There are plenty of great backpacks out there – but once you start searching for the right one for yourself, you’ll probably discover that most of them are made for men. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but since women are built differently and have different needs, you may spend longer time searching. Keep in mind backpack is going to be there all the time, for every day of your trip.
There are few things to consider before you’ll pick one (and even before you’ll bother to try it on). I’m sure you found on other travel websites already, but let’s go through it once again.
How big/heavy should it be? (Do I want to take it onboard?)
I still think a woman shouldn’t take anything larger than 60-65 liters. Really. If it’s bigger, you are gonna fill it up and it’s gonna be too heavy. Let those 80 liters to men (well, if they want to spend their vacation dragging that load around…).
Next thing is – more important that the overall volume is how much stuff can you actually pack into it. Sounds like the same? Well, I had 35 l packs that felt bigger than other 45 l I had – simply because they were designed better. (Round vs.sharp edges, is the inside of the bag smooth, is frame outside or digs into the interior?, Do you have one big space without any constrictions, or more small departments?)
Seriously. You can get along with less things than you imagine. The great thing once a friend thought me was to put everything you want to take with you on your bed/floor and then take half of it away. And the other half is always enough.
According to women-on-the-road.com website, if your backpack doesn’t have more than 1/3 of your own weight, you’re ok. (Or what’s your ideal weight should be.)
Does it have integrated daypack? If so, that’s another bonus weight you would be caring. The thing about daypacks is, that they tend to be less durable than the ones you can buy separate. And not such good quality either. But it’s everyone’s personal preference I think.
If you can find waterproof backpack, that’s great! If you can’t, go for the rain cover. It has to be something durable – meaning thick enough, but lightweight, and quick drying. If you’re about to pay a lot of money for it, you better check out the reviews of other travelers first. You even can check why brands that make army-packs are great backpacks for travelers too!
Does it fit comfortable?
As a woman, you have (obviously:)) different body shape than men. That means you’ll probably need to find backpack with the middle sternum strap higher, than the men’s backpacks have, the hip belt should fit properly and should not be too loose. (Your hips should carry the most weight, not your shoulders!) The shoulder straps should be padded, as should be the back (or you can choose one with the mesh instead, to prevent sweating).
And of course, the pack should be the exact fit for you. (Try to look up. Do you hit yourself at the back of your head? If so, the backpack is too big.)
There is great video from Eberlestock company about Pack Fitting – just click here.
There are actually some very useful tips you can learn from their videos or reading the tips on the website. What really helped me was realizing that I tend to pack the heavy things at the bottom of the pack, which causes it to pull backwards, or at least you´ll have the feeling. If I pack heavier items little higher – in the middle of the backpack – it feels much more comfortable.
Which leads me to:
It’s up to you what you prefer. I don’t like the top loading, because always when I need something, it happens to be at the bottom of the backpack and I don’t like taking everything out every time. I like the suitcase-loading version better.
does it have internal frame?
There are almost no backpack with the frame on the outside, but still – I would rather buy the modern version where the frame is part of the backpack’s body. It is usually lighter and more practical. And yes, well – it looks better. We are women, after all.
Multiple compartments/ sleeping bag compartment
Do you prefer many or rather none? Do you stay at hotels/hostels or do you take your sleeping bag with you?
Although it’s nice to have everything organized, it’s more likely that thief will enjoy all those easily accessible zippers on your bag as well. That leads me to:
is it secure?
I know world is much safer place as we think, but anyway – can you lock the zippers together? If not, you may consider the pacsafe net. Can you cover the straps in case you want to put it in the checked in baggage at the airport? (This is good thing, since it prevents them from ripping off etc. when being loaded.)
wheels or no wheels?
Some time ago I noticed this hybrid wheeled backpacks starting to be so popular. Well, sure it’s great thing to be able to pull your backpack behind you, especially at the airport, but still – I don’t think it’s worth the added weight. Besides, you probably know what kind of destination you’re planning to land on. If wheels are better option, go for the wheeled luggage. (There is even the post about Backpack vs. baggage decision.)
I can’t imagine going one month through Asia with suitcase. (My friend did that. I was there. Wouldn’t change with him for anything.)
And of course – even if it isn’t that important. It should be nice. Or at least something you can look at.
I know this doesn’t seem important. But you’re gonna travel and live with your backpack every day of your trip. If you just don’t like it (for any reason), you’ll sooner or later be looking for new one. You know.
One last thing before you decide to buy it. If you have the chance to try it on before buying – do that! Put something heavy into the backpack, adjust all the straps, fit it and try to walk with it around the store. (It should be something slightly bigger, so the backpack wouldn’t be empty, with one small heavy thing at the bottom. It wouldn’t really be balanced that way.)
Is it alright? Do you like it? Doesn’t anything scratch you, or slip off, or anything else? Doesn’t it dig into your shoulders? Do you like the way you put it on/off?
Don’t ask your friends what they use and blindly buy it for yourself. Everybody is different, so the ideal backpack for them probably wouldn’t be the ideal backpack for you. (But you know, it can be. Who knows? Try it on.:))