Recommended Backpack Volumes
How much volume should you get in a daypack, weekend backpack, multi-day backpack, or expedition backpack? Here are some volume guidelines and advice so you can start shopping for backpacks in the appropriate size range.
Hiking Backpack Volume Guide
Hiking Daypack Sizes (1/2 day to full-day hikes)
Most daypacks range from 15 liters to 35 liters on the high-end. While a smaller-sized 15-25 liter backpack is usually sufficient for 1/2 day hikes, you’ll want a larger pack in the 25-30 liter range for all-day hikes or winter so you can carry extra water, food, clothing, and the 10 essentials. Many backpacks under 25 liters in size will not have hipbelts and they’re really not necessary if you’re carrying less 15-20 pounds of food, water, and clothing. Once you get above 25 liters in pack volume, though you should be looking at backpacks with hipbelts, since the weight will sit on your hips and not your shoulders, making it much easier to carry.
The daypack category also includes hydration packs which can be a good option. Just make sure that you have sufficient volume to carry your extra clothing and gear.
If you’re a winter day hiker and snowshoer, I’d recommend sizing up to a 35-40 liter backpack capable of carrying snowshoes, microspikes, water, food and bulkier insulated clothing. You need a beefier backpack than a small daypack to carry snowshoes (which weigh 5 lbs alone) when they’re not needed.
Recommended Hiking Daypacks
|Men's Model||Sizing||Women's Model|
|REI Flash 18||Fixed Length||REI Flash 18|
|Mystery Ranch Coulee 20||Adjustable Torso||Mystery Ranch Coulee 20|
|Osprey Talon 22||Adjustable Torso||Osprey Tempest 20|
|Deuter Speed Lite 25 CV||Fixed Length||Deuter Speed Lite 23 SL CV|
|REI Trail 25||Fixed Length||REI Trail 25|
|Gregory Zulu 30||Adjustable Torso||Gregory Jade 28|
|Osprey Skarab 30||Fixed Length||Osprey Skimmer 28|
|Deuter Trail 30||Fixed Length||Deuter Trail 28 SL|
|Mystery Ranch Scree 32||Adjustable Torso||Mystery Ranch Scree 32|
|Osprey Stratos 36||Adjustable Torso||Osprey Sirrus 36|
Weekend Backpacks (1-3 Nights)
You can’t use most daypacks for overnight and weekend backpacking trips because you need to carry a lot more gear, such as a sleeping bag/quilt, sleeping pad, sleeping clothes, tent/shelter/hammock, stove, cooking pot and utensils, and more food.
All this extra stuff requires more space, even if you take a minimalist or ultralight approach to gearing up. For a 1-3 night weekend trip, the sweet spot is going to be a backpack with 40 to 50 liters of volume.
Recommended Multi-day Backpacks
|Make / Model||Weight||Fabric|
|Zpacks Arc Haul 60L||20.9 oz / 593g||Ultra 200|
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55||34.9 oz / 989g||Dyneema DCF|
|Granite Gear Crown 3 60L||32.6 oz / 1040g||Robic Nylon|
|Osprey Exos Pro 55||34.6 oz / 981g||UHMWPE Nylon Ripstop|
|ULA Circuit 68L||37.3 oz / 1038g||Robic Nylon|
|Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L||30.5 oz / 865g||Robic Nylon|
|REI Flash 55L||45 oz / 1276g||Robic Nylon|
|Gregory Focal 58||41.3 oz / 1171g||Robic Nylon|
|Waymark Gear Lite 50||34.8 oz / 987g||EcoPak EPX200|
|Atom Packs Mo EP50||32.1 oz / 910g||EcoPak EPX200|
Multi-day Backpacks (3-5 Nights)
The biggest difference between shorter weekend and multi-day backpacking trips is the need to carry more food and possibly a bit more technical gear, depending on the kind of activities or climate you’ll be hiking in.
For multi-day trips, you’re going to want 50 to 70 liters of backpack volume, but if you go ultralight or use compressible gear that doesn’t take up a lot of space, you might be able to get by with less than that.
Expedition Backpacks (5+ Nights)
Expedition backpacks are the behemoths of the backpacking world and range in size from 80 liters up to 110 liters or more. They’re designed to hold a mammoth amount of food and gear, usually for professionally guided mountaineering trips. If you’re going on a trip like this, it’s probably worth asking your guide for backpack recommendations. They may also have gear that you can rent since expedition backpacks can be quite expensive.
How Backpack Volume is Measured
Most major backpack manufacturers measure the volume of their backpacks by adding up the total volume of the closed storage on their packs, including the main compartment, pockets, and hip belt pockets that can be closed or zippered shut. However, many smaller manufacturers use a different method and include open pockets like side water bottle pockets or rear mesh pockets in addition to the closed storage. This can make weight-to-volume comparisons a little misleading when comparing packs from different manufacturers When in doubt, contact the manufacturer to ask what method they use to measure backpack volume.
If you plan to carry a lot of bulky gear, you don’t have to carry all of it inside the closed storage of a backpack. Bulky sleeping pads, tents, rain gear, snowshoes, and water bottles are commonly stuffed into exterior pockets or attached to the sides, back or bottom of a backpack with webbing or compression straps. This lets you use the same backpack for medium and longer trips, without having to buy a second larger pack to carry your extra gear.