Over the years, I’ve often settled by opting for smaller men’s sizes when it came to outdoor clothing and gear. The availability of women-specific gear wasn’t always a thing. Looking back over the last decade, the gear designed for women primarily focused on style rather than function. So those of us more serious outdoor gals had to resort to using men’s gear and making the most of it as best we could, including my backcountry equipment. For the past six plus seasons, I persevered with a ski tour backpack that never quite fit properly. However last season, I made a firm decision: no more compromises! While Santa didn’t deliver the ideal women’s ski tour backpack I had hoped for, I took matters into my own hands and gifted myself the perfect one.
No More Men’s Packs
If you’re like me, you have a closet full of backpacks and they sorta fit. The obvious perfect fit of a pack isn’t as blatant as say a jacket or pair of pants. If you straight buy men’s clothes and put them on, you’ll find a size that fits but it isn’t gong to win you any flattering points. Us gals… we got curves. And most men, don’t. For me personally, once I get the curves accounted for, I then look like a giant square. And backpacks are no exception. The female torso is not the same as the male torso. You can’t just cinch up all the straps to make the pack as short as you can and then say it fits properly.
How’s A Pack Supposed To Fit Us Both?
My first two backcountry packs were the exact same model as Alex. Besides us being different sexes, I am 5’4″ and Alex is 6’3″. How is a pack possibly going to fit both of us correctly? It’s not possible and they never did. Both packs fit Alex great, but I always suffered with trying to adjust straps and get the weight distribution to even out. Instead, they caused massive pain in both my shoulders and lower back. It got to the point in the 2021 season that the enjoyment of the outdoors was waning because I always experienced pain with my packs. The pain became such a focal point that I stopped venturing outside.
Enter Deuter: German Outdoor Engineering
Last season, I swore to myself that I would fix this backpack issue. I needed to find a company that made high quality gear that could take a beating without beating me up. Enter Deuter. I didn’t know much about this company but that’s where your local shop comes in and can spend the time you need explaining what different companies and features are all about. One of my favorite local specialty shops is Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City. Not the easiest to get to from Lake Tahoe’s south shore but always worth the trip. They’re a Deuter dealer and had a whole wall of backpacks.
Everyone in the shop is knowledgeable about the gear, which is a must when you’re buying backcountry equipment your life depends on. After trying on every ski tour backpack they had, the gal helping me zeroed in on a special line of Deuter packs intended for women. I could feel a difference as I tried them all on and was so excited at the prospect of finding an actual women’s pack that fit perfectly. The match was made and the Deuter Freerider Pro 32+ SL ski tour backpack became my newest outdoor companion.
Why The Letters ‘SL’ Matter
Originally intended for women, the SL line stands for Slim Line. And I’m not talking about size 0 only women. That I am not. But my torso is shorter and waist more petite than a 6′ tall guy and for that, I fit in the Slim Line category. The three main features of this backpack line are their shorter cut, narrower shoulder straps, and cone-shaped hip fins. When you put these design features together, you come up with a line of backpacks that accommodate a more petite frame, regardless of gender, that needs all the function but not all the length or girth.
Torso Length Isn’t Your Height
The length of your back isn’t a direct correlation to your height. Same is true with your inseam. Great example is my mom and I. We are the same height, but when I get in her car, I can’t even touch the pedals! Her legs are much longer than mine and my torso is much longer than hers. Just another reason why finding the right sized backpack for your back length matters.
Deuter has five different categories of backpack sizes ranging from kids to extra long. Alex has the same Deuter pack as me but the Standard model he has starts with the shortest back length adjustment of 44 cm. That’s already too long for me and would be another situation where I try to pull the straps so tight trying to make it shorter. The same pack in the SL model starts the back length at 38 cm. That small difference of 6 cm (roughly 2.3 inches) is the exact sweet spot that I need for the pack to perfectly fit. And in reverse, if Alex were to wear my pack, it would sit too high on his back and cause other pain points for him.
Weight Of The World On Your Shoulders
Shoulder pain was my number one issue when splitboarding. By trying to accommodate for a pack that was too long, I would cinch up the straps trying to make it shorter which just transferred all the weight from my core to my shoulders as well as cutting into my neck. After multiple hours and a pack full of avalanche gear and camera equipment, things go down hill fast. If you look carefully at the straps, they have an S-shape with soft edges. The ends of the straps also slightly taper which creates a close fit for narrower shoulders. This design allows me to have the straps tight to my body without cutting into my shoulders or against my neck.
It’s A Hip Thing
I got hips. And I got a waist. And they aren’t the same size. The hip fins on the SL model are shaped to form a cone that helps the fins settle right against your hips, complimenting a narrower waist above. Without this subtle design feature, the pack seems to either chop into your mid section or pinch on your hips. Not with this one!
My Top 5 Features
In order to win as my favorite backcountry pack, the design for fit and features both matter. The pack could fit great but not accommodate my gear which would still render it useless. But the Deuter Freerider Pro 32+ SL ski tour backpack has both categories covered.
Still, the #1 reason for this ski tour backpack is the overall fit. The three features they call out on it really do make the pack what it is. I am able to set the back length to what I need. And my shoulders are able to comfortably carry and evenly distribute the weight down across my hips, with hip straps that fit snugly with no pinching.
Running out of water in the backcountry is a no-no and you won’t with this pack. It accommodates a 3L system which is a lot of water and always plenty for me to make a full day trip. The sleeve made to hold the water system keeps the bladder away from my gear and also has a velcro tab at the top to keep the bladder held up with no slouching in the pack. A sagging water bladder can cause leaks when pressure is applied to the bottom nozzle. Not to worry with this pack. And you get to decide if you like to drink on the left side or the right.
Main Compartment Access:
The main compartment has two access points. Either by the top under the goggle pocket or from the back of the pack. I use both entry points depending on what I’m trying to retrieve. When I want to get camera equipment, I usually go through the back rather than trying to pull the camera up through the top. But when I’m going for extra layers or snacks, I’ll get those from the top easily with no problem.
Full Use Of All 32L:
Just because a pack is a certain size, doesn’t mean it’s all useable space. Just like a house can have crazy closets or useless hallways, so can backpacks. This pack doesn’t waste any space. From the secret underneath zipper for a puffy or the slim hip pockets for snacks. The goggle compartment is segmented to hold extra lenses or for me, my regular glasses in case I need them. The avy gear is separate at the front of the pack but there’s still another outer pocket for a quick snack. And I never compromise bringing the gear I want as the main compartment accommodates all my gear: skins, layers, food, cameras, video, gloves, and first aid.
I know that’s not a word, but that’s what this pack is. Deuter describes it as snow-resistant but it is much better than that. I’ve had this pack sit in the snow for hours with no wetness seeping in. I’ve also gotten caught in rain and glop but no water has made it into my pack and ruined any of my equipment. It’s nice to not worry about dropping your pack in the snow for fear that all your layers and electronics are about to get ruined and even put you in a life threatening situation.
Hot Tip When Ski Tour Backpack Shopping
NEVER BE EMBARRASSED! And what I’m talking about is stuffing that new pack like you’re leaving for the trailhead. When you buy a new ski tour backpack, if it doesn’t hold what you need, it might be new but it’s still useless. I highly recommend taking with you to the store everything you intend on putting in that pack. I really mean this!
When I found the Deuter Freerider Pro 32+ SL, I had brought with me my old backpack filled with everything I would be hitting the skin track with. This is another bonus of shopping at a local shop. When I walked in with my pack fully loaded, no one looked at me weird. I said I need to find a new pack but it’s important that everything fits. They totally understood and gave me a dressing room to put all my gear while I shopped for the new pack. We were at the shop for about two hours and both went through all the packs and loaded and unloaded them until we both found our new backcountry backpacks.
Never feel stupid or embarrassed, especially as a woman. Your gear matters the same as all the boys and you have the right to make the perfect gear choice. If the shop isn’t ok with you actually trying out the pack to see if it is the right fit, go to a different store. Don’t compromise because others try to pressure you or make you feel uncomfortable. With the right gear and a confident mindset, you’ll be at the front of the pack breaking trail before you know it.
The post Dear Santa: I Want The Best Women’s Ski Tour Backpack appeared first on Local Freshies.