What Can You Fit Your Bag? A Backpack Sizing Guide

It’s often hard to know what you can fit in a certain sized backpack, especially if you’re buying online. While liter capacity guidelines give a rough indication, how does that translate into real-life stuff? And, how big is 24 liters anyway? To help out, we’ve put together a backpack sizing guide, including packing lists and images of what you should be able to fit into the most popular sizes out there. There are 16-18 liter backpacks, 24-26 liter backpacks, 32-34 liter backpacks and over 40 liters. 

What can you fit in a 16-18 liter backpack?

Up to 18 liters for a backpack is considered a compact size, although don’t let that fool you. If something is built well, utilizing the size and offering some features, it can fit a laptop, and more. Here’s a packing list of what you can fit into a 16-18L backpack. 

  • Keys
  • Passport
  • Wallet
  • Sunglasses
  • Pen
  • Headphones
  • Make-up
  • Powerbank
  • Cords & Cables
  • Pocket Notebook
  • Tablet
  • Book
  • Umbrella
  • Water bottle
  • Perhaps an 11’’-13’’ laptop (depending on dimensions)

What might this look like in real life? Here’s one example…

The pictured Citysafe CX backpack has a 17L Capacity. Shop this style here

What can you fit in an 24-26 liter backpack?

24-26 liters is considered a medium-size backpack and is probably the most popular bag capacity out there. It’s great for taking to school or work, depending on the styling, and can also be a great travel pack for taking on a plane. Here is a potential packing list for that size depending on where you’re headed. 

  • Up to 15’’ laptop 
  • Rolled-up jacket or sweater
  • Some snacks
  • A4 Notebook
  • A Magazine
  • Keys
  • Passport
  • Wallet
  • Sunglasses
  • Pen
  • Headphones
  • Make-up/Toiletries
  • Powerbank
  • Cords & Cables
  • Tablet
  • Book
  • Umbrella
  • Water bottle

What might this look like in real life? Here’s one example…

The pictured Metrosafe LS450 backpack has a 25L capacity. Shop this style here

What can you fit in an 32-34 liter backpack?

Above 30 liters in a backpack and you’re in medium to large territory. This means it’s something you could happily take on a weekend away if you’re a light packer, or as a day bag if you need to take a lot of stuff. Another good size for plane travel as well, without any concern with carry-on compliance. Here’s a packing list for what you can fit in a 32-34 liter backpack.

  • Up to 15’’ laptop 
  • A spare set of clothes
  • A pair of shoes
  • Make-up/Toiletries
  • Some snacks
  • A4 Notebook
  • A Magazine
  • Keys
  • Passport
  • Wallet
  • Sunglasses
  • Pen
  • Headphones
  • Powerbank
  • Cords & Cables
  • Tablet
  • Book
  • Umbrella
  • Water bottle

What might this look like in real life? Here’s one example…

The pictured Venturesafe G3 32L backpack has a 32-liter capacity. Shop this style here

What can you fit in an 40+ liter backpack?

Now we’re firmly getting into large space for a backpack. Anything around the 40-45 liter mark should still be carry-on compliant depending on the dimensions and the airline. They make for great travel bags where you don’t want to check in luggage. Even if you’re a heavy packer, you should be able to take a 45L pack away for a weekend. A light packer could easily do with a bag like this for a week. With that in mind, here’s a packing list for what you can fit in a 40+ backpack. 

  • Up to 15’’ laptop 
  • 2-3 spares set of clothes
  • A spare pair of shoes
  • A warm jacket
  • A towel
  • Make-up/Toiletries
  • Headphones
  • Powerbank
  • Cords & Cables
  • Tablet
  • Some snacks
  • A4 Notebook
  • A magazine or two
  • Maps
  • Keys
  • Passport
  • Wallet
  • Sunglasses
  • Pens
  • Book
  • Umbrella
  • Water bottle

What might this look like in real life? Here’s one example…

The pictured Venturesafe EXP45 anti-theft backpack has a 45L Capacity. Shop this style here

Hopefully this guide has helped you understand what you can fit into a specific capacity backpack. Of course, everyone carries different things, so apply your own necessities to similar-sized items above and you should be able to get a good sense for your personal needs. 

For tips on how to fit more into a bag when packing, you might also enjoy this article. 

As always, Safe Travels. 

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