What Size Backpacking Pack Do I Need?

Backpacking is an amazing activity that I would recommend everyone to try out at least once in their life. The entire process, including the preparation at home, can change your life for the better. It can all make you more responsible, more independent, more in touch with your inner self as well as with nature. Yet, there is one problem – you cannot go backpacking without having at least some of the key pieces of gear!

If you have taken up an interest in backpacking before, you know that every backpacker needs a few things from comfortable quality shoes to a good sleeping system, a quality tent, and so on. Another piece of gear that might not be that important but you still cannot go without is the actual backpack!


When you start researching for a good backpack that you can get for yourself, you will find that there are many things to consider. You have to decide on the size or capacity, the frame type, extra features, but most important – the backpack should fit you well! If you have never thought about these things before, this might seem a bit intimidating. Do not worry. I am here to help guide you through the process!

In this guide, I will talk about the different size backpacks. I will also touch upon which type of backpack is suitable for different types of trips. If this sounds interesting and you want to learn more, you should keep reading with the utmost attention!

How Big Should My Backpacking Pack Be

How Big Should My Backpacking Pack Be?

Sometimes, I have heard that people decide on the size of their backpack depending on their height or weight. This is not a good method to use when deciding on the size of your backpack. The size of the backpack should be determined based on your torso size and the purpose of the backpack.

I will give you a step-by-step guide to help you choose the right size backpack for your needs. Make sure that you go over all the steps when buying a backpack! If you skip some of the steps, you might end up with the wrong type of backpack. So, let’s see what you need to think about when choosing a backpack!

Step 1 – Measure your torso

One of the most important steps that you should never skip is the measurement of your torso. You need to measure from the back of your neck to the spot above your hip bones. If you have difficulties with the measuring, you should get someone to help you with it.

Depending on the measurement you get, you will then choose between a short, regular, or long backpack. The measurement will help you get the type of backpack that will fit you best. Also, check whether the backpack is unisex. There are different types of backpacks for men and women, so that is also something to keep in mind.

Step 2 – Decide on the capacity

When it comes to capacity, there are generally three categories that you can divide backpacks into. You have 30 to 50L backpacks that are suitable for short trips or weekend trips. Then, you have the 50 to 70L backpacks that are best for few-day trips. Finally, the 70 to 100L backpacks are suitable only for extended trips of a few weeks.

When you are trying to choose a backpack, think about the trips you plan on taking the backpack to. That can help you determine what type of backpack you need. If you tend to go on short hikes all the time, you do not need to invest in a 100L backpack that will be too big for your needs.

Another thing to think about is the seasons in which you hike the most. If you prefer hikes in warmer weather, you can get a smaller backpack because you will not carry too many things. But, if you are planning on hiking during the winter, you will need something larger to carry all your extra layers.

Step 3 – Think about backpack attachments

I want to mention that you can also get attachments to fill with extra things when you go on longer trips. There are travel pouches, smaller and larger that you can attach to the main unit with ease. These pouches can hold extra clothes, water bottles, even pieces of gear that do not fit in your backpack.

Backpacks come with many compartments, so think about the things you are planning on taking on trips and whether they will fit well in your desired backpack. You might need a separate sleeping bag compartment if you are going on long trips. A separate compartment for your cooking equipment can come in handy for longer trips as well.

I always say this – try to think ahead about the things you will take and how much space you will need for them. This can come in very handy when deciding on the right size backpack for your trips!

hiking backpack

What Size Backpack Do I Need For Hiking?

Having a backpack with you when hiking is very important. Most hiking trails are in remote areas where you will not find any restaurants or stores. You will need to carry extra food in case anything happens, a water bottle or even two, an extra layer of clothes, a rain jacket, and so on. All these things can fit in your backpack – if you have one in the right size!

The size of your hiking backpack depends on the length of the actual hike. The shortest hikes usually last a couple of hours, and for this type of hike, you will only need a 20 to 30L backpack. Any trip longer than that will need a bit larger backpack.

If you are planning on taking a weekend hike, you will need a 30 to 35L backpack. You should be able to fit your sleeping pad and sleeping bag, food, and water to last you for a few days, as well as extra clothes to change into.

If you are going on hikes that will last a few weeks or even months, you will need a backpack from 70 to 100L in size. Take, for example, the Appalachian Trail. Walking the Appalachian Trail takes anywhere from 5 to 7 months, even if you are an experienced, fast hiker with quality gear.

Can you imagine how many things you will need for a trip that long? If you are planning on taking trips like this, you should always buy ultralight gear. This will enable you to take a lot of things without carrying a lot of extra weight.

What Size Backpack for a Day Hike?

Day hikes are a great way to let loose and get a bit of exercise. You usually set off early in the morning, hike throughout the day with some small breaks, and then return home before midnight. You do not need any sleeping gear for day hikes, which means that the backpack you need will be that much smaller and lighter!

The shorter your hike is, the smaller your backpack should be. There are many things you need for an overnight trip that will not be useful for you if you are going on a day-hike only. At best, you will need some water, food, and also an extra layer of clothing.

Still, something to keep in mind is the season in which you are hiking. If you are taking a day hike in summer, you might as well take nothing more than some food and water. Wear some comfortable shoes, put on some light clothes, and you will be good to go!

In summer, I recommend that you put in your backpack some bug spray in case you get bitten by something. You should also get some sunscreen to protect yourself from sunburns.

Preparing for a winter day hike is not as simple. You will need a larger backpack because you will be wearing a lot of layers, gloves, a beanie, and so on. If you take off some of the layers, you will need space in your backpack to put them. Also, winter gear usually means bulky gear, so keep in mind that you will need extra space!

backpack for travelling

What Size Backpack for Traveling?

The type of backpack you take on your travels often depends on the type of trip you plan. If you plan to travel to a remote area where you will need a tent and sleeping bag, you will need a larger backpack. If you are traveling to a hotel where you will be accommodated, you can also use a smaller backpack.

Let me put it this way. Traveling to a place where you have proper accommodation usually means that you need clothes and some toiletries. You can fit these things in a backpack that is anywhere from 30 to 50L in size. Pack them neatly, and you will be good to go!

Yet, traveling to a remote area means you will need a lot more things. You need to carry with you: a tent, a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, cooking supplies, water, more food than usual, a change of clothes, and other things as well. For a trip that is one week long, you can use a 50L backpack, but for anything longer, I would go with a 70 to 100L backpack.

When going on longer trips, with many things packed in your backpack, you need to make sure that your backpack is well adjusted at all times. That means you should adjust the shoulder straps, waist strap, load lifters, and chest strap. This will help balance the weight and keep you from having a sore back afterward.

For longer trips, I would also recommend that you get a waterproof backpack or at least come with a rain cover. That way, even if you face a bit of rain, you will be sure that all your things are dry and protected.


I hope that this guide gave you a quick overview of the type of backpacks available for hiking and other types of trips. Also, I hope that you will use my friendly tips to choose the perfect backpack for yourself.

Depending on the type of trips you usually take, you can find a great size backpack. I recommend that you get one from a specialty store, made from quality fabric, with a lot of space available and even some extra pockets. You know, hip belt pockets make a great place to store necessary things, so you can get a backpack that has them!

Let me know what type of backpack you have at home or what size backpack you plan to buy. I cannot wait to read all your comments!

Andrew Mullen

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