Best Backpack for a Petite Woman

Okay, so there are enough threads about backpacks already. Here's my question: I'm traveling with a tiny woman, about 5'3" and 110 pounds. We're torn between the Kelty Redwing 2650 and the eBags Weekender. Our concern is over size, and support. We need something that has decent support for the longer days. Enter the Kelty Redwing with the frame. Buuut, we also don't want something that's going to swallow up my friend because it's so large. Enter the Weekender. Neither of us have seen these bags in person, that's why we're here. Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

Wow, I wouldn't recommend buying a backpack without trying it on. You're in a state with no REI stores though, bummer! You might try checking out the REI site http://www.rei.com/search?cat=4500001_Backpacks&jxGender=Women%27s&hist=cat%2C4500001_Backpacks%3ABackpacks%5EjxGender%2CWomen%27s It might be worth calling them and consulting. You might get some good advice. And, if it doesn't fit you can send it back. I had a backpack that didn't fit and it was miserable. It is so much better to have suited to your body type. Can you make a trip to Madison? We have an REI store and welcome protesters these days too if you are so inclined. ; ) Pam

Posted by Mary
Michigan
33 posts

Michael, I am 5'3" (though a little bit bigger than 110#...) and used an eBags Weekender for my trip to London and Paris in 2009. Worked just fine for me and I was not uncomfortable. Plan to use it again when we return to Europe in May.

Posted by Darcy
Lewiston, Idaho, USA
1202 posts

Another pack to consider, Michael, is the Eagle Creek Thrive 75. It only seems to be available through amazon and I don't know what Eagle Creek has replaced it with but it is designed to fit each person perfectly. (I won't be lending this one to anyone!) The instructions definitely have to be read and followed because there are several steps to get the pack to fit correctly and to keep the weight on your hips rather than on your shoulders but it is so worth it!

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
981 posts

I strongly encourage your friend to try out the bag before going to Europe. I'm a hair under 5 foot 1, and I can tell you that many, many backpacks don't work for me because they assume a longer torso than I have. Order your target bag, load it up, and walk around with it for at least an hour or two. She'll know if it isn't working. Even if you have to spend a few dollars on return postage, it is really worth it. Believe me, if you pick the wrong bag, you would cheerfully pay double the return postage to be releived of your misery while abroad! (Remembering my first back-packing trip to Europe thirty five years ago...aching shoulders and back, not pretty.)

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1156 posts

I have a very short torso, and here's a trick that I learned when I was fitted with the most comfortable backpack I own: Fill the backpack with clothes or a blanket (you are aiming for bulk). Get her to stand with the backpack in front of a chair (her back to the chair). Climb on the chair and transfer your own weight onto the backpack with your hands by pushing downwards. With the right backpack: - she should remain steady on her feet and balanced - the weight should sit squarely on her hips, not her shoulders
- nothing should poke or pull, or crick/impede her neck If you order the pack online, put it to the test and return it if it doesn't meet the test.

Posted by CL
Salem, Oregon, USA
914 posts

So if you think 5'3" is tiny, I have your friend beat (5' on a good day). I have used the eBags Weekender on three Europe trips and counting. While it isn't a perfect fit for the petite woman, it's easy to mush things around in it (no frame = more room to be flexible). As I recall, eBags has a decent return policy, and their brand luggage has an excellent warranty (replacements made no questions asked, even 5 years after purchase - on trip to Spain one of my buckles broke and they replaced it without question). The longest I wore my pack on any one day (mostly on RS tours) was about an hour, so if you're planning to do heavy duty backpacking I'd suggest you try something else.

Posted by melissa
Austin
799 posts

Michael, I have this exact Kelty pack and it is a very very good pack. I am also 5'3ish and a fan of this backpack; I bought it for European travel.It is light, comfortable, sturdy. The frame arches away from the body and the price is very good. What I don't like about most backpacks is that you have to unpack everything to get to what you want ( kind of a Murphy's law).
This pack is no exception, but perhaps that will not be an issue for your trip. I have come to prefer a rolling bag with a light daypack for most travel.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

Melissa, "What I don't like about most backpacks is that you have to unpack everything to get to what you want" That's why a panel-loading Backpack is preferred by many travellers (including me). The pack is fitted with zippers which allow easy access to contents. Items that may be required in transit can be placed near the top, so the zipper only has to be slightly opened. Michael, In addition to the Packs you've looked at already, you might check the websites for Osprey and Eagle Creek, as you might find a product that's a better fit for your friend. Each website has a list of local dealers. EC has at least one in Overland Park and Osprey has two dealers in your area (one of which appears to carry both brands). It's important to remember that height is not the most important criteria in choosing a Backpack. Torso range is what needs to be considered first, and this only has an approximate link to height. The eBags Weekender has a very similar design to the Rick Steves Convertible, with a very light waist belt. Given the fact that most of the weight should rest on the hips and not the shoulders, the design and padding on the waist belt is VERY important (IMHO). Neither the RS Convertible nor eBags Weekender have any provision for torso range adjustment, so won't work for all people. The lack of a frame can also be problematic, depending on the way the bag is packed. Depending on size of the pack desired and other features such as detachable Daypack or stowable harness, you might look at the Osprey Waypoint 65 Women's or the EC Adero 45L. Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by melissa
Austin
799 posts

Ken, thanks for your reply- I pulled the Kelty out and ... my face is red. I must have had a kneejerk flashback to the packs I had in college! Woops- sorry!
This Kelty has a long zipper almost to the base, good dividers; would be a good pack with some cubes for structure.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

melissa, If your friend is going to be wearing the Pack, I'd suggest having her load it completely and take a walk for at least half an hour to make sure the fit works for her. She will likely only be carrying it from the train to the Hostel or whatever, but there could be occasions where it needs to be carried for longer periods of time (therefore comfort and proper fitting are important. I'm not thoroughly familiar with the design of that model, but be sure to consider a small Padlock (if that's possible), to discourage "opportunistic theft". You might consider a small Daypack also, so that you can leave the Pack back at the Hostel while you're out touring. If you're going to be staying in Hostels, don't forget to each pack along a small but good quality Padlock for the Hostel lockers. DON'T use a cheap luggage Lock for that! Cheers!

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3582 posts

eBags gives you 60 days to return items - they pay for your return shipping! Their shipping rates are pretty good, too. Plus, they carry most any pack that's gonna be mentioned here. Great brand and model choices. My personal preference is a good waist 'belt' that rests on your hips (yea Kelty!); the RS bags, and the eBags Convertible bags have a waist 'strap' that goes around your tummy. No likey. Also, a sternum strap is a blessing when running for that train! I hope you got something ordered before eBags 20% off sale ended Tuesday the 8th... :-(...If not, there'll be other sales... :-)

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3582 posts

Melissa, were you attempting a 'WHOOP!' ?!? In Austin ?!? WHOOP! GIG 'EM, TEXAS AGGIES!!! -- but not in Austin, if they can help it ;-) --

Posted by melissa
Austin
799 posts

Eileen- no way! Sometimes a woops is just a woops!
Hook 'em horns!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8758 posts

Ladies, Ladies, if you haven't noticed it was the Horned Frogs went all the way this year. Don't want to hear about teams from College Station or Austin this year.....