If you have not yet read "How to Buy an Internal Frame Pack," then begin the buying process for anyone, male or female, with the tips and suggestions offered there. Click here to read.
However, once you've worked your way through deciding what size and type of pack you will need, your pack purchase comes down to a matter of fit and comfort and as a woman, you deserve nothing less than being fit in a pack designed specifically for you build.
Women's packs are designed to accommodate the shorter torso, narrower shoulders, and a more pronounced curve and wider shape in the hips than a man.
Shorter torso length – Many of today's packs come with padded and preformed back panels, and if you compare them to a man's pack in a similar volume or size, you will see immediately that the women's pack is typically shorter in length. This accommodates the smaller length torso of women and ensures the pack itself will not be too long. Some companies also feature back panels with a level of adjustment up or down where the shoulder harness and/or hip belt attaches to the back panel, to ensure an ideal fit.
Narrower pack profile – Because a woman's shoulders, and for the most part the upper torso, is typically narrower than a man's, women's packs are designed to be slightly narrower in design. This allows for a more natural arm-swing and means the pack fits more closely to the wearer's back, meaning less bulk to become unwieldy or uncomfortable over rough terrain.
Shoulder straps are S-shaped and smaller – You will notice immediately on a woman's pack that the shoulder straps are S-shaped, narrower and less bulky to provide a more comfortable and contoured fit from the shoulders down and alongside the body. Straighter and beefier straps like those found on packs designed for men can be quite uncomfortable and bulky for women around the bust and under the arms causing chafing.
Narrower shoulders mean narrower spacing for the shoulder harness – Another major difference on a well-designed woman's pack is that the space between the shoulder straps -- where the neck is -- is narrower, placing less stress on the shoulders. Straps that are too wide apart put the weight of the pack toward the outside of the shoulders creating strain, and also leads to straps slipping more easily off the shoulders creating frustration -- neither of which are positive experiences.
Wider and more curved hips – Typically, though not always, women have wider pelvic bones canted at more of an angle than a man's, meaning a hip belt designed to fit a man just won't get the job done for a woman. For many women, wearing a hip belt designed for a man means a hip belt whose edge will dig in uncomfortably at the lower edge, with huge gaps toward the belt's top edge.
You will encounter hip belts that have an adjustable feature that allows you to modify the angle at which the belt will ride on the wearer's hips while other packs have different sized hip belts already preformed to accommodate the typical curvature of a woman's hip.
Quick Fit Tip: Quite a few companies now have mix and match harness and hip belt combinations, allowing you to most effectively match your torso-length, shoulder width and hip curve to the ideal suspension. Your specialty retail salesperson will be invaluable in assisting you with this.
Adventure Networki® Fit Suggestion: Not all women will fit well into a women's harness or hip belt, so don't fixate on the idea that a woman must be sold only women's products. One of our female SNEWS® editors has a less pronounced curve to her hips and very strong, broader shoulders. She does, however, have a shorter and narrower torso. Her ideal fit solution is a women's pack outfitted with a size-small man's hip belt.
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