1. WHAT DESIGN FACTORS MAKE THESE BAGS A BETTER DESIGN FOR WOMEN?
For women's specific bag design, we pride ourselves on listening closely to our female customers on product color, material texturing, styling and most importantly fit and comfort. So to understand how to make a pack that is most comfortable for women, and knowing no two people are alike, there are body shape commonalities that we seek to understand and measure to find the average differences between men and women. By simply listening and looking at these differences, the opportunities eventually surface to fit both women and men better. In addition to designing around these geometrical differences, we've also found that women prefer to carry pack weight on their body a bit different than men. More specifically, they prefer to carry a higher percentage of the pack weight on their hips as opposed to their upper body and shoulders. As it turns out this is the most efficient way to carry weight, so we pay close attention to this part of the pack and have learned to design our women's packs with different average hip belt angles to match the average hip shape of our consumers. Since we all know no two people are fully alike, we also have invented patented auto-fitting systems (e.g., Response A3 tech on the Deva packs), which automatically adjust to your unique hip and shoulder harness angles to ensure you feel an even top and bottom pressure on the hipbelt and harness. This even pressure signifies a balanced and proper fit to keep you comfortable on the trail. Since 2015 we also started including customizable lumbar padding on our premium women's packs to allow the lower back shape be adjusted to help fit each unique body curvature. Alongside special long lasting foam cocktails in the hipbelts, these design factors provide women with a hip and lower back fit that ensures the weight of the pack can be moved between the upper body and hips as they chose to on the trail. Most important is the ability to put up to 90% of the pack weight on the hips, which alleviates pressure on the shoulders and lower back and prevents fatigue. The other real difference is the shoulder strap shape and angle on which it lies against your body. Women's harnesses when compared to men's have a flatter curvature, meaning they don't that extend as far into the center of the chest. This allows women to customize their harness position easier with the sternum strap. The final touch is a slightly narrower shoulder harness width, which allows the shallow curvature to work well and prevents the harnesses from rubbing or pinching your neck.
We recommend the right pack for the right body type and right activity whether it be for a man or woman. We build men’s and women’s packs to fit gender specific body measurements and proportions, which means that some men will fit better in a “women’s” pack and some women will fit better in “men’s” pack. It would be easier to take a men’s pack and retune it to fit women’s more conical hips, narrower shoulders and shorter torsos than men. However, we try a more holistic approach – designing and testing women’s specific packs for women, not as derivatives of men’s product. If the physical difference is minimal, the psychological difference is profound.
2. WHAT WAS THE TESTING PERIOD LIKE AND WHAT WERE THE RESULTS?
Our design and testing cycle can last anywhere from six months to three years. We use special lab machines we have custom built over the years to simulate walking and allow us to watch wear and tear as it happens in real time. And of course there is no replacement for real world testing by women in the field, so this is where most of our focus goes during product testing. We use our own internal team as well as many ambassadors of varying skill levels and experience to gather feedback. This is done through questionnaires, phone and video calls, shipping used samples back and forth and also in-house focus groups we host with the local community to decide on our women's color and material offerings.
Hours upon hours on and off the trail. The team at Osprey puts the product to the test around the world and right here in Cortez Colorado; nestled between the San Juan mountains and the sandstone canyons of Southern Utah our backyard is our playground and our office.
Design Director, Cassie Tweed, and Product Manager, Rosie Mansfield, took our testing to the next level with additional consumer and industry based women specific backpacking trips. And what were the results? We found an answer we already had; that we are doing it right. What did evolve from these trips was a community and a conversation amongst women and for women.
3. DO YOU ADVISE ALL WOMEN TO GO WITH BAGS LIKE THE ARIEL AG OR THE DEVA THAT ARE WOMEN SPECIFIC? AND WHY?
Not always, but typically yes, we advise to start with women's specific styles. We say this because no two people are fully alike and we don't generalize based on gender, body shape or height. It's most important to go to a certified fit dealer and get the proper fit and there are certain cases when a women can be best fit in a men's pack and vice versa.
We advise that both men and women relentlessly seek out a pack that fits them and their activity. The Aether / Ariel AG Series is a great example of Osprey’s commitment to customer fit, allowing men and women to mix and match harness, hipbelt and torso measurements to best fit their body type. Women’s specific packs are built to fit conical hips, narrow shoulders and shorter torsos. This body description, while typically female, can also be a great fit for men. Similarly, women with straighter hips, broader B for you, body specific fit is most important in a pack fit. A good fitting pack, in the hipbelt, harness and torso, enables the consumer to move more efficiently, keeping exhaustion and discomfort at bay a little longer. Pack fit is important, regardless of activity and load, but a bad pack fit with a heavy load has more detrimental effects on the body and the trip.
4. IS THERE ANY MARKETING STRATEGY USED TO SPECIFICALLY ATTRACT YOUR FEMALE CUSTOMER BASE?
Absolutely! We do customized marketing to our female crowd that emphasizes the features of our women specific packs. For example, even though our Baltoro (mens pack) and Deva (women’s pack) are similar products from a suspension and material perspective, we do completely different marketing for them to both inform and inspire. Many organizations and groups we partner with are specific to creating a place for women to connect and get in the outdoors together (a few examples: Mountain Girls, Outdoor Women’s Alliance, Mountain Chicks).
Osprey is committed to creating the best women’s specific fit packs in the market but what we are really creating and becoming a part is our customers’ experiences. While our product team has been hosting focus groups and women’s backpacking trips to test product further and dive into the deeper questions of what women want in both their outdoor gear and experience, our marketing team has joined them every step of the way documenting these conversations. We’ve created three Osprey Women videos focusing on Product, Community and Experience which has been published in conjunction with serialized blog stories. In addition to these deep dives we are constantly creating open communication through our social channels, athlete engagement and clinics, as well as participating as key sponsors in women’s specific events such as REI’s Outessa.
A special thanks goes out to everyone from Osprey and Gregory for talking with me. In particular Lindsey Malone, Vince Mazzuca, and Julie Campagno