Men's Packs vs. Women's Packs

Can a woman comfortably use a man's backpack? How much of a difference does it make?

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Can a woman comfortably use a man’s backpack? How much of a difference does it make?

Submitted by – Fraser – Washington, FL


Yes. In fact, many men can comfortably use a woman’s pack, too. Here’s the real scoop on gender specificity: a lot of it is about marketing. There, I said it.

Don’t get me wrong. As an “average sized” (5’5”; 130 lbs.; 16 inch torso) woman who has been testing gear for 15+ years, I have witnessed amazing changes in the way packs (and clothing) fit me now, compared to how they did way back when. And I’m very grateful for it. Loads of companies have done good research that shows how men and women carry weight differently, and these studies have lead to some positive changes.

In general, here are some of the differences between men’s and women’s packs (again, these are generalities and there may be some exceptions):

–Women’s packs have a shorter torso range.

–Women’s packs have smaller carrying capacities.

–Women’s shoulder straps are narrower and shorter.

–Women’s hipbelts are shorter and sometimes canted differently.

–Women’s packs are prettier.

Now, I’m all for prettier packs. But I’ve often found that the women’s shoulder straps and hipbelts are too downsized, even for average-sized me. When hipbelt padding doesn’t wrap forward far enough, my hipbones get sore. And when shoulder straps are too skinny, the weight isn’t evenly distributed. In many cases, I prefer men’s small or unisex packs, which don’t skimp on the load-bearing components and allow me to carry bigger, multiday loads comfortably.

The bottom line is this: don’t get hung up on gender specificity. Spend some time in a good shop trying on a bunch of packs. Base your decision on what feels best, not what the hangtag says.