by Diane Spicer
Girls backpacks are not simply smaller versions of your adult backpack.
That's why picking backpacks for kids is a combination of art and science.
Hiking girls need great backpacks, that's a fact.
So finding the best girls backpacks has sent you to this page, looking for tips.
Here's your strategy:
First think through why your girl is on the trail.
Then help her select a pack from your pared down list of suitable candidate backpacks.
the following features to create your list of backpacks for girls, and
then take a look at the recommended backpacks for dayhikes or
More interested in boys backpacks? Read this.
Here's a checklist of questions to answer before you hop online or drive to the nearest hiking gear store in your quest for suitable girls backpacks:
Your answers will dictate which type(s) of girls backpacks you need to look at, and how involved your girl needs to be in the final decision.
It's one thing to pull out a backpack at the trailhead and say "Here you go!".
Quite another to involve your girl in all of the phases of planning, and completing, a day hike or backpacking trip.
And that includes involving her in the process of looking at potential backpacks.
One Two words of caution:
As they say, "baby steps" at the beginning, until she begins to express genuine interest in her hiking gear.
Try to borrow or rent a backpack for the first few hikes, unless you choose one that can do double duty for hauling books and lunch to school.
And here's a thought: If the backpack can be "handed down" to siblings, cousins or social groups, you might want to pay a bit more attention to quality.
Let's divide the universe of girls backpacks into 3 big chunks:
The reasons for doing this include determining:
Nothing is worse than overpaying for a backpack that is outgrown quickly, or doesn't fit right. Even worse: one that falls apart after only a few times out on the trail.
Only you can decide whether you want to go with top name brands that spell quality, or if you'd rather purchase an inexpensive pack that could get re-purposed if hiking turns out to be "not her thing".
If the idea of having your hiking girl carry her own food, water and ten essentials on a hike is odious to you, don't read any further. Instead, get a larger, sturdier pack for yourself using these tips.
Still with me?
Then you must be in the frame of mind that encourages the little ones in your hiking pack to learn the ropes from an early age.
Only you can determine at what age it's appropriate to begin carrying a pack. With my own children, it was age 5 and up. That might be too old, or too young, for you.
Regardless of your girls' age, if you're in the market for a backpack for girls, there are 2 ways you can go:
Nothing says you can't start out with the first approach in car camping, and transition gracefully into the second approach using the girl's cues and curiosity, right?
So it basically boils down to this:
Do you want your girl to carry her teddy bear (a young hiker) on the trail, or her sleeping bag (a tween)?
Keep your answers in mind when you examine price points and durability, which are intertwined like moss and fungi in lichens.
The obvious answer is that it depends on the size of the girl.
But let's go down one more level of detail and think about this:
A tiny little pack might become frustrating when she gets a bit older and switches out her teddy bear for her field guide to birds.
A medium sized pack might be "fit for purpose" for dayhikes as well as short backpacking trips.
A large pack might be right for a girl who is in the higher percentiles for height and weight for her age, or who is asking to do more aggressive hiking trips.
Again, it circles back to talking with your girl and using your best guess about what she envisions for her trail time.
Factor in your own ability and willingness to carry everything, versus your desire to begin the gentle indoctrination toward self sufficiency.
Also note that with increasing size comes increased weight of the pack itself.
Ultralight girls backpacks are going to be pricey, but if you're committed to teaching her "go light" principles of hiking, you might want to take a look at them.
Here are some guidelines for backpack capacity.
As expected, larger volumes mean heavier packs, but you might
be pleasantly surprised at current weights.
On the low end: 8 - 12 liters. Great for short, simple dayhikes.
Medium range: 12 - 15 liters. Useful for carrying ten essentials.
On the high end: 30 - 75+ liters. Backpacking packs for sure.
Here's where it gets a bit sticky.
You want the pack to be comfortable, fit well, be large enough but not too large, and last for more than a few hikes.
But you probably don't want it to last for years and years and years (like your own pack), unless there are younger family members coming along in the hiking clan.
How much you are willing to pay +
how long you want to use the pack +
how rough on gear your particular girl happens to be
= the packs you have on your list to consider.
If you stick with high quality gear brands, you should be quite pleased with how many times the pack can be dropped in the mud, dragged along the trail, or used as a chair in the snow.
You can also go the other route for girls backpacks: buy the bare minimum pack and replace it every year when the zippers jam, the seams rip, or the the fabric frays.
The wisdom of this method?
The down side?
Because I only recommend what I've tried myself, I'll show you girls backpacks from brands that are good buys for different types of hiking.
For girls just starting out on a hiking trail (and I don't mean at a trail head, I mean in her hiking career at ages 5 - 8 years), why not start small, light, inexpensive yet fairly durable.
REI makes a great little pack that is only 12 ounces in weight, has a 12 liter capacity, an option to add a hydration reservoir, and is built from 420-denier nylon (that's a very good thing in terms of durability!).
For girls older than 8, or with longer torsos compared to their age group, a larger pack is required.
Here's one that features a 1.5 liter hydration system, which is a nice way to introduce her to the idea of carrying her own water on the trail. It also cuts down on the number of "I'm thirsty" stops because she regulates her own water intake. (Although you might need more "gotta pee" stops)
If your girl is up for a backpacking trip, it's essential that her pack can handle her sleeping bag along with her clothing and food.
Here's a pack that has an adjustable torso length to accommodate her growing body, and all of the features you'd demand in your own pack in terms of ventilation, strap adjustment, loading compartments, hip belt and shoulder strap comfort.
Don't be shy about picking a pack from the line-up of girls backpacks for your hiking girls.
Your likelihood of making a major mistake is zero if you stick to reputable gear vendors like REI. They have a great return policy!
A few trail tips when using girls backpacks:
And a few more trail tips for hiking with kids right here!
Before you go...
Thanks for getting the next generation out on the trail!
Best wishes for picking girls backpacks that gets your female pups into the hiking pack with ease and comfort.
If you purchase gear using the links on this page, you keep the Hiking For Her hiking tips free and available to all - without costing yourself one extra dime.
Your support is appreciated and vital to this website!
Thank you very much.
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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