Do I REALLY Need a Women's-Specific Backpack?

Women’s-specific gear.

Fad or fact?

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One of the reasons we love the outdoors is that it is a level playing ground. The trail doesn’t differentiate between sexes. But that’s in terms of ability.

Biologically and physiologically, we are different and this is what warrants women’s-specific gear.

Generally speaking, here are some differences (for readability’s sake, this is not a comprehensive breakdown):

  • a female stores more body fat than a male, due to oestrogen/childbearing

  • the widest part of a female’s body, on a horizontal axis, is at the hips compared to at the shoulders for a male, again due to childbearing

  • a female’s centre of mass or gravity is lower than that of a male’s; approximately the centre of the pelvis vs. the centre of the chest

  • a male’s sacrum (large triangular bone at the bottom of the spine, at lower back) is longer, narrower and straighter

And now we will go into the gear that has evolved to accommodate these differences.

BACKPACKS

The North Face Banchee is a women’s-specific pack

The North Face Banchee is a women’s-specific pack

If you had your thinking hat on as you read through the differences above, it might now make sense to you why there are women’s-specific backpacks. Due to females typically having shorter torsos and narrower shoulders and carrying the load differently, a women’s-specific backpack may therefore:

The advantages are convincing but interestingly, our She Went Wild community are almost perfectly divided when it comes to women’s-specific backpacks:

She Went Wild UK Facebook Group

She Went Wild UK Facebook Group

She Went Wild Aussie + NZ Facebook Group

She Went Wild Aussie + NZ Facebook Group

SLEEPING BAGS + MATS

The main drawcard of women’s-specific sleeping bags and mats is, like backpacks, the slimmer fit around the shoulders but wider flare around the hips.

Surveys have also shown that females feel the cold more and this does have some physiological backing; with more body fat, a female has less muscle mass. Fat is what conserves heat but muscle is what generates heat. Moreover, effective heat conservation means drawing blood away from the extremities to preserve more vital organs and body parts. So that extra insulation in a women’s-specific sleeping bag footbox? We’ll take it!

CLOTHING

The key difference in women’s-specific clothing is that pieces will tend to be tapered at the waist. Why is this important? Let’s use the example of base layers. The purpose of base layers is actually not to keep you warm, but to prevent you from getting cold and they do this by wicking away sweat to avoid evaporation. Base layers need to be snug against your skin to work effectively. If you’re a female and you’ve ever thrown on a male’s top, you likely will have noticed how loose it hangs around your waist. This might be comfortable but if this is how your base layer fits, it is not going to be working for you!

It can be hard to ascertain what exists for optimised functionality and what exists to increase marketability and profitability. There’s no denying that some brands and gear will pander to sex but when it comes to backpacks, sleeping bags and mats and some types of clothing, the argument for women’s-specific gear does have some grounds.

But of course, everyone is different.

Just because you’re a woman and you purchase a backpack in its women’s-specific model rather than the unisex style will not automatically guarantee a perfect fit. This is why, even amidst the ever-growing popularity of online shopping, we still advocate for getting yourself down to an outfitter, seeking advice and trying everything on + out.

Again, there is no one-size-fits-all but we hope this short piece has given you some food for thought.

If you have a favourite piece of women’s-specific gear, please leave a comment below!