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Women’s Backpacks: How are they different?

womens backpacks different from mens

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In my opinion, the backpack purchase (or suitcase if that’s how you roll) is one of the most important decisions to make before heading out on the road. 

I often associate the backpack as a traveler’s home since it is where you keep all of your important possessions locked up. 

In addition, you’ll want something that is a good investment for the future, and you’ll need to find something that’s the right size for your lifestyle.

womens backpacks

That brings us to our topic of women’s backpacks in particular. For most females, a women-specific pack will be a better choice, but it is good to note the difference between these and men’s packs just in case a men’s would be a better fit for you. 

There is no point in being uncomfortable on the road just because someone happened to throw the words “for women” on the tag. You have to choose the right bag for YOUR body.

Ways Women’s Backpacks Differ From Men’s

Is it just marketing or are there real and significant differences in the backpacks that are made for women? Here are the ways backpacks are different between men’s and women’s.

1 – The shoulders are narrower.

Men have broader shoulders on average than women, so a pack that is made for women will be designed with this in mind. 

Having a comfortable pack — one that takes the weight off of your shoulders — is a combination of different features interacting properly. If the width of the shoulder straps is off, then that makes it harder to find the right balance.

2 – The torso is shorter. 

Women typically have shorter torsos than men, so a pack’s length from shoulder to hip will be a smaller size.

This isn’t really a big deal since nowadays many backpacks will come with adjustable back pieces that allow you to shorten or lengthen the torso.

However, you should still take your measurements in order to find the right pack for you. This post will show you how.

3 – Different hip belts. 

Women were gifted with the gift of hips (thanks?), so that means backpacks aren’t going to sit the same on our bodies as they do on men’s.

Let’s not forget how important a good hip belt is in taking the weight of a backpack off our shoulders!

4 – Designed for a lower center of gravity.

Women have a lower center of gravity than men, and women’s backpacks are designed with this in mind.

This means that the packs will be optimized to distribute the load better and be more comfortable for the wearer in the long run.

women backpacking need the proper sized backpacks
Don’t take off on your next backpacking trip with a bag that doesn’t work for your body and your trip.

Do you really need a women’s specific backpack?

Not at all! Overall, you can expect a female backpack to be smaller, but that doesn’t mean that it is right for every female. 

Just like women’s bodies are different biologically from men’s, every woman’s body is also different from other women.

I have read a number of blogs and stories about girls going with a men’s style backpack because they:

  1. have broader shoulders
  2. have a longer torso
  3. it was on sale
  4. they prefer the styles and colors of the men’s bags
  5. they just didn’t care

Choosing the right backpack comes down to personal preference. If you aren’t sure where you stand, then I suggest heading to a sporting goods store and having an associate assist you with testing out different bags

Can a man carry a women’s backpack?

Heck yes!

Again, it all comes down to comfort and what works for YOUR body. If a woman’s pack feels like a dream, then there is no reason a man cannot use it.

Video Resources for Choosing a Women’s Backpack

Finding Your Backpack Size

Finding your backpack size is more important than just choosing a men’s or women’s specific backpack. You’ll need your torso and hip size in order to have a well-fitted pack.

Osprey Farpoint 40 M/L vs S/M Versions

Get a man’s and a woman’s perspective on the famous Osprey Farpoint 40.

osprey fairview 40 backpack

The Osprey Fairview 40L

Osprey Fairview 40L

One reviewer mentioned that this backpack saved her honeymoon! The comfort and fit for her petite frame meant she could travel without major back dramas for weeks on end.

Made with the Osprey quality we know and love, we think the Fairview is a great option for women travelers – especially those who want to travel carry-on only!

Kelty Redwing 40L backpack for women travelers

The Kelty Redwing 40L

Kelty Redwing 40L

The Kelty Redwing is a favorite among our contributors, with a number of them toting it in varying sizes. 

One of the best features of this pack is that it’s hybrid-loading, which means that it is both a top loader and a panel loader. It also comes with several organizational pockets for all of your gear and electronics.

The Kelty Redwing comes in both unisex and women’s size.

osprey ariel ag 65L backpack for women

The Osprey Ariel AG 65L

Osprey Ariel AG Women’s Backpack 65L

If you’re hauling a lot of gear for a multi-day hike, the Osprey Ariel is a great technical backpack. It features anti-gravity technology and its top lid converts into a daypack. How smart is that?

At over $200, this is a pretty hefty purchase, but if you’re the type to go on several hikes a year, this is a good investment.

Did you happen to go with a men’s backpack instead of a women’s? Share your experience by leaving a comment below.

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Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm planning adventures or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Sasha says

    Shopping for a backpack was fun the first two shops I went in but after trying on what seemed like 30 backpacks and none of them fitting the novelty wore off. Luckily I took my Dad along an apparent backpack expert, although I tried men’s backpacks as well there was no way they were gonna fit, plus my Dad had this great fear that I would keel over backwards and worse maybe onto a road! lol In the end I had to special order in a women’s backpack specifically for apparently very very short people! (I didn’t realise I was that abnormally short!)

    Men’s vs Women’s backpacks as long as it can be adjusted to fit your body then your all good!

  2. Rebecca says

    A suggestion for those albeit, few, women who have HUGE shoulders and long torsos: I bought a men’s back and modified it. I bought a Gregory Baltoro 65 (the men’s version of the Deva 60…a VERY popular women’s pack), after trying on the Deva because of my broad shoulders, long torso and 5’10” frame. But when I was trying it on, it still wasn’t quite right. Luckily for me, I had researched that Gregory had interchangeable hip and shoulder straps so I swapped the men’s shoulder and hip straps for the women’s version (it was free at REI since they could resell the straps), and voila! The perfect pack! It’s ridiculously comfortable, adjusts easily, holds everything I’ll ever need and has an amazing suspension system and lumbar support.

  3. Melody says

    I buy men’s backpacks. I am 5’6″ and built like a guy, wide shoulders, waist and hips the same size.

    My first “real” backpack has served me quite well. I bought it for my second mission trip to Ukraine. It was stuffed to the gills as a carry on, and was used every day to haul everything a person would need during the day. Lots of water bottles, food, sunscreen, swimsuit, towel, camera/video camera, etc. It was wonderful for trips to the grocery store too, which was a 1.5 mile hike one way. I used this pack for 9 years. It went travelling with me everywhere (and without me when a friend took it to Switzerland). I loved it for trail riding, all the straps kept everything in place and the pack never shifted on my back. Eventually it wore out. The zippers and straps/buckles all work perfectly, but the shoulder straps and hip straps have lost their squish, which makes it rather uncomfortable with weight in it. It also does not come clean anymore.

    Time for a new pack! Two weeks ago today I purchased my The North Face Surge II (not the Transit or Charged). I spent a considerable amount of time online reviewing many brands. The North Face is a brand that I like and I know the quality is always tops. The fact that their packs are also endorsed by the American and Canadian Chiropractic Associations speaks to their quality and design.

    When I went to make my purchase I did try on many different packs to make sure I got exactly what I wanted. I tried the women’s sizes and the shoulder straps were all to narrow, they hugged my neck rather than sitting on my shoulders. The men’s size fit perfectly. I put free weights in the pack to ensure that it fit right weighed down. Two days after buying it I was off to Chicago for vacation with my girl friends. Pack weighed 23lbs when I got on the train. (Laptop and a lot of other stuff stayed in the hotel) For the 5 days of walking all over the city it carried my camera gear with ease. Using the sternum strap and waist strap there was barely any weight on my shoulders. After 5 days of wandering the city my feet hurt but my back felt great. The zippers are heavy duty, the fabric is tough, there is stretch where it’s needed, the pockets/compartments are well thought out, and the blue colour is beautiful.

    My only minor complaints are that it only has one water bottle pocket, no rain cover, and no straps on the bottom for a bedroll (or as I usually used them for, a sweatshirt/jacket). I kept the rain cover from my old pack and it fits this one nicely.

    The women’s sized packs were simply too small.

    • Jeanne says

      I have the same problem with women’s packs being too small. I think women’s cut things are meant to fit a specific body type, when actually women have a whole range of frames… just like men do. If you’re a man and wear a woman’s pack, it doesn’t matter. If you’re a woman and wear a man’s pack, it doesn’t matter either. Because these are just stupid labels made to sell more products.

      Society is so obsessed with gender differences and it translates into social strains and also product customization. Companies want to make you feel special– like their product is made specifically for you in mind. Custom. By breaking down their consumers into groups. So they can sell you a “specialized” product for whatever group or label they construe. All just for more money.

      Instead, pack sizes and most things shouldn’t be thought of as men’s or women’s packs, just as different cuts and sizes and colors!


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