Camping Gear

Ask Me: How Can a Small Woman Find a Backpack That Fits?

Posted On March 2, 2017 at 4:13 am by / Comments Off on Ask Me: How Can a Small Woman Find a Backpack That Fits?

Hi Michael,

My fiancée has begun backpacking, and we’re in the market for a pack. But she’s tiny, five feet and just 100 pounds, and finding a waist belt small enough has been an issue. I’m thinking she needs a 50- to 55-liter pack. Any suggestions?


Worcester, MA

Hi Dave,

Have her try on backpacks that are made for young teenagers, who have smaller bodies, are thinner in the waist, and have narrower shoulders than many adults. The challenge may be that some packs made for teenagers have smaller hipbelts, for narrower hips, while a short adult woman may still have hips more like a woman than a girl.

A neighbor-friend of mine, a similarly small woman, ran into the same issue with fitting a backpack. We tried different women’s packs on her and they were all too big. Then we tried a Gregory Wander 70 on her and it was a great fit (lead photo, above; read my review). It’s a pack made for kids age 10 to 18, so your fiancée will want to try it on to see if it fits; the shoulder straps and hipbelt may be too narrow for her. But it could be a good fit. Interestingly, it was a little big on my son when he was 12, but he’s small for his age and skinny. Gregory also has a Wander 50 and a Wander 38.


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My son, Nate, using the Osprey Ace 50 on the Rockwall Trail in Canada's Kootenay National Park.

My son, Nate, using the Osprey Ace 50 on the Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park.

Look also at Osprey’s Ace 50 or Ace 75 (the photo above shows my son using the Ace 50 on a family trip on the Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park), which reflect the quality of Osprey’s adult packs. Both have a very functional set of features and an adjustable harness designed for kids up to around age 14: It fits torsos from 13 to 18 inches. I would wager that your fiancée falls somewhere in the bottom to middle of that fit range.

Even better for a small woman, the Ace 50 and 75 have Osprey’s Fit-on-the-Fly adjustability in the hipbelt (same as found in the men’s Atmos AG and women’s Aura AG packs), which extends the range of waists/hips the hipbelt fits by five inches. In fact, she might try on the Aura AG, too.

She may simply have to try on a variety of pack models from different brands—which is always the smartest strategy for finding a good fit, no matter what your size. Several brands make packs designed for women in small sizes. See all of my reviews of backpacks at The Big Outside and my “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack,” as well as my articles “Gear Review: The 10 Best Packs For Backpacking” and “Buying Gear? Read This First.”

Good luck.


Thanks, Michael.


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I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza


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