The Ultimate Backpack Size and Volume Guide

The Ultimate Backpack Size and Volume Guide

There is one thing that you are going to need whether you are going camping, headed out for a hike, or just wandering the wilderness. This is a backpack. As you can imagine, the one that you used to wear to and from school isn’t quite appropriate for the above situations. You are going to need a backpack that is able to carry all of the things that you need to survive for a specific period of time. Since there are a lot of things to consider before finding the backpack, you should take a moment to find out everything that you can about backpack size and volume. Fortunately for you, you will be able to discover everything that you need right here:

What Does Size and Volume Mean?

The first thing that you are going to need to understand is how a backpack is measured. The packs are measured in two main ways. The first is by considering the volume of the bag which is just how much it is capable of holding. These are measured either using the units liters or cubic inches. Then there is the size of the pack – this is where you judge the dimensions of the pack.

Let’s first take a look at the volume of backpacks. Whether the measurements are available in liters, or cubic inches is entirely up to the manufacturer. Some brands may have both of the above options so that the readings are easier to understand. The conversion goes like this:

1 liter = 61 cubic inches

This means that a 20 liter pack would be denoted as 1220 cubic inches.

Now, we move onto the size of the backpack. To determine the size of a backpack, you will have to look at its dimensions. This means knowing the length, width, and the depth of the bag. In fact, if you know these, you will actually be able to calculate the volume of the bag. This, of course, can be tricky as it is difficult to get accurate measurements of the greatest depth the bag can accommodate. The size of a backpack is important because it tells you how the bag will sit on your body. For instance, by knowing the length, you will be able to tell where the backpack will end in relation to your torso or lower body.

What Makes Up the Volume of a Bag?

As mentioned above, you know that the volume of a bag can be roughly calculated by figuring out the dimensions. However, how do manufacturers decide the volume of a backpack? Since volume is a good indication of just how a backpack can carry within it, most designers simply look at it from that point. This means that they analyze how much each of the compartments of the backpack can store. Therefore, they will measure the storage capabilities of the main compartments and smaller pockets both inside and outside the backpack. These individuals look at all of these storage spaces, regardless of whether are open or whether they can be closed.

It is important to understand that not all manufacturers abide by this way of measurement. Some companies, for instance, will also take open pockets placed on the exterior of the backpack into account. These are usually mesh pockets or other storage options for water bottles. Therefore, although the volume may be stated as being larger, it may not necessarily be the case.

This can also get a little confusing if you are trying to compare one backpack to another. You should know that it is not always an apples to apples situation. You will first have to determine whether the manufacturers are following the same measuring policy before you can decide that the backpacks are comparable.

The other thing to keep in mind is the units that manufacturers use to display the volume of the pack. If the volume is stated as liters, you should know that this number is probably rounded up from the closest decimal. This could mean that the volume is not entirely accurate. When depicted as cubic inches, however, there is a greater level of accuracy as the whole number is mentioned. That being said, there is unlikely to be too much of a difference between backpacks measured in liters and those that are measured in cubic inches.

It can seem like it is simply a matter of converting the liters into cubic inches. However, since you don’t have the precise number, the resulting conversion may not necessarily be as exact as what a manufacturer can provide you with.

Matching the Backpack to the Excursion

There is a vast variety of sizes when it comes to backpacks that are specific to outdoor use. You can find backpacks ranging from 20 liters all the way to around 110 liters! These have been designed to suit different trips, of varying lengths. For instance, you will need a backpack of a certain size if you are going on a hike and a vastly different one if you are headed on a camping trip lasting several days. So, which volume is right for which trip?


Much like the name suggests, day packs are for trips that last no longer than a day. This means that you will be only carrying items with you that will last you for several hours. It is typical to find day packs that range between 8 liters and 25 liters. A smaller daypack – like the eight liter one – is great if you are going for a half day hike. Here, you will only really need a couple of snack bars, a large water bottle, and perhaps a lightweight jacket if the weather is particularly cold. If you will be spending the entire day outside, you are going to need something larger, perhaps a 25 liter bag as you will need to carry more items. Ferrino Lynx models are excellent for these type of short trips. This series carries backpacks that extend from 20 liters to 30 liters. If you are looking for something that is light and enough for a short hike then North Face Flyweight is a great choice.

The North Face Flyweight Pack, Asphalt Grey, One Size
  • 100% Authentic
  • Brand New
  • Durable
  • Original Packaging

Overnight Packs

If you are planning on camping out, you are certainly going to need a bigger pack than that. After all, there are a lot more things that will be stored in these backpacks. This may include a tent, sleeping bag, and other supplies. Here, you will find that backpacks with a volume between 30 and 50 liters will serve you best. For these instances, the Osprey Stratos series is probably the best choice. While there are smaller sizes available such as the 24 liter, the rest of the series consists of 33 liter, 36 liter, 47 liter, and 50 liter backpacks.

Osprey Packs Stratos 24 Hiking Backpack, Black, o/s, One Size
  • Stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment
  • Integrated raincover
  • Internal hydration reservoir sleeve
  • Dual side stretch mesh pockets
  • Front panel storage pocket

Weekend Packs

Well, what if you are planning on spending a couple of days camping? In this instance, you are going to need to account for great amounts of food and more clothes, at the very least. This is why you should look for backpacks that are no more than 70 liters. This should be more than enough for all of your belongings. High Sierra has the best options here with its Pathway range. You will be able to get packs that start at 40 liters and end at 70 liters.

High Sierra Pathway 40L Internal Frame Backpack, Black/Slate/Gold
  • DESIGNED FOR COMFORT and EASE OF CARRYING: this 40L hiking backpack is designed for comfort and ease of carrying; shoulder straps are adjustable to fit your height; non-slip shoulder pads disburse weight more evenly on your shoulder
  • DURABLE, RIPSTOP FABRIC: this High Sierra 40L internal frame backpack is made with 500 x 500-denier waffle ripstop Duralite fabric ombined with a durable 900-Denier Duralite, water-resistant Tech-Weave to help keep gear drye
  • LARGE MAIN COMPARTMENT and MULTIPLE POCKETS: this 40 liter hiking backpack from High Sierra features deep zipper access to large main compartment; includes a large front zippered pocket with internal organizer and stretch mesh exterior pockets
  • BEVERAGE POCKET: stay hydrated by keeping your drink close at hand with a mesh beverage pocket
  • TREKKING POLE ATTACHMENT: this 40 l hiking backpack includes a daisy chain and adjustable trekking pole loops

Multi-day Packs

If you will be spending more than two days away from home, you should consider backpacks within the range of 70 liters to 110 liters. They will provide all of the room that you need for all of your gear, clothes, and food. These backpacks are going to need to be quite heavy duty. Ferrino has a series that is known as Transalp that is perfectly suited for these longer trips. You can get backpacks with volumes of 60 liters, 80 liters, and 100 liters.

Ferrino Transalp Backpack, Blue, 100-Liter
  • Super breathable back in mesh fabric
  • Folding double bottom with front access
  • Mesh side pockets

How to Choose the Right Sized Backpack for You

Each person is different which is why everyone has unique requirements when it comes to backpacks. If you are trying to narrow down an option that is right for you, here are some tips that you can use:

Your Size

There is little sense in traipsing around with a backpack that is larger than you. This will be uncomfortable for you and restrict your movements. Not to mention, you will probably be quite sore after your hike and camping trip. The first thing you will need to do when choosing a backpack is to measure your own torso. The distance that you will be measuring is the point between the base of your neck and somewhere near your hip bones. This is the optimal length for you. When shopping for backpacks, make sure that the entire length of the bag is equal to or less than your measurements. This is the best way to ensure a good fit.

The Weight Capacity

The main focus of this article has been the size and the volume of the backpack. In addition to these factors, however, you should think about the weight that a particular bag is capable of carrying. This can depend on a number of things, including the material with which the bag is made from. Most manufacturers will specify just how much weight a specific backpack is able to sustain. This is why you will need to consider the weight of the items that you are carrying – not just the size. There are many instances where small items can weigh quite a lot. Typically, the larger the bag, the greater the load that it is equipped to carry.

The Weather

You may also want to think about the weather conditions that you will be hiking or camping in. When the weather is hot, your greatest concern would be hydration. However, in the cooler months, you will need to keep cool. This typically means that you will have to hike with jackets or sweaters in your bag. If you are hiking when it is snowing, you may even need snowshoes, at times. All of this means that if you are hiking or camping in the winter, you are going to require a much larger backpack than usual.

Your Packing Style

Some people have really mastered the knack of packing or rolling their clothes and other foldable items. If you are such an individual, you may not actually require as large a pack as indicated. This, of course, should be determined by the larger items that cannot be folded or made smaller. If the main reason that you are looking for a backpack is to carry clothes and similar items, however, you could possibly get away with using a smaller bag.

Use Different Bags for Separate Occasions

It can be tempting to get one large bag and just use it for all of your camping and hiking trips. Nonetheless, if you are an avid outdoors person, it is best to avoid doing this. Unless you absolutely need to use an oversized pack, you should just take one that suits your need. If you are just going for a short hike, there is no need to take a significant load with you as you go. Instead, a few bags for separate occasions. This will prove to be a much more comfortable option for you.

This is the only guide you will need if you are trying to figure out which backpack has the right size and volume for you. It is good to get plenty of advice, especially for people who are more experienced in this matter. At the same time, the final decision is ultimately up to you. You should consider what you will be using the backpacks for, in which conditions, and for how long. It is only after you look at all of these variables that you are able to make a fully informed decision about what you want to buy. Make sure to look around and compare all of the appropriate backpacks. This way, you will be able to choose which one is best out of all of the options available to you.

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