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Outdoor Industry Association Announces New Backpack Volume Standard

New Backpack Volume Standard

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) announced a new way to measure the volume of backpacks, daypacks, and hydration packs in a way that is universally understandable by the American and Canadian public.

“Consumers have long struggled with trying to understand backpack volume in terms of liters or cubic inches. The problem is that they can’t visualize how big a 60 liter or 3000 cubic inch backpack is in terms of what it can hold,” says OIA CEO Hiram Walker. “On top of that, backpack makers use several different ways to measure the volume of their packs making it impossible to compare packs from different manufacturers.”

The new unit of measure is a 12 oz can of beer because it’s very easy for people to visualize the size of one can, a six-pack, a case of 24 cans, or a 30-pack, for example. These are all volumes that American and Canadian youths and adults are very familiar with. Pabst Blue Ribbon is the reference 12 oz can of beer we’ve standardized on since it is so widely available in North America. Other brands of beer can also be used as long as they have the same dimensions as a 12 oz can of Pabst.

“Since many of our member companies are smaller companies, it was important to develop a test methodology that was inexpensive to implement and didn’t require the purchase of specialized test equipment. In order to accelerate industry and consumer adoption, it was also important to develop a test methodology that anyone could use to measure the volume of packs made anywhere in the world, even if they aren’t members of the OIA,” explained Evan Williams, OIA’s Chief Marketing Officer.

“Having a new backpack volume measurement standard that anyone can use was a brilliant strategy to accelerate consumer and industry adoption. Just brilliant, especially when coupled with the explosion of social media and video. I expect that backpackers, retailers, and bloggers will quickly publish the number of beer cans that can fit into the packs they use, sell, or review”, said Williams.

A 12 oz can, a 6-pack, and 30-packs are very easy for consumers to visualize
A 12 oz can, a 6-pack, and 30-packs are much easier for consumers to visualize than liters or cubic inches.

Industry Support

Backpack makers around the world have also been quick to embrace the new backpack volume measurement standard.

“I can’t wait to see the thru-hiker videos measuring the volumes of our packs. This will be a riot!” says “Eric Northman, CMO of Six Goons Designs.

“We think this new backpack volume metric is much more intuitive for all ages to understand,” says Rick Grimes CEO of Ostrich Packs.

“We really appreciate this new backpack volume standard because it’s so low cost to implement”, says Andy Taylor, President of Mysterious Backpacks.

The New Backpack Volume Measurement Standard

To measure the volume of a backpack, daypack, or hydration pack, all you need do is fill it with as many 12 oz beer cans as can possibly fit. If a pocket closes with a zipper, velcro, or a drawstring, you need to be able to close it. For open pockets, such as side water bottle pockets or stretch front pockets, fill the pocket with as many cans as it can hold as long as they won’t fall when carried. Note: For ultralight backpacks, we recommend doing this after the cans have been emptied or the cans might rip through the bottom of the pack.

“If there’s a pocket on the backpack that is too small to hold a can of beer, it’s volume is left out of the final total. Let’s face it, what good is a backpack pocket that is too small to hold a can of beer,” says OIA CEO Walker.

Popular Backpack Volumes: Re-Measured

Make / ModelNumber of 12 oz CansOld Volume Metric
Osprey Atmos 65187 cans65 liters
Osprey Aura 65184 cans65 liters
Osprey Exos 58167 cans58 liters
Osprey Talon 2263 cans22 liters
Osprey Daylite32 cans13 liters
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 2400122 cans2400 cubic inches
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400159 cans3400 cubic inches
REI TrailBreak 60168 cans60 liters
REI Flash 55155 cans55 liters
REI Flash 45130 cans45 liters
REI Trail 40110 cans40 liters
REI Trail 2562 cans25 liters
REI Ruckpack 1845 cans18 liters
Granite Gear Crown3 60172 cans60 liters
Granite Gear Crown2 38112 cans38 liters
Granite Gear Blaze 60180 cans60 liters
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60163 cans60 liters
Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40120 cans40 liters

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  1. Good one! I thought something was askew with all the PBR (I would expect that you use at least Sam Adams, or perhaps Lord Hobo). Then I remembered the date. Well done!

  2. Wouldn’t the “less filling” beers be a better choice than a “tastes great?” That way, the backpack would hold more. Cheers!

  3. The funniest thing about this article is, it actually would make sense for the average person.

  4. Good one. But shouldn’t the requisite ice be worked into the equation?

  5. As with most engineering problems, this solution has both pluses and minuses. So far, I’ve only seen the advantages discussed.

    One possible downside is that now manufacturers will build their designs to the beer can. Why have a hip belt pocket or shoulder strap pocket if it can’t hold a can? It adds a lot of cost, since they are labor intensive to cut and sew, without adding any can volume. So, the manufacturer will be punished compared to other manufacturers who have a lower dollar/can ratio.

  6. How is this converted to wine or bourbon bottles?

  7. 12 oz cans are my friend but they are slowly being replaced by 16 oz cans. This new standard should preserve the 12 oz can! Long live 12oz!

  8. I see now why you bought all that PBR before the shelter in place requirements hit MA.

  9. Well done, Philip!

  10. I had no idea that the capacity of backpacks rated at 60 liters could differ by as much as 17 cans. I hope you will include this important metric in future backpack reviews! I know it started as a joke, but I believe you’re on to something here.

    • The main variability in pack volumes can be attributed to the accessory pocket architecture and the fact that pack makers round up the volumes to fit their marketing. Just like all those 5-degree sleeping bags that become 0-degree bags when they’re packaged up.

    • It’s also important to know how much beer volume to subtract when using a hydration bladder. Can that be standardized too?

  11. 1. This is awesome. It’s funny and would actually be a good reference
    2. Pack volume measurement should be standardized, especially among smaller manufacturers where packs are made to order and you no opportunity to see in person before you buy. At the very least, every spec sheet should specify if the volume includes extension collar and pockets. It doesn’t matter so much when you are looking at 80L packs, but if you are looking at a 35L, it could be the difference between a day pack and good UL 3 season.

    • There’s that too (but that’s a 1% problem). But there really is a widespread consumer problem with backpack volume descriptions in terms of liters and cubic inches. The average joe and jane would understand them a lot better if they were measured in some more familiar unit of measure…like cans of beer…

  12. Awesome. Finally!!

  13. Hello Phillip. Thanks for sharing. Backpack testers might want to reflect on the downsides of a test methodology that causes the tester to loose his/her/their short-term memory and forget all the data. Even during COVID-19 self-isolation, binging 2,331 cans can cause serious problems for the tester, as well as for his/her/their loved ones. Additionally, as our health care system is being overwhelmed by respiratory infections, we don’t need to add an epidemic of backpack testing-related hospitalizations. During these difficult days, Backpack Testers Anonymous (BTA) is holding on-line meetings. Just remember that no matter how intolerable a tester’s life has become, and no matter how tempting it may be to lose oneself in the oblivion of backpack testing, at BTA one can benefit from judgement-free fellowship with others who have survived comparable experiences and found a path toward recovery and serenity. One day at a time buddy — you’re worth it.

  14. Long overdue but a very welcome change.

  15. The next challenge is getting a really strong teetotaling hiking partner to tote that Osprey Atmos 65!

    Capacity in ramens is another understandable metric, however, the question that arises is: What would be used to wash down all those ramens? Of course, the wash down agent would come in 12 oz cans! Millions of college students have lived off ramen and 6 packs.

  16. I’m fairly new to the site, so it took me a couple of paragraphs to grasp the humor. I have to admit my initial reaction was positive. Finally I thought, a reasonable solution. LOL – thanks for the chuckle – well done!


  17. That does it. I’m switching to an 80L pack.

  18. April fools! Another good one this year – plenty of laughs and giggles.
    The whole concept of using 12 oz beer cans to measure pack sizes is actually quite practical and easy to understand.

  19. Is this “hold my beer and measure this…..?”

  20. This is not an April Fools joke?

  21. Got me, I am blind without my readers on.

    I have not drank Pa

  22. FYI There’s an alternative volume measure already in use on PCT, those thru hikers use the Skippy Peanut Butter jar volume method. Though there’s controversy over the mixed volume measure of Skippy and Beer, usually about mile 1,300. ;)

    Thanks for the fun post

  23. Does Lite beer mean the pack carries less weight?

  24. Yes, the backpack volume should be standardized. What should be standardized even more is how backpack manufacturers across the industry “measure” their backpack volume i.e. whether to only measure the internal volume or include the outer mesh pockets, water bottle pockets and hip belt pocket. As a novice backpacker who has done a few overnight hiking/camping, I prefer the existing backpack measurement in liters (and cubic inches). Any one who has visited backpack stores and done enough research before buying a backpack can visualize a 50-liter, 70-liter backpack so on and so forth.

    I personally against the idea of measuring a backpack volume in term of number of 12-oz. cans it can hold for a few reasons. For a starter, it is new scheme that every player in the community has to familiarize. Backpack manufacturers have to rename their backpack models. Experienced hikers have to recalculate what a 172-can backpack is like in liters. A novice backpackers are not going to be better off with the new “cans” standard because they still have to rethink how much gear a 172-can backpack can really hold. Secondly, I don’t drink a beer (or carbonated drinks), so I find it more difficult to visualize a 172-can backpack than to imagine what a 60-liter backpack look like.

  25. This Is rediculous. Anybody that can’t understand a numerical measurement needs to go back to sixth grade. Measuring something using beer cans is disturbing.

  26. I will take any excuse to laugh nowadays. Thank you for this.

  27. I love it!! Thank you :) Made my morning.

  28. if I use a compactor bag liner can I just pour the beer in? bet I could fit a quarter keg in my mariposa!!

    • This is the best one!!!’Course if the beer comes in collapsible bladders, we’ll have to start at the beginning! Please pass the pretzels!!

  29. Does this standard apply to metric packs? Will it measure up?

  30. For expedition-sized packs when the number of cans gets unwieldy does the new standard support measuring in kegs?

  31. If you CAMEL UP you can add 6 more cans to the packs capacity.

  32. Very clever. You had me for a while

  33. Yeah but wait a minute. I drink Pabst 16’s, does that mean my Granite Gear Blaze A.C.60 now has a smaller volume than before?

  34. it is a 1st of april joke??

  35. WOW! My Osprey EXOS Large can hold 170 cans of beer? Who knew?

    Now I can camp in comfort!

  36. Lols will Lite Beers and those who claim less filling…. make my pack lighter….

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