Mae West, that sassy southern belle, had an interesting opinion of women who travel. She said, “Good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go everywhere.”
As female travelers, we might not be bad in that we rob banks or hijack cars. But we definitely don’t stick to the status quo!
And if we do indeed plan to go everywhere, we need the right gear to have the best possible trip.
Modern travel has elevated the once simple backpack to a versatile and stylish accessory. It can function as a piece of luggage, classy purse and versatile carry-on, in addition to being an all-purpose backpack.
Designers today have caught on to the popularity and potential of the backpack. Myriads are currently on the market that are designed and intended specifically for women. This guide will help you choose the best women’s backpack for your adventure to “everywhere.”
How to Choose Your Backpack
Before you think about the price or what you want to put in your backpack, it’s important to follow guidelines based on your body size. That means knowing your height, hip size and torso length.
Backpacks for women are designed to be narrower in the shoulders, shorter in the torso and have different waist straps to accommodate hip and waist size. All of the recommendations on this list are either designed specifically for the female body or are unisex and can be adjusted accordingly.
Once you have those measurements in your head, think about the details of your journey. Are you walking around the city, hiking, day tripping, backpacking or camping? How much weight do you need to carry?
You don’t have to sacrifice function for fashion. Lots of attractive backpacks are practical and durable. Whether you need space for your laptop, a secure pocket with locks or something that’s cold and water resistant, there’s a perfect backpack out there for you.
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Backpacks Under 30 L Capacity
Deuter Futura SL (24 L)
Built to be shorter in the torso and back to fit a woman’s body, the Deuter Futura is designed to be comfortably carried for an extended period of time. You can wander around that quaint European village or hike across that mountainside all day with this backpack.
The padded, adjustable straps are extra thick for comfort. An adjustable waistband ensures that the backpack fits snugly and is comfortable for a long period of time.
The Deuter Futura is a top loader, but it also has a convenient side-access panel. There are internal and external mesh pockets, which are handy for water bottles, writing utensils, keys and other important accessories.
Eagle Creek Convertabrief Briefcase (26.5 L)
This handy backpack doubles as a briefcase, so you can also use it as a carry-on or purse. Enjoy your downtime during your business trip with this versatile backpack that looks perfectly at home on a train or in a sidewalk cafe.
The Eagle Creek Convertabrief is intended to be a carry-on bag. It has a strap so it can attach to a larger suitcase when it’s time to leave the airport or train station.
It’s an ideal backpack for those traveling with documents or a laptop and is designed to be check-point friendly. When you’re off the clock, take it virtually anywhere as a cross-body bag.
Tortuga Air Carry-On (27 L)
The Tortuga Air Carry-On, as the name of the backpack implies, is designed and intended to double as a carry-on bag. It’s well under the size requirements to fit in the overhead compartment but can still fit plenty of clothes and accessories.
The zippers, pockets and general design of the backpack mimic a conventional suitcase, making its versatile uses fairly intuitive.
The interior consists of two separate compartments to organize your belongings and is also expandable. There are smaller spaces for organizing things like tickets, keys and credit cards.
The North Face Borealis (28 L)
Don’t let the typical design of this backpack deceive you. There’s more here than meets the eye, such as a clever use of pockets and expandable interior spaces.
Although it looks like a classic school backpack, The North Face Borealis has several features that make it unique. There’s a padded sleeve for your laptop inside and an additional smaller space for a tablet and other electronic devices.
The straps and interior are framed with a suspension system that ensures the backpack sits comfortably and is easy to carry for long period of time.
Backpacks Between 30 L and 45 L Capacity
The North Face Premium Rucksack (34 L)
This is another modern backpack based on a classic style. The canvas fabric and top-loading design give it a vintage look, but a closer inspection reveals its modern features.
Although the material looks like canvas, the North Face Premium Rucksack actually has a durable, water-resistant nylon blend.
The interior has plenty of space for your clothes and accessories. You can organize your gear in several different pockets, including a padded sleeve designed to carry your laptop or tablet.
The extra-thick straps are adjustable and there are no fewer than three pockets on the outside for your water bottle, guidebook or cell phone.
Tom Bihn Brain Bag (36 L)
If you’ve never seen this name brand while shopping for backpacks before, that’s because the Tom Bihn company is better known for making sewing bags. The name, Tom Bihn “Brain Bag,” came from the uniquely designed interior padded sleeve intended for a laptop or tablet.
Versatility and ease of use are what this backpack’s all about. Use it for school, the office, a weekend jaunt or a long-term overseas holiday.
The fabric is a durable nylon, and the access points are all either Velcro or zippers, eliminating awkward drawstrings or elastic straps. There are three exterior pockets and two large interior spaces, including a padded sleeve for your laptop or tablet.
Black Diamond Elixir (45 L)
Feel empowered to take on a national park or a crowded hotel with this stylish backpack. Run away to the lake for a weekend or jump on the bullet train and find an adventure.
The Black Diamond Elixir is actually a backpack with two parts. You can detach the handy pocket on the top if you want a smaller bag, like a purse or fanny pack, while you leave the backpack in your tent or Airbnb.
The light steel frame was designed specifically to accommodate women, and it stays light and comfortable even after hours on the trail. There’s a handy compartment at the bottom for a sleeping bag or bedroll.
Backpacks Between 45 L and 60 L Capacity
Timbuk2 Wander Pack (45 L)
Compact, durable and expandable, this handy backpack is designed to go anywhere, no matter where you may wander.
You can use the Timbuk2 Wander Pack as a carry-on, backpack or duffel bag. The inner pocket is for stowing your tablet, cell phone or laptop with a screen up to 15 inches. A separate internal pocket is waterproof, and this is an ideal place to store wet clothes or dirty shoes.
The compression straps on both the inside and outside help you secure the pack to your specific height and measurements.
Eagle Creek Load Hauler Expandable Travel Pack (49 L)
Is the Eagle Creek Load Hauler Expandable Travel Pack a duffel bag, suitcase, backpack or piece of conventional luggage? The answer: All of the above! And in several stylish colors to boot.
The shoulder strap is removable. There are convenient handles in various locations, and the backpack straps are firmly attached with a solid metal clasp.
You can use the cavernous main compartment as you would a conventional suitcase. Or you can use a variety of dividers to create a secure place for your laptop, shoes or other items.
Interior compression straps help secure the load, and the padded, adjustable straps ensure it stays comfortably on your back. The bottom section is expandable if you need more space.
Osprey Ariel AG (55 L)
The Osprey Ariel AG is designed for the serious backpacker. Whether you’re after that rocky mountain high or trekking over an entire continent, this bag is designed to take you there.
Now that we’re getting into bigger sizes, it’s all about comfort as you carry. But this is a stylish bag, as well. It has a sleek, aerodynamic design and comes in a few different colors.
The mesh panel keeps your back dry, and the hip belt and harness ensure your pack stays comfortable no matter how long you’re on the trail. The bag even has special loops for tools like ice picks and trekking poles for those wilderness buffs heading into the great outdoors.
Backpacks with more than 60L Capacity
Kelty Trekker (65 L)
Don’t fear that long haul trip with the Kelty Trekker on your back. This massive bag has a variety of design features that make it easy to pack, comfortable to carry and convenient to use.
Designed mainly for long trips into the backcountry, this top-loading backpack has a special compartment for a sleeping bag and loops for ice picks.
No matter how much you pack into this already huge bag, the adjustable straps and memory foam hip belt ensure the load stays firmly in place. They also make it easy to adjust the pack while you’re wearing it.
The mesh back panel keeps you cool in the hot weather, and there’s a handle at the top is you want to carry it like a duffel bag.
Gregory Deva Goal Zero (70 L)
A first glance, the Gregory Deva Goal Zero is already an upscale top-loader backpack with a graceful ergonomic design. A closer inspection reveals the modern details that could rival something an astronaut would take to another planet.
Let’s start with the solar panel installed on the top panel, which powers the recharger in the top compartment. That’s right, no matter where your adventure takes you, you can still get a charge.
The harness and hip belt are adjustable to several sizes and are equipped with memory foam to ensure a perfect fit. The reservoir sleeve on the side doubles as a handy day-pack.
It won’t fit under the seat in front of you, but this backpack can easily take the stress of the luggage compartment.
Deuter Aircontact (75 L)
It’s all about hauling a heavy load a long distance with the Deuter Aircontact. This handsome backpack comes in a few different colors and has a modern touch, so you can look good while hauling your sleeping bag, trekking poles and a variety of other gear.
Naturally, this sturdy backpack has the usual features, such as a special design to ensure ventilation, a padded hip belt, adjustable and expandable compartments and loops for special outdoor gear like trekking poles.
The design fits as close to the body as possible to ensure the load remains stable no matter how much you move or how far you go. That includes an adjustable back to fit your torso and hips perfectly.
Albert Einstein also had an interesting thing to say about women who travel. He said, “The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.”
Alone except for her trusty backpack, that is. Sounds like a scientific conclusion to me!
Kristy Ambrose has been writing professionally since 2010. She dabbles in various genres, including everything from short blog posts to serialized novels. Her inspiration comes from gamers, beachcombers, foodies and fellow travelers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Victoria.
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