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Backpack for very small person

I am 4 foot 11 and weigh barely 90 pounds. I want to carry a backpack as Steve suggests. All the backpacks I see seem quite large. Can anyone recommend a backpack or other carry-on bag that works for someone as small as I am? Thank you very much for your help!

Posted by
2526 posts

Are you near an REI store? If yes, go there and receive proper advice and a bag that fits.

Are you looking for a travel pack or a daypack? A day pack around 15 liters like the Merrell rouge (may no longer be available) is a good choice. A pack with a length of 15 - 16" long. (LL Bean kid's book pack)
A travel pack will be more of a challenge for you. Unless you are a minimalist packer - you will need at least 30 liter size. (Osprey Porter). Can you get by with only sandals and not have to pack shoes and socks? Consider packing 4 days worth of clothes and doing laundry. Consider simple black nylon drawstring pants - pack one pair and wear one. You may want to "lay out" the bare essentials and pare back as much as you can and get a smaller bag. (RS Appenzell, Tote Bag with backpack straps, etc.)

Posted by
2747 posts

I would look at backpacks designed for kids - I know it seems odd but small adults can be the same size as an average young teen or pre-teen kid.
REI lists ones by their own line, as well as major brands like osprey. They seem to look like smaller versions of the adult packs, not childish. I'm going shopping for one for my 4'10 80lb 11 year old.

Posted by
105 posts

I'm about the same size as you and I've used Rick's Classic Backdoor bag. It is very light to begin with so depending on how much I put in it or what I put in it, I can control the weight. It was comfortable! My 10 year old used it last summer and it was fine for him too. I'd defintely recommend it to anyone.

Posted by
5793 posts

Backpack "torso length" primarily applies to packs with load carrying suspensions with hip belts. See: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/backpacks-adjusting-fit.html

However, with travel packs like the Rick Steves Classic Backdoor travel bag that do not have load carrying hip belts, torso length doesn't apply. The more significant factor would be the width of the shoulder strap spacing. If the shoulder straps are spaced to wide, they may tend to slip of the shoulders of a narrow person.

And the other significant concern regarding size is overloading the pack. During my backpacking days, my rule of thumb is carrying a pack weighing up to 25% of my body weight was comfortable, and up to 33% survivable. Using that rule of thumb, you would like to keep pack weight under 22 pounds or 10 kg.

Try before you buy or have full refund return rights.

Packs designed specifically for women help. The straps are set, so as not to slide off of shoulders. Also, the sternum strap can be moved closer to neck.
Packing cubes will help with loading the pack. Get either Ebags Classic medium and small cubes and slimlines or a similar size by another brand. You won't need large sized packing cubes. Stay with bold colors, so they are easier to see in a dark wood cabinet.
Consider packing your stuff in packing cubes. Then, haul your stuff into a store that sells backpacks and "test" pack in the store and try on packs first before buying. REI is a good suggestion, if you can get to one. Eagle Creek sells some smaller packs as well like the Converge Weekend bag.

Posted by
11464 posts

What is your budget?

Is a backpack okay or do you want a convertible bag where the backpack straps can be tucked away?

If you can go small: RS Appenzell, Patagonia Light weight tote, Briggs & Riley transcend or excursion, a tote with straps by someone other than Patagonia.
If you can go medium volume: osprey Porter
If you need larger volume: Eagle Creek Converge Weekend Bag or Ebags.com - TLS Motherlode JUNIOR.
Ebags.com is a good site to start your bag research. Good listing of info..
Good Luck! Try to pack as little as possible.

Posted by
1176 posts

All great suggestions but what about Kipling brand - light weight and they have lots of styles. I have a knapsack that I love and use and it is not very large and I carry it on the plane and it is durable. They sell knapsacks, suitcases, pocketbooks, lots of different things to choose from.

Posted by
996 posts

My mother was petite like you. She would have opted for the RS rolling carry on bag

with a smaller bag for a daypack. It gives you maximum room but doesn't force you to get the thing up on your back when it's not sized to go on your frame.

Posted by
2930 posts

In one of Rick's packing light videos he admits that most of his staff uses a wheeled bag. Rick seems to me to be very tall. Think hard on why you want to carry all your belongings when you can roll them most of the time. If Rick is the only reason, I suggest you do more research. Carry vs roll is a huge debate here, but it is good to consider both options.

Even when I used to use LLBean book bags, I would have a small wheeled luggage cart...think 90's before wheels were perfected. I'm strong, (well was more strong but it's that age thing, LOL) but hate schlepping my stuff so I wheel and have never had an issue with it.

If you want a bag, speak with ? Jane from Sapulka, OK ? (I think it is this Jane) as she uses Rick's Appenzell for her bag.

Posted by
13227 posts

Are we talking about a travel backpack as luggage, or a daypack?

Assuming the latter, yes Rick is quite tall, over 6'. We saw him recently ( couple of years ago) when we attended a taping of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me in Seattle. He was the guest and was very entertaining.

I am petite 5'2" and slightly built, but strong and fit. I happily carry a 24-pound backpack (the maximum under Edgar's 25% of body weight rule) when we go hiking/backpacking. But I would never use the RS backpack for traveling.

We bought one once and I tried it on, fully packed to 25 pounds. It was very uncomfortable and did not fit ( shoulder straps not right). With no hipbelt, all the weight sits on one's shoulders. Not good if you are wearing it more than a few minutes. My husband tried it once, actually taking it as his carryon luggage o a short trip. He was already sorry when we walked through the airport to our flight. I gave it away when we got home.

There might be some packs that would be more comfortable, like an Osprey or some other, but I do not know what it would be. Personally I much prefer a roller bag, but a hybrid one with backpack straps that I can use if I need to carry it upstairs, etc.

If you are asking about a daypack, there are several brands that are known for short torso length, such as Arc'terix ( mine is 15" but may be a woman-specific model). But for travel, where I need a daypack for hiking/trekking, I prefer my Deuter Fox, a child's pack with full adult features and quality.

Posted by
16883 posts

I used Rick's Appenzell day pack as my main suitcase for a 2-week tour when flight connections necessitated that I stick to a carry-on weight limit of 7 kg / 15.4 lb. It was adequate space and comfortable enough to wear with that weigh limit. But if I had packed in any more souvenirs, I really would have missed the waist belt that I was used to on my older, bigger backpack. Another issue is that bags not designed specifically as suitcases often don't have the "clamshell" opening style, making it a bit harder to unpack and repack. And they may not have straps that pack away securely if you want to check a bag on airlines.

It's true that most of Rick's staff and customers use a wheeled bag.

Posted by
1179 posts

Edgar has some superior info on packs and torso length. As he stated, torso length doesn’t matter if you are going without a hip belt. That said, I think you should look for a pack with a hip belt. You are small and will be carrying a larger percentage of your body weight. You’ll want some of that load on your hips.
You’ll also want a pack that has the straps closer together. That will accommodate your smaller frame.
Osprey makes some great packs that come in small sizes. I’ve been thrilled with mine.

I’d stay under 40 liters for your bag. I can travel with a 20 L pack but I’d suggest a 30-35 L pack for a newbie packer.

Her Packing List has a nice article on packs for small women.

Also some suggestions:
Gregory Border 35
Cotopaxi Allpa 35 L
Osprey Porter 30

Smaller packs
Osprey Tempest

Posted by
155 posts

Some really good suggestions in this thread.

A “travel backpack” is probably out, not just for the average size of the thing vis-a-vis your height, but weight really becomes a factor, unless you’re a triathlete or something;).

I’d start with an eBags search. They have the best selection of all the online retailers in my opinion, and their prices range from economy to luxury so all budgets are addressed. One caveat: Be very careful with what they call “small”, “medium”, etc. Check the weight and dimensions carefully. I’ve seen products that were of similar dimensions and weight labeled differently.

I purchased an Appenzell daypack from RS recently, and it’s a good bag for a short to medium length trip with careful packing. Lightweight but sturdy. It’s more of a backpack than a daypack, but is good for general use.

Overall, though, I prefer a rolling bag for most travel with a small or medium backpack that rides over the handle. A lot depends on how far you’re going to be toting your luggage. A backpack alone can be pretty tiring over long distances (at least for me. I’m 61, 5’8” and a non-athlete), depending on the load. There are some really good wheeled bags out there that are pretty lightweight, too.

Posted by
1179 posts

A “travel backpack” is probably out, not just for the average size of the thing vis-a-vis your height, but weight really becomes a factor, unless you’re a triathlete or something;).

Actually, the Gregory Border 35, the Cotopaxi Allpa, and the Osprey Porter 30 are all travel packs.
Gregory Border is 2.9 lbs
Cotopaxi Allpa is 3.7 lbs
Osprey Porter is 2.7 lbs.

All these packs are 30 liters or larger, which is plenty generous for a multi week trip.

Posted by
28 posts

I'm about your height, I have the Osprey Fairview XS, which is the women's version of the Farpoint . The Fairview XS is 38 L travel backpack, with a hip belt, adjustable sternal straps and weighs about 3 pounds. You should go to an outdoor supply store like REI to get fitted, they have a great selection of backpacks.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi Everyone -

Thank you ALL so very much for all the helpful suggestions! I looked at all of your recommendations
and did some fittings. In doing so, found what would work and what would not.
I am happy to say that I found the perfect bag - wheeled, convertible to a backpack if necessary
and the right size and fit and it only weights 3.2lbs. It has no brand name on it but it fits me and my needs perfectly!

Again, thanks for all your help. I would have spent the next several months still guessing without it!

Kat