How to Choose a Rucksack for Traveling

A comfortable rucksack is key!

FACT: Arguably, the two most important factors when choosing a good rucksack for traveling is size and comfort, especially if you plan on traveling long term. There are additional factors such as activity, trip length, and items that you plan to bring which influence the size of your rucksack. But these definitely aren’t the only things to consider.

Your new rucksack will be an extension of your body for a given period of time, and so you want to make sure that you choose the right bag that best suits you and your situation. 

If you fail to do so, you will either not have enough space, your bag will be too bulky, or you will have a lot of discomfort.

But before you begin and read below, make sure you choose the correct bag, between a travel backpack or a suitcase. Once you know that you need a backpack/rucksack, then continue below.

Which size rucksack will you choose?

Choosing the Correct Rucksack Size Depends on These Factors

Consider the size of the rucksack you need based on your trip length, the activities you’ll be doing, and the items that you will bring with you.

Determining the correct size to purchase is probably the most difficult part about choosing a rucksack.

Activity Influences Rucksack Size

Different activities influence the rucksack size you should purchase. For example:

Trip ActivityRucksack Size
Running / Jogging / Cycling10-25 L
Light Hiking 20-40 L
Heavy Hiking / Camping70+ L
Long Term Camping / Extensive Travel40-60 L

I am an extensive traveler (I have been on the road since June of 2016), but I don’t carry pots, pans, a tent, or a sleeping bag with me – so I don’t need such a big bag. But, if you plan to take those items camping or something, then you will definitely want a large rucksack.

How long will you travel for?

Trip Length Influences Rucksack Size

The longer that you plan on traveling, the larger that your rucksack will most likely be. You will want to bring more items to make your life more convenient. If you are only gone for one day, you will probably need one change of clothes, so you will need enough space to bring a spare set of clothing. That’s about it.

How about 3 days? 7 days? How often will you be able to wash and dry your laundry? These are the types of questions that you will need to ask yourself.

What about electronics? If you are going to be gone for a while, are you going to bring any of those?

The longer that your trip is, the harder it is to live without certain items. And so, the bigger that your rucksack needs to be to take those essential items with you.

If you are not entirely sure about what items to take with you on your particular journey, be sure to read about the packing essentials of solo traveling. It will help point you in the right direction.

Trip LengthRucksack Size
1-3 Nights30 to 50L
3-5 Nights50 to 80L
5+ Nights70+ L
How much stuff will you bring on your trip?

What You Bring Influences Rucksack Size

Everyone has a slightly different reason for traveling. Some people just want to walk in the forest for a couple of days, some people want to go on a bicycle ride, some people want to go on a one-week getaway to a resort, and other people want to travel solo for an extended period of time.

You need to determine where you will most likely spend the majority of your time, and also what items will be available, or not available to you there. This will help you to determine what items you need to bring with you.

Once you know what you will bring, then you can start to determine which size rucksack you should purchase. Maybe you want many pockets for small items or maybe you just want one large bag without pockets. Everyone’s needs are different.

First, make a list of essential items, start the process of researching a rucksack that best suits your needs.

Be sure to read more about how to pack your travel bag like an expert.

The thicker the shoulder straps

Other Factors When Choosing a Rucksack

Size isn’t the only important factor when choosing a new rucksack. Other things such as comfort, durability, organization, weather resistance, accessibility, security, style, weight, and price also play a role.


Other than size, comfort is probably the next most important factor when choosing a rucksack. Make sure the shoulder straps of your rucksack are particularly thick and provide comfort, even when your bag is heavy. You will also need a good amount of padding for your lower back, as there will be a lot of pressure in this area.

Make sure your rucksack also includes a waist strap and buckle to help distribute the weight onto the lower back and waist, rather than only on your shoulders. 

Choosing a rucksack with tightening straps located around the bag is also a good idea. This will help to create a snug fit for your particular body after the bag is fully packed.

Comfort is key for long-term travel.


Depending on what you plan on bringing, you will have different needs. Based on those needs, you should choose a rucksack that has enough pockets for all of your items, and those pockets are located in convenient locations.


Generally, rucksacks are made with durable material that helps combat the ruggedness of your journey. But not all of them are like this. The first rucksack that I purchased was junk. I didn’t realize it until I used it for a few years and needed to buy a new one. After I purchased my second rucksack, I realized how terrible my first one was. 

Make sure your rucksack has been created using high quality materials that will not tear very easily if it is brushed up against a sharp edge. Look for rucksacks with a warranty. This indicates that the company has confidence in the quality of their product.

Make sure you rucksack is made with thick and durable materials!


Rucksacks, in general, are not very cheap. And I don’t recommend buying a cheap quality bag to save a few bucks.

If the bag rips or breaks, then you will simply need to buy a new one anyway. In that situation, then you will need to buy two bags rather than one expensive bag.

Not only that, can you imagine if your bag tears while you are out camping in a forest somewhere? 

Some of your items fall to the ground and then you have to carry them in your hands because the bag won’t properly hold them anymore. It would be a nightmare!

Don’t sacrifice quality for price!

If your rucksack doesn’t come with a cover, be sure to buy one separately.


Not all bags are weather resistant, but I do recommend that you get a bag that is. If the bag is not weather resistant, you can usually purchase an extra cover that goes over your rucksack which is water resistant.

Remember, if you are caught in a downpour, things in your bag might become damp despite having a weather resistant cover on your bag.

In case of rain emergencies, make sure you carry a very large trash bag with you which will allow you to cover your bag to guarantee the protection of your items inside. This is what I do.

For light rain, I simply use my rain resistant cover.


If you are worried about theft, then you can also purchase rucksacks that have lock-holes built into the zippers. There are also some rucksacks that have hidden compartments inside. And if you are really concerned, you can always purchase a wire mesh to go around your bag. But those tend to be a bit expensive.

Easy accessibility is important!


Being able to pack and unpack easily is very important. One way that helps improve the packing process is to have zippers to access the inside of your bag not only on the top, but on the side as well. This will allow you to find a particular item much easier then if you only had one opening.

It’s quite frustrating when we only want one item at the bottom of the bag, but we need to remove everything from the bag in order to get to it…then we need to repack everything again. Purchasing a rucksack with a few access points helps a lot!


There are many different colors, patterns, or styles to choose from. There are so many different activities that you could be doing while using your rucksack, and you should choose the style accordingly.

Try to imagine everything that you will be doing and everywhere that you will be going while using your new rucksack. Then try to determine if the style fits your needs.

There are many different rucksack styles. Choose the one that best suits you.


The weight of an empty rucksack is usually quite light. They are designed to be light yet durable. The problem is when we pack them, they become extremely heavy. The key is to not overpack! 

Make a list of essentials that you need, and try not to pack much more than that. Remember, everything that you pack, you will need to carry with you constantly – even when you aren’t actually using the item.

Final Thoughts on Choosing a New Rucksack

Like I mentioned previously, the most important factors when choosing a rucksack is the size and the comfort.

If your bag is too big, it’s going to be bulky and in the way. If your bag is too small, all of your necessary items will not fit inside.

And if your rucksack is not comfortable, it’s going to be a very long trip full of frustration, sore shoulders, and a sore back.

I highly recommend that you determine exactly what items you need to take with you on your trip. Once you know that, and you put all of the items on the floor, you can start to get a rough idea about how much space you actually need, and then you can determine how many liters your rucksack should be.

You never know when the next adventure may happen!


Hey - I'm Brock. I grew up in the USA, and I have been a full-time Solo Traveler since June of 2016. I am also a Travel Vlogger on YouTube where my primary focus is to simply hang out with local people around the world. My full story is here: About Me

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