Petite Backpacking Guide
The Golden Rule of backpacking is to keep your pack weight under 1/3 of your body weight. However, that’s actually higher than most backpackers would consider to be comfortable. Even following that “rule” for someone around 100 lbs, that’s less than 33 lbs which may be difficult for a longer trip unless you’re really interested in ultralight backpacking. For a small person, getting your backpack weight down can be extremely difficult since the weight your base gear (like your stove and tent) is not at all related to your body size. Let’s look at an example:
Short – Max Height 5’6″, Weight 2 lb 4 oz
Regular – Max Height 6′, Weight 2 lb 7 oz
Long – Max Height 6’6″, Weight 2 lb 9 oz
Extra Long – Max Height 7′, Weight 2 lb, 11 oz
You can see from the statistics above that the weight has very little variability between sleeping bag sizes, so a petite (short) bag will only be 2 oz less than a regular bag. If you’re traveling with a partner or group of people, you can figure out how to distribute weight so that everyone is comfortable. I won’t discuss this point now but if you are interested, there is also discussion that a smaller person might not have a disadvantage and the pack weight proportional to body weight rule might be a myth (Read HERE).
> For reference, I am 5’1″ and ~100 lbs <
Osprey Aura AG 65. Before my first backpacking trip, I purchased the Osprey Aura 50, which might be a good option for some backpackers. When the backpack arrived, my husband and I distributed our gear between us (he had the Osprey Xenith 88) and decided that I could move up to a larger bag so I would have the space available if I needed it. I personally purchased the XS size, which was a good fit for my height and torso. Keep in mind that although the ’65’ in the title represents a 65 liter bag, the XS is actually only 3661 cubic inches (around 60 liters). So, if you’re smaller and need to buy the XS or S bag to fit you properly, you lose a bit of the expected volume. This bag has an adjustable and comfortable hip belt to take a lot of the weight off your shoulders. It was the perfect bag for me and I’ve seen a lot of other female backpackers rave about it as well.
Marmot Trestles 30. It’s really important to be aware of sleeping bag size, primarily the length so the bag will do it’s job and keep you warm. If you buy a bag too long with a lot of extra foot space, you won’t be properly insulated and your feet will get cold. The regular size sleeping bag fits a woman up to 5’6″, so if you’re shorter than that, like me, you can stuff some clothing down into the end of the bag. The comfort rating is at 30 degrees, which I have found to be pretty accurate.
Osprey Tempest 20. I love this daypack; it’s the perfect size and fits quite a bit of gear! Granted, it’s a daypack so you really only need some of the basics (See 5 Essentials For Your First Hike) along with enough snacks for the day (See Ultimate List of Snacks For The Trail). Since right now I’m coming from the city (NYC) and taking public transit to many of my hikes, I often pack my hiking shoes and wear regular shoes until I get to the trailhead. I have no problem fitting them into my daypack. This bag also has flexible pockets on the side for my Hydroflask or any water bottle, and a small storage pocket at the top for personal items like your keys and phone.
Black Diamond Carbon Trekking Poles. For a short person, you can’t just buy any trekking poles available; you need to search for shorter ones. These particular poles can be purchased as 100cm. Note that 100cm are recommended for hikers that are 5’1″ or shorter. If you’re a bit taller but still a shorter girl, opt for the 110cm. For the 100cm poles, the collapsed length is 13 inches and together weigh 9 ounces. For any of you that haven’t tried carbon fiber, it will feel very lightweight but I promise it’s very sturdy. Every time I get tired while backpacking, I lean forward on them with my entire body (+ loaded backpack) weight. I never worried about them breaking.
Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket. This jacket is my world! It’s perfect for hiking and backpacking if you’ll be in cooler temperatures (don’t forget to consider nighttime temperatures when planning for your trip). The jacket weighs only 10 ounces and it’s surprisingly warm. This jacket is moisture-wicking which will help keep you insulated if you sweat. It is, however, not water resistant so I usually wear a light raincoat over this jacket if it rains. For reference, the XXS Nano Puff fits me perfectly.
Columbia Silver Ridge Pants. These pants aren’t the sexiest but they’re really comfortable and lightweight, which is more important than how they look. In the winter they pair well with some moisture-wicking long johns or leggings. In the summer they’re still great for hiking; they won’t overheat you and will keep your legs protected from ticks (or whatever bugs/plants are found in your region). I went to REI and tried on many different styles and brands of hiking pants and these were the only ones I found that fit. The tapered leg is perfect for us short people because you don’t need to worry about needing to get your hiking pants hemmed.
If you’re a petite hiker or backpacker, what’s your favorite piece of outdoor gear?