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The Best Hiking Gear for Women

The Best Hiking Backpacks

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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,” he says. “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, fit 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 packs, from everyday bags to multi-day backpacker packs, are designed for women’s bodies, so you can carry your load comfortably.

Everyday Backpack/Light Hiking Bag

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This 23-liter bag is pretty enough for everyday use (school, work, travel), but comfortable enough to carry your stuff on a day hike. ($105;

Day or Snow Hike

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The Dakine Heli Pro 18L has a padded waist belt, and even has 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. ($90;

Full-Day Hike

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The Camelbak Aventura 22 has a shorter torso length to better fit women, and straps that won’t chafe your chest. The NV panel on the back gives you cross ventilation, to avoid a sweaty back, and the low profile and tight center of gravity, plus horizontal and lumbar pods, help transfer weight from your shoulders to your hips. Plus, it has a built-in water reservoir for all-day hydration. ($145;

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Day or Single Night Trips

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The North Face Women’s Angstrom 28 is super light, to minimize added weight. Light packers can even take the 27-liter bag on overnight backcountry trips. Bonus: Your stuff will stay dry even if it rains—the pack has an integrated rain cover. ($119;

Overnight Backpacking

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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. ($150;

Multi-Day Hiking

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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 Crestrail 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. ($239;


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