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How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack for Women

Most travel gear is designed for men. One size does not fit all, and male-centric solutions don't always work.

Travel backpacks are no exception. If a backpack is designed without considering women's proportions, you might end up with a back panel that's way too long or a chest strap that hits at juuuuust the wrong place. Boob-squishing backpacks are fun for nobody.

Tortuga's travel backpacks are designed for both women AND men. They're adjustable to fit your body, ergonomic for a comfortable carry, and organized so you can quickly find your stuff. We recommend the Setout and Outbreaker backpacks for most travelers and the Homebase if you prefer to pack light. 

Prevent Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain

Even though you won't be spending hours trekking through the mountains with it, you need a ergonomic backpack that fits a smaller torso.

Buy a backpack that can be adjusted to fit comfortably on you. A man's travel backpack might not fit properly. 

Adjustable shoulder straps are a must for smaller torso sizes. If you're on the shorter side, choose a heigh-adjustable suspension system like the Outbreaker Backpack. Move the Outbreaker’s shoulder straps up and down to find the right carry for your size.


Tightening the shoulder straps will help the bag ride higher on your back, not sag down low like a teenager's school backpack. Carrying the load higher on your back will prevent it from pulling on your shoulders and causing you pain.

Choose a travel backpack with a padded hip belt for the most comfortable carry. Belts may not look as cool, but they are critical for weight distribution. 

As you adjust the belt, you'll feel this change immediately, like a literal load off your back. Carrying some of your pack's weight on your hips can greatly reduce neck, shoulder, and back pain.

Bring Everything You Need

An extra pair of shoes, or a dressy outfit, shouldn’t require you to pay airlines’ baggage fees. A maximum-size carry on backpack's generous packing space allows you to bring everything you need for city travel - without checking a bag. You’ll even have room for souvenirs. Choose the Outbreaker 45 or the Setout for the most possible packing space.

For a sample packing list for a carry on sized travel backpack for women, click here.

Quickly Grab What You Need... Without Unpacking

When you're on the go, nothing is worse than having to stop what you're doing, unpack everything from your bag, and dig through all of your clothes to find one thing. Most backpacks are top-loading, so this is a common problem.

For greater access and organization, opt for a front-loading backpack. Front-loading (or panel-loading) bags open like a suitcase where the entire front of the pack swings open. The best combination of accessibility of a suitcase with the portability of a backpack.

If you haven't used something like your swimsuit in a few days, it may fall to the bottom of your bag. With a traditional, top-loading bag, you'd have to take out everything else to find it. With a Tortuga travel backpack, you just unzip the front cover, grab your bikini, and go.

What Size Travel Backpack Should Women Buy?

Travel backpacks should fit within airlines' carry on guidelines. Most airlines allow carry on bags up to 22" tall x 14" wide x 9" deep.

Use a carry on bag to make your trip easier and more efficient. Go straight to the security line at your departure airport then walk off your flight and out the door at your arrival airport. Don't waste your time checking, or claiming, your bags.

Carry on backpacks can also be kept with you at all times, so your luggage is never at the mercy of your airline. Giant "backpacker" backpacks that can be as large as 80 liters and aren't ideal for any city traveler - women included.

For comparison, a carry on sized backpack holds 35 or 45 liters, depending on which size is right for you. Using a carry on sized backpack means that you can maneuver through your trip faster without the physical strain caused by carrying too much stuff.

When choosing a women's travel backpack, find one that's designed with you in mind. The best pack should be carry on sized, comfortable, and accessible. Compare travel backpacks here to find the right bag for your trip.

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