What’s the Difference Between a Woman’s and a Man’s Backpack?

Although hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering packs are mostly unisex, they are sometimes built separately for men and for women. Here you can read more about their differences.

There are several top outdoor brands that build gender-specific packs. The best known among them are Osprey, Gregory, Deuter, and Kelty. You will see also Mountainsmith packs for men and women separately. The most important differences can be grouped as follows:

    1. Essential: Differences in the design of suspension system.
    2. Non-essential:
      • Volume differences.
      • Differences in buckles design.
      • Color differences.

Below I discuss all of them in detail.

What's the Difference Between a Woman's and a Man's Backpack - top picture showing a group of backpackers with big packs.

Essential: Differences in the design of suspension

These differences are the most important because they are introduced for comfort. Men and women are differently shaped, well, I must be very clever with such a conclusion.

Here you have differences regarding i) shoulder harness and ii) hip belt design:

  • Shoulder harness attachment points are closer to each other in women’s packs. This is related to the body size.
  • Shoulder straps may have a slightly different angle in the neck area. This is related to anatomy.
  • Shoulder straps in women’s packs may have more padding.
  • Women’s packs may have wider shoulder straps. I have seen this statement by Jack Wolfskin about their packs.
  • Torso length range is different. Men’s packs are usually with a longer torso length, I guess the reasons are obvious. You can see this from the numbers below. This is from Osprey, and it is about their Aether Pro pack for men and the corresponding Ariel Pro pack for women:
  • Hip belt padding is differently shaped to reflect typical differences in body shape of a man and a woman.
  • Lumbar padding is also differently shaped, this is again the matter of different body shape.

You can see some of these differences in this video about Gregory Katmai and Kalmia packs for men and women:

All these differences play an important role for comfort, and this is why I see them as essential. The remaining differences listed below are far less important.

Non-essential differences 

Volume differences

Very frequently, but not always, you can see that packs for men and women are with a different volume. To show you examples, you can see it in Deuter Futura Air Trek 45+10 SL which is for women and Deuter Futura Air Trek 50+10 for men. The same is with Gregory Kalmia 60 for women as compared with Katmai 65 for men.

Differences in buckles

Buckles in women’s packs may be smaller in size and also softer. This is related to eventual differences in the width of straps, and also to less strong fingers of a typical woman.

Color differences

There are colors that are traditionally seen as more typical for women. The same holds for packs, but this difference is totally unimportant.

Can men use a women’s backpack?

I would say yes. They are designed for a typical man and a typical woman, but we are all built differently.

Regarding colors, I guess I would not use a pink pack, but I love this color. Once I paid 10 Euro more for a camera on purpose, because it was pink. I wonder if something is wrong with me.

Plus size backpacks

This is something extra from Gregory. They have launched plus-size versions of many of their famous packs, and you can see them here. So they have them both for men and for women.

This includes differences in length and width of the shoulder harness straps and a larger angle of the shoulder harness straps at the attachment points. These attachment points are also made wider.

Also, in the hip belt they have added extended padding so that it fits up to 60 inches waist. In addition, they have moved the quick-access pocket location to the front of the hip belt. There is a picture of it in my separate text about overweight people who go outdoors.

More about Gregory Plus Size backpacks you can see in this video:


In summary, there are differences between women’s and men’s backpacks. Some are essential and some are not essential. The former are introduced for comfort and functionality, and if you are a women you should definitely pay attention and go for such a women-specific design.

Note that I have a separate text about differences between men’s and women’s Osprey backpacks, so follow the link to see more. Related to this text is also my post about specifications of a good hiking pack, so have a look there as well.

This site is all about outdoors questions and answers and I add texts here on a regular basis, so bookmark it and keep as a reference. Please use the comment box below in the case of questions or comments. Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

 
Me on Jalovec.Hi, I am Jovo, the founder of this OutdoorsFAQs site and several other outdoor sites. I have been mountaineering for almost 40 years already, and I have created this site to use as a reference for various questions that I receive in my sites. Being a theoretical physicist by profession, I tend to base my answers on facts and on my own personal experience.

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