Backpacking though China - A Pain in the Neck

My husband and I spent my second pregnancy trimester backpacking though China. We needed to squeeze in one last selfish hurrah before life with baby. With life pared down to 1 backpack each and what we could carry in it, we did our due diligence to try to find the best backpacks for us. He came out of these shopping trips in a far better place than I did.

A contemporary hiking backpack is a wonder of design made out of high-tech materials, light, waterproof, robust, convenient, adjustable and ergonomic. There is one small catch – while fully 50% of hiking backpacks are bought by women, very few of them are constructed having women’s bodies in mind. True enough, quite a few backpacks are marketed for women and they come in a variety of colors and graphics. However, the most important characteristic of a hiking backpack is not how it looks. The most important characteristic of a backpack is how it fits a person’s body. Virtually all hiking backpacks are designed for men’s body structure.

Women have shorter torsos and backpack frame tend to be too long for them. In order for the hip strap to rest on a woman’s hips, the frame usually comes up too far past her neck and pushes her head uncomfortably forward.

Women have hips. A canted hip strap will do a much better job distributing the pack weight. Even if a hip strap is quite wide, the weight will not be distributed evenly if it is straight because the weight will simply rest on the pressure points.

Women have breasts and their breasts are sensitive. Women do not enjoy having a chest strap digging right into their nipples. Nobody wants their breasts to be lifted or smooshed by their backpacks.

Women have narrower shoulders. Currently all shoulder straps are adjustable for length, but not for width. Often women have to use chest straps, just to keep the shoulder straps on.

Women are generally weaker and don’t see the point to carrying extra weight if they don’t need to. Many backpacks today are designed with extra pockets, zippers, rubber bands, clips, and other stuff, so that they look more “cool and techy”. That’s just misplaced priorities.

I ended up traveling though China with backpack that I wished that I could redesign – or wishing that I could grow a couple of inches. 

- yvonne lin