Best Travel Backpacks for Women

Laura Lopuch

I’ve been trying desperately to think of a story as an introduction for this article.

For some story to illustrate how comfortable and relaxed — how in my own skin and happy with it — that I felt when I wore a specific backpack. One made with a woman’s body in mind.

One crafted with narrow shoulders in mind and hips that don’t lie. A travel backpack that doesn’t require constant adjusting of the shoulder straps to cinch them down tight enough so the pack stays put. But not so tight that my boobs — C’mon, peeps, you’re reading a post entitled “Travel Backpacks for Women.” We’re gonna get friendly here — don’t feel like a uni-boob of pain.

Honestly. I’m coming up short.

Which is exactly what the market is doing for us, ladies: coming up short on designing travel backpacks with a woman’s body in mind.

And I’m not talking about making a travel backpack look cute and sleek.

The Problem With Most Travel Backpacks

They’re made for men! With their broader shoulders and differently shaped bodies.

Think of most of the backpacks on the market. Let me guess: they’re larger (i.e. heavier), have wider shoulder straps, and lack padding in spots we gals need it most. Like around the hips and over the tops of our shoulders.

What Women Want in a Travel Backpack

What we as women want in a travel backpack is simple:

  • Shoulder straps that adjust side to side and are made for a narrower, less muscled frame
  • Padding along the waist belt, specifically where the belt touches the tops of our hips
  • Water bottle pockets
  • Pockets within reach while wearing it to store MVP items (lip balm, passport, wallet, smartphone)
  • Front-loading like a suitcase, to stay organized on the road

We also want to pick a travel backpack that is a square or rectangular shape, to maximize the allowable carry on space for the airlines. Ideally, the frame shouldn’t be wider than your back and the carry harness should adjust to fit your height.

Find the torso measurement on the travel backpack you’re eyeing. Most women’s torsos are between 14-18 inches. Check out this great fit guide to make sure you’re getting it right.

#1 Thing When Buying a Women’s Travel Backpack

Try it on with weight in the bag!

Or, if you’re buying a travel backpack online check out the return policy, so if you’re uncomfortable with the fit, you easily return it.

Trying on a backpack, with weight in it, is the quickest, best way to find out if a travel backpack is right for you. After all, you’ll be skin-to-skin with this new backpack for long days. If you’re itching to get it off your back 3 seconds after you sling it on, chances are the fit won’t improve with time.

Wear it around the house for a few hours. Let the weight settle in. Then take stock of how your body feels.

Best Travel Backpacks for Women

Osprey Fairview 55

The 55L bag is intentionally designed for women. Think: narrower shoulder straps that are set closer together for our frames and a tapered waist belt. Oh thank goodness, no more super-huge waist belt. Throw in breathable mesh to prevent a sweaty back and you have a fantastic travel backpack.

On the pack’s front, you get pockets for water bottles and two compression straps to cinch down a stuffed bag.

This travel backpack comes in three capacities: 40L (no daypack), 55L, and 70L. The only one that is carry on friendly is the 40L bag. The larger ones you’ll have to check. That’s a deal breaker for those of us who want to travel light.

Melissa on The Family Voyage liked the backpack’s “great quality, nicely designed daypack, wide enough to accommodate a laptop; stow-away harness; internal compression.”

She cautions that the “55L and 70L versions are too tall for carry-on with discount carriers and many EU carriers.” Also, the “daypack may be hard to attach if the main backpack is very full or bulging in the middle.”

Vicki at Make Time to See The World likes this bag. She writes:

“The Osprey Womens Fairview 55 is one of the top women’s backpacks that combine durability, lightweight backpack frame and a generous 55L capacity which is perfect for every medium-long term trip… The designed-for-women backpack straps, harness and padded waist belt can be stowed behind a panel at the back creating a smaller silhouette when checking/storing the bag…”

Thule Versant 50L Women’s Backpack

Customize the torso-fit and hipbelt of this travel backpack made for women. The front unzips in a U-shaped opening which is a weird hybrid between a clamshell and a top-loading opening.

In Melissa’s great quest for a new travel backpack in her travels with her family, this backpack won her heart.

“The backpack has a stretchy stash pocket in front and a messenger-style removable daypack on top that is secured with clips – it’s nice not to have to fumble with zipper on top of a fully-loaded (possibly bulging) backpack. The overall height is slightly shorter than my rolling carry-on suitcase, so on major carriers it may be possible to stow this in the overhead bin.

I love the adjustable torso height that makes for a custom fit.”

Her favorite part? Her husband can carry the bag with a simple adjustment of the back harness, while she carries one of their two children.

The Eagle Creek Women’s Global Travel Companion

This 40L travel backpack opens like a suitcase and is a smaller backpack, making it well-suited for petite ladies.

As Kate raves in her review: “I am 5′ 3″ with a short torso and this bag fits me fine. It adjusts in so many ways, has very good padding, and the load lifter straps are a nice touch. I was able to haul it through large international airports without difficulty… I was able to fit a narrow 1L water bottle in the water bottle pocket and had no trouble with the compression strap going around it.”

Plus, it’s carry-on compliant, has a built-in padded laptop sleeve, and compression straps to magically shrink the size of your bag to fit those airlines with smaller-than-normal carry-on requirements.

 

Osprey Women’s Sirrus 36 Travel Backpack

A women’s specific fit, adjustable torso lengths, and an integrated rain cover. Lots of pockets to keep all your gear organized. Mesh back-panel with ventilation. Seamless hip belt which means no chaffing.

Oh, did I mention the dual side compression straps? 

My only complaint is the top-loading design. This backpack isn’t really a travel backpack. It’s a hiking backpack that you could use as a travel backpack.

Treksplorer says:

“The adjustable torso length, ergonomic shoulder straps, narrower harness and angled hip belt all add up to a female-friendly design and proves that Osprey is a brand that lives up to its claims… We’d be hard pressed to not recommend it to women looking for a compact and feature-rich backpack that will grow with them.”

Osprey Porter 46

The Osprey Porter 46 is travel backpack that could transform into a duffle in a pinch. This travel backpack isn’t specifically designed for women. But, thanks to its smaller volume of 46L and dimensions, this travel backpack might be a worthy companion for a smaller torso.

Time and again, this travel backpack popped up in my research as a good travel backpack for women.

Melissa at The Family Voyage searched high and low for her next travel backpack. She tried out this backpack. Here’s what she said about Osprey Porter: 

“Unlike the Farpoint and Fairview, it’s a much simpler backpack: one torso size, minimal harness, and essentially one large compartment with a small front organizer… Unfortunately, it’s such a basic pack that the sizing is intended to be “one size fits all” – and anyone who’s ever worn a proper backpack knows that a properly fitting one is essential. I would have loved to see a women’s version with at least a 1? shorter torso height and narrower shoulder straps. Alas, there’s no way that either Porter model would be a good fit for smaller (or even average but short-waisted) women.”

However, Vicki disagrees:

“The Porter 46 features a flexible and convertible design that morphs seamlessly between a travel duffel bag for quick exits, or a backpack—featuring a padded belt, adjustable shoulder straps and sternum strap—for longer hauls… What really sticks this among our favourite picks is that the Osprey Porter 46 is a front-loading backpack.”

Our verdict? Try on this backpack. Walk around the store in it. See if you like it. See how it rests on your back, along your hips, and put some weight in the backpack.

Outbreaker Travel Backpack 35L

With a height-adjustable suspension system along the back, this backpack fits torsos from 16-20”.

Meaning: as a woman, you’re sure to find a fit that’s comfortable.

Also, this backpack checks more must-have criteria: passport-sized pockets on the hip belt that are big enough to be useful and a water bottle pocket on the side.

Add in the fact that this travel backpack is a smaller size — a 35L — instead of the bigger and heavier 45L, and you’re looking at a winner, in my humble, semi-unbiased opinion.

Even though the features feel like it, this backpack wasn’t specifically designed for women.

We’re working on changing that. Later this year, we will release a travel backpack specifically for women.

A travel backpack with the works, so you’re comfortable carrying it and you don’t feel like you’re making sacrifices. Or getting frustrated every time you open that top-loading hiking backpack. Which you picked for its women-specific design.

Stay tuned — you’ll find out more about our new travel backpack for women soon.

TL;DR

When you’re looking for a travel backpack suitable and crafted for a woman, look for these features:

  • Adjustable torso harness
  • Generously padded hip belt that is designed for narrower waists
  • Smaller volume (opt for a 40-50L vs a 70L pack)
  • Try on the travel backpack! You’ll never know if it’s the right travel backpack for you until you put it on your back.

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