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The front vertical pocket makes grabbing essentials easy REI
I love a good backpack—it makes it easier to carry my gym clothes to work, take up less room on the subway in the morning, and doesn’t put an ache in my shoulder the way that a purse does. I use one basically every day of the week and through repeated exposure to new models, I’ve grown pretty particular about what I like.
Patagonia’s newly redesigned daypack, the Refugio, is one of the best that I’ve tried over the last eight months here at Insider Picks. And though convenient for many reasons for both genders (a vertical pocket in the front, deep side pockets, and a light, breathable construction) it’s also one of the most sneakily helpful bags for women, since they made the Patagonia Refugio Backpack as usual, and then made a Patagonia Women’s Refugio right away, too.
So while I loved this pack dearly for being the only one not to launch my giant, 33 oz. CamelBak into space when I run with it in the side pockets, I found this gender-specific adaptation to be one of the best selling points for me.
Your anatomy is different, so your bag should be, too. Patagonia
I can only assume that plenty of women, like me, weren’t fully utilizing features of their backpack (features designed to help them) because they were designed for men, or, more neutrally, from the perspective of a man. In the past, I barely ever used the top chest strap to secure my bag, even though I wanted to and it—in theory—would have made the process easier and more enjoyable.
Why? There are many reasons women might offer, but the one that seems most likely widespread and problematic is that the traditional chest strap (or “sternum strap” as it’s called) cuts across the chest in an awkward, uncomfortable way that makes the bag more secure, but vastly less comfortable on. Since it’s not laying flat against my chest, the chest band becomes even less comfortable with movement.
Before the Women’s Patagonia daypack, I never really considered the idea that these companies could fix this. I accepted that that was not a comfortable or useful backpack design for me.
Now, I’m really glad to know that that isn’t true, because this strap really does make my life easier and the pack more secure. Instead of having it awkwardly smoosh me anywhere or be too tight across the chest in such a weird, attention-drawing way, it sits far above and allows me to move without restraint or thought. It is truly so nice; I can run to the subway with the chest band clipped and not feel extremely uncomfortable and restrained. Is this what you guys have had all along?
Instead of awkwardly cutting across the chest, the W Refugio has a sternum strap that sits higher, for added comfort for women wearers Patagonia
Another feature that I mentioned earlier and particularly love is actually the reason I chose this backpack versus bigger models: the front vertical pocket zip. Wow, hello, convenience. My love for these pockets started with the Everlane commuter pack, but this iteration is even handier. The zipper splits the whole front open so you can easily grab anything (keys, wallet, ChapStick) out of there without having to take the bag off. You can swing it over one shoulder and in the same motion have your metro pass out. For someone who hates being the one holding up the line, this is essential.
The only concern for the split front pocket is the relative ease with which someone could grab something out (the same thing you’ll love) and the fact that if you’re not paying attention and pull the zipper too fast something necessary could tumble out. It’s never happened to me, but it is a worry I have occasionally.
I love this backpack for the simple ways that it’s smart and how those simple advancements make my life easier and more seamless. If you’re looking for a mid-size bag to keep things in and make the commute or the trail easier, I highly recommend this one. Even without the gender specification, it’s a particularly great bag.