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How different are Womens and Mens Backpacking back packs?

I am 5'3", female, about 125 lbs. 

Can I buy a men's backpack? I like the colors and design better than the women's packs. 

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@HoughtonLikeTheLake I want to start off by saying I HEAR YOU. Men’s packs come in way better colors and it is a small point of mighty rage for me that I have to settle for muted, “feminine” colors to have a pack that sits comfortably.

Now on to the good stuff.

Men’s and women’s packs are designed differently, sadly beyond just color. They’re generalized as “men’s” and “women’s” but it boils down to smaller factors such as torso length, shoulder/hip width, pack height, etc. I’m not an expert by any means though and I always recommend folks to get fitted for their first pack so that you know how it’s supposed to feel. With stores being closed you can’t get fitted for a pack, but REI has resources for fitting packs I can’t link from my phone for some reason..

A quick google search of “REI backpack fitting” produces two great posts and a YouTube video from REI to help 😄.

5 Replies
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@HoughtonLikeTheLake I want to start off by saying I HEAR YOU. Men’s packs come in way better colors and it is a small point of mighty rage for me that I have to settle for muted, “feminine” colors to have a pack that sits comfortably.

Now on to the good stuff.

Men’s and women’s packs are designed differently, sadly beyond just color. They’re generalized as “men’s” and “women’s” but it boils down to smaller factors such as torso length, shoulder/hip width, pack height, etc. I’m not an expert by any means though and I always recommend folks to get fitted for their first pack so that you know how it’s supposed to feel. With stores being closed you can’t get fitted for a pack, but REI has resources for fitting packs I can’t link from my phone for some reason..

A quick google search of “REI backpack fitting” produces two great posts and a YouTube video from REI to help 😄.

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@HoughtonLikeTheLake@MilkTea is right on.  Fit is the most important attribute of a  back pack, much more important thn color, although I do prefer some colors over others.  The larger the pack, the more important the different proportions become.

To answer your question directly, it is still legal for a lady to buy a man's back pack.  No affidavits or sworn statements required.  After all, it might be  a gift......

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I'm not sure, but I've heard that Men's packs don't stop to ask for directions....

REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes
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Hi there @HoughtonLikeTheLake!

Thanks for bringing your question to the Community! I see you’ve already got some advice and that our fit services were mentioned, which is awesome! 

It is true that while our stores remain closed, we are offering virtual outfitting services that you could benefit from! In addition, this expert advice  article can help you measure your torso at home, which is a major determining factor when it comes to getting the right size pack. 

Hope that helps and you snag a bag in a cool color that also fits you well!

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.
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@HoughtonLikeTheLake chiming in on this one as well. While women can certainly wear packs that are designated as "mens", and vice versa, there are some key attributes to a woman's pack that are worth considering:

  • Torso dimensions of women's packs are often shorter and narrower than men's, so you'd want to ensure that the men's pack you're considering has a small enough size to fit your torso length.
  • The straps and hipbelts on women's packs are often contoured with the women's form in mind (so the shoulder straps may sit more comfortably along your chest and the hipbelt may hug your hips more accurately).

Hopefully this helps! And yes, you might consider a free virtual outfitting appointment (while our stores are closed) with one of our employees to help narrow in on a good fit!

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well lived.