Buying a backpack for your round-the-world trip can be hugely daunting. After all, what is more important to a backpacker than their backpack?! Now take that confusion and multiply it by two. For women, finding the right travel backpack is even more difficult.
I’ve tried more backpacks than I can count and let me tell you, there is definitely a difference between a standard pack and a female-specific model. Women generally have shorter torsos than men, narrower shoulders and curves (in all the right places)!
As a travel-loving lady myself, I can attest that to find the perfect backpack, you’ll need to look for one that caters to a woman’s body. Feeling overwhelmed? We’ve dug through all the jargon to find the best travel backpacks for women.
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A Guide to the Best Travel Backpacks for Women
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Best Travel Backpacks for Women – Quick Answers!
Top Travel Backpacks for Women: As Chosen By Our Readers!
1. Osprey Fairview
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Clamshell opening, variety of sizes
- Feature to Improve: Laptop sleeve is in an annoying place
- Read full review of the Osprey Fairview 40 & Farpoint 40 (Opens in new tab)
Introducing the bigwig of the travel backpack world… the Osprey Fairview! Sister to the popular Osprey Farpoint, this travel backpack comes in three different sizes. The most popular of these is the Fairview 40, which can fit into standard airline dimensions as carry-on luggage.
There is also a 50-litre version and a 70-litre version. Both of these come with a detachable 13-litre daypack, ideal for those who want to travel with a few more luxuries. A huge selling point of the Osprey Fairview is its clamshell opening style. This means that it isn’t toploading and instead, opens like a suitcase.
The main pocket is roomy and there is also a laptop compartment. However, unlike on other types of bag, this is placed at the front, making it difficult to use when the backpack is close to capacity.
Although the bag can be a little bulky when filled to the brim, the back panel is great and evenly works to distribute the weight of the bag across your body. This, combined with the shorter torso length and shapely straps makes it surprisingly comfortable to wear.
“I’m currently travelling SEA with an Osprey Fairview 70L (57L main backpack and 13L day bag) and I love it! I’m travelling for the whole year and it’s got plenty of space but might be too big for a shorter trip. I would definitely recommend buying one secondhand as most are still in great condition and also invest in some packing cubes. It makes packing up and staying organised so much easier. “ – Emma.
2. Gregory Tribute
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Active Shield compartment
- Feature to Improve: Zippers that connect daypack don’t lock
The sister pack to the popular Gregory Tetrad, this bag is suitable for both long-term travel and hiking. The brand is a notable name throughout the US and they are known for their durable and comfortable backpacks.
If you’re somebody who likes to travel with all of your home comforts, the Tribute is a good choice. It comes in three different sizes: 40-litres, 55-litres and 70-litres. The two largest versions come with an 18-litre detachable daypack. The daypack addition is great for those who like to travel with two bags. The only downside is that the zips that affix the daypack to the main bag don’t lock.
Comfort is delivered by the supportive wishbone frame suspension and fully adjustable torso length. When sized correctly to your body, these distribute the pack’s weight straight down into your hips and legs, reducing the strain on your back, neck and shoulders. The anti-barrelling technology prevents the pack from moving while being worn which improves your balance by keeping your centre of gravity low. Finally, the straps are padded to reduce rubbing and discomfort while carrying heavy loads. And of course, they’re die-cut to fit the female form.
We love the Active Shield compartment for stashing dirty and smelly gear. The waterproof lining helps to keep the bad smells from wafting and works to effectively contain moisture in one area. This means if you get caught in a downpour, you can still keep your other clothes dry! Just don’t forget you’re storing damp stuff in there – it is sure to pong after a few days!
3. Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45/55 Anti-Theft Travel Pack
- Price Range: $$$
- Best Feature: Anti-theft features
- Feature to Improve: Price
The Venturesafe EXP range covers a variety of bags. There are travel backpacks and also, backpacks with wheels. For this roundup, we’ll only be talking about the non-wheeled versions of these bags.
At 45-litres, the EXP45 offers a generous amount of space for your travel gear – you’ll have to be strict when packing or you’ll end up taking way too much stuff!
Not only is this an excellent theft-proof backpack but it’s also eco friendly. The EXP45 is made from recycled fishing nets and other discarded nylon. Pacsafe are literally cleaning up the oceans to make this bag.
As well as the EXP45, there’s a 55-litre model available. Sadly, it’s not made from the same recycled materials but is still one of the best theft-proof backpacks available.
Ladies who worry about safety on the road will find added peace of mind with the Venturesafe EXP as it has a number of anti-theft properties. Both models feature a puncture-resistant ToughZip and Roobar Deluxe locking system. This locks down all your zips and straps to keep pickpockets out of the bag.
Both packs feature eXomesh slashguards – stainless steel wire netting built into the carcass of the bag. This prevents any would-be thieves from slashing their way into your bag and helping themselves to your belongings.
The EXP45 is the perfect size for flying carry-on only, jumping on and off buses and navigating metro systems. The straps are stowable, meaning they can be easily tucked away if you need to check in the bag. Bear in mind that the 55-litre version of this pack will be too large for carry-on dimensions.
There are two lockable compartments in the EXP45 backpack. The first has a clamshell opening for easy access and the smaller front pocket also contains a sleeve that can hold up to a 16” laptop.
4. Tortuga Outbreaker
- Price Range: $$$
- Best Feature: Internal organisation system
- Feature to Improve: Not available outside the US
This unisex travel backpack from Tortuga is a popular option for female travellers. Although it is a little boxy looking and not the most visually appealing bag on this list, there is no doubt the organisational features make it one of the best travel packs on the market.
The Outbreaker utilises the popular suitcase opening style, meaning that you can pack with ease.
There’s tons of organisation inside the main compartment, including two long pockets down either side of the bag. These are ideal for storing small items such as underwear. There are also two zip mesh pockets on the underside of the lid, however, these will only really be useful for flat items.
The laptop compartment which can hold a 17” laptop is at the back of the bag. It sits comfortably against your back while the added padding provides a protective pocket for your computer. The front compartment offers the perfect place to store your valuables and important documents. There are lockable zippers here so it is ideal for your cash, passport, visas and important reservations.
The internal organisation system is by far the biggest strength of the Outbreaker but the comfort provided also deserves a mention. The sheer amount of padding on the back of this bag means that it is incredibly comfortable to wear, even when full.
The adjustable shoulder straps limit pressure on the shoulders and the sternum strap is adjustable for maximum comfort. . The hip belt is padded and comes with pockets, a big plus for those items such as your passport that you want to keep close to hand. It can also be removed if you’d rather use the bag without it.
We dig the Outbreaker but there is no getting around the fact that it is an expensive bag. Both the 35-litre and 45-litre versions are very pricey. Tortuga also only ships to the US so the Outbreaker is not the best choice for somebody Europe or UK based.
5. North Face Terra
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Dyno Lift system, OPTIFIT suspension
- Feature to Improve: Weight
Although this is not technically a travel backpack, the North Face Terra is a good choice for active backpackers who plan to hike a lot on their travels. Primarily, it serves as a hiking pack offering great support when carrying heavy loads.
The OPTIFIT suspension system makes the bag comfortable to wear, even when fully packed. It absorbs shock from the ground up, making it kind on your joints. The torso length can also be vertically adjusted to accommodate for the pack load before you set off on your journey. As this is a female-specific backpack, extra consideration has been given to the shaping of the shoulder straps and hip belt.
The Dyno Lift system helps to stabilise your body and pack weight while you hike. With a 55-litre capacity, this backpack is a little larger than many hikers would like, however, the bag feels surprisingly sleek when you’re wearing it.
There’s an internal water bladder sleeve and trekking pole attachments on the outside. This bag has a j-zip opening which allows you to get into the backpack quickly and helps to keep the contents of your bag organised. The downside of this pack is that clocking in at 1.88kg, it is heavy to carry.
6. Nomatic/Gomatic Travel Bag
- Price Range: $$$
- Best Feature: Compact and efficient storage
- Feature to Improve: Suitable for light packers only
Branded as Nomatic in the US and Gomatic in Europe, this travel gear company is on a mission to provide durable kit for travellers. They offer their unisex travel pack in both 30-litre and 40-litre sizes, making them carry-on compliant for most airlines.
The travel bag is made from water-resistant tarpaulin, meaning that your stuff will stay safe even if you get caught in a freak downpour. It has a clamshell opening making it much easier to organise your stuff inside the bag.
This is a travel bag that prides itself on its organisational features. There is an underwear compartment, easy access pocket, RFID blocking sleeve, cord pass through and water bottle pocket.
There is also a laptop sleeve that sits close to your back. This makes the bag comfortable to wear and also keeps your most valuable items out of the reach of thieves. It is an ideal choice for digital nomads for this reason.
Nomatic offer a luggage lifetime warranty on all products published directly from them or via authorised resellers. This means that they will repair any defects in workmanship and material. You have two options for fixing a defect in the bag. The first is to order a DIY repair kit for $10USD or you will have to ship the bag to one of the repair centres (all located in the US). Unfortunately, customers are liable for these shipping costs even though the repair cost is covered by Nomatic. This is worth considering if you are based out of the US.
The main downside of this travel pack is that it really only suits travellers that pack light. According to the brand themselves, the 30-litre version of this bag is best suited to 2-4 day trip whereas the 40-litre packs for 3-7 days. This won’t suit travellers on extended trips through multiple climates. There is also a 20-30-litre expandable travel pack available but this will only really function as a daypack.
7. Osprey Ariel
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Comfort
- Feature to Improve: Excessive number of straps
And Osprey does it again! Although more of a hiking pack than a travel one, ladies love the Osprey Ariel. This is namely because it is so darn comfortable, even under heavy loads. This female-specific backpack has a padded hip belt, which allows you to evenly distribute your pack weight across your entire body.
The Airscape back panel features channels that promote airflow helping reduce that sweaty back feeling that we all know so well. As you’d expect from a women’s backpack, the Osprey Ariel is highly adjustable with easy to customise torso length as well as the hip belt and shoulder straps.
The Osprey Ariel is available in one size only, 55-litres. This means that it will not be an appropriate choice for all female travellers. The bag doesn’t fit into carry-on dimensions, however, it can double up as a hiking pack, ideal if you have some longer treks planned on your trip.
Its suitability to hiking does mean that there is an abundance of straps and loops to deal with. While the majority of these exist to cinch in the pack when full, there are simply too many which complicate using the bag as a travel pack. For most backpackers, a few of these straps will come in handy but the vast majority will simply swing about unnecessarily.
8. Tropicfeel Shell
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Accessory pouches and sustainable practices
- Feature to Improve: Wardrobe feature
- Read full review of the Tropicfeel Shell (Opens in new tab)
Not content with just smashing the travel shoes market, Tropicfeel has now turned their hand to backpacks, leading with the Tropicfeel Shell. In this backpack, there is a place for everything so you can keep everything in its place!
It is marketed as being expandable and can either be used as a 22-litre, 30-litre or 40-litre pack. While this sounds pretty awesome, in truth, it is a bit of a sales gimmick. Capacity is largely dependent on how much stuff you pack in it.
This bag is indeed is suited to both short city breaks and longer backpacking trips. However, if you fall into the latter category, you’re unlikely to be able to carry much more than the essentials.
Although not a female-specific backpack in terms of specs, this bag is generally more suited to globetrotting gals because of its short torso size. Taller people will find that the hip belt sits too high.
If you love organisation, you’ll love the Tropicfeel Shell. It is another backpack that benefits from a clamshell opening style, making stuff easy to find. There is also a good internal laptop sleeve.
Arguably the best feature of the Shell is the cool accessory pouches. They come at a steep price but you can also purchase a camera cube, toiletry bag and tech pouch to attach to the bag. This helps to keep your bits organised in specific containers. We also love the expandable kangaroo pouch at the bottom of the bag. It is ideal for carrying muddy shoes to keep them separate from your other luggage.
As with everything that Tropicfeel do, sustainability is at the core. The Shell is made from 60% recycled polyester and 100% recycled nylon. They are also Climate Neutral Certified, meaning that they measure, reduce and offset their carbon emissions.
9. CabinZero Military Backpack
- Price Range: $
- Best Feature: Retro style
- Feature to Improve: Suspension system
From the moment you look at the CabinZero Military Backpack, you know you’re dealing with one cool looking bag. The rugged military-style makes this bag not only stylish but also an unassuming bit of gear.
Available in 28-litre, 36-litre and 44-litre versions, this backpack is ideal for those who want to travel carry-on only. It is important to mention though, that it is not the most comfortable bag on our list. Although there is a hip belt, it isn’t very padded which can be a little uncomfortable when you’re wearing the bag for long periods.
The shoulder straps are curved to fit your torso and feature a good degree of padding. There are also load lifters which, when tightened correctly, help make the bag more stable by pulling the centre of gravity towards you.
Although the suspension system is somewhat lacking, this is the cheapest bag on our list. It offers a high degree of bang for your buck too. There is a top grab handle, padded back panel and straps, side compression straps and military webbing for your accessories. It won’t be the most supportive travel bag that you ever buy but it may well be the best value.
What to consider when buying a backpack for the female frame:
Size is probably the most important consideration when choosing your backpack. Although this is largely a matter of personal preference, 40-46-litre backpacks tend to be the most popular size for long-term travellers. This is because backpacks this size often fit into carry-on dimensions, meaning that you don’t need to pay to store luggage in the hold on flights.
Backpacks of this size are generally big enough to carry the essentials while still being easy to store in hostel lockers. However, if you are embarking on an around-the-world trip where you are travelling to a number of different climates, you may need something bigger to ensure you can pack everything you need.
You’ll also need to consider if you want to opt for two bags, a main bag and a daypack. This is a popular approach taken by many backpackers. In fact, brands such as Osprey sometimes sell a larger backpack with a detachable travel daypack attached.
“I have a 65l bag and a small 15l backpack for the day. My bag has lasted me for years and I use packing cubes – they help to make room in your bag and organise it.” – Laura.
Buying a women’s travel backpack comes with additional considerations. Fit is a very important factor and something which is easy to get wrong. The best way to ensure that you have chosen a comfortable backpack that fits you well is to try it on. Here are a few things to look for:
- Shoulder straps: In women-specific backpacks, the shoulder straps are usually narrower to support a more slender frame. They are also shaped or curved to accommodate a larger chest area.
- Hip belt: The hip belt is a very important part of a backpack. It works as a part of the entire suspension system to help to reduce weight and pressure on the shoulders. In backpacks specifically tailored to women, the hip belt will generally have more padding than on a unisex pack and be at least 10cm wide.
- Torso size and length: Many leading backpack brands offer different sizes of backpack. These are sized based on torso length. To measure your torso, tilt your head forward and find the first vertebra that protrudes from the back of your neck. Measure from there to your iliac crest.To find your iliac crest, place your hands on your hips with your thumbs around the back. Point your thumbs towards each other and measure from that invisible line – you may need a friend to help! Alternatively, head to an outdoor shop to get your torso measured by a member of staff. On average, a woman’s torso length will be between 14 and 18 inches. If you are taller, you may want to opt for a unisex pack to get a better fit. Investing in a backpack that properly fits your torso will result in a more comfortable carrying experience as well as a more even weight distribution. It is worth remembering that different companies use different size charts so make sure you check before ordering!
- Suspension system: A good suspension system will help you to carry heavier loads in comfort. It works to distribute the weight of the pack evenly across your body, reducing pressure on the neck, shoulder and back.
When it comes to choosing a travel backpack, it is useful to consider what features you would find helpful. For example, are you looking for something with specific shoe storage or a laptop compartment? Would you like a waterproof backpack or maybe a theft-proof bag?
Accessibility is a hugely important factor. Nobody wants to be stuck rooting around their backpack searching for the thing at the very bottom! To avoid this issue, look for bags that open using a clamshell design. They open like a suitcase, making your stuff much more easily accessible, even when you are on the move.
Water-resistance may be a consideration for travellers backpacking in the rainy season. Most backpacks come with a basic level of water resistance even if they are not completely waterproof. Sadly, a lot of travel packs don’t come with rain covers included as standard. If this is the case, it’s almost always worth buying one separately – you never know when you’ll get caught out by an errant storm!
Compression straps are a girl’s best friend. They help to cinch down all of your stuff to keep the bag compressed. This means that you can fit more gear inside. Be aware that there is only so much that compression straps can do though. If you overpack too much, you may risk pushing the bag over its size specifications – not good if you are travelling with a bag that usually fits into carry on dimensions and have a plane to catch!
Being organised when you travel makes things much easier when it comes to packing and unpacking. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love a pack that has specific locations for different items. You can still stay organised using a backpack with fewer compartments though, just grab yourself some packing cubes before you travel!
Although no one wants to shell out half their travel budget on a backpack, there is no doubt that to get quality gear, you’ll need to spend. Durable backpacks always come with a big price tag, however, it is important to remember that buying a travel backpack is an investment for the future.
To find something durable, you’ll need to consider the brand, material and features of the bag. It is also important to find out what guarantee is offered with the backpack that you buy. Most good backpack retailers and brands will offer a good guarantee.
We don’t advise dropping a lot of money on a backpack that comes with no guarantee – if something goes wrong, you’ll be left up the creek without a paddle! It is also worth remembering that gear can be very expensive to replace on the road. Buy something quality before you travel to make sure you don’t get caught out!
Choosing a Women-Specific Backpack FAQs
Why buy a backpack tailored to women?
Women-specific backpacks have been designed with the female form in mind. They generally suit shorter torsos, have more shapely shoulder straps and a supportive hip belt.
Although some brands have decided to split their backpack ranges into two genders, this isn’t a strict rule which you need to follow.
Female-specific backpacks have been designed with an average woman in mind. Therefore, if you are particularly tall or have broader shoulders, you may find a unisex backpack or a male-specific model fits you better.
Can I use a travel backpack for hiking?
Although you can use a travel backpack for hiking in a pinch, it is not generally recommended. This is because they have not been designed for this purpose. Unlike hiking packs, you are not meant to wear a travel backpack for hours on end over long distances. They are generally heavier and will put undue stress on your back.
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