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Osprey Extended Fit: Behind the Scenes with Marley Blonsky

I never knew that a backpack was supposed to fit. That all the weight wasn’t supposed to be on your shoulders. That the hip belt served a purpose (aside from chafing my lower back.) Turns out, in 36 years, I’ve never worn a truly proper fitting backpack - until Osprey’s Extended Fit packs changed the game.

A woman wearing a pink shirt and a blue backpack adjusting her hipbelt strap

I’ve lived in a larger body all my life. I’ve grown used to accommodating my body and sacrificing my comfort to use the equipment that was available.  And until very recently, I really didn’t know how much of a difference having a well-fitting backpack could truly make.

As a size-inclusion advocate and consultant, one of the most common comments from brands looking to make bigger sizes is that they don’t have people who they can test the gear with. After hearing this repeatedly, I realized, “I could change this…I have an audience who is already active outdoors, often using subpar or ill fitting equipment. 

A woman wearing a pink shirt and hiking pants, wearing a blue backpack and holding her hiking poles up in the air in celebration

Using this as a framework, I developed a robust extended size testing database of people who are ready and willing to test gear designed for larger bodies. With folks in 16 countries and representing bodies ranging from XXS to a 64” waist, I’m able to connect brands with passionate outdoor enthusiasts to test larger gear.

Osprey was one of the first companies to contact me about this database in early 2021. As a company that has focused on personalized fit since the inception of the brand, Osprey acknowledged that their packs were not working as well as they should be for people in bigger bodies. Together, we put together a focus group of Extended Fit pack testers, myself included. We brainstormed over the current challenges with existing packs - inaccessible pockets, too short straps, and the need for a truly size inclusive pack.

Over the next two years, Osprey sent prototypes to dozens of fit testers - asking us to actually take an adventure using the packs. Fit testers supplied photos showing the fit (or lack thereof). All of this data was then compiled and the first round of Extended Fit family of packs was created, including both day hiking and backpacking bags. 

A woman wearing a blue backpack adjusting the sternum strap

As part of my size inclusion consulting, I recommend that brands go through a fairly intense Size Inclusion Training. This supplement to the fit-testing database helps assure that extended sizes aren’t just an afterthought - instead, it becomes integrated into how they do business.

Osprey took me up on this offer and went one step further, by bringing me onsite for a week of training, photoshoots, and video production. In early January 2023, I found myself in a soundproof studio in a warehouse in Cortez, Colorado, surrounded by the entire line of new Extended Fit packs(Se abre en una ventana nueva)

 

[youtube v="2wv_z3JJkJI"]

 

It was hard to believe - full size runs of the Volt/Viva, Ariel/Aether, Sportlite, and Talon/Tempest sat before me. I could literally pick up any bag in the room and have it fit my 54” hips and 16” torso, with room to spare. Osprey had truly taken in our feedback and worked it into the new packs with all of the hipbelts on the Extended Fit packs extended to 70”, extended torso straps, repositioned pockets, and longer harnesses. I actually felt small wearing the packs! 

Throughout the week, we worked together to produce both internal and external training videos about the new Extended Fit packs. Going into the week, I didn’t know how a pack was supposed to fit - by the end - I could give a lesson on it.

My week with Osprey culminated in a company-wide training session all about Size Inclusion. Talking about bodies, regardless of our size, can often feel intimidating or scary. I approach the training with empathy and humor, acknowledging that this isn’t a topic we talk about much, and it’s ok to ask questions and learn together. 

Two backpackers facing each other and talking in a desert landscape

Through the training, we talked about the power of language and why I call myself a fat woman. Together we learned about the body size spectrum, and the privilege that our society bestowes on smaller bodied folks. We learned why size inclusion work is critical - it’s about more than just having a pack that fits - it’s about inclusion, belonging, and creating a just world for all of us. We also spent a lot of time on the logistics of an extended size launch - why marketing is crucial, inventory allocation, and how to make it a success.

We wrapped the week with a photoshoot, which I think means I can now call myself a model. Blessed with bluebird skies and a talented photographer, you can hardly tell that it was 25 degrees with snow during the photoshoot. 

A woman laying in a tent facing out, with backpacking gear stashed to the side

Last week, just prior to the catalog launch announcing Extended Fit, we completed one final training with the Osprey team, this time covering social media and marketing. 

I’m confident that with the work the entire Osprey team has put into this launch - from the focus groups and product testing, to working with real plus-size bodies and including us throughout the process that this launch will be successful. 

I am so grateful to the entire Osprey team for their efforts, and can’t wait for everyone to have a pack that truly fits.

Be sure to follow Marley on Instagram(Se abre en una ventana nueva) and subscribe to All Bodies On Bikes(Se abre en una ventana nueva) today!

A woman wearing backpacking gear holding her hiking poles up in celebration while lifting one leg off the ground