Do you know where to begin when it comes to backpack sizing? An important step to getting the most fun from your outdoor adventures is selecting the right backpack. In order to choose the right backpack, you should consider three things:
- Length of trip (overnight, a week, longer?).
- Weight of gear to be carried.
- Your torso size (hips to shoulders).
When it comes to backpack sizing, most modern backpacks rate the amount of space available for carrying “stuff” in liters these days. The more liters a pack will hold the more “stuff” it will hold. The amount of capacity your pack needs to have often depends on how long you will be out, as well as what specific items you will be taking. Some people are happy to head out for an overnight trip, taking nothing but the essentials. Other folks, on the same overnight trip, might want to take everything they can plus the kitchen sink! Choose a backpack that meets your personal capacity needs.
As a general rule with respect to backpack sizing, the following can be used to estimate needed capacity:
- 1-2 day trip: 20-50 liters
- 2-5 day trip: 60-80 liters
- 5 or more days: 80+ liters
It cannot be stated enough that getting the right size for your torso is crucial if you want the best service from your pack. The amount of weight you will be carrying (much or little) will mean nothing if the pack does not fit you properly. Any load will become a burden after a short time. Make sure your pack:
- Is the right size for your TORSO, not your overall body height
- Has a snug, but comfortable, fit around your hips
Measure from the level of your spine (at the top of your shoulders/collar bones) down to the top of your hips (the highest part of the hip bone). This should be recorded in inches. Manufacturers usually size backpacks as follows:
- Size: Extra Small—Torso 15.5 inches
- Size: Small-Torso 16 to 17½ inches
- Size: Medium or Regular—Torso 18 to 19½ inches
- Size: Large or Tall—Torso 20+ inches
Many modern backpacks offer buyers interchangeable hip-belts. Understand that about 80 percent of the pack’s weight is supported by the hips, so getting the right hip-belt is important. Measure your hips around the high (top) part of your hips and waist.
If you plan on being out during cold months or at higher altitudes, consider buying a larger pack as you will almost certainly have to carry additional supplies and gear.
Keep in mind that packing “light” is a skill and requires experience. Many people will buy a small pack thinking they can pack light when, in reality, they find they cannot do this. It is better to have more pack and not need it than to find yourself without enough pack.
Check the pack you are interested in buying for pockets and hydration systems (if you want easy access to fluids). Many packs have a hydration pack built into them. Click here to see our selection of hydration compatible backpacks. It is best to check these pack assets now as not all packs come with pockets or hydration systems. Check now to avoid disappointment later.