Next month, I will be packin’ up and moving back to Madrid, Spain—my true love. However I will only have a short time to soak up my fave city before I’m off on my next BIG adventure—I have been assigned to cover the 500 mile El Camino de Santiago trail through Northern Spain. The plan is to set off from Saint Jean Pied de Port, in the south of France on August 28th and arrive in Santiago de Compestela —entirely by foot—on October 5th, my birthday. I will be writing and tweeting from the trail daily, and I will be posting digital videos along my 5+ week journey.

In planning my adventure, I have become a hiking gear research nut! When it came to researching and actually trying on backpacks, I decided: my hips don’t lie. It is the hips that bear the brunt of the weight of the backpack. Not only did I want to select a backpack that can be custom hip molded, I also needed to choose a backpack that was lightweight and comfortable, yet large enough to carry 5 weeks worth of belongings.

After careful consideration, reading user reviews and a trip to my local REI, I decided to go with the Osprey Xenon 70. I thought I would share my experience with receiving a proper backpack fitting.

I arrived at my local REI—admittedly looking like the very antithesis of a hiker in my summer frock and wedge sandals—and headed straight to the backpack department. My non-adventure-ready-appearance, coupled with the puzzled look on my face, caused the sales associate on duty to immediately approach me and incredulously ask if I needed any assistance. My rapid-fire “yes!” seemed to warm his heart and he took pity on me. I told him of my upcoming adventure and he sprung into action with an energy one wouldn’t expect from a man his age.

He began to cluck about like an over-protective mother hen, measuring my back along the spine and my hips with a tape measure, all the while stressing the importance of receiving a proper fitting. And was a really ready for such a grand adventure? After reviewing my measurements, it was determined that I—at 5’9″—was long-waisted with a prominent iliac crest. Again, my hips don’t lie.

When it came time to actually try on various backpacks, the sales associate looked concerned to let me walk around the store with a backpack and heels on, let alone send me out into the world with one. As I tried on the first backpack, I felt as how many brides must feel—it was love at first dress backpack. I ended up trying on several, but it was the first one that felt the most right—the Osprey Xenon 70. In addition to having all the specs I was looking for technically, the fit and comfort—especially of the hip belt—was what immediately won me over.

As I was leaving the store, I waved goodbye from afar to my mother hen and although I can’t be certain, I’m pretty sure I saw a proud tear in his eye.

If you’re in the market for a backpack but feeling a little lost, I highly recommend you visit a professional retailer. The sales associates at REI are exceedingly helpful, informative and will ensure you receive the proper fit.

Visit for more information about backpack fitting.

Although Osprey hipbelts are comfy right off the shelf, Osprey exclusive CM Certified™ heat molding is available at REI and will accomplish in minutes what may take several days to achieve. That additional, custom comfort will be immensely appreciated on my first day—Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles is the hardest one day of the whole Camino.

Stay tuned for more info on my El Camino de Santiago and a full review of the Osprey Xenon 70!