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Why Choose a Women's Specific Backpack?

As a female backpacker or hiker choosing new gear, the question of whether to consider a women’s specific backpack vs. a men’s or non-gender specific pack comes into play early in the decision-making process. Yes, some women can comfortably carry a men’s backpack (and some men can comfortably carry a women’s pack, as well). So why choose a women’s specific backpack model as a female backpacker? Backcountry Edge Gear Specialist Becky breaks it down for you in this informative video. The name of the game is ideal fit, and following her points to consider, you’ll be ready to choose a pack with the perfect fit for your body. 

How to Choose a Women’s Specific Backpack for Ideal Fit – 5 Things to Consider:

Torso/suspension sizing

Women's backpacks have a shorter torso length
Women's backpacks are designed with shorter torso lengths.

Women’s packs are generally designed with shorter torso measurements compared to men’s packs. For example, a men’s medium-sized pack will be sized for a much longer torso than a women’s medium-sized pack by the same manufacturer.


Tip: Be sure you know your specific torso length before you start shopping for a pack. Check out our video on how to measure your torso length for more information.


Shoulder straps contour and sizing

Women's backpacks have a narrower shoulder base
Women's backpacks usually have a narrower shoulder base and contoured shoulder straps.

Compared to men’s packs, women’s specific packs have a narrower shoulder base on the harness, and often have narrower padding on the shoulder straps to accommodate women’s smaller overall frames. The shoulder straps are typically more contoured and shorter in length on women’s specific packs, as well. This is important, as even if the torso measurement of a men’s pack is correct for a female wearer, the length and width of the shoulder straps may not fit, which can lead to chafing and bruising under heavy loads.


Tip: Shoulder straps should ride comfortably and not dig into your shoulders. Check that the straps stop just under the arm.


Hipbelt sizing

Women’s specific packs have hipbelts that are more curved and contoured than those on men’s packs. Smaller-sized packs usually have correspondingly smaller hipbelts than packs with larger torso measurements. You’ll need to assure that both the torso and hipbelt sizing works with your specific measurements. If, for example, you need a pack with a smaller torso measurement and a larger hipbelt size, you may need to consider packs with custom components in which hipbelts and/or harnesses are separate from the pack body itself and can be mixed and matched.


Load hauling capacity/pack weight

Women’s packs usually have smaller capacities compared to similar men’s models by the same manufacturer. Men and women carry weight differently based on their anatomy, and manufacturers have taken this into consideration in their designs.


Tip: Be sure that you choose a pack that won’t be overloaded with everything you plan to carry. If you are unsure, you may want to choose a pack with a slightly larger capacity. Pay attention to manufacturer’s maximum suggested weight specifications, and be sure your gear doesn’t weigh more than what your pack (or you!) can handle.


Height and overall pack size

Women's and men's backpacks vary in size
Men's and women's backpacks vary in size. Be sure the pack you choose is not too tall.

A properly-sized pack should not be much taller than the top of your head when you have it on. Female backpackers tend to face difficulty with this point when wearing non-women’s specific packs.


Tip: If the pack feels top-heavy, the center of gravity is not balanced, and you will experience discomfort over long hikes. Especially with larger capacity packs, assure that weight is balanced; a proper fitting women’s pack makes this task much easier, as it is designed with a women’s center of gravity in mind.