For most day hikers, who are looking to carry the basics and some light storage to their day trips, a 20-35L backpack is the best choice. Typically, all you need on such trips is food, water, some essentials and a jacket. A 20L bag can fit all of this while also being lightweight enough to save your joints from strain.
All day packs may seem similar in capacity when seen from outside, however choosing the right backpack depends on various variables like how you will use it, torso length, weight etc.
As a general rule of thumb, going with a capacity which is 10% of your weight can be a good way to determine the right size.
Let us know more about the kinds of capacities these bags come in and what each type has to offer.
We also have some exclusive picks for you to make your choice easier.
Hiking backpack sizes
Hiking backpacks come in different shapes and sizes. Many backpack manufactures also offer detachable storage compartments to add up more storage.
- 10 litres or less : These backpacks are strictly tailored for lightweight pursuits such biking, short hikes, running for instance. You can easily carry a jacket, some snacks and your phone in these bags.
- 11-20 litres : Contrary to their smaller counterparts, these bags also have some additional pockets to help you organize your stuff. They can also double up as carry on luggage bags during your weekend trips and fit quite easily in overhead lockers.
- 20-30 litres : This category of bags is ideal for one day trips. If you are spending a day outdoors, or planning a weekend outing then going with this capacity will ensure that you carry all your essentials. Most companies also ship back and chest straps with these backpacks for better dynamics when walking.
- 30-50 litres : These backpacks are ideal for multi-day trips for upto 3-5 days. With some careful planning and self-discipline, you can easily utilize the space and keep your clothing, food and even a foldable tent or a kayak.
- 50+ litres : These bags are preferred by professional hikers or someone who wants to go on extended winter treks. If you are travelling with kids, then you can go with these bags to fit all the stuff for your family.
For shorter hikes, we would recommend you to travel light and embrace the packing light philosophy. Harsher climates on the other hand demand for heavier equipment. These bags also differ by frame types. An internal frame pack is designed to help hikes maintain stability on rough terrains.
External frames extend beyond the bags and offer a wide array of customization options. Other important factors include :
- Go for top load openings instead of side zippers. That way you can load up all the stuff that you will be needing at night at the bottom.
- Having additional pockets will help you keep small stuff such as sunscreen, a phone, maps, etc.
- Appropriate padding with a hip belt and lumbar support will save you from back pain.
- Also see if your bag comes with additional goodies like a rain cover and a hydration reservoir which holds up your water supplies.
Hiking backpack for short hikes – 10-20L
While these backpacks may not be good for day-to-day usage, due to the limited volume. They contain one main compartment aside from a couple small sleeves.
Also labelled as the essentials- only backpack, here’s a rough idea of what these bags can carry :
- A pair of headphones
- A laptop upto 13 inches
- 1-inch binder
- Some snacks
Hiking backpacks for average day hikes – 20-35L
The capacity of your backpack will be directly synonymous with the length of your trip. A 35L backpack is a highly versatile option, something which could even be used as a daily carry for youth.
They usually come with 2-3 main compartments along with some side-mesh pockets and a rain cover.
Best day hiking backpacks
Osprey Daylite Daypack 13L
This backpack is perfect for travelling as it comes with a large compartment for panel loading. It has a comfortable back panel made of slotted foam for better ventilation and back comfort.
There are separate sections in the bag pack for storage of water bottle, hydration reservoir and a multi-function interior sleeve for tablets and laptops. The total volume of this backpack is 13L.
Large panel loading main compartment provides accessibility to inside contents.
Dual stretch mesh side pockets provide additional storage options.
The multi-function interior sleeve can be used for either a hydration reservoir or tablet.
Mesh-covered die-cut foam back panel provides both comfort and ventilation.
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack 18L
This one is a compact backpack with extraordinary features. The bag weighs only 4 ounces and can easily pack a lot of stuff in its built-in storage pocket. For extra safety, the main compartment consists of a dual zippered strip.
The bag comes in several different colour options like electric lime, poppy orange, shadow grey etc. Made with durable 40D Nylon Ripstop fabric, the bag has 3 exterior pockets and side mesh pockets for water bottle storage.
Pack stuffs into its own ultra-compact, built-in storage pocket.
Dual zippered main compartment.
Stretch mesh side gear or water bottle pocket.
Top zippered pocket for easy access to essential gear.
Pack Volume: 18 L/1098 cubic inches.
Durable 40D Nylon Ripstop fabric.
Pockets: 3 exterior.
Osprey Sirrus 24 Womens Hiking Backpack
This backpack is suitable for hiking during hot or wet climate conditions. There’s an adjustable shoulder strap on the bag that provides the perfect fit. It also has smartly organised storage compartments offering 24L of space.
With this backpack, you can easily carry your trekking poles as it comes with the Stow-On-The-Go Trekking pole attachment. There’s an integrated rain cover in the backpack for rainy conditions. The zipper hip belts pocket system and front panelled vertical centre pocket is there for stashing small items like maps, keys, an extra pair of gloves etc.
Ventilated backpanel with adjustable shoulder harness to dial in perfect fit.
Stretch mesh pockets on both sides of pack provide convenient storage for bottles and smaller items.
Two zippered hipbelt pockets.
Stow-On-The-Go Trekking pole attachment allows you to quickly attach and carry trekking poles while wearing the pack.
Integrated and removable raincover.
ZOMAKE Ultra Lightweight Hiking Backpack 20L
This backpack is perfect for those who want to travel light. The bag comes with one main compartment, two side pockets and a front pocket with a total capacity of 20L.
The bag is extremely durable as it’s made of thick and water resistant material. All the pocket zippers are abrasion resistant and are made of durable SBS metal.
Designed with 20L travel capacity yet foldable, this small backpack is perfect for those that like to travel light and need a pack to tool around with during the day. One main zipped compartment, one front pocket and two side pockets keep your things organized and separated.
The lightweight backpack can easily fold up into small pocket (Sandwich size). So you can easily pack it in your suitcase for use at their destination as an extra bag for the trip. Avoid overweight charges, simply unfold from your luggage and use it as a carry on for your excess baggage.
Made with thick sturdy and water resistant material with durable abrasion resistant SBS metal zipper available plus strengthened stitching on over 28 places providing, make it the best quality.
In case of a daily hike, getting a light 20L backpack will be enough to encompass all your necessities. All the bags listed above use new lightweight materials and offer ventilation as well. With their suspended mesh back panels, you no longer will have to be a victim of a ‘sweaty back’.
Always be sure to go with a reputed backpack as many local vendors also show wrong storage capacities to compete with the competition.
Choosing the right size is easier said than done. Many people also get multiple backpacks as per the length of their tours. But when it comes to luggage, taking a minimalistic approach is better.