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The Best Ultralight Backpacking Packs for Women – Choose the Right One for You
Backpacking may seem like it’s just for men, but women are also starting to discover this fun and adventurous activity. The only catch is that the available gear isn’t always sized and designed specifically for women. Check out these reviews of the best ultralight backpacking packs for women so you can choose the right one for your needs and body type. Once you have your bag, then you’ll be ready to hit the trail!
What Is an Ultralight Backpack?
The word ultralight gets used a lot when you’re talking about backpacks. The term refers to packs that weigh less than two pounds. Why are ultralight packs essential? It’s because most hikers don’t realize how heavy their backpack is. We tend to pack more than we should, which means you will carry more weight than you need, and that’s bad news for your body and your morale. With an ultralight backpack, you’ll have freedom of movement; they’re built with durable but lightweight materials so that they won’t weigh you down as much as heavier models.
What Is a Lightweight Backpack?
A lightweight backpack is a pack that weighs less than three pounds. A lightweight backpack has many of the same features as heavier packs, such as trekking pole loops, water bottle pockets, and an internal frame.
A lightweight backpack also will be larger and have more pockets than a typical daypack. Typically, most people think of backpacking as long distances in wilderness areas. Any trip into nature where you carry everything on your back can be considered backpacking. This can include an overnight or weekend trip to a campground or a short day hike through a state park.
How Much Can I Carry While Backpacking?
If you’re looking to get started in backpacking but don’t know what kind of pack is right for you, consider how much weight your body can comfortably carry.
Your backpack should be at least 10% of your body weight; however, 15% is a better rule of thumb.
If your total pack weight (not including water) is less than 10% of your body weight, then you’ll probably want a smaller volume/less-technical pack because they are easier to manage. Otherwise, choose a larger/more technical pack because it will distribute more weight across your hips and shoulders.
The easiest way to find out if you have enough gear is by using a scale or weighing yourself before and after hiking with all your equipment. Then, subtract your starting weight from your ending weight to find out how much you gained while hiking.
For example: Let’s say that before leaving on a 3-day trip with food, water, shelter, clothing, etc., your body weighed 160 pounds. After hiking 3 days with all your gear (food included), you weighed 175 pounds—that’s an extra 15 pounds! Therefore, your total pack weight was 30% of your body weight.
The Top 5 Picks For Women’s Lightweight & Ultra-Lightweight Backpacks
Many backpack manufacturers create women’s-specific models. Since there are so many female backpacking enthusiasts and hiking experts, you can count on these packs being designed well (without too much feminine flair).
Three different gear experts and hikers picked these five packs to give you a variety of opinions and options when it comes to choosing your next lightweight/ultra-lightweight pack:
1. REI Trail 40L Day Pack
The REI Trail 40L is an excellent choice for female ultralight backpackers. It’s only 2 lbs. and has padded straps, allowing you to go farther with less weight on your back. It’s hydration compatible, allowing you to bring more water than would be possible without hydration features.
The bag also has a rain cover to keep your pack dry in inclement weather. For added protection against thieves, small zippered pockets on either side of your pack could serve as quick hiding places for valuables.
- Weight: 2 lbs.
- Frame Type: Internal frame.
- Frame Material: Perimeter spring steel.
- Material: Nylon
- Number of Exterior Pockets: 6+ compartments.
- Dimensions: 21.65×13.125×10.5 inches
- Capacity: 40L
- U-shaped panel featuring 4 zipper sliders that provide easy access to your gear.
- Integrated rain cover stows on zip pockets.
- Spring perimeter frame for support and comfort.
- Padded and mesh-covered straps that enhance comfort.
- Side mesh pocket featuring an elastic closure.
- Unique fasteners on the back that hold hiking poles.
2. Osprey Exos 48L Backpack
If you’re looking for a durable and lightweight pack that provides enough space to carry your gear and other necessities, consider Osprey Exos 48L. Measuring 26.38 x 15.75 x 12.99 inches, it is one of the most popular packs on our list, with an excellent balance between quality and price.
The pack features a women-specific fit, increasing comfort and mobility during longer trips. This is also one of few ultralight backpacks designed to protect against weather elements and abrasion, as it comes with a removable top lid and built-in rain cover.
- Dimensions: 26.38×15.75×12.99 inches. (H×W×D)
- Weight: 2.42 lbs.
- Volume: 48L.
- Fabric: Tenacity Nylon.
- Integrated flap jacket that protects your gear when you remove the top lid.
- Accessory cord attachment points to enhance the external storage of your gear.
- Side compression straps.
- Detachable sleeping pad.
- Detachable floating lid featuring top and under-lid pockets for storing small essentials.
- Stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment.
- The front stretch mesh side pocket for storing your rain gear.
3. Granite Gear Virga 2 Backpack
This pack has a few things going for it. It’s relatively affordable, made by one of the most respected ultralight backpack companies, and holds up to 35 pounds comfortably. It can carry taller loads better than other options.
The pack is generally a minimalist backpack; thus, it doesn’t have a frame. It equally features a minimally padded waist belt and shoulder straps.
If you want to get even lighter with your pack and don’t mind paying extra bucks, Granite Gear also makes a similar super-lightweight pack called The Crown V.C. 60 that gets down under 2 pounds and costs $270.
- Padding: Minimal.
- Weight: 1lb.
- Torso Length: 15-18 inches.
- Frame: Frameless.
- Capacity: 54L
- Materials: Ripstop, 210D Nylon Cordula, Stretch fabric.
- Internal hydration hanger.
- Tool loops.
- Padded rolling stay.
- Frameless suspension.
- Webbing straps (10mm).
- Rolltop closure.
- Padded belt (fixed).
- Hydration ports.
- A front pocket featuring a stretch mesh.
- Extended overflow.
4. ZPacks Arc Blast 55L with Hip Belt Pocket & Sternum Strap
This ultralight backpack is great for overnight or weekend backpacking trips. Most female hikers like it because it can compress to a petite size (3x7x10 inches). The hip belt pocket is perfect for keeping essential items like maps, compass, and snack bar within easy reach.
The Arc Blast is made from Dyneema Composite Fabric, making it lightweight and durable at only two pounds. At $219, you can fit all your gear in one bag.
- Weight: 569g.
- Material: Dyneema® composite fabric.
- Volume: 55 Liters.
- Access: Roll-top only.
- Waterproof roll-top closure.
- Side pockets for the storage of water bottles and other small items.
- A large net pocket at the front for storing a rain jacket.
- Arc frame.
- Adjustable torso.
5. ZPacks Arc Haul 70L with Suspension System, Frame Sheet, & Hip Belt Pocket
If you’re looking for an ultralight hiking pack that can hold all your gear, look no further than ZPacks Arc Haul. This hiking backpack is made of Dyneema, a rugged and ultra-light material with a high strength-to-weight ratio.
It also features an adjustable frame sheet that ensures your shoulder straps are comfortable and supportive. With pockets galore and an adjustable hip belt, it’s one of our top choices for women who want to carry less weight on their back.
- Weight: 596g.
- Capacity: 70L.
- Fabric: Gridstop.
- Torso Height: 16-19 inches.
- Belt Size: 24-30 inches.
- Side compression straps made from non-stretching Dyneema® cord. The straps secure tall items such as trekking poles and squish down the pack volume.
- Top and base straps for lashing on added items on the pack’s top.
- A stretchy mesh center pocket for easy access to essential items.
- Side pockets for storing water bottles and accessing them quickly.
- Wide padded shoulder straps.
- A roll-top closure to ward off water from reaching your gear.
- Curved carbon fiber air stays, and Lycra back panel creates a gap between the pack and your back.
The Benefits of Ultralightweight Backpacking Packs for Women
When it comes to backpacking, there are a lot of decisions to make before hitting the trail. While every item on your packing list has its purpose, your backpack is one of those items that should be given some serious thought and attention.
Think about it; you must wear your pack on your back all day long, and that’s no easy feat. With ultralightweight packs weighing in at 1-2 pounds or less, you can forget about feeling like a sore-riddled hot mess at camp each night.
The Final Word
There are many options for choosing an ultralight backpack, and they’re definitely not all created equal. When purchasing a pack, think about how often you plan on using it, how much stuff you need to take on each trip, and which features are most important to you.
If you can’t find an ultralight backpack that meets your needs or fits your body type exactly, consider making a homemade DIY version. A few pieces of high-quality gear and creative sewing could save you hundreds of dollars while still providing a top-notch product.