Is a 40L Backpack Big Enough for Camping? [Must-Read]

Are you planning to embark on an exciting new camping adventure and preparing your equipment before you go? Your backpack will be your trusty sidekick every step of the way, so finding the right one that can store all of your essentials and stand up against the elements is absolutely critical.

The kind of backpack you choose should be based on things like how long you’ll be camping, how much walking you plan to do, your strength and endurance levels, the weather you’ll be in, and how you’re traveling.

A burning question that many hikers have is, “Is a 40L backpack big enough for camping?” This is a good question, with a nuanced answer, but we’ll do our best to explain it in great detail here so you can plan for your best camping trip yet.


hiker with 40l bacpack

Short Answer

Yes, a 40L backpack is big enough for camping. Many campers may even go so far as to say it’s the sweet spot size for a camping backpack, as it’s big enough to hold the most important camping essentials but small enough to be manageable to carry during your trek.

A 40L backpack is a great choice for a camping trip that’s two or three days long—perfect for those weekend camping trips you’re planning. There’s a ton of variety available in this backpack size on the market so you’ll be able to find one that meets all your needs at a price that also fits your budget.

What You Can Store in a 40L Camping Backpack

You can store a lot in a 40-liter backpack. The capacity is right there in its name, but what actual camping supplies can you fit in it?

First, you’ll want to store the absolute necessities, like a camping sleeping bag, tent, food, and clothing. In addition to the food, you’ll need something to cook it in, so at least one pot or pan, cooking utensils, and a small stove should do the trick. 

In addition, you should be able to store things like a water purifier, water bottle or glassware, navigation tools, first aid kit, tent pad, extra layers, lightweight chair, lantern, and coffee press.

Other things you may want to consider packing (depending on your packing skills and how you use the capacity of your backpack) include:

  • A few liters of water

  • Space blanket

  • Headlamp

Storing things in separate bags will take up more space, so try to utilize the gaps and cracks in your camping bag to make some of the smaller items find a home without taking up more precious cargo space. 

You may also want to consider the order of the items you pack and how you’ll be able to access them when you need them. Putting your water, for example, all the way down at the bottom of the bag will make it difficult as you'll have to unload everything just to access it.

40L Backpack Weight

A 40L backpack’s weight will vary depending on what items you’re storing inside of it and how heavy each of the items is. The backpack itself should ideally be lightweight, no more than two pounds, as this adds additional strain to the items you’re carrying. Some are even as light as 1.5 pounds.

Small details, like added pockets and zippers, can add up in weight, but they provide additional convenience, so you have to compare which one matters more to you—actual carrying weight or convenience.

Older model backpacks are more likely to be bulkier than newer models, as manufacturers will slowly edit, adapt, and improve their products to continue the level of convenience while reducing overall weight.

Taking Your 40L Backpack on a Plane

If your camping trip will involve you traveling via plane, it’s important to know how you plan to bring your luggage with you and understand your airline’s baggage policies.

The 40L backpack may be within the size and weight limits for a carry-on item, depending on the shape of the bag, how tightly you’ve packed it, and how full the plane is with other luggage. 

It may be the case that your 40L backpack fits but only without the inclusion of certain items like trekking poles and pots and pans that would push it over the limit.

Alternatively, you can always check your travel luggage, and you won’t be subject to such harsh requirements for size and weight. You may have to check it as an oversized or unique baggage item, but you will be able to bring anything you need.

It’s often a bit more expensive to carry luggage on than it is to check it due to the added convenience of not having to visit the luggage carousel to pick it up after the flight, so it may be worth it to take the cheaper option of checking your luggage to ensure you can bring all of your necessities.

Choosing a Backpack Size

Choosing the right size backpack for your camping trip should be influenced by how long your trip is, the weight capacity you’re willing to carry, and what you deem as essentials for your journey.

As mentioned previously, a 40L backpack is a good sweet spot for shorter camping trips, 1-3 days. If you’re only doing one night of camping and would rather stay lightweight, you could opt for a backpack between ten and 30 liters and just carry your sleeping bag, tent, food items, water, and first aid kit.

Is a 40L backpack big enough for camping over the span of a week? In this case, you’ll likely want a larger backpack. Something in the 50- to 70-pound range will serve you well for a week, allowing you to bring things like a pillow, a larger tent, camp shoes, and extra cookware.

Final Thoughts

If you’re still wondering, “Is a 40L backpack big enough for camping?” the answer is yes. When in doubt, a 40L backpack is a happy medium size to start with for a weekend camping trip. 

It will serve you well and allow you to bring all of the essentials like sleeping items, food items, and clothing items without adding too much bulk or weight to your journey. 

Andrew Mullen

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