The Best Women's Backpacking Backpack Review

Whether heading out into the mountains for a weekend trip with girlfriends or preparing for a long solo adventure, having a pack that meets your needs is essential to both enjoyment and comfort. We have tested 9 of the top women's specific backpacking backpacks to explore how they compared side by side, and to answer the question 'do you need a women's pack?' The packs we tested ranged from 50 liters to 75 liters with most right in the middle around 65 liters in carrying capacity. We compared the weight, suspension, ease of use, adjustability, and organization options of each during outdoor multi-day trips, and then compiled the findings in the chart below.

For more details on how to select the perfect one for you, reference our Buying Advice article. Also see our Daypack Review and our Best Backpacking Backpack for Men Review.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Backpacking Packs - Women's Displaying 1 - 5 of 9 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Osprey Aura 65
Osprey Aura 65
Read the Review
Video video review
Osprey Ariel 65
Osprey Ariel 65
Read the Review
Video video review
Osprey Viva 50
Osprey Viva 50
Read the Review
Deuter ACT Lite 60 - Women's
Deuter ACT Lite 60 - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 - Women's
Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award    Best Buy Award   
Street Price $250
Compare at 10 sellers
$290
Compare at 9 sellers
Varies $179 - $180
Compare at 8 sellers
$199
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $234 - $240
Compare at 3 sellers
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Pros versatile, lightweight, very comfortable, ideal size for organization while remaining simple, easy to usespacious, great organization, very comfortable, burly constructionUncomplicated design, well-built, durable Stretch Mesh pockets, inexpensiveinexpensive, supportive, comfortablelightweight, lidless design, durable material
Cons less sturdy zippers, internal hydration compartmentside pocket design not very roomy, excess adjustments on front and side, heavyNoisy frame, bulky paddinglacks sleeping pad straps, not spacioussuspension lacking, single compartment makes for more difficult organization
Best Uses 1-9+ day backpacking trips, long distance days, light to mid-weight pack loads3-10+ backpacking trips, mid-weight to heavy-weight loadsintroductory style pack, 2-6 day trips, shorter distances.2-6 day backpacking trips, light to mid-weight pack loadslightweight, long-distance backpacking or overnight trips
Date Reviewed Oct 31, 2013Oct 31, 2013Oct 31, 2013Oct 31, 2013Oct 31, 2013
Weighted Scores Osprey Aura 65 Osprey Ariel 65 Osprey Viva 50 Deuter ACT Lite 60 - Women's Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 - Women's
Comfort - 23%
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Weight - 24%
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Suspension - 23%
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Ease Of Use - 15%
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Adjustability - 15%
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Product Specs Osprey Aura 65 Osprey Ariel 65 Osprey Viva 50 Deuter ACT Lite 60 - Women's Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 - Women's
Weight (xs/s/m/l) na/ 3lb 6oz/ 3lb 9oz/ 3lb 10oz 4lb 4oz/ 4lb 8oz/ 4lb 11oz/ 4lb 15oz 3lb 9oz (One Size) 3lb 11oz (One Size) 2lb 14oz
Volumes Available (liters) 50, 65 55, 65, 75 50, 65 45+10, 60+10 60
Sizes Available S, M, L XS, S, M, L One Size- Adjustable One Size- Adjustable Hip Belt: S, M, L, XL; Torso Length: Short, Regular
Organization: Enclosed Compartments 5 (1 main, 2 medium, 2 small) 2 (1 main, 1 small) 3 (1 main, 2 small) 3 (1 main, 2 small) 2 (1 main, 1 inner/ hydration?)
Access Top, Bottom Top, Front, Bottom Top, Bottom Top, Side, Bottom Top
Hydration Internal sleeve with exit port External External Internal with exit port Compatible
Main Materials High Tenacity Twill Nylon, Mini Ripstop Nylon Nylon, Stretch Woven Ripstop Nylon, Plain Weave Nylon Oxford Polyester, Nylon Double Ripstop Microrip Nylon, Duratex Lite, Ripstop Ripstop Nylon, Nylon Cordura, Stretch Mesh Fabric
Women's Specific Features Womens Specific Sizing- Spacer Mesh covered EWA foam, Adjustable Harness and hip belt Womens Specific Sizing- ISOform heat moldable hip belt Womens Specific adjustable Torso and Harness Womens Specific Sizing- shorter torso, narrow shoulder straps, conically shaped hip fins Hip Angling
Warranty All Mighty Guarantee- Lifetime- Any reason, any product All Mighty Guarantee- Lifetime- Any reason, any product All Mighty Guarantee- Lifetime- Any reason, any product Warranty against material or workmanship defects only- Lifetime Warranty against material or workmanship defects only- Lifetime
Sleeping bag Compartment Yes- Bottom Compartment Yes- Bottom Compartment Yes- Bottom Compartment Yes- Bottom Compartment No
Bonus Features Removable Top Pocket (lid) Removable Top Pocket (lid) turns into day pack Air Contact Back System Lidless Design, Removable Frame Sheet to reduce weight, Air Current Suspension

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Kelty Coyote 75 - Women's
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Osprey Ariel 65
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Osprey Viva 50
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Arc'teryx Altra 62
$449
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Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 - Women's
$240
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Gregory Deva 60
$329
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REI Flash 52 - Women's
$179
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Why Choose a Women's Specific Backpack
All of the packs we evaluated in this review are Women's Specific. Some of these brands, such as Granite Gear, offer these packs in unisex versions and some brands, such as Osprey and Gregory, offer a men's version of the same pack. The notable differences between men's, unisex, or women's is weight and sizing.

Women's models are sized shorter for a woman's torso, shoulder straps are narrower, harness/ hip belts are curved or molded to accommodate more contoured bodies, and adjustments options are placed within the range of a woman's body. Women's specific ones are typically ounces lighter, largely due to this decreased size. This is appealing to women who are typically smaller in stature and have less muscle mass than men. These fit and sizing changes often make a women's specific model more comfortable and better fitting than a men's or unisex, which will make a big difference as you log miles wearing the pack.

With any backpacking pack, it is worthwhile to invest the time in getting the sizing accurate for your personal body type. Some women with larger frames and broader shoulders may prefer men's or unisex models, while most women will find the features of a women's specific pack to be most suitable.

Criteria for Evaluation
We rated these packs on comfort, weight, ease of use, suspension, adjustability, and features. In addition we paid special attention to what makes these bags women's specific and how they are different from unisex ones.

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The Granite Gear Blaze was well suited for our hike on the John Muir Trail, although it doesn't provide enough suspension support to carry mid to heavy-weight loads. The stretch fabric along the kangaroo pocket and side pockets allow for expansion when st
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Comfort
How comfortable is it when empty? How comfortable is it when loaded full? Does the comfort of this pack vary by weight carried? Are there contact points that lead to discomfort, chaffing, or bruising? What is the overall comfort? These are some of the questions we posed while testing.

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The Osprey Viva has great padding on the shoulder straps and waist belt that add to the comfort of carrying a mid to heavy-weight load.
Credit: Briana Valorosi

Backpacking packs are designed to carry ideal weight loads. While most all are capable of comfortably carrying more or less weight, there is a spectrum for an ideal weight load. Generally speaking, the lighter weight, the more comfortably it carries a lighter load, and the heavier a pack, the more comfortably it will carry a heavy load. There are obvious exceptions, but this can generally be applied when considering how comfortable a pack will endure your weight load

The Osprey Aura is the most versatile pack in regards to varying weight loads. This pack can be used as a daypack or for a single night trip, carrying only lunch, a water filter, and extra layers- or it carries a heavier multi-day load great. The Kelty Coyote is best suited for larger weight loads as it is very stable, comfortable with adequate padding, and also offers more cubic liters of space. Similarly, the Arc'teryx Altra is best for heavier loads due to its size. When carrying this with a lighter load, the extra material feels sloppy and loose, but when packed with all of the gear needed for a multi-day trip, it rests more comfortably on the shoulders and feels more stable overall. Our favorite pack for large loads and long distance trips is the Osprey Ariel 65, which has an extra durable construction and can comfortably fit even more gear than the Osprey Aura 65, a pack with the same liter specification.

The overall cushion and support of each was evaluated for the comfort rating. Some models, like all three Osprey packs and the Kelty Coyote, have great padding, while others, like the REI Flash 52 - Women's, are designed with light weight and simplicity in mind, and don't offer sufficient padding. The padding on both the shoulder straps and the hip belt are important for avoiding chaffing and to allow for all day comfort. These packs are intended for multi-day use, and adequate comfort is essential unless you are interested in fast-packing or ultra-lightweight backpacking.

Weight
We first evaluated weight by weighing each of these on our own scale. Then, over the duration of this review, each pack was packed with nearly the exact same gear each time we headed out for a test trip, so that the effect of the weight of the pack could accurately be considered. (For a multi-day trip, we packed a sleeping bag, a two-person tent, a couple changes of clothing, rain gear, water, a bear canister with food, and few miscellaneous items). The Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 - Women's is the lightest, coming in at 2lbs 14oz, while the Gregory Deva is the heaviest by a fair margin, coming in at 5 lbs 8oz- a pound heavier than nearly all of the others we reviewed and twice as heavy as the Blaze. In some instances, the weight is noticeable, as with the Gregory Deva, while with other packs, like the Kelty Coyote at 5lbs, the weight is not as noticeable due to the stability and comfort of the pacl. The extra weight of certain packs may be attributed to materials used or details such as heavyweight zippers, estra padding, or frame design. Unless you are a lightweight or ultra-lightweight hiker, weight should be a consideration, but should not dictate your decision when choosing a pack. Each will carry differently, and comfort should be a more important factor. Reference our How to Choose a Women's Backpacking Backpack article for more details on how weight should play a factor in your decision. In regards to the models we tested, they all range from 2+ lbs to about 5.5lbs.

Suspension
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The Ariel has an Airscape suspension allowing for proper airflow against the back and is also sturdy enough to stand upright on the ground.
Credit: Briana Valorosi
The suspension of a backpacking pack relates directly to the frame. All of the women's specific models that were reviewed are framed packs (the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. has the option to remove the back frame to create a frameless, lighter weight pack, but this sacrifices the overall integrity of the backpack in terms of weight distribution and comfort.) Suspension distributes the weight across the back from shoulders to hips. The Osprey Aura has great suspension that distributes the weight evenly, lending itself to very comfortable backpacking and load carrying, especially for longer days.

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Seen resting upright on its own, the Granite Gear Blaze offers a very simple back panel that is removable, narrow shoulder straps with a sliding chest strap, and adequate waist belt padding.
Credit: Briana Valorosi
Some companies use a newer hinging system at the lower back attached to the hip belt that allows the pack to remain stable in the shoulders with synchronized movement in the hips. The Gregory Deva 60 has a decentralized system called the Response Auto Fit Suspension, which rotates independently on the waist belt. The Arc'teryx Altra has a similar hinging system that is centralized at the lower back and also moves with the hips while stabilizing the pack on the shoulders. This feature is excellent, although over time the hinges start to squeak. This can be remedied with a lubricant that some pack distributors include. It should also be noted that when fitting this pack, a correct fit is necessary for the hinging design to function properly. This newer system creates a more stable and evenly distributed weight suspension, though it adds weight to the pack.

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The Osprey Aura has an airspeed suspension- the entire back panel features space between the frame and a mesh back panel to ensure airflow and comfort. The suspension fits to your back comfortably via an internal frame system that is light and sturdy.
Credit: Briana Valorosi
Lastly in regards to suspension, is the back panel design. This part of the pack rests directly against the back and is also an important aspect of comfort. Most all packs we evaluated are designed to allow for airflow between the hiker's back and the backpack itself. This is accomplished with a curved frame design so that the pack rests on the shoulder blades and lower hips while opposing the natural curve of the back in the center. Models like the Deuter ACT Lite are customizable so that the it creates the best airflow, while packs like the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. and REI Flash have compromised better venting technologies in the name of simplicity and therefore lack an adequate airflow design. The Osprey packs have elaborate airflow designs that greatly reduce the sweat that forms on the back during a full day of hard hiking.

Ease of Use
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At 60 liters, the Deva is at the middle of our range of backpack sizes. It offers access to the main compartment from the side, front, or top (as seen by the blue zippers).
Credit: Kaytlin Valorosi
The ease of use rating looked at how simple they are to adjust, pack, access, and personally configure to maximize enjoyment, comfort, and space utilization- plainly said: How easy is this to live with day in and day out? Most rated well in this regard. Ease of use is an important consideration because few things can be worse than finding yourself thirty miles in the backcountry, unsure of how to use your backpack. The Osprey Aura, Osprey Ariel, and Dueter ACT Lite rated high due to user friendly adjustment points, multiple access points, included sleeping bag compartments, and very few, if any, excessive design features. These models are easy to use while packing and preparing for a trip as well as on trail. The Granite Gear Blaze A.C. and the REI Flash also rated high due to their simplistic designs and ease of adjustability while hiking. In this category, the Arc'teryx Altra rated very low due to its complex design that is best adjusted professionally. The Altra has many points for customization, is difficult to adjust while hiking, and has too many access points.

Adjustability
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The Viva is offered in a single size with an adjustable torso length that secures with Velcro. The size can be adjusted for extra small, small, or medium.
Credit: Briana Valorosi
Adjustability refers to its ability to be customized to the hiker's unique shape and size. The better the pack may be fit to your body, the more comfortable and enjoyable the backpacking will be. Some models, like the Granite Gear Blaze A.C., are very simple in design and allow for adjustment only on the shoulder straps and the waist belt, which may work very well with certain body types. Models like the Osprey Viva 50 Kelty Coyote, Arc'teryx Altra, and Dueter ACT Lite offer adjustment options for torso length and/or shoulder width which is great for those who have wider shoulders, wider hips, and/or short or long torsos that don't fit well into a specific sizing category such as 'Medium'. Having these options are not only great for initial fitting, but also for versatility as our bodies and preferences change over time.

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Fit on the Fly is an extendable waist belt option that allows the belt to be extended. It can be securely attached with the Velcro to suit most waist sizes and also to account for extra layers.
Credit: Briana Valorosi
Another great feature for adjustability is the hip belt. Most backpacks are sized based on the hip belt and torso length upon purchase, but some offer customizable options like the heat moldable ISOform Osprey hip belt on the Ariel and an interchangeable hip belt on the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. Osprey also has a feature called Fit on the Fly which allows a waist belt to be adjusted and extended. It can be securely attached with Velcro to suit most waist sizes, and also to account for extra layers. Some models, such as the Dueter ACT Lite, already have careful detail in the hip belt with conically shaped hip fins to best fit a woman's body. Granite Gear has also angled the hip belt to suit a woman's body.

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The Altra's torso length and shoulder width is fully customizable with these detachable, padded back and shoulder straps. With multiple adjustment options, the straps use a gridlock system that can be configured up, down, and side-to-side.
Credit: Briana Valorosi
After we rated all of the packs on adjustability, we determined that having a proper fit initially is as important as having the ability and ease to adjust it while on the trail and in the future.

Organization
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A stretch mesh kangaroo pocket on the front of the Osprey Viva secures closed with a buckle, but is still accessible.
Credit: Briana Valorosi
We reviewed the organizational capability of all nine women's packs to see how many enclosed pockets were included on each, and how necessary the compartments were. By utilizing (or in some cases, not utilizing) all of the unique organizational designs of these packs, we found that simplicity is great and lightens the pack, but having the ability to separate different gear is also an advantage for efficiency. The organization ranged from super simplistic with the Granite Gear Blaze A.C.- this model has a single main compartment and no other enclosed pockets (with the exception of the interior, zippered hydration pocket that we found more suitable for things like our phone, map, and journal.)- to very complex with the Arc'teryx Altra and Kelty Coyote- both having more than 5 enclosed compartments and additional pockets that are not enclosed. The Editors Choice award winner Osprey Aura has five pockets: two medium and two small pockets in addition to the main compartment. The Osprey Ariel has only two enclosed pockets, including the main compartment. We found that when we pre-organized our gear into stuff sacks, the organization of the design was better enjoyed in a simpler form. When we didn't organize into stuff sacks prior to packing, the pockets and extra organizational help was greatly appreciated in some models.

Rain Covers
These backpacks are water-resistant at best: not waterproof. Use a garbage bag to get through bad weather in a pinch. If you're planning on extended bad weather, consider a pack cover fitted for your pack. Here are a few options:
Editors Choice Award: Osprey Aura 65
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Jocelyn Myers hiking around Lake Tahoe. We enjoy the simple design of the Osprey Aura, our Editors Choice winner for women's specific backpacking backpack. It is functional and feminine.
Credit: Jocelyn Myers
The Editor's Choice Award goes to the Osprey Aura 65 for its exceptional versatility with weight load, comfort and breathability for short and/or long trips, and its modest, feminine design that is easy to use while still offering plenty of organizational options. This pack excels at both single overnight trips and weeklong adventures in the backcountry. It has all of the features that you would expect from a top rated backpacking pack, such as comfort and ease of use, with the durability and reputation of Osprey, and women's specific details in sizing and design.

Top Pick Award for Long Trips and Heavy Loads: Osprey Ariel 65
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The Osprey Ariel packs a large capacity, but remains comfortable and versatile enough for smaller gear loads. We found the top lid to be great for holding down climbing ropes as well as extra layers or gear.
Credit: Tom Macdonald
The Top Pick Award goes to the Osprey Ariel 65 for being a uniquely featured pack while still maintaining high performance scores in our tests. This pack not only excelled in our ratings, it also offers useful details such as a detaching top lid that can be used for shorter side trips and day hikes, durable zippers, and instead of designing more pockets, this pack has bigger pockets on the waist belt, front of pack, and side water bottle pockets. It has a burlier construction than the similar Osprey Aura, and has a capacity for more gear. This is the pack to buy when you need to cart around large loads or plan to hike long distances with a full-weight pack.

Best Buy Award for Simplicity: Deuter ACT Lite 60
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The Deuter ACT Lite offers a well-padded waist belt, and an unrivaled arching sleeping bag compartment. While we missed having lower sleeping pad attachment straps, the kangaroo pocket enclosure strap offered an alternative way to secure it.
Credit: Kaytlin Valorosi
The competition was high for the Best Buy Women's Specific Backpack, so we awarded both the Dueter ACT Lite and the Kelty Coyote. They are both exceptional packs at exceptionally sensible prices.

We found the Deuter ACT Lite 60 -Women's to be a great version for either short or long trips. At just under $200, this pack has most of the features of the Editor's Choice and Top Pick winners, but only comes in a one size. The ACT Lite is ideal for the woman looking to simplify her backpacking- this pack offers a streamlined design in one size, fewer pockets than packs like the Kelty Coyote, and a light weight that rivals the Editor's Choice, at 3 lbs 11 oz. At a reasonable cost, this pack is well suited for women both new to backpacking and the seasoned veterans looking to simplify.

Best Buy Award for Comfort: Kelty Coyote 75
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The Kelty Coyote is comfortable, luxurious pack that can handlea longer distance hike- we took it on the John Muir Trail.
Credit: Briana Valorosi
We thought the Kelty Coyote 75 - Women's was very comfortable, and offers many pockets for organization. Like the Deuter ACT Lite, it also comes in only one size. Priced the same, at just under $200, this pack offers excellent stability and durability. Although heavy in weight, it carries incredibly well and the weight of the pack is not considerably noticeable. This pack is ideal for the backpacker who values comfort and stability over lightweight and minimalist design. Whether you consider yourself a luxury backcountry traveler or a mother carrying gear for many, the organization options are sure to please.

Check out our Dream Backpacking Gear List for other top tier backpacking "dream" backpacking items.

Briana Valorosi
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