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Women's Backpacks vs. Men's Backpacks:

One thing is for sure; women are made differently than men. Thank goodness. So, why should we be using equipment that is designed to fit a man? We should not. Manufacturers are now making backpacks designed to fit a woman, and they are so much more comfortable and less restricting than men’s packs.

First of all, the cool thing about being a woman backpacker is that your body was made to carry a backpack. Since our hips are curvier they act like a shelf, so the hip belt rests easily and most of the weight of the pack is carried there easily.

Before you go to look for a pack, measure your torso length. This is easy, but you may want to enlist someone to help. Find your seventh vertebra. The little bone that protrudes just below your neck and between your shoulders is the seventh vertebra. Next, find your iliac crest. This is what most people refer to as their hipbone – when you place your hands on your hips, this is the bone that they rest on. With a tape measure find the distance between these two points. Write it down and bring it along with you when you’re shopping for your pack.

The salesperson can help you with this, but manufacturers make it pretty easy to find the right fit if you look at the hangtags. Most will either put a measurement (in inches) or a range of measurements there. When you find your size, don’t assume that it will fit just because the inches are correct – you do need to try it on.

Besides having a shorter torso, women’s packs also have a wider hip belt. Look for one that settles comfortably on your hips. You should still be able to move around pretty easily, don’t let the belt restrict your movements. While you’re at the store, crouch down, try stepping up – any movements you may make on the trail. If you have no trouble here, then you shouldn’t on your trip either. (Note: Many stores will have weights they can load in to the pack to simulate your gear. This is the best way to go to make sure that your pack really suits you when it’s fully weighted.)

Another thing we know for sure is that women’s chests are made much differently than men’s. Because of this, women’s packs have a higher chest strap. Make sure this rests flatly across your chest between your neck and breasts. It also helps if there is some give in the fabric to allow easier breathing.

The last difference I’ll discuss between men and women’s packs is narrower shoulder straps. Women’s shoulders tend to not be a broad as most mens' are. A narrower shoulder strap is much more comfortable and won’t dig in to your chest or brush against your arms as you move.

Manufacturers are now making it easier to find a pack that fits your specific needs as a woman. If you can find a good quality pack that is comfortable, you will be happy with it (hopefully) for years to come.

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