Backpack question for the ladies.

7:00 p.m. on April 12, 2010 (EDT)
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I am looking for a special backpack for my wife and hope you can help. I will be carrying most of the gear so it does not need to be very big. Perhaps a day pack or an over night pack. Preferably hydration compatible. It needs to be very comfortable carrying around 10-15lbs. One that forms the back well, has very cushy shoulder straps and waist belt, and no pressure points. My wife has fibromyalgia so it has to carry extremely well.

Any suggestions?

2:33 p.m. on April 13, 2010 (EDT)
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There are several companies that make packs designed for women and are pretty adjustable and light. Osprey, for example has several models of small carrying capacity and light weight that can be fitted with a wide range of adjustments. Although I mention Osprey, keep in mind that packs, like boots, do not fit everyone - you may find some other brand that is a better fit.

Most important thing, though, is to go to an experienced, trained pack fitter, and explain her special needs. I am not sure what you mean about "no pressure points", since wearing a pack automatically puts pressure on shoulders, hips, and back.

5:07 p.m. on April 13, 2010 (EDT)
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Yes, what Bill said!

Get a pack that fits your wife. There are a number of very good pack brands out there that make models for women or "short torsos" (for example, Gregory, Deuter, Osprey, and so on). But, ultimately you have to buy the pack that fits her and her load the best. I have had good luck with Osprey (I like their Talon series of day packs), as well as Deuter's kid carriers, but that doesn't mean she will like the same brands.

With smaller day packs, there is less gender-specification. So, even if a pack isn't called a women's pack, if it fits your wife, her torso length, and her needs, then it's the right pack for her. I'd start looking at women's packs though, since they tend to fit women better in all the important places, but that doesn't mean she has to get a women's pack.

So, first, figure out what she'll definitely need to carry on her own. Be honest about how much that is, since an overloaded pack is no fun.

Then head to a reputable outdoor store with plenty of time to try on packs. Get fitted properly. Don't feel rushed or pressured to get any pack unless she feels sure about it. And know the return policy. Some stores, like REI, will let you bring products back for exchange. So, even if it feels great in the store with weight, if it fails on the trail, you can bring it back.

Good luck, Steven. I hope you and your wife find what you're looking for. Tell us what you find.

9:59 p.m. on April 14, 2010 (EDT)
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I could not agree with with you more about proper fit on the pack. We have tried 3 different packs so far; Camelback Vantage, North Face Terra, and a Jansport. They all fit correctly and felt ok at first until a couple of miles on the trail. The Camelback had the most comfortable back panel, the North Face had the best shoulder straps, and the Jansport was super light. Maybe I can cut all three packs up and make a custom one! Humm...

We have yet to try Osprey so that will be next. We just live so far from an REI that I wanted an idea of what brands to look for before we took the road trip. Thanks...

1:53 p.m. on April 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Good luck, Steven. If you haven't already, go to the websites of brands you're interested in, like Osprey, and see where the most convenient retailers are. Perhaps there are some stores closer than you realize in smaller stores, though the selection may not include all the packs you're interested in.

I don't know how far REI is for you, but a good thing about the store is its return policy, so it can be worth a trip.

If you really can't get to a store to try on packs, you could buy the top 2 or 3 you're interested in online, try them on at home, and then return the ones you don't want (be very sure about the return policy before going this route).

One more suggestion, since your wife has special considerations, if you can't find a pack that works, you might consider having a custom pack made. Or maybe you could have an experienced person alter a pack to fit her needs. Just a thought.

Good luck!

8:50 p.m. on May 19, 2010 (EDT)
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I am 5'2" and have an Osprey Kestrel 48 pack which I have used a couple of times carrying 25+ lbs. and was very pleased. It has straps which "shrink" it if you are carrying a smaller load but they also make a smaller version, 38 I think. I purchased my pack(and 2 for my sons on different occasions) at a Backwoods store where the staff was very helpful and knowledgeable. Just make sure you allow plenty of time to try on various packs wherever you go and have her try them with the weights at the store. A fifteen pound weight in the bottom isn't exactly the same as a 'packed' 15 pounds but it will give her an idea of the feel; many packs are comfortable empty!

4:36 a.m. on May 20, 2010 (EDT)
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There is no silver bullet, regarding pain free back packs unless your body has been broken in doing miles and days of practice walks with the loaded pack. A comfortable back pack is a relative thing; the phrase itself borders on being an oxymoron IMHO. There is a chance all the packs you tried were just fine, but unfortunately your mate may not be cut out to be a weekend mule. Try for trips with shorter walks and see if you can get her on board with those before the sore back turns her off completely.
Ed

September 20, 2014
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