Mom Goes Camping

Best Hiking Backpacks for Petite Women

best hiking packs short petite women

I’m a petite woman who is barely above 5 feet tall and my torso length is just 14 inches. This makes it incredibly difficult for me to find backpacks which fit me.  It’s even harder to find UL or large-capacity backpacks for short women.

After a lot of research and talking to other petite female backpackers, I’ve managed to compile a list of hiking packs for petite women.

The best pack for petite women? I’d recommend the Gregory Octal 45 because it is comfortable and a good balance between sturdiness and weight. If you need an ultralight women’s pack, then the Osprey Lumina 60 is a good choice.  For hauling lots of gear, then the Gregory Deva 70 is the best choice as it will make heavy loads seem lighter.

If you know of any other good backpacks for petite women, please let us know in the comments!

*Important: The XS size of backpacks usually have a smaller capacity than the one listed in their name.  For example, the Osprey Lumina 60 only has a capacity of 54L in the XS size.


Best Hiking Backpacks for Petite Women

1. Osprey Lumina 60 XS

Osprey lumina 60 XS

Best For: Ultralight backpacking

  • Capacity: 54L
  • Weight: 1lb 12.8oz
  • Torso: 15-17 inches
  • Waist: 24-45 inches
  • Max Load: 25lbs
  • Ventilated back mesh panel
  • 6065 aluminum hoop stay
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Main fabric: 30D Cordura® Silnylon Ripstop
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Get it here at REI or here at Amazon

Osprey Lumina 60 back viewAt under 2lbs, the Osprey Lumina is one of the lightest weight packs specifically for women available.  As I talk about in this post about ultralight backpacking tips, you might not actually want an ultralight backpack.  They aren’t designed to carry a lot of gear.  The lack of frame means weight isn’t distributed as well down to your hips.

As expected with UL backpacks, the pack is missing a lot of standard features.  It doesn’t have much padding, so comfort isn’t the best. However, there are four pockets including a zippered lid where you can stash items and compression straps for securing items to the pack.  It’s hydration pack compatible so you don’t have to worry about the backpack not having water bottle pockets.

The shoulder straps are J-shaped, so this might not be the best pack if you have larger breasts.  The mesh back panel does give your bootie a bit of room though.  The aluminum stay can also be bent to fit your contour, which is a big plus for curvy women.

Get it here at REI or here at Amazon

2. Gregory Deva 70 XS

gregory deva 70

Best For: Comfortably carrying heavy loads, especially on long treks

  • Capacity: 56L
  • Weight: 4lbs 7.7oz
  • Torso: 14-16 inches
  • Waist: 26-46 inches
  • Max Load: up to 50lbs
  • Response A3 suspension system
  • Adjustable shoulder, hip and sternum strap
  • S-shaped shoulder straps
  • 9 exterior pockets
  • Removable daypack
  • Aluminum frame
  • Rain cover included
  • Main fabric: 210-denier Honeycomb CryptoRip nylon
  • Get it here at REI or here at Amazon

Gregory is one of the backpack manufacturers which actually makes women-specific packs.  Yes, lots of brands say their packs are for women, but they are actually just shorter versions of the men’s packs.

Here are some of the women-specific features on Gregory packs:

  • S-shaped shoulder straps to accommodate bust
  • Shorter torso
  • Hip belt angled to fit a woman’s steeper hips

gregory deva 70While Gregory makes a lot of women’s packs, this is my favorite.  At about 4 1/2 lbs. it is a bit on the heavy side, but the suspension system makes it feel like you are carrying less weight than you really are.

The system, called Response A3 (Automatic Angle Adjust), causes the shoulder straps and hip belt to pivot.  As you move, the pack will adjust to your torso angle.  Everything about the suspension system is adjustable: shoulder harness, lumbar area, and hip belt.  You can get the perfect fit regardless of your body type.

As for organization, the Deva has 9 exterior pockets.  Three of these are in the lid, three on the front of the pack, two in the hip belt, and one on each side of the pack.  You can access gear from a top pocket or a large U-shaped front panel pocket.

The water bottle pocket is a bit weird, especially since it isn’t symmetrical and you thus must carry your bottle on one side (not ideal for left-handed people like me).  But the slant is actually pretty cool since it makes the bottle more accessible.

As 70L, the Deva is large enough for all of your gear, including a bear canister.  The max carry load is 50lbs, so enough for even long thru-hikes.

Get it here at REI or here at Amazon



3. Gregory Octal 45 XS

gregory octal 45 womens pack

Best For: Affordable, lightweight mid-sized women’s pack

  • Capacity: 42L
  • Weight: 2.3lbs
  • Torso: 14-16 inches
  • Waist: 26-45 inches
  • Max Load: 30lbs
  • S-shaped shoulder straps
  • 5 exterior pockets
  • Ventilated mesh back panel
  • Lumbar pad
  • Aluminum perimeter wire frame stay
  • Rain cover included
  • Main fabric: 100-denier/210-denier HD tenacity nylon (body); 135-denier HD polyester (lining)
  • Get it here at REI or here at Amazon

At 2.3lbs, the Gregory Octal 45 almost meets the ultralight pack definition.  For its weight class, the Octal 45 still has a lot of features you’d expect in a standard hiking pack.  There is lots of storage, cushioning, and a sturdy frame.  This makes it a good choice for backpackers who want to go UL but aren’t ready to sacrifice comfort.

Let’s start with the size of the Octal 45 pack.  It’s fairly small at just 42L for the XS size.  However, there are three spacious, stretchy pockets on the outside of the pack.  The side pockets are designed in a way so you can put a water bottle in horizontally for easy access.  Or you can shove sandals, clothes, or snacks there.  The center exterior pocket can fit an entire rain jacket, so you can really extend the capacity of the pack so long as you stay under the 30lb max weight load.

In addition to the three exterior pockets, there are also two hip belt pockets.  These are more spacious than the hip pockets you’d find in other women’s packs.  There are also multiple places to attach gear like sunglasses, trekking poles, or communication devices.

As for comfort, this is one of the most comfortable hiking backpacks, especially for curvy women. The S-shaped shoulder straps don’t have a very pronounced curve so it might not be great if you have very large breasts.  But there is a lot of padding on the hip belt plus extra lumbar support, so the pack works well for women with a bigger booty.

Annoying things about the pack? The main compartment can only be accessed through the top.  The torso isn’t adjustable. The suspension system isn’t as good as many other Gregory packs.

Get it here at REI or here at Amazon



4. Osprey Sirrus 36 XS

osprey sirrus 36

Best For: Minimalist backpackers who want a small pack which is built to last

  • Capacity: 34L
  • Weight: 2lbs 11oz
  • Torso: Adjustable 13-17 inches
  • Waist: 24-45 inches
  • Max Load:
  • S-shaped shoulder straps
  • 7 pockets
  • Ventilated mesh back panel
  • LightWire alloy frame
  • Rain cover included
  • Main fabric: Ripstop nylon
  • Get it here at REI or here at Amazon

The Osprey Sirrus 36 was recommended to me by a short UL female backpacker.  Bear in mind that this pack is going to be way too small for most multi-day backpacking trips.  It’s also going to be too large for day hikes.  However, it is perfect for women who go minimal on their trips and have compact gear.

What makes the Sirrus such a good pack is its well-designed frame.  Despite the pack being so lightweight, the frame is very sturdy and does a good job of directing weight down to your hips.  Since the hip belt on the Sirrus is designed for a woman’s curvier shape, the weight sits comfortably exactly where it should be.  The suspended back panel adds even more comfort.  Many women say that the weight in the pack ends up feeling much less than it really is.

osprey sirrus 36 adjustable

The torso length on the Sirrus can be adjusted down to 13 inches, which is one of the shortest torso lengths on any woman’s backpack available.  Usually you have to get a youth pack if your torso is under 14 inches!

Considering that this pack is under 3lbs, there are still tons of features in it.  These include 7 pockets: two stretchy side pockets which can fit large water bottles, two large hip belt pockets, two pockets in the lid, and one exterior zippered pocket.

There are attachments for trekking poles or an ice pick, as well as removable straps for attaching a sleeping pad or bag to outside your pack.   You can access gear from the top, bottom, or a side access panel.

It’s really hard to find anything wrong with this women’s pack – and it’s even affordable too.  The only real issue is the pack will be too small for women who haven’t moved towards ultralight or minimal backpacking. It is also available in a 50L size though too in case you need extra space.

Get it here at REI or here at Amazon


5. Osprey Renn 65

osprey renn 50 women's pack

Best For: Short women who want an affordable large-capacity pack, even if it means sacrificing some features

  • Capacity: 65L
  • Weight: 3lbs 7oz
  • Torso: Adjustable 14-19 inches
  • Waist: 25-50 inches
  • S-shaped shoulder straps
  • 5 pockets
  • Ventilated mesh back panel
  • LightWire peripheral hoop frame
  • Rain cover included
  • Main fabric: 600-denier polyester
  • Get it here at REI or here at Amazon

One of the problems with large-capacity women’s backpacks is they tend to be very tall. For us short women, that means the pack ends up extending above our heads.  This puts the center of gravity up higher and throws us off balance.  The Osprey Renn is one of the few packs which doesn’t do this.

Compared to other packs this size, the Renn is actually pretty wide. The width means the center of gravity ends up being much lower, so you won’t feel like the pack is pulling you backwards. If you are a petite woman and regularly haul very large loads, the Renn is a good solution.

As for comfort, the Renn does a decent job.  The suspended mesh back provides lumbar support and keeps you from getting drenched in sweat. The torso can be adjusted to pre-set lengths, which means you can try out a few to see which is most comfortable.  Unfortunately, the hip belt padding might not hit the right spot if you have larger hips.  The shoulder straps might also end up squeezing your bust if you have a very large chest.

Considering this is a large pack meant to carry lots of heavy gear, I was surprised at how few organizational features the Renn 65 has. Yes, there are lots of pockets including hip belt pockets, a lid pocket, and two side pockets (which also have horizontal access).  However, there isn’t a back stash pocket.  Nor are there many loops or attachment points for gear.  Osprey likely left these off so they could keep the weight and price of the pack down.  For some women, these tradeoffs will be worth it.  Others should consider a more feature-rich pack like the Osprey Lumina or Gregory Deva.

Get it here at REI or here at Amazon


6. SMD Fusion 50

smd fusion 50

Best For: Female thru-hikers

  • Capacity: 50L
  • Weight: 3lbs 1oz
  • Torso: Adjustable 15-22 inches
  • Waist: Multiple size options
  • Max Load:
  • S-shaped or J-shaped straps available
  • 7 exterior pockets
  • Main fabric: 420 High Tenacity Nylon Robi
  • Get it here

Six Moon Designs (SMD) is a smaller manufacturer of packs for thru-hiking.  They are designed to carry heavier loads for longer distances.  I’ve heard from several small women that they love their Fusion 50 packs.

The main perk of the SMD Fusion 50 is its harness system.  Everything about the harness is adjustable.  When you order, you choose the size of the shoulder straps – and there’s an S-shaped harness available to accommodate a large bust.  The hip belt is available in 4 sizes.  And the torso can be adjusted to three different settings to get the right fit.

smd fusion 50

Because the pack can be ordered to fit perfectly, it is really comfortable for long-distance hiking.  The harness does a good job of transferring weight to your hips.  The only slight annoyance about this system is they don’t make women’s specific hip belts, only different sizes.

Even though this is a thru-hiking backpack, it isn’t ultralight (though it’s still pretty damn light at just 49oz).  There are plenty of features to account for this weight, like 7 exterior pockets, including a large 4-way stretch back stash pocket and pockets in the shoulder straps.  There are loops and compression straps for holding gear on the pack, an internal hydration sleeve, and an inside stash pocket too.

The compression straps on the pack are done differently than other packs.  They go all the way to the lumbar area of the pack, which means you can compress the pack completely instead of just from the sides.  This makes it a lot easier to adjust the size of your pack as your load lightens on long treks.

Note the capacity of the pack is listed as 50L.  This is a bit deceptive as the exterior pockets are included in the total pack volume.  You won’t get a full 50L in the main compartment.  With the extension collar and the pockets, the pack ends up being 55L.   I personally don’t like the roll-down top, but this design is becoming standard on lightweight thru-hiking packs.


7. ULA Circuit 68L

ula circuit 50

Best For: A large but lightweight pack for thru-hiking

  • Capacity: 68L
  • Weight: 2lbs 9oz
  • Torso: Multiple sizes starting at 12”
  • Waist: Multiple size options
  • Max Load: 35lbs
  • Removable features totaling 6oz
  • Bear canister compatible
  • S-shaped or J-shaped straps available
  • 5 exterior pockets
  • Main fabric: 400 Robic Fabric
  • Get it here

ULA is another brand which makes semi-customizable packs for long-distance hiking.  Their Circuit pack is one of the all-time favorites.  It has massive capacity at 68 liters and has lots of useful features, yet still manages to weigh in at just 2lbs 9oz.  You can even remove features to get the weight down to 2lbs 3oz.

Let’s start with the ULA Circuit frame.  It uses a carbon fiber and Delrin suspension hoop, internal foam, and a single aluminum stay.  The combination gives good back support and lets you carry up to 35lbs.   While you definitely don’t want to go over the 35lb limit or risk the back buckling on you, the pack is sturdy and does a good job of transferring load to your hips.

ula circuit side view

It’s possible to get a perfect fit with the Circuit because the torso length and hip belt size are customizable.  The smallest pack is actually for kids and is good for torsos as small as 12”.   Note only the kid’s size torso is adjustable.  All the other sizes are a fixed torso length.  The shoulder straps are available in standard J-shape or S-shape (better for women, especially women with larger chests).

The main compartment of the Circuit has a 40L capacity. The 65L listed capacity includes the interior compartment plus the mesh stash pocket, side pockets, hip belt pockets, and extension collar.  Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Main Body: 2,400
  • Front Mesh Pocket: 400
  • Left Side Mesh Pocket: 400
  • Right Side Mesh Pocket: 400
  • Extension Collar: 500
  • Left Hipbelt Pocket: 100
  • Right Hipbelt Pocket: 100

The pack has a lot of features including a hydration sleeve, internal stash pocket, loops, and water bottle holster.  The pack is reasonably priced at $255.  However, do note you might have to pay a bit in shipping or restocking if you decide you don’t like how the pack fits and want to return it.


8. REI Co Op Traverse 65 XS

rei traverse women's pack

Best For: A multi-purpose pack for backpacking or travel with heavy loads

  • Capacity: 61L
  • Weight: 4lbs 9oz
  • Torso: 15-17 inches
  • Waist: 30-38 inches
  • Adjustable torso and shoulders
  • 11 pockets
  • Ventilated mesh back panel
  • Removable day pack
  • Rain cover included
  • Main fabric: 200d nylon body and 420d nylon bottom
  • Get it here at REI

Compared to other women’s packs, the REI Traverse doesn’t seem to stand out.  It isn’t lightweight.  It does have a comfort system, but not better than packs like the Lumina.  It is hydration pack compatible and comes with a rain cover, but so do most other packs…  It’s not even significantly cheaper than other women’s packs.

Despite how middle-of-the-road the Traverse seems, it actually has lots of great features which make it a good choice, especially for newbie backpackers.  For starters, the harness system is designed to be comfortable and adjusts to fit your torso.  The “ActivMotion” technology allows the hip belt to pivot independently from the pack, so the load stays centered and you won’t strain to stay balanced.  This is ideal for backpackers who have basic gear and aren’t used to trekking long distances with heavy loads.

The numerous pockets, access points, and features make this a versatile pack.  You can use it for backpacking in any climate or terrain, as well as international travel.  True, you probably won’t ever need all of these features on one trip – but it means you can get away with using one pack on all your adventures.  I personally really like that the lid turns into a day pack.

Get it here at REI


Tips for Buying a Hiking Pack for Petite Women

Here are some backpack buying tips specifically for short, petite women.


Keep Center of Balance Low

Women’s backpacks are usually narrower than men’s backpacks to account for our slimmer shoulders.  This makes the packs more comfortable for us.  However, it also means women’s packs can end up tall and skinny.  For short women, the top of the pack might end up high above the head, causing it to be top-heavy and hard to balance.

Ideally you keep your gear minimal so you don’t have to get a huge pack that goes above your head.  If you are unable to do this, then it might be better to choose a wider pack, like the Osprey Renn.  Or, make sure your pack has lots of loops and straps so you can attach gear to the outside instead of having to extend the lid.


Don’t Rely On Adjustable Torso Length Alone

Adjustable torso length is a great feature to have.  It allows to you get a near-perfect length.  However, don’t rely on adjustable torso too much – especially if the torso can be adjusted by many inches.  Here’s why.

Let’s say a pack has an adjustable torso length of 14-22 inches.  When you put the torso at the shortest setting, the shoulder straps are further down on the pack.  This means the top of the pack ends up very high, possibly over your head.  It’s better to find a pack with a torso length which matches yours or can be adjusted by a small amount to perfect the fit.


Measure Gear before Buying a Pack

A backpacker shouldn’t carry more than 20% of their body weight.  For petite women, this can be a very hard goal.  I’m only 110lbs, so I’d need to get my pack weight – including water and food – to 22lbs or under.

Before you buy a backpacking pack, I suggest you lay out all of your gear and weight it.  If it is totaling more than 20% of your bodyweight, then consider whether there is any gear you don’t need or whether it makes sense to buy a lighter version of certain gear.  Once you’ve done this, you’ll be better able to choose a pack suitable to what you really need to carry.


Lightweight Packs Aren’t Always the Best Choice

In an effort to get your base weight down, you might be tempted to get an ultralight backpack. However, this is often a bad idea.  UL backpacks aren’t as comfortable nor are they as good at transferring load to your hips.  As a petite woman, this load transfer is very important! It’s better to have a pack which weighs 1lb more but makes your overall load feel 10lbs lighter.


Look At Return Policies

Buying a hiking pack is all about getting the fit right.  Even if you go into a store, you won’t be able to really feel how comfortable a pack is until you’ve tried it weighted down.  Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Check the return policy before you buy the pack. REI generally has good return policies on unused gear.  Amazon return policies can vary depending on the seller.
  2. Once the pack arrives at home, load it with 20+lbs of weight.
  3. Take a walk around your neighborhood with the pack on.
  4. Does the pack still feel comfortable? If not, return the pack within the return period!


Consider the Youth Department

A lot of youth backpacking gear is just as good as the adult’s gear, but it usually costs a fraction of the price.  Since I’m so small, a lot of my hiking boots, rain pants, and other gear comes from the youth boys section.

This method doesn’t always work well with backpacks.  Youth backpacks don’t have S-shaped shoulder straps to accommodate breasts nor do they have hip belts designed for a woman’s curvier figure.  However, if you are a slim, less-curvy petite woman, you might find lots of youth packs which fit you well.


Are you a small women? What hiking pack do you use?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Image credit: “On the edge to paradise” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by sven_breitkopf
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About the author /

Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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  1. Kathleen

    Thanks for this post. Always searching for the ‘perfect’ fit

  2. GabbyGirl

    Thanks for your post! I’m at 5’2”, 140lbs so am always looking for petite sizing. I appreciated the tip on the low center of gravity and hasn’t thought about looking for a pack that accommodates/ can fix for that. I just presumed that was a given.

    It’s hard to find a good fit in the outdoor world. Is it me or does it seem like everything is for the Amazonians at 5’9” and above and weigh next to nothing?

    • Diane

      I’m glad you found it useful 😀 And, yeah, everything does seem to be made for Amazonians! At least brands are actually starting to make gear for women though. Hopefully the next step will be to make it for petite women!

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