What Size Pack Do You Need?

Anyone who has hiked can tell you that there is a fine line between bringing everything you need, and bringing too much stuff. One of the best ways to make sure you don’t overpack is to have a pack that can only fit what you need. While this may seem like a simple principle, it can be a bit more complicated than it sounds. Backpack sizing is not something you deal with on a daily basis (unless you work at a backpack store). As a result, when it comes time to get a pack, it is easy to get overwhelmed and end up going with the one that looks the coolest instead of the one that will actually be good for you. It is important to keep in mind different factors when you are researching and trying to find the perfect pack.

How Long is Your Trip?

Choosing the right pack begins with thinking about what you’re intending to do with the pack. How long do the supplies in this pack need to last you? How long do you plan on traveling/hiking/camping?

There are three types of packs that are designed for certain timeframes:

  • EDC (everyday carry) packs are designed to carry the bare necessities and nothing more
  • Multi-day packs allow you to store enough for a night or two of hiking/camping
  • Multi-week packs allow you to journey from a longer period of time

Being aware of the planned duration of the trip is an important consideration to ensure you get a pack that will fulfill that purpose.

Pack Measurements – Liters or Inches

When shopping for a pack, you will often find some packs measure their volume in cubic inches, while others measure in liters. What is the difference and does it really matter?

The only major difference is that the cubic inches measurement is typically going to be more accurate in telling what your pack can actually hold, while liters will normally be rounded up to the closest number. So if the exact volume matters, you’ll want to look at the cubic inches instead of liters.

Figuring Out What Will Fit

Now that you have an idea about the different types of packs and how they are measured, it is time to think about how many items will fit in different sized packs.

Day Packs

  • 0-10 Liters: This is the basic of basics. These tiny packs won’t allow you to get much in them at all. We are basically talking a hydration pack and a granola bar.
  • 10-20 Liters: This is for the light packer. If you’re savvy enough, you can get what you need for a day hike in a 10-20 liter pack, but not much more.
  • 20-30 Liters: Now we are getting into the territory where most people live. This kind of pack will give you plenty of room for all that you need in a daypack without giving any extra unneeded pack weight.

1 – 3 Nights (24-72 Hours)

  • 30-40 Liters: If you are planning on staying overnight, you will want your pack to be in this 30-40 liter range. At this point, you will be able to get in a down sleeping bag, plenty of food, basic shelter, some extra clothes, and maybe even a lightweight sleeping pad.
  • 40-50 Liters: One level up, and you will be able to fit all of the necessities plus have a little extra room to extend your stay, or make a shorter stay just that much more comfortable. In addition, you will have the potential of taking along some cooking items, possibly a camp stove, extra clothes, etc. This is also a good option if you are going for a one or two night stay but just like to have a bit of extra room other stuff. After all, we can’t all be super minimalists!

3-5 Nights

  • 50-70 Liters: The longer you are out in the great outdoors, the more supplies you will need. This size can help with that. Also, if you’re going for a 1-3 night and need extra room (say your sleeping bag or mat aren’t exactly small), 50-70 liters will be good as well.

5+ Nights

  • 70+ Liters: If you plan on leaving civilization for any longer than 5 nights, then you are going to want to have a pack that will give you room for what you need. A pack this size will give you plenty of room for everything you need on an extended trip.

I hope this information will help you as you pick out a pack! Hiking and camping can be some of the most fun things to do in the world. However, a bad pack can ruin an otherwise great adventure. So do your research and get a pack that will meet all your packing needs!

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Brady Smith

Brady Smith is a professional writer, author, and speaker specializing in creative message development for business, politics, non-profit, & more.

An avid archer, political junkie, and aspiring musician, Brady makes his home on the edge of society, just close enough to get good WiFi, but far enough to not be bothered.
Brady Smith

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