How Do I Know What Size Hiking Backpack to Get?

Are you planning an exciting hiking adventure? One of the essential items you’ll need is a hiking backpack. But how do you know what size backpack to get? Finding the right size backpack is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable hiking experience. This article will guide you through How Do I Know What Size Hiking Backpack to Get? Determining the size of a hiking backpack based on your needs and preferences.

Embarking on a hiking adventure requires careful planning and preparation. One of the most critical decisions is selecting the right hiking backpack. The size of your backpack plays a significant role in your comfort, organization, and overall hiking experience.

How Do I Know What Size Hiking Backpack to Get?

Backpack Sizing

Hiking backpacks are typically measured in terms of capacity and torso length. The capacity refers to the backpack’s volume, often expressed in liters, and determines how much gear you can carry. The torso length refers to the measurement from the base of your neck to the top of your hips and helps determine the proper fit of the backpack.

Factors to Consider

Several factors should influence your decision when choosing the size of your hiking backpack:

  • Trip duration: The length of your hiking trips will affect the gear and supplies you need to carry.
  • Season and weather conditions: Different seasons require varying clothing and equipment.
  • Personal preferences: Some hikers prefer to carry fewer items, while others like to be prepared for various situations.
  • Body type: Individuals with larger frames may require larger backpacks to accommodate their gear comfortably.

Measuring Torso Length

To measure your torso length accurately, follow these steps:

  1. Stand upright with your chin parallel to the ground.
  2. Find the bony bump at the base of your neck. This is your C7 vertebra.
  3. Place your hands on your hips, with your thumbs along the natural curve of your lower back.
  4. The point where your thumbs meet is the top of your hipbones. This is your iliac crest.
  5. Using a flexible measuring tape, measure the distance between your C7 vertebra and your iliac crest. This measurement is your torso length.

Assessing Your Gear and Trip Duration

Consider the gear you plan to carry and the duration of your hiking trips. List essential items, including clothing, sleeping gear, cooking equipment, and personal items. Estimate the volume these items will occupy and choose a backpack with a capacity that can accommodate them comfortably.

Determining the Capacity

Hiking backpacks come in various capacities, ranging from small daypacks (20-30 liters) to larger expedition packs (70+ liters). Here are some general guidelines for choosing the appropriate capacity:

  • Day hikes: 20-30 liters
  • Overnight trips: 30-50 liters
  • Weekend trips: 50-70 liters
  • Extended trips: 70+ liters

Considering Weight Distribution

Proper weight distribution is crucial for maintaining balance and stability while hiking. Keeping most of the weight closer to your back and centered around your hips is advisable. This helps reduce strain on your shoulders and prevents unnecessary fatigue.

Choosing the Right Fit

A well-fitting backpack should distribute the weight evenly across your hips and shoulders. The hip belt should rest comfortably on your hip bones, while the shoulder straps should fit snugly without causing any discomfort. Ensure the backpack’s suspension system is adjustable to accommodate your torso length.

Trying on the Backpack

Visit a reputable outdoor retailer and try on different backpack models. Load them with some weight to simulate a realistic hiking experience. Walk around the store for at least 15-20 minutes to assess the backpack’s comfort, weight distribution, and overall fit.

Making Adjustments

Once you have selected a backpack, make the necessary adjustments to achieve the perfect fit. Adjust the shoulder straps, load lifters, sternum strap, and hip belt until the backpack feels comfortable and stable on your back.

Backpack Features to Consider

In addition to size and fit, consider the following features when choosing a hiking backpack:

  • Ventilation: Look for backpacks with a well-ventilated back panel to minimize sweating.
  • Pockets and compartments: Multiple pockets and compartments provide better organization and accessibility.
  • Suspension system: A well-designed suspension system improves comfort and weight distribution.
  • Rain cover: An integrated or detachable rain cover helps protect your gear during wet weather conditions.

Properly Packing Your Backpack

Efficiently packing your backpack can significantly improve its overall comfort and stability. Place heavier items closer to your back, lighter items at the top, and frequently used items in easily accessible pockets. Distribute the weight evenly to maintain balance.

Tips for Maintaining Your Backpack

To ensure the longevity of your hiking backpack, follow these maintenance tips:

  • Clean your backpack regularly.
  • Store it in a cool and dry place.
  • Repair any damages promptly.
  • Avoid overloading the backpack beyond its capacity.


Choosing the right size hiking backpack is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable outdoor experience. You can determine the appropriate backpack capacity by considering trip duration, gear assessment, and personal preferences. Measuring your torso length accurately and trying on different backpack models will help you find the perfect fit. Consider additional features and maintain your backpack properly to extend its lifespan.

FAQs – How Do I Know What Size Hiking Backpack to Get?

1. Can I use a regular backpack for hiking?

While using a regular backpack for short hikes is possible, investing in a specialized hiking backpack is recommended. Hiking backpacks offer features and designs tailored for outdoor adventures, providing better comfort, weight distribution, and durability.

2. Is a bigger backpack always better?

Not necessarily. Choosing a backpack that is too large for your needs can lead to unnecessary weight and bulk. It’s essential to consider the duration of your trips, the gear you carry, and your personal preferences when selecting the size of your backpack.

3. How do I adjust the backpack straps correctly?

Start by loosening all the straps, then put on the backpack and fasten the hip belt. Tighten the shoulder straps until they rest comfortably on your shoulders, and adjust the load lifters to ensure the weight is distributed evenly. Finally, adjust the sternum strap for added stability.

4. Can I use the backpack’s rain cover during light showers?

Yes, backpack rain covers are designed to protect your gear from light to moderate rain showers. However, for heavy rain or extended exposure to water, it’s advisable to use additional waterproofing measures such as dry sacks or waterproof liners.

5. Should I try different backpack models before making a purchase?

Yes, trying on different backpack models is highly recommended. Each backpack brand and model may have a slightly different fit and feel. Trying them on allows you to assess the comfort, weight distribution, and overall suitability for your hiking needs.

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