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What Backpack Size Is For Backpacking


by Katha Borrero



When it comes to backpacking, having the right backpack size is essential. Whether it’s a day hike, a weekend getaway, or a long-term adventure, choosing the appropriate backpack size can make all the difference in your comfort and overall experience.


Understanding backpack sizes can seem overwhelming at first, as they are typically measured in volume in liters or cubic inches. However, by considering factors such as trip duration, gear needs, and personal preferences, you can determine the ideal backpack size for your specific needs.


In this article, we will guide you through the process of choosing the right backpack size for your backpacking adventures. We will discuss the factors to consider when selecting a backpack size and provide recommendations for different types of trips. Additionally, we will share tips on how to properly pack your backpack for optimal weight distribution and comfort.


By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of how to choose the perfect backpack size that suits your needs and ensures a comfortable and enjoyable backpacking experience.


Understanding Backpack Sizes

When it comes to backpack sizes, they are typically measured in volume, expressed in liters or cubic inches. The volume represents the total capacity of the backpack and determines how much gear you can fit inside.


Backpack sizes can vary significantly, ranging from small daypacks of 15-30 liters to larger expedition packs of 70 liters or more. The right backpack size for you depends on the duration of your trip and the amount of gear you need to carry.


It’s important to note that backpack sizes can also vary between brands, so it’s recommended to check the specific size charts provided by the manufacturer. Additionally, some backpacks offer adjustable sizing options, allowing you to customize the fit according to your body size and preferences.


It’s also worth mentioning that backpack sizes are not the same as backpack dimensions. While backpack dimensions refer to the length, width, and height of the pack, backpack sizes provide an estimate of the overall capacity.


Understanding backpack sizes is crucial because choosing a backpack that is too small can result in insufficient storage space and a cramped packing experience. On the other hand, selecting a backpack that is too large can lead to unnecessary weight and discomfort.


Keep in mind that backpack size is just one aspect to consider when choosing a backpack. Other factors, such as the pack’s suspension system, weight distribution, and overall fit, are equally important for a comfortable and enjoyable backpacking experience.


Factors to Consider in Choosing a Backpack Size

When selecting a backpack size, there are several factors you should take into consideration. These factors will help guide you towards choosing the right size that meets your specific needs and preferences.

  1. Trip Duration: The length of your backpacking trip plays a significant role in determining the appropriate backpack size. For day hikes or overnight trips, a smaller backpack of around 20-30 liters may suffice. For longer expeditions or multi-day trips, you’ll need a larger backpack with a capacity of 40 liters or more.
  2. Gear Needs: Consider the type and amount of gear you’ll be carrying. If you’re embarking on a technical hike or carrying specialized equipment such as climbing gear or a tent, you’ll need extra space. On the other hand, if you’re going on a minimalist trip with only the essentials, you can opt for a smaller backpack.
  3. Season and Climate: The season and climate of your backpacking destination can impact the amount of gear you’ll need. For warm weather trips, you’ll require less bulky clothing and insulation compared to colder climates. Keep in mind that winter gear such as jackets, sleeping bags, and additional layers can take up more space.
  4. Personal Comfort: It’s essential to choose a backpack size that suits your body type and provides a comfortable fit. The pack should distribute weight evenly and allow for proper adjustment of shoulder straps, hip belts, and sternum straps. A backpack that is too small or too large can cause discomfort or strain on your body.
  5. Organizational Needs: Consider your organizational preferences and the number of compartments or pockets you prefer. Some backpacks offer more organization options with multiple pockets, dividers, and access points, while others have a streamlined design. Choose a backpack that aligns with your organizational style.

By considering these factors, you can narrow down your options and select a backpack size that suits your specific requirements. It’s important to try on different backpacks and assess their comfort and functionality before making a final decision.


How to Measure and Choose the Right Backpack Size

Choosing the right backpack size involves more than just guesswork. By following a few guidelines and taking accurate measurements, you can ensure a proper fit and select a backpack size that meets your needs.


The first step is to measure your torso length. To do this, have someone help you measure the distance between the prominent bone at the base of your neck and the top of your hip bones. This measurement will give you an idea of the backpack size range that will fit you comfortably.


Once you have your torso measurement, refer to the manufacturer’s size chart to determine the appropriate backpack size. Most manufacturers provide a recommended range of torso lengths for each backpack size they offer.


In addition to your torso length, consider your hip size. The hip belt plays a crucial role in distributing the weight of the backpack and relieving the strain from your shoulders. Measure the circumference of your hips at the widest point to ensure a proper fit for the hip belt.


After taking measurements, it’s recommended to try on different backpacks to assess their fit and comfort. Load the backpack with weight to simulate a real-life hiking situation. Adjust the shoulder straps, hip belt, and sternum strap to achieve a snug and balanced fit.


Keep in mind that the fit of a backpack can vary between brands and models. While one brand’s small size may fit perfectly, another brand’s small size might not be suitable for your body shape. Be sure to try on different brands and models to find the one that fits you best.


It’s also important to consider your personal preferences. Some individuals prefer a more compact and lightweight pack, while others prefer a larger pack with more storage options. Choose a backpack size that aligns with your style of backpacking and meets your individual needs.


Remember, selecting the right backpack size is crucial for your comfort and enjoyment during backpacking trips. Take the time to measure and try on different backpacks to find the perfect fit, and don’t hesitate to seek assistance from knowledgeable staff at outdoor gear stores.


Recommended Backpack Sizes for Different Types of Backpacking Trips

The recommended backpack size for your backpacking trip depends on several factors, including the duration of your trip, the amount of gear you need to carry, and your personal preferences. Here are some general guidelines to help you choose the appropriate backpack size for different types of backpacking trips:

  1. Day Hikes: For short day hikes or outings where you only need to carry essentials like water, snacks, and a light jacket, a small daypack of around 15-30 liters should be sufficient.
  2. Overnight Trips: For overnight trips, a backpack size of 30-50 liters should provide enough space to carry your sleeping bag, a change of clothes, cooking gear, and food.
  3. Weekend Getaways: If you’re planning a weekend backpacking trip, a backpack size of 40-60 liters will accommodate your gear, clothing, food, and camping essentials.
  4. Multi-Day Trips: For multi-day trips lasting several days, a larger backpack of 50-70 liters will allow you to carry additional clothing layers, a tent, a sleeping pad, cooking equipment, and enough food for the duration of your trip.
  5. Long-Term Expeditions: If you’re embarking on a long-term backpacking adventure, such as thru-hiking a long-distance trail, a backpack size of 60 liters or more may be necessary to accommodate all your gear and supplies.

These recommended backpack sizes are just general guidelines and can vary depending on individual preferences and the specific gear you need to carry. It’s important to consider the weight and bulkiness of your equipment and choose a backpack size that comfortably fits everything while allowing for proper weight distribution.


Additionally, keep in mind that ultralight backpackers may opt for smaller-sized packs to minimize weight, while those carrying specialized equipment for activities like mountaineering or winter backpacking may require larger sizes.


Ultimately, choosing the right backpack size for your backpacking trip involves finding a balance between having enough space for your gear and maintaining a comfortable and manageable load.


Tips for Properly Packing a Backpack

Properly packing your backpack is essential for optimizing weight distribution, maximizing space, and ensuring easy access to your essentials during your backpacking trip. Here are some useful tips to help you pack your backpack effectively:

  1. Start with a Packing List: Before you start packing, create a detailed packing list to ensure you have all the necessary gear and essentials for your trip. This will help you stay organized and prevent you from forgetting important items.
  2. Use Packing Cubes or Compression Sacks: Packing cubes or compression sacks can help you organize and compress your clothing and gear, maximizing space inside your backpack. Sort items by category and use these packing aids to streamline your packing process.
  3. Place Heavy Items Close to Your Back: When loading your backpack, put heavier items like your sleeping bag or cooking gear closer to your back. This helps maintain a balanced weight distribution and keeps the center of gravity closer to your body.
  4. Utilize External Pockets: Take advantage of external pockets or attachment points on your backpack to store frequently accessed items like a water bottle, snacks, or a map. This allows for quick and easy retrieval without having to dig through the main compartment.
  5. Distribute Weight Properly: Aim for an even weight distribution by packing heavier items in the lower and middle sections of your backpack. This prevents your pack from toppling over or causing strain on your shoulders and back.
  6. Secure Loose Items: Use straps and compression systems on your backpack to secure loose items and prevent them from shifting during your hike. This helps maintain balance and stability while walking on uneven terrain.
  7. Keep Essential Items Handy: Place frequently used items such as snacks, a rain jacket, or a headlamp in easily accessible pockets or the top lid of your backpack. This way, you won’t have to dig through your pack every time you need something.
  8. Consider Waterproofing: If backpacking in wet conditions, use waterproof stuff sacks or pack liners to protect your gear from rain or water splashes. This adds an extra layer of protection and ensures your essential items stay dry.
  9. Regularly Reassess and Adjust: As you progress through your backpacking trip, periodically reassess your pack’s contents. Remove any unnecessary items and readjust weight distribution to maintain comfort and balance.

Properly packing your backpack not only makes your gear more accessible but also reduces strain on your body and enhances your overall backpacking experience. Experiment with different packing techniques and find a system that works best for you and your specific gear.



Choosing the right backpack size is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable backpacking experience. By considering factors such as trip duration, gear needs, and personal preferences, you can select a backpack size that meets your specific requirements.


Understanding backpack sizes and how they are measured in volume allows you to make an informed decision. Remember to measure your torso length and consider your hip size to ensure a proper fit. Trying on different backpacks and assessing their comfort and functionality is also important.


There are recommended backpack sizes for different types of backpacking trips, but it’s important to remember that personal preferences and gear requirements may vary. Balancing weight distribution, properly organizing your pack, and keeping essential items easily accessible are key to a well-packed backpack.


In conclusion, selecting the right backpack size and packing it effectively will greatly enhance your backpacking adventures. By following the guidelines and tips provided in this article, you’ll be well-equipped to choose the perfect backpack size and enjoy your trips with ease and comfort.