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Best Women’s Backpacking Gear of 2024

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Best Women's Gear

Women’s Backpacking Gear

In the past few years there’s been a long awaited shift toward gender equity and accessibility in the outdoor industry. Now more than ever, companies are getting serious about designing quality, high-functioning outdoor gear for women. Women have different body shapes, move differently, sleep a bit colder, and have unique hygiene considerations. Not every piece of backpacking gear needs to be gender-specific, but women often find that gear tailored to them works better. Below we outline several key differences in women-specific gear and recommend some of our favorite items.


Do I Really Need Women-Specific Gear?

Yes and no. When it comes to buying gear of any kind, your decision should ultimately come down to what will work best for you. For example, some women find that men’s or unisex backpacks actually fit their bodies better, so it’s important to consider all options. In the end, there’s rarely one clear “best” choice for everyone, and you know your body better than anybody else.


Why Hike Light?

As you look through our recommendations below, you’ll see that we’re big fans of lightweight backpacking gear. The reason is simple: The lighter your backpack, the easier (and more fun in our opinion) your backpacking trip will be. So whether you’re planning an epic thru-hike or a quick overnight jaunt, keeping pack weight down is key. Most of our gear recommendations below balance weight, cost, and comfort. Our ultimate goal is to keep our packs as light as possible without sacrificing safety, comfort, or functionality. Lightweight gear does tend to cost more, so if you’re looking for budget friendly options, take a look through our Gear Guide for more recommendations.


Women’s Backpacking Packs

When buying a backpack, most women find that women-specific packs offer a more comfortable fit. Women’s packs tend to have shorter torso lengths, ergonomic s-shaped shoulder straps (which contour the chest better), and anatomical hipbelts to transfer weight to the hips comfortably. When choosing a backpack size, make sure to measure your torso length and hip size before ordering. Many of the backpacks we recommend are lightweight backpacks, meaning they have more minimal frames and tend to be a bit smaller than heavy traditional packs. This style of backpack is excellent for reducing overall weight, but won’t work well for carrying heavy loads (usually over 35-40 lbs). For more tips on findinding the right backpack, checkout our Backpack Buyers Guide.

Stock image of Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55

Best blend of weight & durability

Price: $379

Weight: 2 lb. 3.6 oz.

Volume: 55 L

Max Weight Rec.: 35 lb.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Practically waterproof
  • Very durable for the weight
  • Spacious hipbelt pockets
  • Spacious front pocket

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not as padded
  • Torso isn't adjustable

We’ve been hiking with the HMG Southwest 55 (and Southwest 40) since 2013, and we love their exceptional blend of low weight, high weather-resistance, and durability. The Southwest packs are some of the lightest framed backpacks on the market, so they’re perfect for hikers wanting to go lighter while maintaining a good level of support.

The DCH fabric of the Southwest is fully waterproof and all the seams are sealed to keep out water, so this pack is ready to hit the trail in any weather. Senior Gear Analyst, Casey Handley, used the Southwest for her very soggy thru-hike of Vermont’s Long Trail, and – despite getting rained on almost every day – everything inside the pack stayed perfectly dry. DCH also has one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any backpack, so the Southwest is exceptionally tough for how light it is.

The design of the Southwest is fairly simple, but we find the organization just right for keeping a load of lightweight and compact gear in check. The side water bottle pockets are large and easy to reach, the main opening is wide and makes it easy to pack, and – best of all – the front pocket on the Southwest is absolutely ginormous. The cavernous front pocket is made with a solid swath of DCH fabric instead of mesh like most other packs, so it’s not going to snag and rip as easily as others. It can also accommodate a surprising amount of gear. We use it to keep extra layers easily accessible, isolate wet gear from dry stuff inside the pack body, and store excess food after we’ve been overly ambitious during a resupply.

The Southwest comes in three sizes – 40 liters, 55 liters, and 70 liters – all of which we’ve tested. Most backpackers will likely prefer the Southwest 55 since it strikes a good balance between being large enough for extra bulk when the weather or terrain call for it but also small enough to remain light and stable when fully packed. Ultralight hikers who really have their gear dialed in will love the compact size and low weight of the Southwest 40. And backpackers heading out on winter excursions should look at the Southwest 70 since it has ample room for accommodating bulky clothing layers and a winter sleeping bag.

Full review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest

Stock image of Osprey Atmos 65

Osprey Atmos 65 / Aura AG 65

Best backpacking backpack for carrying 35+ lb.

Price: $340

Weight: 4 lb. 10 oz.

Volume: 65 L

Max Weight Rec.: 50 lb.

Pros

  • Can comfortably hold heavier loads
  • Breathable & well-padded frame
  • Above-average durability
  • Sturdy frame transfers weight to hips well
  • Very comfortable suspension
  • Plenty of room for extra/bulky gear
  • Lots of organization
  • Very easy to access water bottles

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 (Men’s) / Aura AG 65 (Women’s) packs hold 35-50 pounds much more comfortably than any lightweight backpack, and they’re still lighter than many comparable traditional options.

Hikers who are just starting out or who prefer to carry a few extra luxuries will find that the Atmos and Aura have a generous amount of padding and plenty of pockets to organize gear. The inside of these backpacks can be accessed from the side, the bottom, or the top lid, so necessities are always close at hand.

These backpacking packs are also equipped with Osprey’s signature AntiGravity suspension system, which transfers weight to your hips incredibly well and takes the strain off your shoulders and back. If you prefer to prioritize comfort over saving weight, the Atmos and Aura are tough to beat. 

That said, if the ample cushioning and structured frame appeal to you, but you want an overall lighter pack – check out the Osprey Atmos LT and Aura LT. These packs omit some of the bells and whistles in favor of weight and monetary savings.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50

Most comfortable ultralight backpack

Price: $255

Weight: 1 lb. 14 oz.

Volume: 50L

Max Weight Rec.: 30 lbs.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Durable
  • Well-padded & comfortable
  • Convenient SitLight pad
  • Can remove components to reduce weight

Cons

  • Front pocket mesh not very durable

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 is one of the most padded ultralight backpacks on the market, so it’s perfect for lightweight backpackers who prioritize comfort. There are lighter packs out there, but we haven’t come across one that compares to the cushiness of the Gorilla.

The Gorilla has an affordable price point, a perfectly sized capacity, and an adaptable design, so we think many types of backpackers will enjoy this pack. From those just starting out on their lightweight journey to seasoned ultralighters looking for a bump in comfort from more minimal packs, the Gorilla is a well-rounded pack with all the features you need and none that you don’t. One of our favorite details of the Gorilla is its removable SitLight pad, which acts as back padding while you hike and a cushy seat around camp.

We find that the 50L capacity is the sweet spot for a wide array of trips. It’s big enough that we can pack along some extras like a backpacking chair or a hammock on warm-weather trips, but not so big that we struggle to fill it. And with a wide array of useful pockets to organize it all in – a large stretchy outer mesh pocket, roomy hipbelt pockets, two huge side pockets, and a small stash pocket on the lid – you can keep all of your necessities within reach. But if you need a bit more space, we also love the Mariposa 60 which is pretty much the same as the Gorilla with slightly different side pockets.

Check out our full review of the Gorilla here.

Osprey Exos & Eja 48

Affordable & supportive lightweight backpack

Price: MSRP: $240

Weight: 2 lbs. 12 oz.

Volume: 48L

Max Weight Rec.: 35 lbs.

Pros

  • Very affordable for the quality
  • Lightweight
  • Very comfortable
  • Good back ventilation
  • Very easy to access water bottles
  • Adjustable torso

Cons

  • Hip belt pockets are a bit small

The Osprey Exos 48 (Men’s) and Eja 48 (Women’s) are long-time favorites of lightweight backpackers because of their comfort, well-ventilated back panel, and approachable price.

The tensioned-mesh frame of the Exos and Eja is sturdier than most lightweight pack frames and can carry heavier loads more comfortably. The newest iteration of the Exos/Eja brought back hip belt pockets – a sorely missed component of the previous iteration – but we find them to be a bit smaller than we prefer. Still, they’re adequate for storing small, commonly used items, like chapstick, a lighter, and a snack.

If you’re looking for the best balance of comfort, weight, and capacity you’ve found it with the Exos and Eja. For hikers who need more space, the larger Exos 58 / Eja 58 have 10L more capacity, but are otherwise the same packs.

Take a look at our full review of the Exos/Eja here.

Stock image of ULA Circuit

ULA Circuit

Supportive & durable ultralight backpack

Price: $280

Weight: 2 lb. 5.3 oz.

Volume: 68 L (feels closer to 50 L)

Max Weight Rec.: 35 lb.

Pros

  • Very durable for the weight
  • Ultralight
  • More comfortable than many other lightweight packs
  • Large capacity for the weight
  • Well-constructed with details dialed in

Cons

  • A bit heavier than most ultralight packs

After thru-hiking thousands of miles with the ULA Circuit we can confidently say it’s an exceptionally durable backpack for long distance hiking. If you have your pack weight below 30 pounds the Circuit’s frame will carry your load very comfortably.

CleverHiker Gear Analyst, Heather Eldridge, has used the Circuit for her thru-hikes of the PCT and CDT as well as many small trips. She loves this bag because it has the perfect balance of durability and low weight – making it through multiple thru-hikes of over 2,000 miles each and then still going is no easy feat for an ultralight backpack. 

New for 2024, the Circuit now comes with a more durable mesh front pocket, it’s compatible with ULA’s removable Y-strap and bottom strap, and – to be quite frank – it got a much-needed aesthetic makeover. 

All the little design elements on the Circuit really make it shine on trail – large, convenient pockets; light, durable fabric; and a minimal, yet highly effective suspension system. The giant hipbelt pockets keep essentials and snacks easily accessible, which are worth their weight in gold for hikers spending long days putting up big miles.

This backpack has an exceptional balance of weight, comfort, and durability, so it’s no wonder the ULA Circuit is consistently called out as a favorite by thru-hikers.

Women’s Sleeping Bags

Buying a women’s sleeping bag is one of the most important purchases you can make to ensure a warm and comfortable night’s rest in the backcountry. In general, women sleep colder than men (often by about 10 degrees), so it’s important get a bag with a warm enough temperature rating for the conditions you plan to encounter. To account for this, women’s bags are usually warmer and have more insulation in the footbox and torso. Women also have different body shapes than men, so women’s sleeping bags tend to be wider in the hips and narrower in the shoulders. This extra precision will ensure your sleeping bag fits comfortably and optimizes warmth. For more tips on findinding the right sleeping bag, check out our Sleeping Bags Buyers Guide.

Stock photo of the REI Magma 15 Sleeping Bag with a white background

REI Magma 15 & 30

Warm Sleeping Bag with Inclusive Sizing

Price: $429 / $379

Comfort Rating: 21°F / 34°F

Weight: 2 lb. 3.6 oz. / 1 lb. 8.4 oz.

Fill Power: 850

Fill Weight: 23.3 oz. / 12.7 oz.

Pros

  • Large variety of size options
  • Generous draft collar blocks chill well
  • No upcharge for long/wide sizes
  • Good price for the warmth
  • Stash pocket
  • No snag zipper

Cons

  • Less spacious in the hood and leg area

The REI Magma 15 and Magma 30 have the most extensive size-run we’ve seen offered for sleeping bags, and we’re really excited about the move to provide inclusive sizing. These unisex bags are warmer than their predecessors and have a refined fit that is comfortable for a wide variety of body shapes.

The Magma 15 is comfort-rated to 21°F (as opposed to the 28°F comfort rating of the previous unisex version). A sleeping bag’s EN/ISO Comfort Rating is the temperature at which most cold sleepers will remain comfortable, so those who have a hard time staying warm should be cozy in this bag well below freezing. Warm sleepers can certainly take the Magma 15 into the teens (provided you’re using a well-insulated sleeping pad), so it’s a great winter bag for all.

The Magma 30 is now comfort-rated at 34°F – the previous unisex model was rated at 39°F – so it’s a bit more versatile than the past iteration. The average cold sleeper can expect to stay reasonably warm right down to freezing, and a warm sleeper should remain cozy even as temperatures approach 25°F. 

Part of what makes the Magma bags so warm is their trimmed-down design. The true mummy shape is highly efficient because it eliminates the dead space your body would otherwise have to warm up. Though there’s still some room to move in the Magma bags, the leg girth is a bit narrower than many similar models. Some hikers may find the space a bit tight, but there are wide models available for each length option (short, medium, long) for those who need a little more wiggle room.

These backpacking sleeping bag models are highly compressible for efficient packing. Both versions of the Magma regularly find their way into our backpacks depending on the season, but which temperature rating should you choose? If you’re a cold sleeper or you’re looking for a sleeping bag that’ll excel on high alpine and winter adventures, the Magma 15 is an excellent choice. Warm sleepers and those who do most of their backpacking in summer and shoulder seasons will be better off with the lighter-weight Magma 30.

Full Review: REI Magma 15 & 30

Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt 20

Best backpacking quilt overall

Price: $345

Weight: 1 lb. 6.5 oz.

Fill Power: 850 or 950

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Well-priced for the quality
  • Packable
  • Opens fully like a blanket Includes pad connectors
  • Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified

Cons

  • Many won’t find it warm enough for sub-freezing trips
  • Custom orders have a long lead time (order a stock quilt if you’re in a hurry)

The Enlightened Equipment Revelation has been one of our go-to backpacking quilts for years due to its versatile design, excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, and great price for the quality.

The Revelation can be left open like a blanket on warm nights or cinched up tight when the temperature drops, so it’s a good pick for hikers looking for something they can use for all but the coldest of trips. We’ve found that the 20°F model keeps us warm to right around freezing or just a little below, but cold sleepers may prefer the 10°F model for the extra warmth. 

CleverHiker Founder, Dave Collins, swears by the Revelation and has taken it on many of his most epic backpacking trips. From the chilly peaks of Glacier National Park to the much warmer twists of Marble Canyon in Death Valley National Park, the Revelation’s flexible build readily adapts to the conditions.

You can choose to custom order a Revelation to your desired color, size, and temperature rating. We recommend bumping up a size in length and width for full coverage on chilly nights if you sleep cold, or you could consider the EE Enigma quilt. The Enigma has a footbox that’s sewn closed (like a sleeping bag footbox), so it retains a lot more warmth than the Revelation. CH Managing Editor, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, prefers the Enigma, and he’s trusted it for many big backpacking trips – including his CDT thru-hike. 

Quality like this will usually set you back a pretty penny, but the Revelation comes in at an amazing price when compared to similar quilts. We’ve been using ours for years, and it’s still one of the best investments we’ve made in our backpacking setup.

Full review: Enlightened Equipment Revelation

Feathered Friends Swallow YF 20 / Egret YF 20

Best Sleeping Bag for Backpacking Overall

Price: $529 / $509

Comfort Rating: N/A

Weight: 1 lb. 12.7 oz. / 1 lb. 13 oz.

Fill Power: 900+

Fill Weight: 16.8 oz. / 17.3 oz.

Pros

  • Ultralight for a mummy bag
  • Highly packable
  • Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Large hood can accommodate a pillow
  • Snag-free zipper
  • RDS certified

Cons

  • Expensive

The Feathered Friends Swallow YF 20 and women’s Egret YF 20 are some of the highest quality down bags for backpacking on the market. CleverHiker Senior Gear Analyst, Casey Handley, has used the Egret YF in frigid conditions – including a string of 20-degree nights in Utah, a winter campout in Nevada’s Sheep Mountain Range, and a late-season hike on Broken Top Mountain in Oregon with snow on the ground. 

These models are very light, feel soft against the skin, and are filled with responsibly sourced 900+ fill-power goose down – which is about as nice as down comes. This is one of the few instances where we would actually trust a 20-degree bag to keep us warm when the temperature drops to 20 degrees (Feathered Friends doesn’t list EN temperature ratings, but we’ve found their ratings to be more conservative than most of the competition). 

One of the biggest features that makes them so warm is the very generous draft tube – a down-filled tube that blocks cool air from entering through the zipper. Many premium sleeping bags include a draft tube, but the one on the Swallow and Egret is more robust than others and really locks in the warmth. Other warmth-preserving features include a draft collar around the neck and hood and a fitted but comfortable cut that eliminates dead space inside the bags.

Certainly the high price is one of the first things you’ll notice about the Swallow YF and Egret YF, but we can assure you they’re worth every penny if you’ll use them often. Ounce-counting backpackers might even prefer the Swallow UL and Egret UL which cost a bit more but provide the same reliable warmth as their YF counterparts at an even lower weight.

Women’s Sleeping Pads

Backpacking sleeping pads tend to be mostly unisex by design, though some companies do make women-specific models. Most women find that unisex pads work perfectly well, but women do tend to sleep colder than men, so it’s important to choose a sleeping pad with a high R-value, which will provide more insulation from the cold ground. We generally recommend air pads over foam pads because they tend to be far more comfortable. And similarly to our other gear recommendations, we prefer lightweight sleeping pads to keep our packs comfortable on the trail. For more tips on finding the right sleeping pad, check out our Sleeping Pad Buyer’s Guide.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pad Overall

Price: $210

Weight: 13 oz.

R-Value: 4.5

Thickness: 3 in.

Pros

  • Exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Above-average comfort
  • Significantly quieter than previous model
  • Durable for the weight
  • Highly packable

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Slightly slower inflation/deflation

Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir XLite NXT is hands down the best 3-season sleeping pad on the market. This is the pad we pack most often for our trips in spring, summer, and fall, and several members of the CleverHiker team have a total of over 1,000 miles of experience with it. The XLite has a rare combination of comfort, warmth, and weight that makes it very tough to beat for backpacking.

The newest NXT version of the XLite has a slightly higher R-value and is 3 inches thick, so it’s a bit warmer and cushier than before. We find the insulation good enough for warm sleepers to stay comfortable in temps all the way down into the low 20s when paired with a good sleeping bag, which is really incredible for a pad this light. CleverHiker Editor-in-Chief, Dave Collins, recently took the XLite NXT on a snowy late-season trek through Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and stayed perfectly warm and comfortable each night.

Keeping pack weight down on backcountry trips is critical, and the XLite NXT is a stand-out in this arena. At just 13 ounces, the XLite is one of the lightest insulated inflatable pads on the market. And you’d be hard-pressed to find another option that offers the same warmth or durability at this weight.

Ultralight gear tends to be on the delicate side, but that’s not so much the case with the XLite. With just a little care during campsite selection, this pad can last you for thousands of miles. Senior Gear Analyst, Casey Handley, took the XLite NXT on a 300-mile section of the Arizona Trail – a notoriously prickly path – and it held up without incident despite some lazier evenings where campsite clearing fell off the priority list. Still, the XLite is an air pad and accidents happen. The included repair kit makes field fixes easy, and the valve can even be replaced if it fails – a fairly unique feature for an air pad.

The main knock on previous XLite models was the crinkly sound they make when shifting around. We’re happy to report that the NXT is much quieter than previous versions. We’ve used it with a tentmate by our side as well as camp neighbors in nearby tents with no complaints. Don’t expect complete silence though – we’d say the XLite NXT is now just about as quiet as most air pads.

The NeoAir XLite is a truly exceptional sleeping pad that we’ve put through the wringer over thousands of trail miles. It’s an all-time great backpacking sleeping pad, and we think you’ll agree.

Full review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT

Best Sleeping Pad for Cold-Sleepers & Winter Backpacking

Price: $240

Weight: 16 oz.

R-Value: 7.3

Thickness: 3 in.

Pros

  • Exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Very warm (suitable for winter use)
  • Lightweight
  • Above-average comfort
  • Compact for a 4-season pad
  • More durable than most air pads

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Slower inflation/deflation
  • Slight crinkle sound

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT is the warmer and more durable sibling of the XLite above. This pad is our top recommendation for cold sleepers and hikers heading out for adventures in the winter chill. We loved the previous XTherm, but the latest NXT model is even better – it’s warmer, thicker, and even a touch lighter than before. 

The R-value of a sleeping pad tells you how much insulation it provides – the higher the number, the warmer the pad. With an R-value of 7.3, the XTherm NXT is one of the warmest backpacking sleeping pads on the market. It’s also considerably lighter than most other highly insulated sleeping pads, so it’s a great buy for hikers looking for the best balance of warmth and weight.

The XTherm is the pad our team members opted for when we went on a group winter backpacking adventure along the White River on Mt. Hood. We experienced frigid temperatures and several inches of fresh powder on that trip, but we all stayed warm and comfortable thanks to our XTherms.

The XTherm also has a durable layer of 70-denier fabric on the underside to combat wear and prevent punctures. This pad does make a slight crinkle sound when you shift around on it, but its considerable strengths far outweigh this minor downside.

With a weight that’s lower than the typical 3-season pad but an R-value ready for serious winter adventures, it’s no wonder the NeoAir XTherm has been a fan favorite for many years.

Full review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT

NEMO Tensor Insulated

Cushy, rectangular sleeping pad with quick deflation

Price: MSRP: $200

Weight: 15 oz.

R-Value: 4.2

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Quiet
  • Warm
  • Many size/shape options
  • Quick inflation/deflation
  • Pump sack included

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Less durable than some

The NEMO Tensor Insulated sleeping pad is thick, comfortable, and quieter than almost any air pad we’ve tested. So if you’re looking to avoid the crinkle sound some pads have, the Tensor is an excellent option.

Another thing that sets the Tensor apart is the wide variety of shape and size options, including mummy, rectangular, and the elusive regular/wide model. The rectangular models are popular, as they allow your feet to rest wider apart when back sleeping. This, along with 3 in. of thickness, makes the Tensor a real stand-out when it comes to comfort.

The Tensor also comes with one of the best pump sacks on the market, making inflation fast and easy. On top of that, the zero-profile valve allows for quick deflation and simple micro-adjustments.

We’ve been big fans of the NEMO Tensor since the first model hit the shelves, and we still rock it for trips where extra comfort is a top priority.

Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated

Best Value Sleeping Pad for Back Sleepers

Price: $169

Weight: 16.9 oz.

R-Value: 3.1

Thickness: 2 in.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable for back-sleepers
  • Less expensive
  • Above-average durability
  • Quick inflation/deflation

Cons

  • Can bottom out when shifting around
  • Slightly rubbery feel/sound
  • Heavier than some

The Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated pad (view women’s) is one of the most durable air pads we’ve tested and is also comparable to its sibling, the Ether Lite XT, above. And it also features Sea to Summit’s “air sprung cells” that provide cushy comfort and feel surprisingly like your mattress at home.

The benefit the Ultralight has over the Ether Light is its more affordable price tag. The Ultralight is also just about as warm and comfortable as the Ether Light, but it’s a tad lighter and slightly less bulky. So what made this pad rank below the Ether Light? It really comes down to comfort.

With just 2 inches of thickness, some users will likely bottom out when shifting around on the Ultralight, and it probably isn’t the best fit for side sleepers. That said, it still provides a very comfortable night’s rest for back- and stomach-sleepers who tend to stay put when snoozing.

While the Ultralight may not be the right pad for everyone, it has a good valve system that’s quick and easy to use, it’s more durable than the average air pad, and it’s decently light and warm. So if you’re a back-sleeper in the market for a comfortable, lightweight, and sturdy backpacking sleeping pad that costs less than most of its competitors, the Sea to Summit Ultralight is a great choice.

Women’s Footwear

Similar to everyday shoes, most people choose backpacking footwear designed specifically for their gender. However, everybody’s feet are different, so there’s no hard and fast rule to this. The main difference between men’s and women’s footwear comes down to the shape of the shoe. Women’s shoes and boots tend to be more narrow in the heel and wider in the toe box. Men’s footwear also tends to weigh slightly more and rise higher on the ankle. You’ll notice that most of our recommendations below are lightweight trail running shoes, rather than traditional hiking boots. Check out this article to learn why: 5 Reasons to Ditch Your Hiking Boots. In short, trail runners are light, comfortable, and breathable. They offer excellent traction and can often be worn right out of the box with minimal risk of blisters. Like many thru-hikers, we’ve hiked thousands of miles through some of the roughest terrain on the planet in trail runners and we love the benefits they provide. We very rarely wear boots while backpacking anymore unless we expect to encounter winter snow conditions. That said, footwear is an extremely personal and important choice, so it’s best to go with whatever trail shoe or hiking boot feels most comfortable to you. Always remember to order up a half or full shoe size because your feet will swell on long hiking days. For more tips on finding the right footwear, check out our Hiking Shoes Buyer’s Guide. You may also want to visit our Footwear Homepage, where we cover the best boots, sandals, and everything in between.

Stock image of women's Saucony Peregrine 14

Women’s Saucony Peregrine 14

Ultralight Trail Runners with Exceptional Traction

Price: $140

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 1 oz.

Options: Waterproof

Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4 mm

Pros

  • Superior traction
  • Lightweight
  • Great price for the performance
  • Breathable
  • No break-in needed

Cons

  • Not as durable as some
  • Not supportive enough for heavy loads

We’ve hiked thousands of miles in these shoes over the years, and the Saucony Peregrine 14s continue to be some of our favorites due to their exceptional traction and low weight. Over treks through Nepal, the Sierras, and the Torres del Paine in Patagonia, the sticky outsoles of the Peregrines were up for the challenge.

This version is lighter than ever, even grippier than before, and has a refined fit. These shoes also have an increased stack height with more underfoot cushioning for tough terrain. Plus the Peregrine 13s are made with a highly breathable knit upper that dries quickly, so they’re ready for just about anything you throw at them.

A shoe this light won’t hold up as well as more traditional models in the long run, but you’ll expend less energy with each step and experience fewer problems with sweaty feet (like blisters). The Saucony Peregrines are the shoes you’ll catch us rocking for most of our high-mileage backpacking trips, and we can’t recommend them highly enough for those who prefer lightweight trail runners.

Women’s Altra Lone Peak 7

Best hiking shoes for long-distance and thru-hikers

Price: $150

Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 4.5 oz.

Options: Waterproof

Sizing: True to size; fits wide, wide sizes available

Pros

  • Roomy toe box
  • Excellent traction
  • More durable than previous Lone Peak models
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • No break-in needed
  • Built-in gaiter attachment

Cons

  • Zero-drop takes some getting used to
  • Not as cushioned as the other trail runners on this list
  • Not as durable as some
  • Not supportive enough for heavy loads

Altra Lone Peaks have long been the flagship shoe of lightweight hikers due to their low weight, grippy outsole, and roomy fit. The 7th iteration of the LPs got another big makeover – the upper has been redesigned, the outsole has been overhauled, and the modern colorways make these shoes stand out from the crowd.

Some hikers struggled with the durability of the previous Lone Peak model, but we’re happy to report that the Lone Peak 7s feature more reinforced spots and will last far longer than the LP 6s. We put about 650 miles on a pair of Lone Peak 7s on the notoriously tough-on-shoes Arizona Trail before needing to buy a new pair. The signature Trail Claw lug pattern also got a makeover and is stickier than before, resulting in fewer slips on wet rock and other tricky terrain.

We love the LP 7s and they’ve quickly become our favorite version we’ve ever tested of this long-trail stalwart. For hikers seeking a wider fit that allows for natural movement, the Lone Peak 7s should be at the top of your list.

 Other Footwear Options

The Saucony Peregrine and Altra Lone Peak trail runners have been our favorite lightweight backpacking shoes for some time now. Both options provide a great balance of comfort, traction, weight, and fit. That said, everyone’s feet are different, so below are some other popular trail running models worth checking out.

  • Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX – These hiking shoes have a nearly unrivaled balance of durability and weight. They’re built like a traditional shoe, but they fit more like trail runners. The X Ultras feel much more nimble than other shoes in their category, and they require practically no break-in period. We’ve also found that the traction is well above average on the X Ultras, so they’re great for backpacking or day hikes on challenging terrain.
  • HOKA Speedgoat 5 – The biggest standout feature of the Speedgoats is their ultra-cushy midsole, which is excellent at absorbing impact and doesn’t flatten out as quickly as some other lightweight hiking shoes we’ve tested. Thanks to the supportive design, the Speedgoats are a favorite among thru-hikers who need a shoe that’s lightweight and can keep their feet and joints comfortable while logging lots of miles.
  • Oboz Sawtooth X WP – These babies are some of the most supportive shoes we’ve tested thanks to the premium insoles. The molded arch and heel cup, cushy midsoles, and exceptional traction make this shoe a great choice for challenging terrain – especially for backpackers who tend to carry a heavier pack around 40 lbs. or more. The traditional-style Sawtooths start out a little more stiff than some shoes, so we recommend breaking them in before taking them on any big trips. But after you get past this initial period, you’ll have a comfy shoe that can withstand multiple years of hiking.

Women’s Raincoats

When heading into the backcountry, you’ll always want to bring a trusty raincoat to stay safe and comfortable. A lot of people backpack with coats that are far too heavy and bulky for what they actually need. You can save a surprising amount of weight and space by choosing a lightweight rain shell over a mountaineering coat. If you really want to go light, there are some minimalist jackets that cut our features like hand pockets and pit zips, but we generally like having those comforts. Below you’ll find a few of our favorite rain jackets that balance functionality, comfort, and weight. For more tips on finding the right rain jacket, check out our Rain Jackets Buyer’s Guide.

Stock image of Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

Best rain jacket overall

Price: $179

Weight: 14.1 oz. (men’s) / 12.4 oz. (women’s)

Pros

  • Durable materials
  • High-quality construction
  • Deep pockets
  • Pit zips
  • Stylish fit
  • Strong hem & sleeve ties
  • Packs small into its own pocket
  • Hood rolls up
  • Tons of colorways

Cons

  • A bit heavy/bulky for extended backcountry trips
  • A bit baggy in sleeves
  • No external chest pocket

The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L (men’s / women’s) has been at the top of our list for many years, and for good reason. It’s one of our go-to rain jackets and all-time favorites. From 150-day thru-hikes of the CDT including torrential downpours, high-alpine blizzards, and drizzly fall weather, to trips skiing, camping, and hiking the local trails, this jacket is a durable, affordable workhorse.

The Torrentshell features laminated triple-layer construction that makes it protective in sustained rain, but still feels impressively lightweight on your body. The hood is adjustable and features a large visor to keep the rain out of your eyes and off your face, but it also rolls away easily with a cord and hook when not in use.

For a rain jacket, the Torrentshell is cozy. A soft microfleece lining at the neck adds a soft-to-the-touch feel and wicks away moisture with ease. This jacket has two hand warmer pockets as well as storm flaps – overlapping material that covers the main zipper and pit zips to help you stay dry.

Even though it’s a bit bulky, the Torrentshell still packs down small into the left hand warmer pocket and comes with a convenient carabiner loop so you can keep it easily accessible when the skies open up.

The only major complaint we have about the Torrentshell is its weight. At 14.1 ounces for the men’s version and 12.4 ounces for the women’s, there are other jackets on this list that are better suited for long-distance trips where shaving pack weight is important. So if you’re considering the Torrentshell exclusively for backpacking, we’d recommend other options on this list.

Though it’s not as airy or compressible as some, we highly recommend it for adventures when stormy conditions are inevitable. The Torrentshell is a versatile, reasonably affordable, and very durable jacket that we recommend for all-around use.

Stock image of Outdoor Research Helium

Outdoor Research Helium

Most affordable ultralight rain jacket

Price: $170 (men’s) / $180 (women’s)

Weight: 6.2 oz. (men’s) / 6.3 oz. (women’s)

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Less expensive
  • Packs down very small
  • Key clip in hand pocket
  • Angled chest pocket
  • Handwarmer pockets in women’s version
  • Adjustable hood
  • Many colorways

Cons

  • No pit zips
  • No hand pockets in men’s version
  • No cuff tightening systems

When it comes to ultralight jackets, the Outdoor Research Helium (men’s / women’s) is one of the most practical options on the market. While it weighs almost the same as the ZPacks Vertice and the Montbell Versalite – just over six ounces – it’s less expensive and offers many of the same features. 

CleverHiker Managing Editor, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, hiked the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail in this jacket and it held up well in most storms with plenty of room underneath for a lightweight down puffy. CH Gear Analyst, Heather Eldridge, also spent a week backpacking in Glacier National Park with this jacket and had no complaints – it kept both of them dry, comfortable enough, and it took up little space.

The Helium has a large chest pocket that makes access to small items easy and fast. This pocket is also the carrying case for the Helium, and it packs down into one of the smallest, most efficient packages on this list, perfect for backpacking and fastpacking.

This jacket is fairly thin and will wet out faster than others in really heavy rain, especially where backpack straps sit. Also, the men’s version doesn’t have handwarmer pockets, which we’ve found inconvenient on and off trail. This isn’t a dealbreaker for us, but we’d prefer the extra storage like the women’s version – instead, we bring waterproof gloves on cold, wet trips.

All-in-all, you cannot beat the price-to-weight ratio of the Helium. If keeping your overall pack weight low on long summer hikes is important to you, or you need a basic layer for cloudbursts and occasional summer storms, the ultra-packable Helium offers a stellar bang for your buck.

Full review: Outdoor Research Helium

Rab Kinetic 2.0

Soft & comfortable rain jacket

Price: $250

Weight: 11.8 oz.

Pros

  • Comfortable (stretchy)
  • Quiet
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Flattering fit

Cons

  • A bit expersive
  • No pit zips
  • Few adjustments
  • Slime fit isn't for everyone
  • Runs a bit small – size up to accommodate bulky layers

The Rab Kinetic 2.0 (Men’s / Women’s) is one of the most comfortable and quiet rain jackets we’ve ever worn. It feels more like a softshell jacket than a traditional rain shell due to the stretch fabric, so you might find yourself wearing it even when it isn’t raining. The Kinetic Plus isn’t the most technical jacket on our list since it lacks hood and hem adjustments, but we like the simplicity of the design and it has a snug, flattering fit. The Kinetic Plus is great for times when you need a little warmth and wind protection while you’re active in mildly rainy conditions.

Women’s Down Jackets

A great down jacket might be the most beloved piece of gear in your pack. We find that even on summer trips, we usually wear our down coat multiple times every day. We generally prefer hooded down jackets that are lightweight, warm, sleek, and compressible. Down jackets can be expensive, but their warmth-to-weight value is very tough to beat on the trail. For more tips on finding the right down jacket, check out our Down Jackets Buyer’s Guide.

Stock image of Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoodie

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Hoodie

Highly Compressible Ultralight Jacket

Price: $360

Weight: 8.8 oz. (men’s) / 7.8 oz. (women’s)

Fill Power: 800

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Highly compressible
  • Packs into its own pocket
  • Excellent wind resistance
  • Layers easily

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No hood adjustment
  • No chest pocket
  • Less durable than other jackets

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 (men’s / women’s) has been a favorite of thru-hikers and ultralight aficionados for years. This jacket is everything you need and nothing you don’t for staying warm on fast and light adventures. 

We’re huge fans. Managing Editor, Ben Applebaum-Bauch, has hiked over 6,000 miles in the Ghost Whisperer, including thru-hikes of the CDT, PCT, and numerous shorter long trails. He loves the packability and wind resistance and cites it as one of his all-time favorite pieces of gear. It’s also a go-to for CleverHiker Founder, Dave Collins, who’s put several hundred miles on the Ghost Whisperer on trips through Yosemite, the Sawtooth Wilderness, and beyond.

We love this Mountain Hardwear model for its exceptional balance of warmth to weight. With most sizes hovering around eight ounces, this jacket is plenty warm for brisk mornings on high-altitude routes but still packs incredibly small into its own pocket and takes up minimal space – which is exactly what we want when it comes to a backpacking layer.

The Ghost Whisperer is also a sleek, athletic fit and layer-able design with basic features like high hand warmer pockets and hem adjustments. When supplemented with a lightweight fleece or a burly rain shell, you’re set in most wet and cold shoulder-season conditions. And, because this model is so lightweight, it dries quickly.

The Rab Mythic Alpine Light is the top ultralight jacket – it’s a hair lighter, less expensive, and a bit more durable, but the Ghost Whisperer is a very close contender. It’s a top-of-the-line down jacket that’s well worth the cost for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors and wants to keep their base weight low.

If you’re willing to pay a bit more for even more warmth-to-weight efficiency, check out the Ghost Whisperer UL, which has upgraded 1000-fill-power down.

MontBell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka

Best Warmth-to-Weight Ratio

Price: $479

Weight: 8.4 oz. (men’s) / 7.9 oz. (women’s)

Fill Power: 1000

Fill Weight: 3.4 oz. / 3 oz.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Outstanding warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Highly compressible
  • 1000-fill-power down
  • Hem & hood adjustments
  • Layers easily

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Less durable than non-UL jackets
  • No chest pocket

The MontBell Plasma 1000 (men’s / women’s) has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios of any jacket we tested. If you’re an ultralight backpacker looking for the lowest weight for the most warmth, you can stop scrolling here.

At around eight ounces, the Plasma 1000 is perfect for long carries and packs super small for big adventures. It’s an all-time favorite of CleverHiker Founder, Dave Collins. He’s put over 500 miles on his Plasma 1000 including treks in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, Washington’s Olympic National Park, and Patagonia.

The Plasma is the only jacket on this list using 1000 fill down. This jacket is in a class of its own for warmth and loft – a dreamy combination for backpacking. It may weigh about the same as some of the other ultralight jackets on our list, but it certainly feels warmer. The Plasma is an ideal layer when sleeping on sub-freezing nights, while making coffee in the morning, and staying warm just before bed.

This jacket doesn’t skimp on features. We like the two-way hood adjustments, two zippered hand pockets, and that the hem can be adjusted from within the pockets. 

The biggest con of the Plasma 1000 is its extremely high price tag. However, if you’re a thru-hiker or backcountry traveler looking for truly top-of-the-line, ultralight warmth for 3-season trips, the Plasma 1000 is worth every penny for unrivaled comfort and huge weight savings.

You also sacrifice a bit of durability with a jacket this light, so the 7D Nylon exterior is more prone to rips and tears than heftier options. But this is an issue with ultralight gear in general – not specifically the Plasma 1000 – so we always recommend carrying repair tape for patching in the backcountry.

The MontBell Plasma 1000 is a trailblazer in the world of ultralight gear and leads the pack for its low weight and exceptional warmth. This jacket is a must-have for those whose top priority is weight savings – without compromising on comfort.

Stock image of REI 650 Down Jacket

REI 650 Down Jacket

Best Value Down Jacket

Price: $129

Weight: 10.9 oz. (men’s) / 10.2 oz. (women’s)

Fill Power: 650

Fill Weight: 3.2 oz. / –

Pros

  • Excellent value
  • Lightweight
  • Highly compressible
  • Packs into it own pocket
  • Layers easily
  • inclusive sizing

Cons

  • Not as warm as some jackets
  • Simple
  • Less durable than some jackets
  • No hood
  • No chest pocket

The REI 650 Down Jacket (men’s / women’s) is one of the best bangs for your buck on the market. It’s a no-frills, lightweight, compressible option for almost any situation where you need a simple, warm extra layer.

The 650 Down has all the features we want, and nothing more: a cinch cord at the hem, two hand warmer pockets, two internal drop pockets, and a burly zipper. The nylon is comfortable against the skin, and at just over 10 ounces, it’s awesomely lightweight compared to other options on this list. 

This jacket is one of the most bare bones options we tested, but that’s why it’s also one of the most versatile. The 650 Down doesn’t have a two-way zipper, chest pocket, or even a hood – but that’s precisely what we love about it. A down jacket like this is a key layering piece for daily wear.

The 650 Down is made with lower-fill-power down, so it’s not quite as heat-efficient as some of the more technical jackets on our list. That said, the 650 down isn’t meant to be a technical jacket, but a go-to option for day-to-day use. Our team rocks this jacket constantly as a lightweight, compressible layer. And, for the price, it performs extremely well.

Women’s Backpacking Tents

Although there’s nothing gender-specific about tents, they’re one of the most important components of any backpacking setup. When choosing a quality backpacking tent, we heavily factor characteristics such as weight, cost, interior space, durability, and weather protection into our choices. Below are some of our favorite backpacking tents, but our Tent Buyers Guide has a lot more information and recommendations.

Women-Specific Hygiene

Women have specific hygiene needs when hiking in the backcountry. It’s best to have a plan in place before you head out to ensure you’re comfortable, clean, and prepared.

  • UNDERWEAR– In order to prevent bacterial infections, we recommend avoiding cotton underwear, which has a long dry time. Instead, hike in performance underwear such as ExOfficio Women’s Briefs, which are quick-drying, antimicrobial, and highly breathable. We usually bring two pairs on backpacking trips, one for the trail and one for after we clean up in camp. When need be, you can always wash a pair in the backcountry because they dry quickly.
  • PERIOD – Another issue that many women grapple with while backpacking is period maintenance. One option is to use tampons, preferably ones without an applicator. If the thought of packing out used tampons grosses you out (because you love nature, and Leave No Trace is really important), there are other options. Many women have transitioned to using a Menstrual Cup, which is an eco-friendly and convenient way to “catch” your flow. You can wear it for up to 12 hours, which should get you through most days on the trail.
  • URINATION – Staying well-hydrated is critical to any backpacking trip and with this comes more frequent urination. Whether you squat behind a tree or use a female urination device such as Freshette or pStyle, you’ll want to ensure that you’re wiping properly and keeping a dry environment. You can use a small amount of toilet paper or a pee-rag attached to your pack (ultraviolet rays from the sun disinfect it), but always wipe front to back to prevent any infection. Getting a UTI on the trail is a surefire way to ruin a trip.

Women’s Backpacking Clothing

Your backpacking clothing choices will obviously be highly personal, but there are some important considerations to take into account. Quick-dry clothing is key and cotton products should almost always be avoided. Also, take care to minimize excess clothing, because this is one of the most common ways people carry unnecessary weight on the trail. A layering clothing system is really important in the backcountry. We generally recommend carrying only one of each clothing type and managing perspiration by adding or removing layers. For example, on chilly trips we can wear our short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, fleece jacket, down jacket, and rain shell all at the same time for maximum warmth in camp. But when we start hiking, we’ll quickly want to remove layers to keep perspiration to a minimum. Below are some of our favorite, trail-tested options for women.

For more clothing recommendations, head to our Gear Guides Homepage.

Other Women’s Accessories

The following accessories are not necessarily women-specific, but they make our Top Picks Gear List as some of our favorite trail tools. You’ll find these items in our packs on most trips.


need more Gear advice?

If you liked this list, you’ll love the CleverHiker Gear Guide where we test and recommend tons of outdoor adventure gear from a variety of categories. here are some links to popular articles: