Backpacks

When you’re headed on an overnight hiking trip, you’re backpacking. Often times people backpacking for weekends, and even several days at a time. Thru-hikers are on the trail for weeks and even months. Therefore, finding a comfortable and durable backpack is an important investment.

Women's Backpacking Backpack
Women’s Backpacking Backpack

Women’s Backpacks Shopping Tips:

  • What is your size? When shopping for a backpack, you need to know your size. If you don’t already know your size, have someone measure the length of your torso. It can be done really easily – all you need is a flexible tape measure (or use string and line up with a stiff tape measure afterwards), and a friend to help you out. Measure from the little bone that protrudes from your spine on the back of your neck down to the top of your hips. Most manufacturers use the following size guidelines for both sexes:
      • Extra small: up to 15.5 inches
      • Small: 16 to 17.5 inches
      • Medium: 18-19.5 inches
      • Large: 20 inches and up

    Better yet, once you know the brand you want, check out the specific sizing page on the manufacturers’ website: Osprey, Gregory.

  • Is the pack large enough for your trip? For weekend trips, a 40-60 Liter pack will be sufficient; even for long weekends. However, for long journeys, or for backpacking trips in winter time when you need cold weather gear, make sure the pack can be expanded. Often times there is a “collar” below the top of the pack that can be extended upward to store more of your hiking gear.
  • Is the pack durable? There are a lot of “ultralight” backpacks, but make sure that you are aware of the features you’re sacrificing before you opt to buy one of these. The most extreme ultralight backpackers make their own gear to ensure the weight of the pack is minimal. However, generally they are much less comfortable for longer journeys, unless you can keep the weight of the contents down to very low levels. I look for backpacks make of durable nylon materials from reputable manufacturers. Many offer excellent lifetime warranties.
  • Does it have other convenient features like pockets on the hip belt, a haul loop, and compression straps? It sure is nice to have a hip belt pockets to store a camera, chapstick, and snacks within easy reach. Haul loops make it easier to lift your backpack, without putting unnecessary strain on the shoulder straps. Compression straps make it easier to compress down the pack’s contents and make your backpack more streamlined, especially if it isn’t fully loaded on a shorter trip. Also make sure there are features like a sternum strap, which will help keep your backpack in place when you’re hiking.
  • Is it a women’s specific backpack? Fortunately there are now a lot of women’s backpacks on the market where you’ll see features like better fitting hip belts, narrower shoulder straps, and an overall narrower design.

Hiking Lady’s Favorite Women’s Backpack

I’ve only got one listed below because this is by far the best pack I’ve ever owned!

Gregory Deva 60 Backpack Gregory Deva 60 Backpack: This backpack is a very comfortable women’s specific backpack that has lots of bells and whistles. Everyone I have ever talked to who uses this backpack raves about its comfort (including me!). The best feature is the well designed suspension system, which makes heavy loads feel much lighter. It is a little on the heavy side, but if you want to be comfortable, the extra weight isn’t even noticeable because of how well designed the pack is.

Check out my full review of the Gregory Deva under my “Gear Review” pages.

 


More info about Hydration Waistpacks, Daypacks and Backpacks

I have a comprehensive backpacking checklist for what you’ll want to have in your backpack. Learn more…

50 comments

  1. Hiking Lady says:

    The size will be determined by how much gear you’ll be splitting with your boyfriend, and how much stuff you pack. People tend to take more than they need. (Here’s the Hiking Lady Backpacking checklist to help: http://hikinglady.com/checklist/). If you do split equally with your boyfriend, you both have light gear and don’t take too many extras, a 50L pack should be sufficient. If you tend to not be a minimalist and want some creature comforts, you’ll want a 60L or bigger pack. My Deva 60 is good for trips of 2-4 nights sharing gear with someone else and room for some creature comforts (multiple pairs of underwear, sock liners, and hiking tops among other things). Hope that helps!

  2. Audry Pettit says:

    I’ve seen a couple black diamond ones on sale which is why I was wondering. So a 50L one wold be a good size then? Or should I go smaller? Thanks

  3. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Audry,

    Yes, Black Diamond makes excellent backpacks, but I’d say they are in the high end price range because they are very technical, high quality backpacks. Their backpacks are unisex, which is fine, but you may prefer a women’s specific backpack. How about something like this Osprey Aura from last season that is on sale? Kelty is a bit lower quality but more reasonably priced as well. Hope that helps and have a fun time on the AT!

  4. Audry Pettit says:

    Going mountain backpacking for the first time in Georgia. We will be doing part of the AT trail and will most likely be out for 3-4 nights. I’m going with my boyfriend so we will be splitting gear. I’m having a hard time deciding what size/brand backpack to buy. The Gregory ones are definitely out of my price range. Are the black diamond ones for women any good? Thanks

  5. Mimi says:

    Thank you, Ma’am for you advice. It’s enlightening. I think I’ll wait and try it on first before I return it or maybe I’ll just sell it and buy a smaller one if I didn’t like the fitting.

    Cheers!

  6. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Mimi,

    The most important measurement actually isn’t your weight and height – it is the length of your torso. Did you measure yourself? It sounds like you did and followed Gregory’s sizing guidelines. That’s really the best you can do without trying it on yourself. As far as being bigger than the bag, it is a large pack since you bought the 70 Liters, but the Jade is really the smallest in the line of Gregory backpacking packs. Just double check your measurements, and in my view I’d stick with the Gregory size guidelines rather than returning it before even trying it on. Plus, remember that when you do purchase any backpack, you’ll need to adjust all of the straps to ensure that it fits your body properly prior to hitting the trail.

    Happy trails!

  7. Mimi says:

    I’m 5″2 and 57 kilos. I’m kind of worried that I bought a Gregory Jade 70 for a backpack trip to Europe online. I still haven’t seen it since I sent it thru my aunt in the US and she’s going to send it to the Philippines on May. I ordered medium since I followed their size guidelines in their website. I’m worried that I would be shrinking from the bag or even be smaller than the bag. πŸ™ Should I return it?

  8. Lilia says:

    It’s really all about personal built/proportions etc. I have tried every pack available on the market and I love the way Gregory makes its packs but sadly it’s all wrong for me. Sore spots everywhere. It turns out I’m a better fit for Ospreys. My day hiking pack and multi day trip packs are Ospreys, they’re the only ones that fit me right. Still… Whenever I go to REI I always keep checking out the Gregory packs, they’re so damn pretty, lol.

  9. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Crystal,
    Great question. It depends on the airline. I’d recommend that you check with the airline you are taking to Haiti to see if you can take your Deva 70 with you as a carry-on. It is a bit large for a carry-on for most planes…If you do end up having to check it be sure to fasten the buckles (it will help avoid them from cracking if the baggage handlers throw the backpack around), and consider buying a backpack duffel like this one that will protect your Deva 70. Good luck and safe travels.

  10. Crystal says:

    I’m traveling to Haiti for a month. I’m planning on packing VERY light clothing wise. I have a Gregory Deva 70 and wanted to know if you know or think it will be able to be carried on my plane. I only have 1 free checked bag and I have a bunch of art supplies that I don’t want to put into my pack. I’d really prefer to have my pack with me. Any thoughts??

  11. Anya says:

    Hi, i have a question. I’m comparing the Gregory Sage 35 L and the Gregory J 33 L to buy on line. I’m looking for a comfortable trekking back pack. Out of these two which one has a sturdier and more padded or moulded hip belt. I usually trek with a larger pack because i like a really supportive harness, but id like to try something lighter and smaller. Can anyone help. thanks.

  12. Tonya says:

    I have a Gregory Deva 70 that I purchased in 2009. I love it but it doesn’t have the convenient belt to convert the top pouch into a day/fanny pack. Would you have any ideas on how I could convert this without purchasing a new pack?

  13. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Jennifer! Great question. You’re definitely looking for one super backpack! I’m thinking you’d like the Gregory Sage 35 L backpack. It is women’s specific, fits the carry-on requirements for most airlines, has a built-in rain cover to protect your stuff during the Ghana rainy season, and has plenty of room to carry along a laptop plus your clothing and essentials. You may be able to get it shipped to you in Australia through Amazon.com. Good luck, and safe travels.

  14. Jennifer Gerrard says:

    Hi! I am going to work in Ghana for a year and am looking for a backpack that can serve as my carry-on luggage on the airplane, hold a small laptop, be a good daypack for a hike and also something that I can use if I go away for a few days. Water proofing would be a bonus as it’s humid there but they have a substantial rainy season.
    I’m around 5’8 or 5’9 and currently in Australia which may limit availability, but I’m sure I can work around that.
    Any suggestions would be great appreciated! Thanks

  15. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi there Bethany. Yes, there definitely are backpacks that will fit your friend! Is she looking for a daypack or a backpacking backpack? If you let me know I can offer some suggestions. Happy trails!

  16. Bethany Howell says:

    I was wondering, for my friend, she is 5ft 4, short torso, and size 0 jeans… will any backpacks out there fit her?

  17. Kerri says:

    Just an update. I posted about a year ago about having bought the Gregory Jade 60, XS. Since then it has been on numerous trips with me, by air and car, and different seasons. I’m still loving it! It stows in the overhead bin just fine and holds everything for my now 5yo son and I when we visit family (yep, this is all we take besides a tiny wheeled backpack with his coloring books and toys in it). It was well worth the money! I do search and rescue (I don’t use this one for SAR, but one made specifically for a medical rescuer) and I can honestly say spend your money on your backpack and your shoes! Your back and feet will love you for it!!

  18. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Tebra,
    I recommend that you go to your local outdoor sports store and try some on. Be sure to load up the backpack with beanbag weights (any good store will have them available). Then walk around for awhile and see what is the most comfortable. The Gregory Deva is really comfortable, which is why I tend to recommend that one for a lot of people. With an 18.5 inch spin that would put you at size Medium. As far as the belt size, it is determined by your waist measurement, and I’m guessing that you’d probably be a Medium there as well given what you told me about your hip size. What is nice about some of the backpacks on the market today, including the Gregory Deva, is that you can swap out belts if your body doesn’t comform to the ‘normal’ specs.
    For Gregory backpacks, waists of 24-34 inches would be a size medium. Here’s more info on their specifications.
    Hope that helps!

  19. Tebra Zelinka says:

    Hiking Lady, I am thru’ packing the Appalachian trail. I am 5’7β€³ with 18.5β€³ back and 46β€³ hips. What pack could you recommend for me?

  20. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Presley,
    Great question. It really will depend how much stuff you plan to take with you and buy along the way (souvenirs etc.) I suggest you lay out everything you plan to take. One of my favorites is the Gregory Deva because of its comfort, especially when carrying heavier items. A friend of mine went on a similar trip for 6 weeks but instead of Europe she went to India, and she took the High Peak Everest backpack because she wanted to save some money. She is quite tall and thin, and needed an adjustable backpack.
    Since you’ll be moving around so much, keep in mind durability. It will likely be worth it to spend a little more for a backpack that is constructed well so you don’t end up with torn nylon or a broken hip belt in the middle of your trip.
    So my vote is for the Gregory Deva. You’d be a size Small in that backpack.
    Have a wonderful adventure!

  21. Presley says:

    Hi,

    I’m going backpacking with my friend around Europe for 6 weeks and I’m not sure which backpack I should get. I’m 5’4, 120 pounds and my torso is about 16.5/17″.
    I’m going to try to pack as lightly as I can (no sleeping bag, minimal clothes, etc) but I’m still conflicted as to what size of a backpack I should get. Comfort is a big deal to me, though, since we’re going to 10 different countries and I really don’t want my back to be hurting during our trip!

    Thank you!

  22. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi there! You’ll want to determine what you’ll need to take with you. Since I’m guessing you won’t need your own sleeping bag, sleeping pads, stove, or cookware, you’ll probably be carrying the 10 Essentials, your apparel (gloves, jacket, hat, etc especially because it is winter time), food, and water. You can always get a larger pack, such as a 60L pack designed for backpacking, and cinch down the straps if you find that you haven’t filled it up. If you will have porters carrying your food (and you’ll just have snacks and water), then you can likely get away with a large daypack that is 30-40L. REI.com has sales, and here are some tips on finding deals on hiking gear.
    Have a wonderful trip!

  23. Daina says:

    Hi,

    My boyfriend and I have booked a 3 week Intrepid trip over to Nepal to trek the Annapurna Circuit (trekking for 16 days-staying in teahouses at night-not camping) and i was wondering what size pack you would recommend for a trip this size? Also any other gear I may benefit from for trekking in winter in the Himalayas? and also if you know any good websites that you would recommend for reasonably priced trekking gear? Sorry, we’re beginner trekkers!

    Thanks so much! πŸ™‚

  24. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Deb, great question! Yes, it is possible to switch out the hipbelt. I have never done it myself, and I’d recommend that you call Gregory before you buy the backpack to find out how to buy a hipbelt that is a different size from the backpack.

  25. Deb says:

    I’m interested in the Deva 70, and my back measures 17.5, which would indicate a small according to most sizing charts (including Gregory’s). However, my hips are 31-32, so the small Deva 70 hipbelt will be too small. I can’t seem to find anything about getting a different size hipbelt. Is this doable?

    Thanks!

  26. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Anna,
    While I haven’t tried the Kelty Coyote 75L myself, the reviews online are decent. Kelty’s are a good mid price point backpack, and a good friend of mine uses their 65L pack and seems to like it. The Gregory suspension system is superior, but you’ll pay about $100 more for a Gregory 70L backpack. If possible, go to an outdoor store and try them on and see what fits best for your body.
    Hope that helps. Have a great time on your trip!

  27. Anna says:

    What are your thoughts on the Kelty Coyote 75 for women?

    I have a Gregory Jade 50 and it has always been way too small to get all my things in. I want to start using a pack cover so would like to get something bigger. I am also going do the Wonderland Trail this summer and probabyly need the space. Thanks for you help!

  28. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Olivia,
    I’d recommend at least a 60L backpack. You’re lucky you’re tall because you’ll have an easier time carrying a big backpack, even with your small frame. The rule of thumb is not to carry more than 1/3 of your body weight, so in your case try to keep your backpack weight below 45-46 pounds if you can. You should easily be able to do that, unless your laptop and extra batteries are heavy. (Then it is time for a MacBook Air!)
    You should measure your spine size, and then you can pick out the S, M, or L accordingly. But just to reiterate, in terms of volume, you should be fine with a 60L backpack.
    If a “few pairs of clothes” means several outfits, then go for a 70L.
    Hope that helps! Have fun on your trip πŸ™‚

  29. Olivia says:

    Hello!

    I am traveling to Africa (Swaziland and South Africa) in the summer and I want to pack lightly but I don’t know which size backpack I should get. I need to be able to possibly carry my laptop (I am studying abroad), a few pairs of clothes, toiletries, sleeping bag, etc. I’ll be in Africa for about a month, and I was curious if you had any recommendations! I am pretty tall, 5’10”, and have a small frame for being 140lbs. Thanks for your time!! πŸ™‚

    -Olivia

  30. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Jojo,

    No sleeping bag needed? Will you be taking cooking equipment, a tent, or a sleeping pad? Those are the other large and heavy items that people generally would take. If you’re not taking those things along, you could probably get away with a 40L backpack.

    If you plan to take some of those items, a 60L backpack will be best. I’m assuming porters or someone else will be carrying your sleeping bag and other items. I really like the Gregory Deva 60L backpack. A less expensive option is the Kelty women’s 60L backpack. A good friend of mine used this backpack on the Inca Trail. Porters carried a lot of her gear, but she still wanted to take along essential items, a change of clothes, water, snacks, etc.

    Hope that helps. Happy trails!

  31. Jojo says:

    Hello! I will be taking things for a 5 day trip, but I don’t need to take a sleeping bag. I need a backpacking bag. What size bag would you recommend? I’m short (barely 5’2) so I know I need something small.

    Thanks!

  32. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Gail,

    Great question! I really like Gregory branded backpacks since they are super durable, but they tend to be a bit heavier. I have the Gregory Deva 60 liter pack, but it is >$300 and not ultralight. A good friend of mine uses a GoLite women’s backpack, and it is quite roomy and extremely light (weighs about 2 pounds empty versus almost 4 for the Gregory Deva). However, it lacks storage compartments, so it is really hard to stay organized.

    The Osprey Aura 65 is a good compromise for you…it is large (65L capacity), over $100 cheaper than the Gregory Deva. It weighs about 3.5 pounds, so not ultralight, but it has nice compartments to help you stay organized. They have some on Amazon for under $200. Keep in mind that these backpacks last a long time…so you could probably resell yours to a friend or even on eBay for close to what you pay for it when you’re back from your trip.

    Happy trails!

  33. Gail says:

    Hi, I’m going on a 2 week trip to Italy in April/May. I am a photographer, and I’m also always cold, so I need a backpack that can handle quite a bit of clothing as well as a camera and tripod. I’m 5’10” with a relatively small frame. I would like a roomy backpack, but one that is very light since we will be hopping on and off trains, etc. I’m hoping to spend around $150-$175 since this will probably be the only time I will use this backpack. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  34. Morgan says:

    I ended up buying the Gregory Deva. I found one at a great price online and measured my spine at home because I was no where near an outfitter. It was a huge risk but I couldn’t be happier. Im IN LOVE with my backpack. It is comfortable and soo practical with all of the pockets and entries. Mind you, I am a beginner backpacker and took it on a test run for 2 weeks in virginia once I got it. I feel as if im barely carrying anything. Just thought I would update us hardcore hiking lady followers πŸ˜‰

  35. Howard says:

    Just thought I’d leave a note of thanks since i have benefited from this thread. My girl\friend is going to India to support some orphanages and was looking at my million year old Gregory Shasta, asked if she could borrow it for the trip. well, since she wants to get in to backpacking with me, I figured I’d get her one as a gift. Thanks for this as I was toggling between the Jade and Deva. I am going for comfort for her as I don’t see the weight difference mattering for what we will be doing. πŸ™‚

  36. Kerri says:

    I just got a Gregory Jade 60 and absolutely LOVE it!!! I looked at numerous women’s backpacks but the features of the Jade 60 won out. I really like that it has a front access pocket in addition to the top-load, as well as zipper pockets on the waist-belt. There are plenty of pockets and room for everything. It also has a lower profile than some of the other backpacks which I like because I’m short and don’t want my backpack towering above my head. At first I had a hard time deciding between the XS and S because my torso measurement is 15.5-16″ (falls on the border of 2 sizes), but I eventually found that the Gregory sizing information says to go with the smaller size in that case, so I went with the XS. I haven’t been hiking/backpacking with it yet but am planning to use it on a 10 day trip over the holidays. The XS is just the right size to take as a carry-on. I did a trial run with everything I’m planning to take for me and my 4yo son and it not only holds it all (with room to spare) but the pack is extremely comfortable fully loaded (I’m 5’2″ and about 140lbs if that helps)! It is also well made. I can’t wait to take it hiking, backpacking, and camping!!!

  37. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    I’d definitely recommend the 22L or even 24L. Personally I’d choose the 24L Aventura or even go for a 30L backpack. It will be important for you to take along all those essentials listed above, and you’ll want to be able to get the zipper closed easily. Overstuffing a backpack is pretty much the best way to break the zipper! Believe me, you won’t want a backpack with a broken zipper when you’re on that rim to rim hike. Have a wonderful time!

  38. Stephanie says:

    Sorry for double-posting but I just noticed that the Maya also comes in a 22L size. If the 18L is too small, I’m hoping the 22 may work?

  39. Stephanie says:

    I’m hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim and will be staying at Phantom Ranch (so no camping or food preparation gear is needed). I’m wondering if the Gregory Maya 18 is big enough for my needs. I’ll just have a 100oz bladder, a change of clothes, something to sleep in, flip flops, a couple of travel-size toiletries, some snacks, a flashlight, sunscreen and a point-and-shoot camera.

    Do you think that will be a sufficient size? The next size up that I was considering was the Camelbak Aventura which I believe is 24L compared to the Maya’s 18L.

  40. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Morgan,
    Thanks for the question! I personally LOVE my Gregory Deva, and believe it is worth the price. As far as trying packs on in the store…I’d recommend it if you can. However, if you are able to measure your spine at home, buying online is ok too. Best option – get measured in the store, then buy online…the deals are typically better online πŸ™‚
    Happy trails!

  41. Morgan says:

    I am also trying to decide between the Gregory Jade and the Gregory Deva and I think I’m going to just have to try them both on and see. I imagine the Deva is what I am going for but the price of the Jade is sooo tempting! Do you recommend getting sized at a store if youve never been sized before or is measuring yourself efficient?

  42. Brenda Brackmann says:

    Hi! I have the Deva 70 model just purchased this season because I needed to upgrade to a bigger size for backpacking overnight vs. a daypack. The folks at EMS worked very diligently to fit me with the correct pack. I had an Osprey before but the only one I could find to fit my frame — I’m 5’5″ and 125 lbs was the Gregory Deva 70 model after trying many, including the Jade. With the others I had trouble with the weight distribution pulling away at the shoulders, causing me to be unbalanced. With the Deva 70, I got the extra small and they even were able to adjust the back straps in a different notch. I’ve been out on several trips now 9 to 12 miles at a time with only one small complaint. The back is solid instead of mesh like my Osprey so gets hot and causes me to sweat and my top to be soaked. Fortunately, it’s not been cold when I’ve been hiking afterwards. Hope that helps!

  43. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Ruby!
    Unfortunately I haven’t trail tested the Gregory Jade. I’ve read positive reviews of it. It is more streamlined than the Gregory Deva, and weighs almost 2 pounds less, so I’d imagine it is a little less comfortable (they had to have cut back on padding to shave off that amount of weight).
    The Deva is a great pack if you are willing to have a heavier pack that is super comfortable.
    If any readers out there have tried out the new Gregory Jade, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

  44. Liz says:

    Great info. I agree that women’s specific is important. I once borrowed my boyfriend’s backpack and it was so uncomfortable by day 2… definitely not worth it.

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