One of my Favorite/Least Favorite pastimes, is checking out extremely well-made, durable, intelligent gear--and then seeing that all of it is designed for a 200+Lb man with muscles. And If I'm really lucky, the site with well-made, durable, intelligent gear will have a "women's" section--where I can check out all the crap they think women want. Which is apparently in garish colors, poorly made and with half the functionality! Plus, expensive!
All the tough, functional backpacks out there are made by dudes for dudes. They appeal to the Tough Guy in all of us: overbuilt, brawny, end-of-world packs that will withstand zombies, the Earth's core freezing, alien invasion, Satan and even diapers and your daily commute. But what they end up being, are murses. Rough and tumble man-bags stuffed to the gills by gadget hoarders. They're heavy empty. Pour in the 'must have' gear like my men do, and voila! You have an awesome anchor. That's tactical. But I don't need to be or look like 007. I'm neither Jack Bauer nor Jack Ryan.
The excess of attachment points on semi military-inspired/appointed gear is often wasted on me. Not because I wouldn't use it, but because the bigness of the main kit makes satellite pouches unwieldy (and snaggable). I prefer packs with built-in pockets stitched flush to the main bag. I like lots of pockets.
At 5'3" & 108Lbs, 90% of packs are too tall and wide for my frame. Load them up and they're a joke: uncomfortable and awkward. I don't want to look like a kid in dad's gear. I want to look like an adult woman with correctly fitted gear.
I also don't want my Lady Gear in Teal, Pink, Azure, Apple Green, Purple, Red, White, Flowers, Kittens, Stripes, fucking Polka-Dots, Glitter, Sequin or Anime. Or with a bow. Or with Golden Accents. Or shitty zippers. Or flimsy material. Or always a purse. Or a sling-style for that matter. Cuz one-strap bags, be they a purse, tote, messenger or "gearslinger," put a lot of strain on a shoulder.
I love e-bags' "TLS Professional Slim Laptop Bag" But it, too, suffers from inflated size. If they made that exact bag, but in a size for people who top out at a 13" laptop/large tablet--I'd buy one immediately at twice the cost. No-brainer. Why? Cuz it's low-key looking, extremely well organized (ie, your stuff doesn't all sink to the bottom of the bag in a slouchy pile) has a blaze orange interior which makes finding your stuff easy--and in a pinch if you're stranded, you've got a bright orange signal to wave. Though, if I'm wishing, I'd like to see that TLS Slim backpack offered in a gray, deep green or dark blue color too. Good urban commuter colors. Black is hard to live with. It shows all the dirt & lint in the world.
I've also perused Booq's offerings. They have good bag-theory and an interesting line--but again, all black & even the small "Squeeze" backpack (or the "Shift" for that matter) looks a little off for a petite person. It's a design thing. I'd like less Ninja-Turtle shell, and more pared-down GoRuck. But I can't fault Booq for built-in hard cases, compartments or easy-contrast interiors. Something I wish more designers would consider--I've had my fill of black bags with black innards at night.
Lately I've been eye-balling the Tumi Knox backpack in either gray, green or what I call their "Ironic Camo"--because (to me) there's a quirky sense of humor going on there. The size seems about right for light daily carry items, which for me are mostly electronics and basic first aid, as well as a few toiletries and a scotch flask. If the zombies are coming, I'd like to go out happy. The Knox has a nice orange interior too.
So, my take-away is that designers view gender thusly:
Men: people who need well-designed gear that's practical, tactical and made to use.
Women: fashion-conscious, not-men people, who need things to look cute and appealing.