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. It fit my son well by the time he was around 14, and he was somewhat small for his age and skinny. Gregory also has a Wander 50 and a Wander 38.


Want a better backpack? See my picks for “The 10 Best Backpacking Packs
and the best ultralight/thru-hiking packs.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter, or enter your email address in the box in the left sidebar or at the bottom of this story. Click here to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Follow my adventures on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Youtube.


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 should try on the Aura AG, too.

Other good-quality backpacking packs with smaller sizes for women include the Osprey Sirrus 50 (read my review), the Arc’teryx Bora AR 49 (read my review), and The North Face Banchee 50 (read my review), and The North Face Terra 55.

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.


Did you find this story helpful? Get full access to ALL stories at The Big Outside. Subscribe now!

See my “Gear Review: The 10 Best Backpacking Packs,” my “Top 5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpacking Pack,” and all of my reviews of backpacks at The Big Outside, as well as my article “5 Things to Know Before Buying Backpacking Gear.”

Good luck.


Thanks, Michael.



Tell me what you think.

I spent a lot of time writing this story, so if you enjoyed it, please consider giving it a share using one of the buttons below, and leave a comment or question at the bottom of this story. I’d really appreciate it.


I can help you plan the best backpacking, hiking, or family adventure of your life.

Got a question about hiking, backpacking, planning a family adventure, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Email it to me at For $60, I’ll answer your questions via email or in a phone call to help ensure your trip is a success. Write to me and I will tell you whether I can answer your question (I usually can). You may find helpful information in stories on my Ask Me page and All Trips page, and in my skills stories and gear reviews.

—Michael Lanza



Training For a Big Hike or Mountain Climb

The 10 Best National Park Adventures With Kids


Leave a Comment

10 thoughts on “Ask Me: How Can a Small Woman Find a Backpack That Fits?”

  1. Hey Michael, Thanks for the helpful information! I’m looking for a backpack for my girlfriend who is 5 feet tall, a perfect fit without bulky looking. Any suggestions?

    Thank you so much!

  2. I’m fairly short (5’31/2″) and light ~115 lbs and I really like my Deuter ACT 45+10 SL pack. I have an older model and it’s not the lightest of the UL style packs but is lighter than many mainstream packs. It fits all my stuff inside well, including my tent and a weekender Bear Cannister. I don’t use the hydration pack inside as I prefer bottles on the outside with a hydration hose to one. The compartments are pretty well laid out. The waist pocket is not really great but I use a chalk bag on my waist strap anyway so that I have my phone/camera and days worth of snacks really handy and also don’t contaminate my pocket with smells that way.

  3. Thanks for the helpful information!! My mom and I were looking for backpacks for our Hawaii trip and stumbled upon this article. She is a bit smaller than me ended up with a 44l Osprey pack that she loves. I’m almost 5’4 so the teen stuff was a little too small, still looking for the perfect fit!!

  4. Thank you so much for posting this! As a similarly petite woman, I find buying outdoor gear really hard work, so all advice is really welcome 🙂
    Don’t get me started on finding short length hiking trousers…!

  5. I think putting a big pack on a small woman is just not going to work, I definitely would not go over 50 liters especially if she has never backpacked before. Like most commercial backpack manufactures they only make a backpack with one size hip belt and they are usually non removable. Have you looked at the Gossamer Gear Gorilla they have hip belts that are removable. Another cottage industry pack to look at is Elemental Horizons they have removable hip belts. With Gossamer Gear and Elemental Horizons you would order the pack to user specs choosing the correct size hip belt while ordering.

    • You raise a good point about pack size/weight for a small woman or any small person, Richard. Using a standard guideline of a max pack weight of 20 percent of your body weight (maybe 25 percent for a relatively strong person), that’s a 20-pound pack for a 100-pound woman. With lightweight, compact gear, a woman that size could nonetheless carry her own gear (pack weight plus bag, pad, clothing, etc.), her food, and a share of the team gear (shelter, kitchen, etc.). She would not need a pack larger than 45 to 50 liters. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a bigger companion to shoulder more of the gear and food weight, too.

      Removable hipbelts are an option for fitting, if the brand offers a hipbelt that fits you. Ultimately, as I wrote in this article, the smartest strategy is to try on a variety of packs to find the one that fits you best.