Short on time? Our pick for the best women’s backpacking pack is the Kelty Coyote 60.
The best hiking backpacks for women, whether you’re on a multi-day trek or a day hike close to home.
I’ll be the first to admit that purchasing outdoor gear can be intimidating.
There are so many gear specs and niche features, it can be hard to separate the good from the gimmicky if you don’t have someone to help you.
That’s where this article comes in. If you’re looking for the best hiking backpack for women, this article has everything you need to know before purchasing your next pack.
Whether you’re interested in multi-day hiking or want to start smaller with a walk in the woods behind your house, there’s a backpack here for you.
Read on to find the best women’s hiking daypacks and multi-day packs on the market right now.
Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.
Short on Time? Here’s a Quick Look at Our Recommendations
- Gregory Deva 70 L
- Deuter Aircontact Lite 45+10 SL
- Osprey Aura AG 65
- N Nevo Rhino
- The North Face Terra 55
- Teton Sports Hiker 60
- Gregory Jade 63L
- Osprey Eja 48
- REI Co-Op Flash 55
- Kelty Coyote 60-105 L
- REI Co-op Traverse 60L
- Osprey Daylite Cinch Daypack
- The North Face Borealis
- REI Co-Op Trail 25
- Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Travel Pack
- Camelbak Helena 20 Hydration Pack
- Patagonia Refugio 26L Pack
Best Backpacking Backpacks for Women
These are my picks for the best hiking backpacks for multi-day trips.
#1 Gregory Deva 70 L
Our rating: 4.8/5
Weight: 4 lbs, 9.9 oz +
Features: Customizable suspension system, rain cover included, and removable hydration sleeve.
Best for: Multi-day backpacking trips.
The Gregory Deva 70L pack is a great choice for carrying heavy loads on extended trips.
The suspension system on this backpacking pack is designed specifically for women and is highly adjustable.
One unique feature about this pack is the shoulder straps, which can pivot independently from one another, meaning fewer opportunities for one side to start a blister.
This is a great feature, but one thing to note is that the chest straps are fixed, meaning you can’t move them up or down, which can sometimes be annoying.
There’s also mesh on the waist belt, shoulders, and back panel, which provides air circulation.
And there are stretchy mesh pockets on the side that are big enough for two water bottles, trekking poles, and even some camp flip flops.
The hip belt pockets are water-resistant but are a little on the small side, so they can only fit small items like a phone or chapstick. There’s also a rain cover included and even a little pocket for sunglasses on the shoulder harness.
Two other cool features include a sleeping bag compartment that’s zippered with a removable divider and little loops on the top “brain” of the pack where you can attach a solar panel.
Finally, the removable hydration sleeve doubles as a lightweight daypack. You can take it out and use it for short excursions once you’ve set up camp.
- Independently pivoting shoulder straps
- Sunglasses pocket on shoulder harness
- Removable hydration sleeve doubles as a daypack
- Chest strap is fixed
- Small hip pockets
#2 Deuter Aircontact Lite 45+10 SL
Our rating: 4.9/5
Weight: 3 lbs, 12 oz
Features: Extendable “collar” on the main compartment adds 10L of extra space when you need it.
Best for: Versatile pack for both hiking and backpacking.
There are few women’s hiking backpacks that can double as a daypack and a backpacking pack, but the Deuter Aircontact Lite 45+10SL is one of them.
This type of extendable pack has an extra collar of fabric that you can extend up and out of the pack if you need the extra space. When you’re not using it, you can stuff it back down into the main compartment of the bag.
Additionally, the brain of the backpack (also called the lid) is detachable and can be used as a daypack.
This is a lightweight backpacking pack with an adjustable back length.
The back length is the main dimension that makes the pack fit right. And having an adjustable back length means you can lend the pack to a friend who’s a different size or switch packs mid-trip if you need to.
In addition to padded straps on the shoulders, the back panel features “3D Air Mesh.” This means there’s a panel of mesh against your back and then a gap between the mesh and the pack.
This is a nice feature because your back can get sweaty otherwise.
One tiny knock on this pack: the color options are very limited (black and grey). And, as I’ll mention below, gear color isn’t just about fashion, it’s also about safety (namely being seen by rescuers if needed).
- Extra collar of space
- Detachable lid
- Adjustable back-length
- Drab color options
- On the heavy side weight-wise
#3 Osprey Aura AG 65
Our Rating: 4.6/5
Weight: 4 lbs 4 oz+
Features: Removable top lid, built-in rain cover, removable sleeping pad straps, and whistle on safety strap.
Best for: Signaling for help in an emergency.
The Osprey Aura AG 65 is a classic pick for backpacking trips. This pack comes with a built-in rain cover, a removable top lid, and removable sleeping pad straps. The pack weight is also pretty standard at 4 lbs, 4 oz.
One of the underrated features of this pack, however, is the whistle on the sternum strap. A whistle is an insanely useful tool in an emergency.
It takes much less energy to blow into a whistle than it does to shout. I have a whistle on my pack and I’ve needed to use it in the past.
Because I know how beneficial they can be, I always recommend getting a pack with a built-in whistle or stashing one in your pack for every trip.
Additionally, this pack has compression straps on the upper and lower sides which help pack down your items into the tightest ball possible. This also helps with weight distribution and makes the pack more comfortable to carry.
Finally, there is a zippered pocket on each hip belt (which I also love). Pockets on the hip belts are great for putting a chapstick or a snack in easy reach.
One downside to the hip pads is that they can be quite rigid and unflexible, sometimes digging into your hip bones until you really break in the pack.
Another small downside to this pack is that it’s sometimes hard to reach the water bottle pockets without taking the entire pack off.
- Whistle on the chest strap
- Rain cover included
- Several compression straps for packing gear down tightly
- Pockets on the hip belt
- Water bottle pocket hard to reach
- Rigid hip belt may be uncomfortable
#4 N Nevo Rhino
Our rating: 4.0/5
Weight: 2.65 lbs +
Features: Rain cover included, extension collar adds 5L, and whistle on the sternum strap.
Best for: Ultralight camping on a budget.
The N Nevo Rhino is an excellent choice for new backpackers on a budget and backpackers who are trying to go ultralight.
This ultralight pack is very affordable and weighs just over 2.5 pounds. There are five size options for this pack ranging from 40-80L, so you can pick a size that fits your needs best.
Other features of this pack include hydration pack compatibility, the main compartment is separated from the sleeping bag compartment, and it comes with a rain cover.
Another nice feature is that the hip belt on this pack is wishbone-shaped. This means that it’s split in two horizontally and each strap is individually tightened so you can customize it to your size.
There’s also a whistle on the sternum strap, which, as I mentioned above, is an awesome safety feature.
In the last few years, the N Nevo Rhino pack has been upgraded to replace the mesh pockets with stretchy nylon, which is more durable. And the bottom of the pack is now lined with sturdy ripstop material.
Keep in mind that as a budget pack you may not get the performance out of it as you would for higher quality packs.
Even with the upgrades, the fabric is a bit lower quality than other packs I’ve come across, but it’s still an overall good budget option.
- Whistle on the sternum strap
- Rain cover included
- Made with cheap fabric
#5 The North Face Terra 55
Our rating: 4.2/5
Weight: 4 lbs, 9 oz
Features: Mesh hip belt and zippered side entry.
Best for: A premium combination of quality and great price.
The North Face Terra 55 is a women-specific multi-day pack and one of the best hiking backpacks for a petite female as the adjustable torso length fits 13-20 inches.
This pack has breathable mesh on the hip belt as well as a vertical channel gap on the back panel to help with ventilation.
It has seven pockets for organization, including pockets on the hip belt, and the pack is compatible with a hydration reservoir. Additionally, this pack has side-cinch straps, which help compress your load down.
This bag also has a zippered side entry, which I love.
With top-loading bags, you’ll inevitably put the thing you need at the bottom of your pack and have to take all your stuff out of the bag (scattering it all over the trail) to get to it. With a side zippered entry, you can access all parts of the bag easily.
Finally, this bag is on closeout right now, so sizing options will likely be limited and it only comes in grey.
- Fits women with shorter torsos
- Mesh hip belt is breathable
- Zippered side-entry
- Several cinch straps to adjust load weight
- Limited sizing options
- Only comes in grey
#6 Teton Sports Hiker 60
Our rating: 4.2/5
Weight: 3.96 lbs
Features: Durable fabric, “split wishbone” hip belt, and a limited lifetime warranty.
Best for: New backpackers trying the sport out.
If you’re on a budget or new to backpacking and don’t want to drop serious cash on a pack you may never use again, the Teton Sports Hiker is a great option for you.
The Teton Sports Hiker 60 is a durable pack for multi-day adventures. The outer fabric is made of 400D 2mm double-lined ripstop material on the outside.
This pack also has a separate sleeping bag compartment and the back is made from molded foam, creating a channel of air that runs down your spine.
And this is another pack that has the “split wishbone” design, meaning the belt is split in half horizontally. This is a nice feature for women because it allows your hipbones some freedom from being squashed.
Teton Sports products also come with a limited lifetime warranty, so if something breaks, you can reach out to them for support.
This pack is absolutely one of the more affordable options for a multi-day trip, but, as with many cheaper backpacks, you may sacrifice some quality and comfort. Most notably, the straps are more thinly padded than I sometimes like for comfort.
- Durable fabric
- Split wishbone hip belt
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Affordably priced
- Thin padding on straps
#7 Gregory Jade 63L
Our rating: 4.4/5
Weight: 3 lbs, 7.7 oz
Features: Rain cover included, women-specific harness/hip belt, and a whistle on the sternum strap.
Best for: Customizing the pack to fit your shape.
The Gregory Jade 63L is a multi-day pack with a fully adjustable torso length and ventilated back panel.
One feature I particularly like about the Gregory Jade 63L is the stretchy mesh pocket on the front.
This pocket is great for stashing a jacket or a damp raincoat. Not to mention, the thickness of this mesh will hold up for a long time, unlike thinner mesh often used for this area of packs, which tears within a few years.
This pack has many of the same features as the Gregory Deva mentioned above, although its one pound lighter than the Deva (and every pound counts!).
Some notable ones include a sunglass pocket on the shoulder strap (genius), a u-shaped zipper panel to access the main compartment (allows you to access all parts of the bag), and a zippered sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider.
This pack also includes bungee loops on the back to attach trekking poles or ice axes and there’s a whistle on the sternum strap.
One issue to note about the fit of this pack: the pack sometimes needs to be worn on top of the hips for it to be the most comfortable.
This can be a problem for some women depending on their build. Plus, wearing the belt directly covering the hips is the proper way to wear a pack, so this might be a dealbreaker for some.
- Quality stretchy mesh pocket on the front
- Sunglass pocket on the shoulder strap
- U-shaped panel to access the main compartment
- Trekking pole loops
- Whistle on the sternum strap
- Hip belt may not fit well on all builds
- Doesn’t fit bear canisters well if you’re hiking in an area with bears
#8 Osprey Eja 48
Our rating: 4.3/5
Weight: 2 lbs, 9 oz
Features: Special trekking pole attachment.
Best for: Ultralight backpacking.
For ultralight backpacking trips, consider the Osprey Eja 48L.
The pack weight on this bag is one of the lowest on this list: 2 lbs, 8oz for the extra small size. Note that the extra small size is 42 L, the small is 45 L, and the medium is 48 L.
This lightweight pack has foam material on the harness with built-in ventilation.
Another cool feature is that the water bottle pockets have a unique bungee cord on the inside, so you can tighten them down to fit any size water bottle. And the pack is compatible with a hydration reservoir.
Additionally, there are several loops and cord attachments on the outside of the main compartment, which gives you plenty of options for attaching things to the outside of the bag.
There’s also a big stretch pocket in the front where you can keep an extra layer (sometimes this is referred to as a “bellowed” pocket).
Finally, Osprey packs are a big brand name in the backpacking and outdoors industry that’s synonymous with high-quality products. You really can’t go wrong with anything by Osprey.
- Adjustable water bottle pockets
- Plenty of options for attaching things to the outside of the bag
- Made with high-quality materials
- Good ventilation
- No pockets on the hip belt
- Bottom part of the frame can be uncomfortable for some women’s bodies
#9 REI Co-Op Flash 55
Our rating: 4.6/5
Weight: 2 lbs, 9 oz+
Features: “Packmod pockets,” forward-tilting water bottle pockets, and a removable top lid.
Best for: Tall women.
The REI Co-Op Flash 55 is one of the best lightweight hiking backpacks for women because you can remove the “packmod pockets” and trim off another 7 ounces off the pack weight if needed.
The packmod pockets are added pockets you can clip onto the hip belt or shoulder straps and are great for storing camera gear.
This lightweight pack is compatible with a hydration reservoir and has tilted external side pockets to make it easier to grab your water bottle.
The top lid is also removable and, as with a lot of packs, there’s a mesh front stuff pocket for an extra layer.
One unique thing about this pack is the compression straps that you can attach from any two loops on the whole pack. This gives you the ability to really cinch down your gear into the snuggest possible conformation.
Finally, the back panel and hip belt is well-ventilated, which help make this a very breathable and comfortable pack to wear on long trail days.
And although it doesn’t come with a rain cover, the lid and shoulder straps are lined with water-resistant fabric.
One thing to note is that the extra-small pack still has a minimum 16-inch length, meaning it might not be great for women with shorter torsos (although it’s great for tall women).
Finally, this pack is on the expensive side, but for good reason with its high quality and amount of features.
- Customizable pack weight
- Water bottle pockets are tilted forward
- Water-resistant fabric on shoulder straps and lid
- May not fit shorter torsos well
#10 Kelty Coyote 60-105 L
Our rating: 4.9/5
Weight: 4 lbs, 6 oz +
Features: Highly customizable torso fit, ventilated back, two sets of load-lifting straps, and lots of pockets.
Best for: Very long treks in the wilderness.
Redesigned in 2020, the Kelty Coyote is an ideal pack for a long backpacking trip.
All backpacking packs are adjustable to some degree, but the Kelty boasts an especially customizable setup that’s fast and easy to change.
The back panel of the bag can be slid out and made longer or shorter, making it another one of the best hiking backpacks for tall women.
The 2020 re-do of the Coyote has “AMP-Flow” ventilation on the back panel, which is Kelty’s version of a mesh back.
And rather than just having one set of load lifter straps (those are the ones near your neck, behind your head), the Coyote has load lifters on the hips too. The extra straps on the hips help keep the pack close to your body.
However, one of the standout features of the Kelty Coyote is all of the organization pockets.
Their packs have a stash pocket on each side of the pack, there are two kinds of pockets on the hip belt, the sleeping bag has its own compartment, and there’s a zippered pocket on the main compartment for items you need often.
Lastly, this pack is hydration reservoir compatible and there are loops for trekking poles and a fly rod (if you like to fish).
One small complaint about this pack is that the sleeping bag compartment doesn’t zip completely closed. This means the sleeping bag sometimes bulges through into the main compartment.
Additionally, there are a lot of straps on this pack, and they can sometimes be confusing for a beginner backpacker.
One hack to make these less confusing is to use nail polish to mark which buckles go with which straps.
- Especially customizable fit
- Back panel can be slid out
- Two sets of load-lifter straps
- Lots of organization pockets
- Sleeping bag compartment is flimsy
- Straps can be confusing
#11 REI Co-op Traverse 60L
Our rating: 4.4/5
Weight: 4 lbs, 2 oz+
Features: Adjustable torso length, made of recycled materials, 10 pockets, rain cover included, and a removable daypack.
Best for: The eco-conscious backpacker.
The REI Co-op Traverse is an adjustable torso length backpacking pack made with recycled ripstop nylon.
This pack meets the bluesign criteria for the number of recycled materials, which means it’s made with 90% eco-friendly materials.
This pack was also redesigned in the last few years to replace the mesh pockets and compartments with stretchy nylon, which is more durable.
Additionally, the Traverse comes with REI’s “packmod” compression straps that can be connected between any two loops on the pack. This feature allows you to “sculpt” the pack to your exact proportions.
There are also pockets everywhere on this bag. There are trekking pole loops on the outside as well as a bungee-style ice ax loop. And the water bottle pockets on the side are tilted forward so you can reach them more easily.
One feature I really like about this pack is that the lid can be removed and turned into a little daypack.
I’ve been on many a backpacking trip where I only had my big bag, and I had to unload everything inside to use the bag for day excursions once we were at our destination. It helps to have a daypack when you’re backpacking!
There’s also a rain cover included with this pack, which I love, and the pack is reservoir compatible with a tube holder on the shoulder.
Note: Our editor-in-chief and founder, Mimi, uses this pack as her main backpacking pack, taking it on multi-day hiking trips like the 5-day Trans-Catalina Trail. It comes highly recommended from her as well.
- Rain cover included
- Redesigned to replace mesh with more durable materials
- “Packmod” compression straps help balance load
- Water bottle pockets are tilted forward
- Removable daypack
- Average weight
Best Hiking Daypacks for Women
Below, I’ve rounded up the best daypacks for women. Daypacks are packs that usually range in size from about 10L to 35L.
#12 Osprey Daylite Cinch Daypack
Our rating: 4.9/5
Weight: 0.752 lbs
Features: Reservoir compatible, daisy-chain loops, and the sternum strap has a whistle.
Best for: Short day hikes with minimal gear.
The Osprey Daylite Cinch Daypack is the best budget hiking daypack for women. This is a simply designed small hiking backpack for women that can be used for trail hiking and travel.
This lightweight Osprey backpack holds 15L and comes with minimally padded shoulder straps. The shoulder straps also conveniently have a whistle on them.
There are also daisy chain loops on the outside of the pack, which can be used to hook a carabiner for extra gear storage. And there’s a front zippered compartment on the pack for easy access to small items like keys.
This is one of the lightest packs on this list and could easily be folded up into a larger backpack to use as a daypack on overnight hiking trips.
Another great thing about this pack is its versatility. If you’re using this bag as a carry-on, it has a pass-through loop between the shoulder straps and the body of the pack so you can slide a roller luggage handle between the two.
And finally, for the environmentally conscious, this pack is made from recycled Bluesign-approved material.
One downside to the Daylite Cinch Daypack is that the hip belt is made of simple webbing and isn’t padded. With that said, that’s not as big of a deal for a smaller daypack.
Note: If you like the overall design of the Daylite Cinch but want something bigger, there are lots of bigger options in the Daylight series by Osprey.
- Daisy-chain loops on the outside
- Pass-through loop to hook onto a rolly bag
- Whistle on the shoulder strap
- Minimally padded shoulders
- Simple design (which could be a pro depending how you look at it)
- Small size
#13 The North Face Borealis
Our rating: 4.8/5
Weight: 2 lbs, 1 oz
Features: Design approved by American Chiropractic Association and bungee cord “pockets.”
Best for: Comfort while adventuring.
The North Face Borealis is a 23-liter travel and hiking backpack with a women-specific ventilated suspension system that has been approved by the American Chiropractic Association.
While many hiking daypacks have a large mesh or stretchy nylon front pocket, the Borealis has a bungee cord system that you can tighten to hold an extra layer.
If you’ve never used a pack like this you may question how well the system works to hold stuff in place, but trust me, it does!
Bungee cords are also more durable than mesh, so you won’t have to worry about getting holes in them.
This pack is dually-designed for the trail and school or travel, with a dedicated laptop compartment and plenty of space for books.
Additionally, there’s a fleece-lined pocket for sunglasses and a phone, and compression straps on the sides of the pack to help keep everything compact.
There are also two water bottle holders on the sides and the shoulder harness has a whistle on it.
One cool feature of this pack is that the waistbelt is removable if you don’t want to use it while carrying it around town. There’s also a top handle, so you can carry it more like a laptop bag if you want.
One downside to this bag is that the front pocket only goes halfway down to the bottom of the pack, and therefore makes the pack a little top-heavy.
- Design approved by American Chiropractic Association
- Bungee cord pockets
- Laptop compartment
- Fleece-lined pocket for sunglasses
- Top-heavy front pocket
#14 REI Co-Op Trail 25
Our rating: 4.8/5
Weight: 1 lb, 15 oz.
Features: Made from recycled material, rain cover included, and interchangeable waistbelt.
Best for: Ultralight hikers on day hikes.
The REI Co-op Trail is a 25-liter ultralight daypack. At just over a pound in weight, this is a great option for hikers who like to pack as little weight as possible.
As with other REI hiking packs, the main body is made with recycled materials that are approved by bluesign.
This pack also has a rain cover included and the main body has a U-shaped zipper system so you can access all parts of the pack easily.
The back and shoulder straps are covered in mesh for improved ventilation and the waist strap can be removed and replaced with the REI Trail 2 Waistpack (bought separately).
One thing to note is that the waist belt isn’t padded, which means it might not be as comfortable for longer hikes.
Another downside is that the external pockets for water bottles are made of a stretchy mesh, which in my experience doesn’t last forever. Don’t get me wrong, it will hold up for many years, but it’s usually the first thing to go on a pack.
- Rain cover included
- U-shaped zipper for easy access
- Minimally padded shoulder and waist strap
- Mesh on water bottle pockets
#15 Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Travel Pack
Our rating: 4.5/5
Weight: 3 lbs, 4 oz
Features: Separated zippered compartments inside, rain cover included, padded laptop sleeve, and waterproof.
Best for: Multi-use between hiking and travel.
The Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Travel Pack is unique among the hiking daypacks on this list in that it’s designed to be a hiking pack as well as a travel pack.
This versatile backpack is lightweight and comes with suitcase-style zippered compartments on the inside.
This is a very durable pack made of TPU-coated (waterproof) 1000D polyester and 840D nylon paneling (these are very high denier ratings). If that’s not enough, the pack also comes with a raincover and has high-quality YKK zippers.
While the Cotopaxi Allpa doesn’t have side pockets for water bottle holders, it does have a waist belt to help you distribute the weight better.
There’s also a zippered pocket on top of the backpack, and there are loops on the outside to attach other items to the pack (like a water bottle) when you need more room.
If you’re using the pack for a travel pack, it also comes with a 15-inch padded laptop sleeve and reinforced handles on the side.
This pack also meets TSA requirements for carry-ons, so you don’t have to worry about checking an expensive bag last minute.
Overall, regardless of how you use it, the Allpa 28L pack is a great outdoor adventure pack or travel pack.
- Minimally padded shoulder and waist strap
- Mesh on water bottle pockets
- No padding on hip belt
- Expensive for a daypack
#16 Camelbak Helena 20 Hydration Pack
Our rating: 4.6/5
Weight: 1 lb, 7 oz
Features: 2.5 L water reservoir included, eight external pockets, and a wide hip belt.
Best for: Staying hydrated on the trail.
The Camelbak Helena 20 Hydration Pack is the best women’s hiking daypack with a hydration reservoir.
This is an ultralight daypack with 20L of space and the ability to hold up to 2.5 L of water, which is plenty for most day hikes.
And in addition to the hydration reservoir, which is included, there are also water bottle pockets on the sides, so you’re sure to stay hydrated.
The nice thing about this daypack is that it’s designed like a mini backpacking pack.
The hip belt is wide and has some padding and there are compression straps on the pack to help keep the load closer to your body (which improves comfort).
There are also hip belt pockets and the sternum strap is removable, which makes it more customizable to your body.
Finally, the Camelbak Helena has a big front stash pocket on the front for your extra layer and it isn’t made of mesh, so it won’t get hole-y in a few years.
- Comes with a hydration reservoir
- Compression straps
- Lots of pockets
- Removable hip belt and sternum straps
- Somewhat small carrying capacity
#17 Patagonia Refugio 26L Pack
Our rating: 4.7/5
Weight: 1 lb, 5.2 oz.
Features: 15’’ laptop sleeve and tablet sleeve, water-repellent finish, and made from sturdy material.
Best for: Rugged day hikes.
The Patagonia Refugio 26L Pack is one of the sturdiest hiking backpacks for women.
It’s made with 630D nylon with a polyurethane coating that makes it water repellent. And, in addition to its durability, this is also an ultralight pack at just over 1.5 pounds.
This is very much a women’s specific pack. It has mesh on the shoulder harness and back panel and the shoulder straps have a more narrow design to fit the female upper body better.
The Patagonia Refugio is great for both the trail or work. It has a padded tablet and laptop sleeve that doubles as a hydration sleeve while you’re on the trail.
Last but not least, Patagonia has an amazing repair and return policy. Repairs on many broken clothing and gear items are free (or $5 for the cost of shipping).
This means that when you buy a Patagonia pack, you get a pack for life because they’ll keep repairing it for you, no questions asked.
- Laptop sleeve
- Made from sturdy material
- Good for the trail or work
- Sometimes feels like a smaller carrying capacity than it is in terms of usable space
Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Women’s Hiking Backpack
What to Look for in Hiking Backpacks for Women
With so many hiking backpacks to choose from, how do you know which pack is right for you? Let’s look at the main things to look for when buying a backpack for hiking.
How the pack fits on your body is the most important feature to get right. It’s important to note that the best hiking gear for women doesn’t necessarily fit all women perfectly.
Hiking backpacks for women are designed to fit the “average” woman’s shape: torso length is often shorter, shoulder straps are narrower and padded, and the hip belt is wider and more padded.
That said, I am a very slender woman with no hips to speak of and sometimes the women’s specific pack shape doesn’t work well for me. Namely, sometimes I can’t cinch down the hip belt tight enough!
To avoid getting the wrong size, I’d recommend visiting a camping store like REI. They can size you to the correct pack size based on your frame.
Otherwise, if you’re buying a women’s backpacking pack online, you can measure your torso length by having a friend measure from the top of your hipbones to the base of the bony knob at your neck.
This length will usually be listed on the manufacturer’s website to help you get the right size.
The second biggest factor to consider is what you’re using the pack for. 10-25L is sufficient for a daypack but you may want to err on the larger side (up to 35L) for a very long hike.
For a backpacking trip, look for packs 40L and larger, with packs in the 65L range for longer multi-day trips.
Most hiking backpacks have a few features that come standard. These include adjustable shoulder straps, waist belts, and sternum straps.
Internal frames are also standard these days after a few decades of external frame packs (you may still find external packs from the 80s in thrift stores if you like that kind of thing).
After that, packs can run the gamut in terms of the features they offer. A few extra features you may want on your pack include:
- A hydration reservoir
- Removable top lid (also known as a “brain”)
- Included rain cover
- Padded straps
- Side pockets
- Hip belt pockets
A Word About Mesh Pockets
One thing I’ve noticed in recent years is that the best hiking backpacks are moving away from mesh pockets.
Stretchy mesh pockets are often on the sides of backpacks as water bottle holders or on the front of packs as a large pocket for an extra clothing layer.
While mesh is breathable and flexible, it isn’t very durable and will often be the first part of the backpack to fail. Although mesh may last for several years, it will likely shorten the overall lifespan of your pack.
With that said, mesh is still a common and practical material on back panels and shoulder straps where breathability is key.
However, if you’re looking for a new pack, you might want to try to avoid those that use mesh for extra things like pockets.
The color you pick for your outdoor gear is so much bigger than your preferred aesthetic.
Picking a brightly colored pack that stands out against the environment could help you be seen by rescuers should you ever find yourself in need of help.
Types of Hiking Backpacks for Women
Daypacks are usually 10-35L in size and are designed to carry lighter loads on single-day trips.
Daypacks are usually light in weight and have enough space for hiking essentials like snacks, extra clothing layers, and water.
Backpacking packs are large (40L and up) and are designed for overnight trips where you’re carrying heavier loads. These packs have room for extra gear like a sleeping bag and tent.
External frame packs used to be the norm in the 80s and early 90s, but nowadays you’ll likely only find internal frame packs.
These packs are considered to have better load-bearing and weight-bearing capability than external frame packs.
FAQs About Hiking Backpacks for Women
What’s the difference between hiking backpacks for men vs women?
Hiking backpacks for women are designed to fit shorter, curvier people. Women’s backpacks are often highly adjustable and have a shorter torso length than men’s backpacks.
Because men have broader shoulders, women’s backpacks have narrower shoulder straps and the hip belts are flared out a little to accommodate wider hips.
Sometimes women’s packs also hold slightly less than men’s packs, but you can still carry heavy loads with a women’s pack.
How should a hiking backpack fit a woman?
Sizing hiking backpacks for women is similar to the sizing process for men.
When you put on a hiking backpack, all the straps and buckles should be loose. Start by cinching down the hip belt and work your way up.
80% of the weight of your pack should be carried on your hips rather than your shoulders, so the hip belt needs to be fairly tight.
The hip belt should fit right over the hip bones, although some women prefer the pack to ride just above the hip bones. You’ll figure out a configuration that works for you once you have pounds in the pack.
Next, you’ll tighten your shoulder straps, and then the “load lifter.” The load lifter straps are the ones near your neck.
These straps pull the pack closer to your body, and the closer the pack is to your body, the more comfortable and lighter you’ll feel.
Finally, tighten the sternum strap. This strap is designed to keep the shoulder straps from slipping off your shoulders.
Once you have a pack adjusted correctly, you should walk around for about 20 minutes with weight in the packs (put in several water bottles or dumbbells at home) to see how it feels.
Here’s a video guide by REI to give you more instruction on how to fit a backpack correctly.
Which brand of hiking backpack is best?
The question of who makes the best hiking backpacks for women is always up for debate.
Top hiking backpacks are made by The North Face, Kelty, Deuter, Osprey, REI Co-Op, Patagonia, and Mountain Hardwear, just to name a few.
What size backpack is best for day hikes?
10-35L daypacks are great for day hikes.
How much should I plan to spend on a quality backpacking backpack?
The best hiking backpacks for backpacking typically run between $150-$300.
How much should I plan to spend on a quality daypack?
The best hiking daypacks will start around $85 and usually top out at around $200.
What’s the best hydration bladder for backpacks?
Camelbak is the most popular brand of hydration bladder and offers BPA-free water bladders.
No matter what brand of hydration bladder you chose, make sure it’s made without BPA, which is a chemical that can leak into your water.
Conclusion: Our Pick for the Best Women’s Hiking Backpack
My pick for the best women’s backpacking pack is the Kelty Coyote 60L. While this pack may not be the lightest on the list, the extra-customizable design makes up for it.
This pack has load-lifting straps both on the shoulder straps and the hip belt, as well as an adjustable back panel length.
My pick for the best women’s daypack for hiking is the Osprey Daylite Cinch pack.
This pack is the best ultralight hiking daypack for women at just 0.752 pounds. And although it’s simply designed, it still has enough technical features to make it great on the trail.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meredith is a biologist and writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. She has lived in 6 states as a biologist, so her intel on hiking and camping is *chef’s kiss* next level. One of her earliest camping memories was being too scared to find a bathroom at night on a family camping trip. Thankfully, she’s come a long way since then and she can help you get there too!
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