How to Choose the Size of Your Hiking Bag

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Picking the right size of your hiking bag is certainly easier said than done.

Not only is it crucial to have something comfortable and convenient, but it’s also important that you can fit all the necessary equipment in it as well, with a little room to spare.

Something too small can be uncomfortable when stuffed to the brim, and something too big can be cumbersome. With so many styles and sizes out there, it can seem impossible.

But with the right guidance and understanding, you’ll be able to find the perfect size for you.

Here’s our way of how to choose the size of a hiking bag:

Hiking Bag Size

The first thing you’ll need in order to determine the ideal hiking bag is the length of your hike.

Hiking for a few hours can be fine with just a small day backpack, whilst hiking for days on end will obviously require something a lot larger.

Not only this, but it’s also a good idea to know what type of hiking you’ll be doing, and in what kind of environment. Different terrains, seasons and even temperatures can decide what you’ll need to bring.

An easy hike in the summer might require only a rain jacket, sunglasses, and some water, whilst a long hike in winter might require various extra layers, food rations, and even ice- or snow-specific gear.

The most important thing to remember is to bring the least amount of things possible, whilst still having everything that’s essential to your trip.

Types of Hiking Bags Depending on the Length of Your Trip

backpack hiking

The length of your trip is a huge factor in determining which size of hiking bad is best – we’ll go over this now:

Day Bags

Day backpacks are usually between 20 and 30 liters, with some as small as 10 liters, and other stretching to 35-40.

An ultra-compact backpack can be great for just a few hours, but anything longer and you’ll want something that’s suitable for a whole do – so around 30 liters.

You’ll want enough room for extra layers, accessories/gear, and of course some food and water.

If you need to bring some bulkier clothing, or other gear, such as cameras or snow gear, stretching to 40-45 liters would be ideal. Although this is quite sizeable, it’s still a great size for a day backpack.

Weekend Bags

Staying overnight can make a huge difference to the size of the backpack you’ll need because you’re likely going to need to bring a lot more stuff.

Depending on your sleeping arrangements, you may need to bring a sleeping bag, tent, as well as cooking equipment, and enough food for 2-3 days.

Even if you’re a light packer, you’ll still want something around 50 liters to deal with all of the stuff.

Multi-Day Bags

If you’re staying for a number of nights, you’ll, of course, need an even bigger backpack. As this means you’ll need more clothes, food, and cooking supplies, as well as any gear.

Because of this, you’ll likely be looking in the region of 50-75 liters, but this can vary greatly from person to person, as well as depending on where you’re staying, and what climate you’re in.

Expedition Bags

Expedition backpacks are in a league of their own. They usually range from 75 to 100 liters, with some going up to 120 liters, and even more!

They’re designed so you can fit absolutely everything you’ll need inside them. Not only this, but some top-end models have expanding parts, so they can range in size depending on the trip you’re taking.

For example, unzipping a pocket can add an extra 10 liters, making it an 80 to 90-liter backpack.

Although these aren’t always the easiest to carry, they’re the best choice in guaranteeing you’ll be able to bring absolutely everything you need for the trip.

Bear in mind though that, because of their size, they don’t come cheap.

How to Measure the Volume of a Hiking Bag

Most backpacks are measured in internal volume rather than external size. This is measured in liters, instead of centimeters or millimeters.

The total size will usually include the main compartment itself, as well as any other added compartments when zipped up.

Be wary though that some retailers and manufacturers aren’t always too honest about this, and can often exaggerate a bag’s size by including mesh pockets and detachable compartments.

The best thing to do is to see the backpack in person, then you’ll know exactly how big it is.

Hiking Backpack Fit

hiking bag size

A backpack that fits well will be suitable for your body, without being overbearing, or riding up too high.

Waist Size

Although many people believe that backpacks should be tightest around the shoulders, it’s actually the waist and hips that should support most of the weight – between 70 and 80 percent, at least!

Yes, they can be adjusted, but buying one with straps too long or too short means that it might not be adjustable enough to fit snugly around your waist.

So, double-check the sizes and adjustments before buying.

Torso Length

Backpacks are available in a range of sizes – both in height and width – meaning that there’s definitely an ideal one out there for everyone.

If you’re particularly tall or large, it might be best for you to buy one in person, just so have a chance to try it on before you part with your cash.

If it doesn’t fit perfectly straight away, most come with a variety of adjustable straps so they can be adjusted to fit you perfectly.

Women Backpacks

Some retailers have women-specific backpacks. They tend to be a bit shorter and with shorter straps, to fit slightly smaller and slimmer frames. Some also have contouring that’s better suited for women.

Youth Backpacks

Similar to women-specific backpacks, youth or ‘junior’ backpacks are slimmer and shorter making them more suitable for children or smaller people in general.

Most also accommodate some growing room, as their adjustable straps mean they can still fit you for years to come.

Final Thoughts

There are various sizes, volumes, and shapes of backpacks to choose from, but by considering the type of activities you’re planning to do, as well as your own shape and size, you’re guaranteed to find one that’s ideal for you, both in budget and usability.

Hopefully, now you know how to choose the right size of hiking bags.

David Miller

My name is David and I have been an outdoor guy for as long as I can remember. I have a strong passion for the great outdoors in general and specifically camping. I am the kind of person who spends more time outdoors than indoors. I am a staunch believer in the fact that outdoor life should be well lived because it's in the natural, serene, and untamed wild that we find out who we truly are. Let’s take the journey together.

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