Hi, Anthony here. Big thanks to my friend Christina Petrides for writing this. It’ a little trickier for women to find a comfortable backpack, so it made sense to cover the female version of the guycentric article that I wrote myself.
You’ve made the decision to hit the road. You’re off travelling! I’m excited for you – it really is one of the best feelings in the world, isn’t it?
You’ve done your research, decided on where and when to go and have maybe even already bought your ticket. Now to decide on the best women’s travel backpack for your exciting adventures…
Whether you are new to travelling or are looking to replace your trusted backpack after years of exploring together, finding the right one can feel a little overwhelming.
Well, it needn’t be. While there are plenty of options on the market, I’m here to help you narrow them down so that you find the right one for you.
We’ll take a look at the key things to consider when searching for the best women’s travel backpack and delve into the top 5 travel backpacks to give you some great options to choose from.
Things to think about when choosing the best travel backpack for women
You don’t need me to tell you that women are built differently to men. We have hips and boobs for a start, and our torsos tend to be a little shorter than men’s.
But as well as different physical attributes there are a few other things that we might think about when choosing amongst the myriad of travel backpacks on the market.
Ultimately, it needs to be right for you. And it must be comfortable. This is what I look for when choosing a backpack…
Made for women
While there are some women who prefer unisex or men’s backpacks, the majority of us are more comfortable with a backpack that is designed with women in mind. There are two key things that make it a women-specific backpack:
Women’s torsos tend to be slightly shorter than men’s and a backpack that is designed with that in mind will help to better distribute its weight. That means that it’s more comfortable for you to wear and to carry.
You can measure your torso length by measuring the distance along your spine from your C7 vertebra (the one that sticks out when you look down) and your hip bones.
The placement of the straps on a women’s backpack are designed with our bodies in mind. They are closer together as we have narrower shoulders and they are also softer and more cushioned for greater comfort.
Shoulder straps are curved or shaped so that they sit more comfortably. Sternum straps are placed a little higher so that they don’t squash your boobs, causing discomfort and restricting breathing. Hip belts are padded, making it easier to carry more weight on your hips and less on your shoulders. After all, that’s where the bulk of the back weight should be carried, and definitely not on your shoulders.
Top loader vs front loader
Unless you are planning to carry your backpack on long hikes, you are better off with a front-loading backpack. Why does it matter? The last thing you want to have to do is take everything out to get to something at the bottom of your backpack. And you know that it will always be at the bottom, don’t you?
A front-loading backpack will have a zip that allows you to open it like a suitcase. You can find what you need easily, make sure that every nook and cranny is well used (which also helps to distribute weight when packed properly), and will be more likely to come with compartments that help you to organise and find your stuff.
Having said that, if you are planning to hike with your backpack, then go for a top-loading one. Cubes or stuff sacks will be your friends here to help you find what you need more easily.
Why size matters
You don’t want a backpack that is too heavy to carry, and most of us will fill whatever space we have. So a smaller backpack will make it easier on your back and hips, and you can sling it on and off buses, trains, and airport carousels without dislocating something.
Many prefer to have carry-on luggage as well, particularly if it’s a shorter trip, one with lots of travelling on low-cost airlines or with fewer climates to travel through. Here, a smaller backpack will mean you don’t have to worry about the extra cost of putting it in the hold.
Backpacks with a capacity of 40-45L should be fine as carry-on luggage – although always double-check with the airline because they all have different rules. Many come with detachable day packs that give you some extra capacity but which allow you to carry both (separately) on board.
For longer trips, likely to last a few months, or ones where you’ll be going from a beach to a glacier, a larger pack may be better for you – something like a 55L+ capacity, depending on how much you want to carry.
No one wants to have to buy a new backpack every year (it costs money and is not very environmentally friendly either). Neither do you want your backpack to fall apart after a few weeks or months of being on the road. Backpacks will take a beating no matter how well you look after them, so you want something that is sturdy and durable.
Look for materials that are waterproof and rip-proof. Check that the zips are robust, and the stitching is hard-wearing.
There are a few other things to keep in mind when choosing the best travel backpack for a woman, and while they will come down to personal choice, here are the top ones:
- Colour: Some like a bright colour, some like a darker one, while others still like a more unusual colour to make it easier to spot and know where their backpack is. Darker colours will not show dirt up as easily and you can always sew a reflective or brightly coloured patch on to make your backpack easier to find and less likely to be confused with someone else’s.
- Rain cover: This helps keep rain out of your backpack and the dirt off it. it’s also another differentiator between your backpack and someone else’s. Many come with their own rain covers, and if you are going anywhere where it’s likely to rain then it’s a must!
- External pockets: Not everyone likes them, but they can be useful for storing items that you want easy access to or that could be wet or dirty and you don’t want to pack them with everything else. I wouldn’t recommend that you store anything valuable in an external pocket, but a padlocks is always handy to act as a deterrent.
- Removable sections: Many backpacks come with a detachable day pack. Again, this is very much a matter of personal choice, but it can make the difference between having an airline-compliant carry-on sized bag and one that will allow you to take with you all that you need.
- Zip-up straps: Useful if you fly a lot and want to avoid straps getting caught up in carousels or conveyors.
- Wheels: There are a few backpacks that come with wheels if you can’t or don’t want to carry it around for long periods of time. Bear in mind that roads and pavements are not always smooth (so you may end up carrying it more than wheeling it) and you are more likely to overload it if you are wheeling it.
Try it on!
Once you’ve settled on what you want and like, the next step is to try it on. Whether you are shopping online or in a shop, make sure to add some weight to it so that you get a better idea of how it will feel when packed.
Adjust the straps and hip belt as much as you need – get a friend or shop assistant to help if you can.
Walk around a little and see how it feels. Is the weight mostly on your hips? If not, adjust the hip belt and strap to take the pressure off your shoulders.
Best travel backpacks for women at a glance
The table below lists the best travel backpacks for women in a range of sizes including carry-on, 2-in-1 and wheeled backpacks with a range of prices to match all kinds of traveller styles and budgets. You can click on their names to see if they’re your cup of tea.
|Osprey Fairview 40||Quechua Escape 50||Thule Versant 50||Deuter Aviant 50 (+5 option)||Osprey Fairview 65|
|Capacity||40L||40L + 10L (detachable cross-body pack)||50L||50L and 55L options (with detachable pack)||65L|
|Carry-on (assuming it is fully packed)||Yes||Yes (without top bag)||No||No||No|
|Key features||· Lightweight frame|
· Lockable zips
· Padded laptop and tablet sleeve
· Mesh back panel
· Zip-away straps
|· 2 lockable zips|
· Opens towards the back for greater security
· Laptop sleeve
· Reinforced fabric and seams
· Plenty of external pockets (front and side)
· Rain cover
· Mesh back panel
· Padded straps and hip belt with zip pocket
· Separate bottom compartment
· Removable top lid
· Waterproof rolltop pocket (removable)
· Partial rain cover allowing ease of access
· Front and side pockets
· External attachment loops for hiking poles
|· Compression straps|
· Spring steel frame
· Padded hip belt
· Ergonomic back to evenly distribute weight
· Breathable back panel
· Zip-away straps
· Available with detachable day pack (55L option)
|· Lockable zips|
· Extendable, ergonomic T-handle
· Grab handles
· Electronics and rear panel pockets
· Compression straps
· Internal security pocket
· Zip-away straps
· Also available in other sizes without wheels (55L & 70L)
|Colour options||Green and black||Blue and grey||Teal and blue||Black and maroon/ aubergine||Purple and black|
|What’s great about it||It only weighs 1.44 kg (3.2 lb)||Detachable pack means you can also use it as carry-on||Customisable to fit||Separate shoe bag||It has wheels so you can use it as a roller case or backpack|
What’s left to do?
Other than trying on a few backpacks for size and comfort, nothing! Get out there and enjoy your travels! And if you need some help or inspiration for what to pack, get ready for my next post – A Comprehensive Guide to Packing for Female Travellers.