To select the best travel backpacks for women is a daunting task. There is a wide range of travel styles, backpacks, and women’s body types. The good news, as the demand for travel backpacks increases brands are building backpacks developed specifically for women’s frames. No longer is there a one size fits all pack.
I fondly remember the first female-specific backpack I bought from REI. I loved that bag because it was comfortable, rugged, and fit my frame well. Ever since that first backpack years ago I’ve tried and tested out a wide range of new backpacks. After all that, I’ve found some of the best travel backpacks for women. No matter what backpack style you’re looking for you can find something for travel, hiking, or weekend getaways.
What are the best travel backpacks for women?
The Osprey Farpoint is the bag I have had for years and love it. It’s a unisex bag, but I still find it one of the best Osprey backpacks for women and it’s definitely the best backpack for Europe on this list
It has become the golden standard for travel backpacks. The backpack is referred to as front loader meaning it opens similar to a suitcase for easy access. It’s pretty lightweight, features a removable daypack, zip-away suspension, and a side handle to top it off. The side handle of the bag is an added bonus, making it easy to grab out of an overhead bin and carry it off of a plane. Most backpacks are built for hiking, but with the Osprey you get a travel-specific bag.
The only drawback of the pack is the less comfortable suspension and its unisex design which means it is not ideal for every woman. However, the portability makes it an awesome choice for the best women’s backpack or men’s backpack. The front load and the ability to keep your clothes folded is awesome. The 40L is great for carry on luggage while the 55L and 70L are good for long-term trips.
Weight: 3 lbs. 14.4 oz.
Fabric: 210-denier ripstop nylon/600-denier
Capacities: 40L, 55L, 70L
Pros: Lightweight, manageable, removable daypack
Cons: Few pockets for organization, standard unisex design
A great top loading pack option for the more adventurous woman. The Deuter ACT Lite pack has a comfortable fit, solid construction, internal frame, and a multilayer hip belt. The harness is adjustable and completely padded so it sits well on women with wide hips. This pack is great for multi-day hikes and even has a compartment for storing sleeping bags without disturbing the rest of the items in the pack.
The Deuter Act Lite also has an expandable collar in case you need the extra 10L of storage. I really love the front mesh pockets on these packs and always end up storing my flip-flops there.
Weight: 4 lbs. 3 oz.
Capacities: 35L, 45L, 60L, 70L
Pros: expandable collar, front mesh pockets, hydration compatible
Cons: Only toploading
Have I mentioned I love Osprey packs? With the antigravity system, the Osprey Aura feels absolutely great on your back for extreme comfort and fit all day. This is another top loading backpack that is specifically made for women making it one of the best travel backpacks for women on this list. Designed for the traditional backpacker or those on a hiking adventure you can’t really go wrong with the Aura.
Almost the whole back panel is made out of lightweight mesh for ventilation. I love how the harness can be fine-tuned for any sized woman. This pack has so many compartments for organization, included space at the bottom for a sleeping bag. The top compartment can be completely removed if you don’t need it.
Weight: 4 lbs. 4 oz.
Fabric: Denier Nylon
Pros: lightweight mesh ventilation, lightwire frame, many pockets for organization
Cons: Only toploading
We love to shop at REI and love their gear. It’s often a great value and we’ve used their backpacks for years. The Co-Op Flash Pack is one of the best lightweight hiking backpacks on the market. It’s made out of ripstop nylon and is a great 45 L trekking backpack for both men and women. With 45L it’s manageable for a gear-heavy day hike, an overnight, or a minimalist multi-day trek. The REI compression technology helps keep your belongings up and in to help your balance, stability, and posture while hiking. Its super lightweight frame is great and where the bag saves a few ounces.
There are attachment loops on the front to allow ice axes, poles, and other tools to be stored as well as snappable water bottle pockets on the hip belt. The mesh back panel allows for airflow keeping you cooler when walking in the sun and the removable top lid offers customizable pack volume. We think this pack is perfect for those on a long weekend hiking trip in the mountains or on cross-country trails and has even been named the “Best Women’s Fit” backpack by Backpacker Magazine.
Weight: 2 lbs. 12 oz.
Fabric: Nylon (420D)
Pros: Lightweight, manageable, nice features
Cons: Too small for any longer than three days
The REI Trail bag is a great travel backpack because it can be used for both hiking, and as a carry on backpack option. Its women-specific fit provides comfort for all sizes with harness systems designed for women torsos. The pack is focused well on organization with a number of compartments and pockets. On the 40L pack, there is a mesh compartment on the outside to store wet gear. Both the 25L and 40L are compliant with TSA regulations and can be carried on flights, a key element for those who like to fly carry on.
There’s a hydration pouch directly that helps with those like to use bladders when hiking. What I love the most is that there are a few different ways to access the pack, so your bag doesn’t have to become a complete mess when you find you need something.
Weight: 4 lbs. 12 oz.
Fabric: Denier ripstop nylon
Capacities: 25L, 40L, 65L
Pros: Many organization tools, different ways to access pack
Cons: Small hydration sleeve on the outside
eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible
eBags has been making reliable bags for years. While they may not be geared towards outdoor hiking adventures the Mother Lode Weekender is certainly great for just every day travels around the globe. It effortlessly meets the needs for work trips, road trips, or for weekend getaways (hence the “weekender” name).
Once you open the inside of the bag you’ll see how nicely you can organize your belongings, while the outside of the bag has many zippered compartments for stashing your phone, camera, passports, or anything else. The only problem with this bag is it doesn’t have a hip belt, and rather thin shoulder straps so it’s not ideal for walking long distances.
Weight: 3 lbs. 15 oz.
Pros: Carry on size, expandable, affordable
Cons: Not good for long trips, no hip belt
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest
The Hyperlite Southwest is easily one of my favorite unisex packs on the market and one of the best ultralight backpacks in the world. The material in this bag has allowed for weight previously not seen. It’s impressively strong, super lightweight, and close to waterproof. Hyperlite Mountain Gear specializes in building outdoor gear with this special material called Dyneema Composite Fabric. Their backpack line comes in a number of sizes, but the 3400 is their middle of road backpack with 55L of storage.
If you’re big on buying American made this company is based and manufactures in Maine, so that’s a big bonus point. The higher price point may deter some, but it comes with the territory of buying top of the line materials. If you do purchase expect these packs to last for years of heavy usage. After purchase, you’ll see that this will easily be the best hiking backpack you own.
Weight: 2 lbs. 0.6 oz.
Capacities: 40, 55, 70L
Pros: Lightweight and water resistant
Cons: No organization features, strictly for hiking
Kelty Women’s Redwing BackpackThe Kelty Redwing 40 is a women’s pack specifically designed with a women’s frame in mind. It can be accessed from the side or top of the pack providing easy access to your belongings wherever they are located. This Kelty bag uses the LightBeam™ single aluminum stay and Dynamic AirFlow panel which stabilizes your load and helps keep you comfortable and balanced.
The back sleeve can either be used for a travel laptop (or for a bladder), which is great if you work while traveling. A great feature is the removable waist belt, which we use when we are flying and don’t want to risk our bags getting ruined in transit.
Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz.
Fabric: Denier polyester
Pros: Removable waist belt, easy access side, can be used as a carry on
Cons: no hip belt pockets
If I were looking for the best overall women’s backpack the Traverse would be my pick. This is one of the latest packs from REI and is great for camping, hiking, and general travel. The Traverse comes in two different colors and is one of the first backpacks I’ve seen come in light pink, or what they call “Peppercorn.”
The REI UpLift™ Compression technology pulls the Traverse pack load upwards and inwards. This makes the load closer to your center of gravity, improving balance and making it easier to hike with a heavier load. The functionality is great with an adjustable torso section, padded straps and a pivoting hip belt that moves independently from the pack. All users note how comfortable this pack is to wear and that the Traverse has great lumbar support. As with many REI packs the Traverse has a lot of compartments to store items in and stay organized, but without zippers and straps hanging all over the place.
Weight: 4 lbs. 11 oz.
Fabric: Ripstop Nylon
Capacities: 35L, 65L
Pros: All around backpack for both hiking and travel, sturdy hip belt, removable totp lip
Cons: Narrow shoulder straps
Patagonia Black Hole 25L
First things first, this pack is made by Patagonia which is one of our favorite brands! Patagonia makes great quality gear and garments and we continue to buy more of their products. Patagonia’s Black Hole is everything I have come to love about the company. It features a ripstop polyester that is a water-resistant TPU laminate which makes it waterproof and super tough. The look of it is a sleek and heavy-duty bag built for adventure.
This is a small travel backpack ideal for day trips or short travel weekends, granted they do make larger versions. An inner padded pocket is located on the inside to hold a laptop so it makes for a great bag in the city or out hiking in the woods. Another great feature is the daisy chain loops that allow for the attachment of things such as a skateboard, yoga mat, or climbing gear. This daypack is a slam dunk, but some might not like the laminate look. Also, it lacks compartments in the interior for the organization of your clothing or gear.
Weight: 1 lbs. 8 oz.
Fabric: 450-denier polyester ripstop with a TPU-film laminate
Pros:water-resistant TPU laminate, laptop padded pocket
Cons: Not many inside pockets
Jansport Hatchet Backpack
I had to mention at least one backpack on this list that wasn’t completely rugged looking. I love the design of this urban daypack. It draws from influences of outdoor gear but Jansport still managed to make a fashionable travel backpack for women that looks great in a modern environment. The pack features one main compartment with a series of sleeves perfect for organizing things such as a travel laptop, notepad, and headphones.
Weight: 1 lbs. 6 oz.
Fabric: 600-denier polyester
Pros: Lightweight Padded shoulder pads, laptop sleeve, looks great outdoors or in cities
Cons: Small, will probably need to be replaced after a few years of wear
I just got the Kathmandu Altai and absolutely love it. The 50L pack is perfect for a short trip abroad or overnight hike in the wilderness. The pack doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but it doesn’t need many. It serves a great durable purpose to carry your belongings comfortably. The waistband is completely adjustable for all shapes and sizes and features a new breathable harness.
The top loading panel has a security pocket with a key clip under the top lid, and there are numerous pockets on the sides for easier organization. The Altai also has adjustable straps on the bottom on the pack to hold your sleeping bag for any hikes as well as small pockets on the hip belts to store things like keys or chapstick. While this pack may be a bit too basic for long term backpacking, I recently carried it with me on a short trip to Ecuador and found it perfect for under a month.
Weight: 2 lbs. 8 oz.
Pros: Breathable harness, pouch for bladder, lightweight
Cons: Only top loading, no padding on shoulder straps
Elements of a good women’s travel backpack
- Main compartment: You’ll want to make sure that the main compartment of your backpack is large enough to carry all of your belongings while still having easy access. Store the heavier things at the bottom of your bag so that the weight is closer to your back. Additional compartments are good for storage of small items or valuables like your passport.
- Hip Belt: A good hip belt is essential for any women’s travel backpack. In case you haven’t heard women have hips and putting your pack weight on your hips helps take the pressure off your back, so you will want a good, well-cushioned hip belt that is sturdy to help do that.
- Shoulder straps: Along with the hip belt, your shoulder straps carry a lot of the weight of your pack. Thick and comfortable padding will keep your shoulders from hurting after a long days hike or walk through a city.
- Water bottle holders and hydration ports: Hydration ports are great for those long hot days. If you aren’t using the hydration ports or a bladder you will want at least one water bottle holder to hold your liquid.
- Waterproof: We look for bags that are waterproof or have a rain fly in case your stuck in a rainstorm. Nothing is worse than wet gear.
- Cushioned back: A well cushioned back panel can make the difference between having a backache or not.
- Trekking pole/ice picking loops: If you’ll be doing any hiking during your travels these are great little additions to any bag that can really optimize your comfort and free your hands if you use poles or ice picks on hikes.
How to choose the best women’s backpack?
- Price: The first thing to think about when it comes to picking a great women’s travel backpack is your budget. Good quality backpacks are expensive, but you also don’t want to blow your entire budget on a backpack. That being said, if you invest in one of the best backpacks on the market chances are it will stand the test of time. Many companies like REI and Osprey will offer to repair your products.
- Comfort: Like with anything, make sure that the backpack you choose is comfortable on your back. You should be able to hike comfortably for at least two hours. When buying online it’s a good idea to check the return policy in case the backpack does not fit you the way you would like. Most Amazon and REI purchases come with free returns.
- Design: A backpacks design is crucial. A good backpack doesn’t necessarily mean a bunch of bells and whistles. Make sure you narrow down if you want a top loading backpack or front loading, and check for any extra straps, harnesses, zippers, and clips you may or may not need. There’s often no perfect backpack, but what’s perfect for you.
- Material: Pick a women’s backpack that is with solid materials. Most backpacks on the market are constructed with Ripstop Nylon or Polyester. There is also the latest material of Dyneema, but it comes at a premium price point.
- Volume/Frame/Weight: Determine everything you will want to carry in your backpack and that will determine the volume of your ideal backpack. A good starting point for a travel backpack is 40-50L. My first backpack was a 70L and I stuffed it, which made my travel days unbearable. I was pretty terrible at packing in those early days.
- Trip Length: It’s important to consider your trip length when picking a backpack. There are great small travel backpacks on this list that are great for shorter trips. While the larger capacities can circumnavigate the world or tackle a multi-day hiking expedition.
Enjoy the journey!