The Best Hiking Backpacks for Women
The Best Hiking Backpacks
It sounds counterintuitive, but smaller hikers may not actually need to carry lighter packs, say researchers at Kansas State University. When Michael O’Shea, Ph.D. led trips, the physics professor noticed that some of the largest students struggled to carry their bags hiking, while smaller students could manage a heavier load.
His explanation: As a person’s size increases, their strength doesn’t increase proportionally. “When you’re choosing how much to carry, your fitness and training is a much more important variable,” says OShea. “You have to experiment. Start with a lightweight pack (20 to 25 pounds) and hike for an hour, see how you feel. You’ll either discover you can take on more, or find your limit.”
For day trips, the fit of the hiking backpack is less important, since you’ll be carrying less. But as your pack weight increases, it becomes more and more important to get professionally fitted. These six new hiking backpacks for women, from everyday bags to multi-day backpacker packs, are designed for women’s bodies, so you can carry your load comfortably.
Best Everyday Backpack/Light Hiking Bag
The North Face Route Rocket lightweight pack may have been designed with rock climbing in mind, but it makes for the perfect travel- and hike-friendly backpack as well. The carbon-coated Shredstop™ fabric is weather- and scratch-resistant, meaning you can drag it on all your urban and outdoor adventures without messing with its chic exterior. Use the hydration sleeve and hip belt when you're hiking or biking, or opt-out when you're just running around town.
Best Hiking Backpack for a Snow Adventures
The Dakine Heli Pro hiking backpack has a secure waist belt, fleece-lined pocket to protest your goggles or sunglasses, and even straps to carry your skis or snowboard, so you can comfortably climb for some backcountry skiing. Choose this “blue flowers” print—the fabric is made completely from recycled plastic bottles.
Best Backpack for a Half-Day Hike
The Camelbak Women's Daystar 16—with enough room for books, lunch, and a layer—has a shorter torso length to better fit women and an S-curve harness for a better fit that won’t chafe your chest. It has a built-in water reservoir for all-day hydration and external attachment points where you can stash your trekking poles. And, of course, it comes with a built-in hydration pack that holds enough water for 2+ hours on the trail. (Pssst. Did you know all that time hiking comes with all these health benefits?)
Best Hiking Backpack for Long Day Hikes
The REI Co-op Trail Hydro 30L Hydration Pack has everything you'll need in a daypack when hitting the trail for a long day of hiking. Stay hydrated with a 3-liter water bladder and two side pockets for extra water bottles, and use the large top pocket to stash snacks, sunscreen, and other essentials. Two hip pockets come in clutch for items you'll need throughout your trek, like lip balm, your phone (to take pics, of course), and energy chews to keep you going strong.
Best Hiking Backpack for Single-Night Trips
The North Face Women’s Terra 40 is a durable, technical pack featuring a patent-pending strap system that literally helps lift the load off your shoulders. (Phew!) It has a floating lid, making it easy to strap in a sleeping bag or tent, and has room to hold everything else you'll need for an overnight out in the wilderness. Plus, because it comes in two different sizes, you can make sure it's the perfect fit. (Related: Read About How Women's Hiking Gear Has Changed for the Better)
Best Hiking Backpack for Overnight Backpacking
The Osprey Tempest 40 has a narrower frame and a shoulder harness cut for a woman’s neck, as well as a lower center of gravity to proportionally distribute weight along the back and hips, which helps you stay stable as you climb. Plus, an “air chimney” maximizes ventilation to keep you cool.
Best Hiking Backpack for Multi-Day Hiking
For a long hike, fit is especially key. The experts at REI can help fit you for a pack; one to check out is the REI Traverse 65, which has an ActivMotion hip belt that pivots as you walk. The aluminum frame is ultra light, saving you weight, and it transfers weight to your hips so you stay stable despite a heavy load. It has no less than 11 exterior pockets and also contains an integrated rain cover that you can pull over your pack to keep it dry in any weather.
Best Hiking Backpack for a Speed Hike or Trail Run
When you want to take off on the trails—whether it's for a trail run or you're just trying to beat the next storm—opt for a lightweight hiking backpack in the form of a vest instead. This Columbia Caldorado 7L Running Pack will strap snugly to your torso but has enough room for everything you might need for a few hours on the trail: room for a 3L hydration pack, side water bottle sleeves, pockets galore, trekking pole attachments, and a whopping 7L of total storage space. (Here are some more running vests you should check out too.)
Best Packable Hiking Backpack
Plan to do some hiking on vaca, but don't have room for a full hiking backpack inside your other bags? Stash this Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack—which folds up into a small pouch—into your suitcase or carry-on, and you'll have it ready for hikes or to tote around while sightseeing.