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Beth… On Climbing Packs for women

Beth… On Climbing Packs for women

waist clipThis is the second in our ‘Beth…On’ blog series.

Many companies have a back pack range especially for women, which is great. We are biologically different from men therefore our shape is different. Albeit the fact that no two women are the same, generally speaking women have wider hips, narrower shoulders and…well, boobs.

I am a self-proclaimed bag lady.  I love’ em. I’m not talking designer hand bags here. Shoulder bags, duffel bags, back backs, the odd “going out” bag, bag for all my pens (not joking), carrying-work-out sbags, cycling bags, running bags, work bags, travel bags….you get the idea. So I was very excited when I decided I needed a climbing bag. Climbing bags are good for multi-pitch climbs where you are unlikely to return to the ground you departed from or climbing trips that involve walking, such as alpine trips and mountaineering.

beth high climb

My research proved quite confusing and shocking.  There are hardly any specific climbing bags for women out there.  A question I posted on the UKC forums asking about climbing bags for females met overall agreement by both females and males that there seems to be a real lack in this area.  The forums also unearthed some good advice and decided to put a few bags to the test.  There are only one or two climbing packs designed specifically for women, so much of the reviewing is with non- gender specific but in smaller sizes.  Each of the following products have been tried and tested by me.  For reference I am 5’ 4”, a very British pear shape with a small chest, small waist and slightly bigger hips.


PodSac Alpine 40l (size 1)

‘Shoulder strap size was too large’

As my fella has a Podsac Black Ice which he raves about I decided to give this a go. It is smaller and lightweight and a great all round climbing rucksack. It is small enough to carry whilst climbing and you are able to look up with a helmet on without a problem. The website suggests size 1 is for females or small males. I had to return this bag due to the shoulder strap size which is clearly the same for the whole range therefore was too large for me.The shoulder straps are filled with foam like material which can be quite stiff and on me they stuck out so I couldn’t raise my arms above my head without discomfort. I would however recommend giving it a go in a shop because apart from the straps this was a great bag. It was a roll top, providing loads of extra space and had rope straps and all the other loops and hoops you would expect for climbing gear!

I wrote to Podsac about this and they are going to look into producing female sacks in the future!  (Womenclimb says ‘Go Beth!!’)

Osprey Mutant 38

‘Chest Strap and hip belt designed for narrow hip and broader shoulder’

There is no female version of this bag however they do have a small size. I love Osprey. This bag in the small size is actually a very good back size for women, I just found the chest strap and hip belt was still catering for the narrow hip and broader shoulder. If your shape is such then this bag would be great for you, definitely worth a go. It’s lightweight and has grab handles for belay ledges, pole loops, an adjustable floating lid and compressions straps on the side so it sits a lot closer to the back.

rolltop2PodSac Black Ice size 1 42+10

‘Brilliant bag, but slightly too long for a small back’

This is a brilliant bag. In size 1 it just about fits. The good aspects of this bag are its durability, it is hard as nails. It has a large roll top and rope straps at the top of the bag. The hip strap also detaches making ascending with a harness and the bag easier, however the hip strap naturally sits higher than the climbing harness so you can wear both and take extra gear on the loops on the bag strap. Unfortunately the bag was still slightly too long in the back for me however if you are a bit taller this might work well for you. It is also quite expensive. My fella however would say it is worth every penny.

Osprey Talon 44 Backpack review6Osprey Talon 33/44  

‘Second Favourite Bag’

Again not female specific and not designed for climbing, however this was my second favourite bag. It is so unbelievable comfortable for a rucksack and although it isn’t necessarily for women the sizing is great. Due to the flexible straps it almost moulds to your specific shape. The only reason I didn’t buy this was its durability. The fabric is quite thin and I didn’t think it would withstand being chucked about as I tend to do, especially with having to carry poles, crampons and the like. If you don’t plan on carrying much equipment but still want a bag to climb with this is worth a look!

waist strapDeuter Guide Lite 28+5   

‘This is the one!  A female-specific climbing sack, which has it all’

I tried this on at the same time as the Talon 33/44 and I was completely torn. This bag, for me, has it all. Well most. It is lightweight, good sizing for female form (it is a female specific climbing sack!). It is smaller than the others but with creative thinking you can take all the essentials with you. I carry harness, shoes, chalk bag, waterproofs, rope, some gear (usually 5-10 draws, set nuts, few cams lings and screwgates), lunch and a full hydration sac.

deuter hoopI have not yet taken it on multiple day trips where I need to carry more but for one day multi-pitch climbing it is brilliant. The shoulder straps allow free arms and the hip strap sits comfortably, it also folds back and you can clip them together around the back of the bag to make harness access easier. There are no rope straps however but I don’t see this as a problem as I usually put the rope in the bag of secure it by tightening the lid. Also it comes with a hair bobble with a big flower on it. As a women this is one of my primary needs.

Well there you have it, 5 bags tried and tested. As you can see in the five there are only three brands. This is mainly due to recommendations from other people and my own research. There are loads of brands out there but actually not that many that do climbing specific in sizes suitable for women.  Oh and why oh why do women packs have to be pink and purple!!!?? The Deuter Guide lite is a lovely bright yellow.

Happy shopping

Beth Thomas

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