The Best Travel Backpack for Women in 2024
The Best Travel Backpack for Women in 2024

One size does not fit all, and nowhere is that more apparent than when you're a woman searching for a great travel backpack. Your big and tall male friend's favorite bag may topple his petite wife right over while he can’t fit his extra wide shoes and XXL pants inside her smaller backpack. And that’s before you take into consideration the often much different shape of the female frame.

Here at Pack Hacker, our testers are a mix of both genders, and we often try on travel daypacks and backpacks that we, the female cohort, find uncomfortable, while the guys think it's great. Needless to say, we're always searching for that elusive “best travel backpack for women.”

tomtoc Navigator-A82 Travel Laptop Backpack 40L Straps
The Best Travel Backpack for Every Woman | Female travelers have different needs than males.

When considering the options, we look at fit, carry comfort, and capacity to ensure you can still stuff enough gear inside a bag that's often smaller than a unisex (which is really male-focused) bag. If we recommend a bigger bag, we want to ensure you can make it from the airport to your hotel room without a sore back, or let you know when one might be less comfortable so you plan to use it for a trip where Uber or a rental car is an option. We wanted to find bags with curved straps to wrap nicely around your chest, hip belts that didn’t dig into wider hips, and sternum straps that feel supportive, not like they’re binding you up. You know, the things most women need in a backpack that men don’t.

Why You Should Trust Us

While Pack Hacker was started by a man (Hi, Tom!), it was also founded by someone with a deep desire to help everyone find the perfect travel backpack (also Tom). As a result, he built a team of testers who all feel that using a travel backpack is the way to go in many cases. When you carry on for one bag travel using a backpack, you don't have to wait at the luggage carousel for your suitcase, nor do you have to lug anything behind you over cobblestone streets as you explore a new place before check-in.

After reviewing more than 145 travel backpacks over seven years, we prioritize bags with useful organization so that you can quickly access your phone, wallet, and passport through the airport while still having room to store your clothing, toiletries, and tech gear. We prefer travel backpacks with supportive harness systems because you’ll sometimes have to walk for blocks or, worse, miles to reach your accommodations, or you’ll want to explore a new location before checking into the hotel. A travel backpack lets you be hands-free for exploration while, hopefully, not weighing you down.

The Best Travel Backpack for Women in 2024 Bags
The Best Travel Backpack for Women in 2024 | Bags, bags, and more bags.

We combed through all of those bags to find the best travel backpack for women focused on weight, durability, what you can pack inside, and budget. Then, we filled them up and took them for a test run (or, rather, test walk. No one’s running while wearing a travel backpack unless you’re late for your flight. In which case, that sore back is on you). We grabbed enough gear for a five-day trip: five shirts, one dress, two pairs each of pants and shorts, one pullover sweater, one cardigan, socks and underwear, a pair of shoes, a packed toiletry bag, a hat, our laptop, and a small tech pouch. If you’ll be gone longer, that’s still enough gear to make into a travel capsule wardrobe, and if you’ve got a shorter trip, that just means you can lighten the load.

The Best Travel Backpack for Women in 2024 Packing Cubes
The Best Travel Backpack for Women in 2024 | All packed up!

Each of these bags then went for an afternoon walk in the hot springtime sun on the Southwest Greenway, a lovely trail in Detroit. While checking out the graffiti museum, flowers, and murals, we contemplated comfort, fit on a female frame, and how much we’d rather be jetting off to the Caribbean than wandering back into an office. The sacrifices we make for you, dear reader—even Delta Airlines won't let us bring a dozen or so packed bags with us on a trip.

How We Tested It

Test 1: For the packing test, we packed all the gear we mentioned above—12.4 pounds (5.6 kg) in all—into three Eagle Creek Pack-It Isolate Packing Cubes, one Eagle Creek Pack-it Isolate Shoe Pouch, a Bellroy Toiletry Kit, and an Aer Split Kit. The lululemon Baller Hat Soft and MacBook Air stayed separate for slotting into whatever pocket fit them best. Then we did our best to pack that all into the main compartment of each travel backpack, although some of the options we covered had extra pockets where we stashed some of the pouches and gear. Most of the bags passed this test with flying colors.

The Best Travel Backpack for Women in 2024 Stuffed Bag
The Best Travel Backpack for Women in 2024 | Does it fit? Yes!

Test 2: After stuffing the bags, we checked them for comfort initially and throughout a 10-minute walk while wearing just a light sleeveless or short-sleeve shirt. That way, you don’t have to wonder if a bag is truly comfortable or if your puffer jacket has enough padding to blunt any pulling at the shoulders or banging against your back. While it may seem short, we’ve found over the years that we nearly always feel any pulling at the trapezius muscles, shoulders, neck, and lower back within 10 minutes of wearing a backpack. The best travel backpack will feel the same after 30 minutes or an hour as it does after 10.

The Best Travel Backpack for Women in 2024 Two Bags
The Best Travel Backpack for Women in 2024 | Which is better?

Test 3: For better or worse, it's just a fact that women are shaped differently than men. We mostly have wider hips, larger chests, and shorter torsos, and even more petite and less well-endowed female travelers are better endowed than most men. That means that the places a backpack hits on a man are not the same places it hits on a woman, so the best backpack for a female traveler is most likely different than the most comfortable bag for a guy. We checked all these bags to see where they hit and if they rubbed anything uncomfortably. Do the sternum straps crush your chest, or do the hip belts dig into your side? Obviously, your mileage will vary, but our findings give you a good place to start.

1. Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L
Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L Review

Best For: Camera gear

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Peak Design if you are into photography, but just because this backpack has accessory straps at the bottom for a tripod and attachment loops inside to connect a camera cube doesn’t mean that those of us who use a phone for photos should pass it by. First of all, we like the flexibility of this backpack, which isn’t 30L as the name suggests, but 27L that grows to 33L if you engage the expansion zipper. We didn’t do that for the sake of our test, yet we could still cram all our gear inside the main compartment without much of an issue, although it was a tight squeeze. This is the best travel backpack for women who carry camera gear, though, because it includes a well-organized quick-access pocket for those little photo gear accessories; however, it’s also a good place to stick your toiletry bag to have it easy to pull out at airport security. We did just that, making room for the other packing cubes and pouches in the main compartment. That area opens fully clamshell, and we find it super easy to pack as you can see the entire space all at once and plan out how you’ll Tetris in your gear.

As for carry comfort, the back panel is very stiff and rigid. Although the shoulder straps have great flexibility due to their attachment with rivets atop the back panel, they began to dig into the top of our tester’s shoulders and pull at her traps just five minutes into her walk. We’re carrying a lot of gear here, but you'll feel it if your hotel is a half-hour walk from the train station, especially if it’s full of heavy camera equipment. The bag is also very long for those with short torsos. Thankfully, our tester didn’t experience any irritation despite it resting below her lower back, nor did the bag rub uncomfortably anywhere else. We like how easy it is to feed the pointed ends of the straps into the keepers, yet we wish we could move the sternum strap higher on the chest so it doesn't crush the bust area. That may impact your comfort if you're a fuller-figured woman.

Why We Like It
  • Attachment points inside keep your camera kit secure
  • The clamshell opening makes it easy to pack the main compartment
What You Should Know
  • Other gear can block mesh pockets in the main compartment
  • While the sternum strap is removable, it takes some effort to do so
See Full Review & Buying Options
2. Aer Travel Pack 3 Small
Aer Travel Pack 3 Small Review

Best For: Built-in organization

Aer makes some of our favorite travel backpacks, and we’re happy that they pack the same organization we love in their larger bags into a pack designed for a smaller frame. The front compartment of the Aer Travel Pack 3 Small has a ton of liner pockets for smaller gear if you don’t want to bring a separate tech pouch, although we had no issue fitting the Aer Split Kit we used in our test in the zippered pocket at the top of the laptop compartment, either. The deep bucket shape of the main compartment was simple to fill with the packing cubes and other gear we used in our test, and the 28L bag feels more spacious than similar-sized bags.

Of course, besides the durable materials and great organization, we love what Aer does with a harness system, and this is one of the most comfortable travel backpacks to carry around, fully packed, on a small frame, making it the best travel backpack for women who like to travel while working remotely. Seriously, there's a reason we included it on our Digital Nomad Packing List. The back panel is very well-cushioned and lined with breathable mesh. While we were testing these backpacks on an 80 F (26.6 C) day in Detroit, and so naturally got a little sweaty, the mesh and the air channel running down the middle did a good job of keeping things as cool as possible when power walking in the midday sun.

The hip belt is sold separately, but we recommend getting it because the pads are curved to wrap around your hips and rest nicely with no rubbing, with even more support than the load lifters and sternum strap otherwise provide. The only place we did have some rubbing was on the backside of the arms from the shoulder straps while wearing short sleeves. They're wider than on many other bags, which supports a heavy load but can be a little irritating. However, it didn’t leave a mark and we don’t think it’s anything that should keep you from picking up this bag.

Why We Like It
  • It has all the features we love on its bigger sibling in a package built for shorter trips and smaller frames
  • There’s a well-organized admin panel so you can leave an extra tech kit behind
What You Should Know
  • It can be tricky to keep track of what zipper pull opens which compartment
  • The hip belt is sold separately, though we recommend it for comfort
See Full Review & Buying Options
3. Osprey Fairview 40
Osprey Fairview 40 Review

Best For: Bang For Your Buck

While you’ll want to prioritize investing in a good travel backpack, the Osprey Fairview 40 won’t break the bank and includes features we find on higher-priced bags. There’s a large top pocket for small gear like your phone and keys (with a clip to hold them), along with our toiletry bag for easy access at airport security. It hangs into the main compartment but is completely flat if you don’t fill it. When packing, we like to wedge our shoes into the bottom of the bag to give it more structure before filling it with the rest of the packing cubes we used in our test. This 40L bag has so much room that we had no issue packing up our five days’ worth of gear with room to spare. There’s enough room for at least one more packing cube, plus space in the front pocket for an extra layer, water bottle, or umbrella. You can even attach the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview Travel Daypack if you want to connect an extra bag for exploring at your destination.

It’s very long on short torsos. Still, we find it quite comfortable after adjusting the harness system lower on the bag (thereby raising the backpack on your back) and engaging the sternum strap, load lifters, and hip belt, which do a great job of supporting the weight without rubbing uncomfortably. However, the backpack bounces a bit as you walk. The airy back panel is suspended off the bag’s frame, providing great airflow on a warm day, but we recommend wearing a thicker shirt when carrying this bag. The harness system can be rough on delicate clothing, so do yourself a favor and leave the rayon shirts for a non-travel day.

Why We Like It
  • It’s designed for women and has an easily adjustable torso to find the right fit for your body
  • Internal compression straps hold gear in place in the main compartment
What You Should Know
  • It lacks a dedicated bottle pocket, and the front pocket is open for stashing gear inside
  • The harness system may be a bit rough for more delicate clothing
See Full Review & Buying Options
4. Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 30L
Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 30L Review

Best For: Durability

Whether traveling for a long weekend or months at a time, you want to make sure your travel backpack can take what life throws at it. Tortuga’s proprietary SHELL200 fabric has a 200-denier recycled polyester outer layer, a 45° recycled polyester cross-ply, and a recycled ripstop polyester backing that’s up to the task, with a heft and thickness similar to X-Pac, though it's softer and lighter than that material. The YKK zippers are water-resistant, too, in case your vacation starts in the rain. The harness system on this smaller bag mirrors the larger 40L version. However, this is the best travel backpack for women looking for durable materials because it is adjustable for shorter torsos. Our tester with a 17-inch torso reported that the bag sits right at her waist when properly adjusted down. It makes the bag a bit top-heavy and feels a bit like being pulled backward, but it’s not uncomfortable. Plus, all the other supporting features (hip belt, sternum strap) fit nicely and keep the bag from bouncing when you walk.

All the packing cubes and pouches we used in our test fit the main compartment exactly. The full clamshell opening makes it easy to access, and there are more pockets to fill with small accessories in the front admin panel if you want to leave your tech kit behind or, more likely, have more gear you want to pack. There are pockets on the hip belt, and we could squeeze an iPhone 13 Mini inside, but they're a better fit for lip balm and hand sanitizer for the airport.

Why We Like It
  • It pairs the bigger version’s thickly padded harness system with a more tameable size for those with smaller frames
  • The material is less crunchy than X-Pac but just as durable
What You Should Know
  • The harness system is so great that it’s nearly overkill for the bag’s size
  • It gets warm after a while, but you can feel air running down the middle channel
See Full Review & Buying Options
5. Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack Review

Best For: Water resistance

The best travel backpack for women traveling to rainier destinations or who just want to be prepared is one that can take care of itself in the elements. Even before we get to the included rain cover, the Allpa 35L protects your gear with TPU-coated 1000D polyester for extreme durability. Inside is a nice mix of pockets and open space that’s easy to fill with cubes and pouches. The laptop compartment includes a smaller tablet sleeve, so we have no issue slipping two devices inside, and the top pocket is spacious enough for our toiletry kit, plus some other gear in the included pockets. The main compartment is divided into two parts, with two small mesh pockets and one large one against the front, and a bucket-style space on the back with compression straps and a zipper mesh panel to hold all your gear in place. It handled our packing cubes and kits with room to spare.

However, while online users say it’s comfortable to carry and doesn’t overwhelm a small frame, we found some caveats. There are no load lifters, and if you put the sternum strap up high enough to provide adequate support, it starts to pull at your traps. It feels a bit top heavy and like it’s pulling you backward, although most of that goes away once you begin to walk. We like that the hip belt sits right at the waist of shorter-torsoed users and that nothing rubbed or chaffed during our test. And we really love the space and organization. We just wish we didn’t feel like we needed to book a massage after taking it off.

Why We Like It
  • In addition to the TPU exterior, it includes a rain cover for travel to wetter areas
  • The harness system is easy to tuck away when you want to put it in the overhead bin
What You Should Know
  • Taller users find the hip belt less functional
  • Only the hip belt has strap keepers
See Full Review & Buying Options
6. Eagle Creek Tour Travel Pack 40L
Eagle Creek Tour Travel Pack 40L Review

Best For: Spacious capacity

If you’re a frequent traveler, there’s a good chance you already have packing cubes, pouches, and other organizational kits that you like to use. We do, so we understand wanting to use the gear you’ve invested in, and the Eagle Creek Tour Travel Pack is great for that. There is so much space in the main compartment that we fit all our gear easily inside, keeping the toiletry bag up at the top for easy access when we’re at the TSA line and popping the tech kit and hat in the lower front pocket. We like that the front compartment is split into a smaller pocket on top and a larger one on the bottom for different gear. Plus, there are toggles on the end of the zippers to these pockets that you can button through the face fabric to keep them from opening accidentally. Inside, a mesh pocket along the front panel provides even more room for bits and bobs you can't fit elsewhere, and an expansion zipper gives you an extra 5L of space, making this the best travel backpack for women who like to shop on vacation. So, all of us.

You can get this bag in two sizes, and we tested the S/M, of course, since it’s for more petite users. Nothing rubbed uncomfortably during our sweaty test walk with the bag, although the bag still feels quite heavy when fully packed. There are load lifters and a hip belt on this bag, but they don’t add a lot of support, and we had to fiddle around with the sternum strap to find the right balance of support without pulling too tightly across our tester’s chest.

Why We Like It
  • You can adjust the entire harness system by repositioning the hook-and-loop portion inside the back panel
  • The shoulder straps attach with rivets for flexibility
What You Should Know
  • There’s not much organization, so it’s best if you already own a lot of packing cubes and pouches of your own
  • It takes some effort to smooth out the back panel and rainfly when you tuck it into the back panel, though the good news is they're attached
See Full Review & Buying Options
7. Able Carry Daybreaker 2
Able Carry Daybreaker 2 Review

Best For: Lightweight

Some of the best travel backpacks for women have beefy harness systems and thick materials for durability, but sometimes we want something a little lighter. Or a lot lighter, like the 25L Able Carry Daybreaker 2. When empty, it weighs 1.4 pounds (0.6 kg), so it’s comfortable to carry for a while, even fully packed. Now, we couldn't fit the Aer Split Kit in this smaller bag, although we squeezed everything else inside. However, if you want to use it for a 5-day trip, you can either cut down on your tech or toiletries or leave the extra pair of shoes behind and just use what’s on your feet. Then, presto, everything fits. The CORDURA® ripstop nylon is soft and flexible, so we find it easiest to fill from the bottom, zip partway, and then continue packing it to the top.

The harness system is more minimal yet still includes a sternum strap to support the weight. It’s easier to pass the toggles through the daisy chain loops to adjust it when the bag is off, so make sure you have it in the right spot before heading out the door. The back panel is stiff but comfortable, and the bottom of the bag hits above the waist even on shorter users, so we have no issue with rubbing there. The straps graze the back of your arms ever so slightly, and we miss breathable mesh on the back panel to cool things down. On the other hand, it can function as a great travel daypack for the rest of your trip so that you don’t have to bring a sling or second bag for everyday adventures.

Why We Like It
  • The harness system naturally shifts the bag’s weight higher for extra comfort
  • It’s truly amazing how much fits inside this 25L backpack
What You Should Know
  • Its minimal structure can get a bit floppy when you don’t stuff it full
  • After about 10 minutes, you’ll start to feel a little pulling on your shoulders
See Full Review & Buying Options
8. tomtoc Navigator-T66 Travel Laptop Backpack 40L
tomtoc Navigator-A82 Travel Laptop Backpack 40L Review

Best For: Budget travelers

After you pay for flights, accommodations, travel insurance, and new duds for your trip, there might not be a ton left over for a travel backpack. That’s OK, though, because the tomtoc Navigator-T66 Travel Laptop Backpack is a 40L bag that’s a lot less expensive than it seems like it should be. Its soft structure and rounded sides fit nicely on smaller frames, with back panel padding that almost feels like it’s giving you a big hug as it rides piggyback through the airport, which is why it's one of our tester's favorite travel backpacks for women. The breathable mesh covering that padding holds up to summer Florida heat and humidity, and the sternum strap slides on webbing strips for easy moving over your chest to find the right fit. There aren’t any load lifters or a hip belt, but we didn’t miss it on this bag, even when fully loaded for a five-day trip.

All our gear fits easily into this bag's spacious main compartment. You can get to it from the front duffle-style opening, and we find that’s the easiest way to pack. However, it’s also accessible through the laptop compartment on the rear, so you can pull out the cube or pouch you packed on the bottom without dislodging the rest of your gear. If you don’t fully pack it out, compression straps can cinch things down a bit, but when stuffed to the gills, this bag looks less like a boxy suitcase on your back than some other options.

Why We Like It
  • The cushy back panel is extremely comfortable
  • There’s main compartment access through the laptop compartment
What You Should Know
  • It can sag when you carry less gear
  • Zipper pulls sometimes interfere when closing other compartments
See Full Review & Buying Options
9. Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP35 Travel Backpack
Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP35 Travel Backpack Review

Best For: Anti-theft features

You want to feel excited about traveling to a new place, not anxious about the safety of your gear. Luckily, Pacsafe makes the best travel backpack for women hunting for anti-theft features in a travel backpack. Every zipper on the Venturesafe EXP35 Travel Backpack is lockable, even the one leading to the shoe compartment (ain’t nobody getting their hands on our Jimmy Choos!). You can double-lock the main compartment for extra security by securing the zippers together and popping them into the lockdown point. Plus, the recycled material has an underlying eXomesh to keep someone from slashing into your bag with a knife. Doing and undoing all those locks can get a bit tedious, as there are a lot of zippers on this pack, but you don’t have to do them all up if you’re feeling confident in your surroundings. Trust us, though, when we say you should practice using the locking features before leaving home—you don’t want to hold up the TSA line because you can’t unlock the zipper to the laptop compartment! We had more than enough room for all of our gear in this bag, with our shoes in the dedicated pouch on the bottom and toiletry bag in the top pocket.

However, with so many large zippers comes jangling when you walk, so you won’t be able to sneak out of the room without waking your friends to catch a redeye without a lot of care. And while the bag is big enough for a lot of gear, its harness system could use a little beefing up, since it starts to pull quickly at your shoulders and rides low on your back, even when pulling the load lifters as tight as possible. While we appreciate the PopNLock security clip to wrap the shoulder strap around a fixed object so it doesn't "walk away," it dug into our tester's side as she walked, so you’ll want to do as we say and not as we do and wear a thicker shirt that extends past your waist with this bag.

Why We Like It
  • Every compartment has lockable zippers
  • The stretchy sternum strap comfortably goes across your chest
What You Should Know
  • Security features hamper quick access
  • There are a lot of straps and zippers around this bag
See Full Review & Buying Options

Whether you’re a mom, daughter, sister, friend, or just shopping for one, we don’t think you’ll have any problem finding the best travel backpack for women among the options in this post. So, find your favorite, pack it up, and head out on your next adventure! We can’t wait to hear where you take your travel backpack—be sure to let us know.

May 31, 2024

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