When you carry all your gear on a multiday backpacking trip, having an uncomfortable pack can turn what should be an amazing adventure into a torturous ordeal. To ensure a memorable trip in the outdoors, make sure you have a pack that fits your body type. Petite women may have a tough time finding a pack that fits, but trying on different models and adhering to a few rules of thumb should help you find a pack that meets your needs.
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Shorter women don't necessarily need small packs, since pack size is determined not by height but by the length of your torso. Find your torso length by measuring from the bump at the base of your neck to the top of your pelvic bone, or iliac crest. This measurement determines if you need an extra-small, small, medium or large pack. In general, extra-small packs fit torsos up to 15 1/2 inches; small packs fit torsos from 16 to 17 1/2 inches; medium packs fit torsos from 18 to 19 1/2 inches; and large packs fit torsos more than 20 inches long.
Petite women often do well with backpacks designed specifically for women. These packs have shorter frame lengths, hip belts and shoulder straps designed to fit a woman's curves, and a lower center of gravity and are narrower across the shoulders. Regardless of which type of pack you want, visit an outdoors outfitter store in person to try on the different models. You won't know how a pack feels until you've tried putting it on your back. If purchasing a pack online, make sure it comes with a return policy in case it doesn't fit.
When trying a pack, fill the backpack with items in the store to mimic the effects of carrying a fully loaded backpack for the closest approximation of a real backpacking trip. The hip belt should rest on the top of your hips, taking most or all of the weight off your shoulders. Walk around the store wearing the boots that you'd wear backpacking with the loaded pack. If it's uncomfortable in the store, it'll probably be extremely uncomfortable five miles into a trail.
Petite women who want to avoid carrying a heavy load can pack light, or even jump in on the ultralight backpacking trend. Numerous manufacturers sell backpacks designed to minimize weight of the pack itself. These packs also tend to be smaller, which limits the size and number of items and thus the resulting total weight of the pack; however, make sure it's big enough for all your essentials. If you want to cut back on every ounce, you can employ tricks of the ultralight backpacking trend such as cutting the handle off your toothbrush and dining only on dried food.