienced) gearhead steered her towards a Gregory pack and away from an Osprey, pointing out that her natural back curvature was not very dramatic.

Is this really a thing? I have noticed that Deuter and Gregory seem to have flatter harnesses than Osprey does (see pictures). The models I'm most specifically interested include:

  • Osprey Atmos 65L

Osprey Atmos

  • Deuter Aircontact Lite 50+10L

Deuter Aircontact Lite

  • Gregory Zulu 65L

Gregory Zulu

But beyond these specific models, my question is mostly does back curvature matter at all? I saw someone treat it as the primary consideration at one point, but I haven't seen it mentioned at all in my research.

  • 3
    I'm sure the three brands each have lots of different models, most likely some with more rigid shapes and others with less rigid ones. We could get into what size and type of pack you're shopping for and what models, but that type of shopping advice is not well suited to the SE format, because its usefulness is so ephemeral.
    – user2169
    Jul 17 '21 at 22:41
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    My question is mostly does back curvature matter at all? I saw someone treat it as the primary consideration at one point, but I haven't seen it mentioned at all in my research. Jul 17 '21 at 22:45
  • 3
    My question is mostly does back curvature matter at all? There are many different types of packs. There are day packs and large overnight backpacking packs. There are rigid frame packs and ultralight nylon sacks. There are packs with elaborate (and heavy) suspension systems to transfer weight to your hips, and others that don't have such a system. It's conceivable that back curvature does matter for some of these, but you haven't told us anything about what type of pack you're talking about, just the brand names.
    – user2169
    Jul 18 '21 at 1:46
  • I agree with @BenCrowell here. I have never paid a lot of attention to shape of my back while selecting a backpack. Rather, had more emphasize on requirements and frame-design of backpack. I'd suggest considering the backpack with proper Lumbar pad/cusgion which supports the spine.
    – WedaPashi
    Jul 18 '21 at 11:59
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    The last framed pack I bought was a child carrier, and of several differences between brands, that wasn't the biggest issue (but I'm too tall for some packs). My hiking packs are older, with formable internal frames/panels. My suspicion is that it's not generally an issue, but some packs don't work well for some people. A particularly curved, particularly rigid, frame with a very straight spine wouldn't be a good combination
    – Chris H
    Jul 18 '21 at 14:26

Do not focus on technical features like curvature. Focus on how the backpack feels. A reasonable shop should have sandbags (or similar) to simulate a loaded backpack. You will surely know what feels best.

  • I think it is worth noting that how a backpack feels accounts for curvature. So while you aren't directly focusing on curvature, the "feel test" is checking the curvature box.
    – noah
    Jul 19 '21 at 18:44
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    I think this answer is powerful in that it can really be expanded to almost any feature of a backpack. If it feels right it is generally right. There isn't really a better way to test if a backpack is right for your body than trying it out with weight.
    – noah
    Jul 19 '21 at 18:46

Trying a few on is key, with them loaded realistically, but one that looks like it should follow the natural back shape is a good place to start.

All these packs are of type that's currently popular, with a pre-formed frame tucked away behind padding. This is nice, because it means you don't have lots of insulation against your back. Compared to older designs like my 2 old Karrimors with foam and alloy pads that can be moulded to fit the user's back, the design offers a bit less room to optimise the fit, but should be less sweaty. Some tweaking of the frame may still be possible, and the padding can often be adjusted to correct the spacing between the load points.

With a pack in this size range, you want to carry much of the weight on the hips, but it may be heavy, so the load needs to be both stable and close to your centre of gravity. Of course you want the pack to be comfortable for long periods. This means that the frame should match your body shape to some extent - not necessarily follow it perfectly because of the padding and the strap adjustment, but not be wildly different from the body shape the designers had in mind. Small daysacks for light hiking are more forgiving.

You'll need to try a few packs, loaded approximately as you'd carry them, to feel the difference in fits. It's not all that predictable. Back length is another important variable in this size pack, though good packs often come in more than one size and/or have a good range of adjustment*, but a good place to start might be a more curved pack for a more curved back, and a flatter pack for a flatter back. It's possible that someone with a fairly flat back could find that one of the flatter packs fits horribly, worse than the more curved one, while the other is ideal.

* This adjustment range is why the child carrier I had a few years ago was a Deuter, because nothing else I could try on came up tall enough.

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