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When purchasing a new pack, one of the biggest concerns you may have is what size to purchase.

Buying a pack that is much too big for your intended purpose is likely to become irritating for you to carry around. While buying a pack that doesn’t hold everything you need can lead to you having to carry multiple bags or purchasing a larger one.

Instead of trying to choose arbitrarily from a range of different backpack sizes, do a little bit of research before you buy. This can help you choose the right one from the start.

You won’t have to wander from store to store, asking yourself “What size pack do I need?”. Or buying the wrong size pack and having to exchange it for another.

How Are Backpack Sizes Measured?

Before you start looking for a backpack, take some time to familiarize yourself with the different backpack sizes available and how much they can hold.

Backpack sizes are measured in liters to give an accurate representation of the height and depth, and how much they can hold. You can also get measurements of the actual size of the pack to help you determine how much space it will take up.

If you are purchasing the backpack online, pay special attention to these numbers so you can be sure it meets your needs. Some websites will use standard stock photos for different models of the same backpack. So you can’t always count on the photo being totally accurate.

The right size and type of pack depends on what you plan to use the pack for. As well as other factors like: how long you want to keep it, the climate you’ll be spending time in and the weight of the load you’ll be carrying.

If you’ll be travelling around the world, hiking up a mountain or camping out overnight, you’ll likely need a larger pack to accommodate all of your items. Day to day activities, like going to school or commuting to work, requires a smaller size pack that will fit in a locker or sit next to you on the bus without taking up too much empty space.

How Much Should I Spend on a Backpack?

As you ask yourself “what size pack do I need?”, another question you may need to consider is how much to spend. The size of pack you decide to purchase can also change the price of your purchase. Larger packs made for travelling are naturally more expensive, because they are made to last for several years.

By contrast, a backpack that is designed to last through one year of school is going to cheap. It’s also likely to be made with less durable materials and cheaper construction.

Choosing Hiking Backpack Sizes

For hikers, making the right choice of pack is critical to making sure that you enjoy your purchase and get the most out of it. A backpack designed for mountain climbing incorporates several features that will help you be prepared for anything.

Many hiker’s backpacks offer easy access compartments for items you’ll use often along the trip, such as:

  • Water bottle
  • Camera
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Map
  • GPS unit
  • Many packs for mountain climbing are made of durable material that is made to survive the elements. In addition to being waterproof, these packs are usually easy to clean any mud or dirt that gets on them. Some can be wiped with a wet cloth, while others can survive the washing machine cycle. A lightweight material is best, as it keeps your backpack light while you walk.

As you start shopping for a pack for hikes, consider the kind of terrain you’ll be taking on. Also how rustic your accommodations will be and how long you’ll be staying on the path. A longer trip typically requires a larger pack so you can carry more supplies with you.

Choose the Right Size Backpack

Experienced hikers recommend the following backpack sizes:

  • Less than 35 liters for an overnight trip
  • 35 to 50 liters for two to three day trips
  • 50 to 75 liter packs for longer trips

The actual size you choose should accommodate the way you plan to hike and your destinations. For example, if you’ll be climbing in a cold climate, you will have to pack more layers and weather gear to stay warm. This requires more room than destinations in a warmer climate might.

A long climb to a high elevation might require a long stay at base camp as your body acclimatizes to the oxygen level. This means carrying more around to account for this extra time.

Selecting a School Backpack

The ideal size for a school backpack can depend on the student, their size and their grade level. Younger children can typically carry a smaller backpack with a capacity of less than 20 liters. This since they only need to place lunch items and papers in their backpack. Older children and adult students are likely to need a bigger bag for school. It needs to accommodate textbooks as well as a laptop, snacks and personal items.

From third grade up, children are likely to start needing a bigger backpack sizes for school. But parents have to be cautious about weighing the child down too much. A child’s backpack should weigh between 10 to 20 percent of their total body weight, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For the average elementary school child in third grade or higher, this guideline translates to a 20 to 25 liter backpack. Any larger size can cause back pain, shoulder issues and posture problems. Backpacks for children should also incorporate padding and support into the straps to help cushion the weight they carry.

For older kids and adults, a good starting point is determining the size of your laptop, so you can be sure that the backpack you purchase has enough room inside for it. It should also be deep enough for you to store textbooks or notebooks. For a typical student attending high school or college, a 20 to 25 liter backpack should still be large enough to carry all the items needed on a daily basis.

If you find yourself regularly needing to carry a larger backpack, you may need to pare down on the amount of items you carry with you.

Finding a Pack for Traveling

A traveling backpack needs to be big enough to carry all of your supplies. But it also needs to be small enough to fit in an airplane, boat, bus or train luggage compartment. Light packers will want to try choosing one that will fit inside the overhead compartment of an airplane.

This can save you lots of luggage fees and waiting time on your trips. With almost every budget airline charging fees when passengers check a bag, it’s well worth your while to try and use a carry on whenever possible.

The largest backpack allowed as a carry on is 45 liters. But double check the overall dimensions to be sure it will fit in the overhead compartment.

The largest size of bag that can be considered a carry on is 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches. Even if a backpack is marketed as carry on friendly, if it does not conform to these dimensions, the airline is likely to stop you from bringing it on the plane.

Many backpacks that are designed for travelers come with built in compartments to make storage easy and keep things organized as you move around. These storage compartments and cubes can often be detached for use on shorter trips.

Buying a Daypack for Everyday Use

Many adults and business people prefer a backpack to a messenger bag, briefcase or larger purse. It offers increased room to carry more things around. The two strap design also allows for even weight distribution between both shoulders, limiting the chance of back problems developing.

If you’ll mostly be using your pack for daily commutes to the office or getting around town, try to choose the smallest size you can. For use on a daily basis, chiropractors recommend staying under 25 liters. This is enough to house the items you’re likely to need without causing strain to your back muscles. Adults are more likely to have back problems. So carrying the smallest possible pack minimizes any risk of developing or aggravating back issues.

Before buying a backpack, take some time to review all of these questions and figure out what backpack sizes will work best for you. By deciding ahead of time what you’ll be using it for and how much you need to carry, you can make a more informed decision. This will help you make the most informed choice and enjoy your backpack for years to come.