• Unfortunately, online shopping on thule.com is not available in your country
  • The original all-terrain stroller Thule Urban Glide 3 just got an upgrade
How to choose a hiking or backpacking pack

How to choose a backpack

Read our guide to selecting a backpack that is the best fit for you and your adventures.

Whether you are planning for the afternoon on a trail or a week-long trek into backcountry, choosing the right pack to match your adventure is an essential part of the process. Finding a pack that satisfies your needs and fits you well will significantly contribute to how successful your trek ends up being.

In this backpack guide you will learn:

Backpack sizes for hiking

What size backpack do I need?

The size of the backpack you need is determined by three factors; the length of your hike, the location or environment for your hike and the season or expected weather you will encounter along the way. These three factors will help you plan the type and amount of gear you need to bring and ultimately what size pack you will need to carry that gear.

Day hikes

Backpacks for day hikes (Less than 25 liters)

For a couple hours on the trail, you typically only need water, an extra piece or two of clothing for unexpected weather, some nutrition and hiking poles.

Thule Stir (18L, 20L)

  • A lightweight and streamlined design makes it easy to pack and unpack quickly

Thule AllTrail (15L)

  • Lightweight and compact with features to keep all your gear organized


Backpack packs for overnight hikes (1 night; 25-35 liters)

When heading out for a night, there is no need to bring everything. Pack light and it will make the hike to and from your camp more enjoyable. These packs can also be used for extended day hikes.

Thule Stir (25L, 35L)

  • Lightweight pack with quick access pockets for all your gear

Thule AllTrail (25L, 35L)

  • A versatile pack that can be used in all seasons and for many different activities
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

Multi day

Backpacking packs for hiking and multi-day trips (2-4 days; 40-50 liters)

Longer trips will require a larger pack to hold more food, cooking fuel and extra clothing in addition to your camping gear.

Thule AllTrail (45L)

  • Adjustable torso height along with breathable shoulder straps and hipbelt padding make for a comfortable carry
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits 

Thule Versant (50L)

  • This pack offers a lightweight construction without sacrificing fit adjustability or storage features
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

Longer treks

Backpacking packs for longer treks (5+ days; 60-75 liters)

In addition to working for longer treks, these bigger packs are also good for parents heading out with younger children or shorter winter trips that require even more gear to keep you warm.

Thule Versant (60L, 70L)

  • This pack offers a lightweight construction without sacrificing fit adjustability or storage features
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

Thule Guidepost (65L, 75L)

  • Full-featured gear-hauler that is designed with a pivoting hipbelt to make heavier loads as comfortable as possible
  • Men’s and women’s specific fits

How do I choose a pack that is a good fit for my body?

It doesn’t matter how much gear you are bringing – if a pack does not fit your body correctly, you will not be comfortable on the trail. When picking the right size pack for your body, there are two measurements that you should understand. The first is your torso length and the second is your hip size.

Are backpacks gender specific?

A number of Thule backpacks offer adjustable torso heights and hipbelts, however some have fixed dimensions, so it is important to use the fit sheet to find more info on how you can use these measurements to identify which packs work best for your body size and type.

What to think about when choosing a women's backpack for hiking?

Many Thule backpack collections have women specific fits. These backpacks that are typically narrower or shorter than the equivalent men’s packs. Additionally, the contours of hipbelts and shoulder straps are also designed with a women’s form in mind. Women’s specific backpacking packs sometimes also work well for smaller men and younger backpackers of either gender.

What are some important features to consider when choosing a pack?

  • Ventilation – Some Thule packs are designed with a suspension system which put space between your back from the and the pack itself. This allows for maximum breathability which helps keep you cool and dry on the trail.

  • Access points – Thule backpacks offer all different types of access points to help you get to your gear quickly. Most smaller packs offer top-loading access only, but larger packs designed for overnight or multi-day adventures tend to have multiple access points. This can include zippered openings at the top and bottom or even a fully zippered panel which makes it easy to access anything in your pack.

  • Removable lid – Some Thule backpacks have a removable lid that can be converted into a sling pack or small daypack for short day hikes.

  • Hydration compatibility – In addition to stretch side pockets for water bottles, many Thule hiking and backpacking packs have a reservoir sleeve to store a hydration reservoir.

  • Sleeping bag compartment – Some Thule backpacks have a separate compartment at the base of the bag to store your sleeping bag, keeping it dry and protected from other gear.

  • Backpack raincover – Weather is unpredictable and it’s important to keep your gear dry. Some Thule backpacks have an integrated raincover that can quickly be deployed over your pack. For those packs that don’t include it, a Thule raincover can also be purchased as a separate accessory and stored in a side or front pocket for quick access.

Hiking and backpacking are amazing ways to experience all that the outdoors has to offer and selecting the right backpack to accompany you on your adventures can make all the difference. Carefully considering all the factors in this guide will help you make a good choice, but if you have any other questions about Thule hiking and backpacking packs, please contact our customer service team here.


Related products

How to choose a hydration pack

How to choose the best hydration pack

Looking for the best hydration backpack for your next outdoor adventure? In this guide we go through the different kinds to help you choose the best one.

Anyone who likes to exercise knows the importance of staying hydrated and sometimes a simple water bottle just doesn’t get the job done. That is where a hydration pack comes in. Hydration packs are designed specifically to allow you to comfortably carry different amounts of water while also giving you the utility of a backpack.

As with most gear today, there are a lot of options when it comes to hydration packs, so let’s look at how to pick the right one for you!
How to choose a hydration pack

Types of hydration packs

1. Hydration backpacks – These have a standard backpack design but come in a wide variety of sizes. They are popular for cycling, mountain biking, hiking, skiing and snowboarding. Backpacks are best for users who need to carry additional items such as extra layers, rain gear, nutrition or tools.

2. Hydration hip packs – This style of pack has become popular recently with mountain bikers, but it is a good option for hikers too. Hip packs keep the weight off your back which helps you stay cooler in the warm weather. Additionally, and for cyclists specifically, this style of pack distributes the weight to your lower body and around your hips, helping you maintain balance.

How to choose a hydration pack

Hydration pack size

It’s important to remember that carrying water on your back may feel a little heavy at first. 1 liter of water adds approximately 2 lbs to your pack, so carefully consider how much you need.

1. 0.5 liters (16 fluid ounces) is a good amount for lower intensity activities like walking or hiking.

2. 1 – 1.5 liters (32 – 50 fluid ounces) works well for riders, runners or hikers who want to keep overall weight down so they can still move quickly.

3. 2 – 2.5 liters (70 – 85 fluid ounces) is the obvious choice for those who are planning longer adventures and want a pack large enough to carry other types of gear.

Thule hydration pack collections

How to choose a hydration pack

Thule Rail hydration pack

Designed for serious mountain bikers, this series comes either in a backpack or a hip pack depending on the type of riding you prefer. The Thule Rail hip packs come with or without integrated hydration options depending on the size you choose. The backpacks in this collection are for enduro focused riders with lash points for quickly storing protective gear. The 12L Pro model even has an integrated back protector.

How to choose a hydration pack

Thule Vital hydration pack

Light and fast, this series of award winning hydration backpacks have been engineered to feel like an extension of your riding jersey. Quick access pockets wrap around your hips making it easy to grab something while you’re on the trail. This pack is ideal for XC mountain bikers who want to be as efficient on the ascents as they are on the descents or gravel cyclists who need to carry more water and gear than their bike can handle.

How to choose a hydration pack

Thule Uptake hydration pack

This series of packs has a versatile design that will work comfortably on a bike ride or a hike. Thule Uptake packs include a variety of different internal storage capacities: 12L, 8L or 4L and a smaller size for children. All these packs come with several zippered pockets to help keep essentials like tools, food or extra gear organized.

Key features of Thule hydration packs

All Thule hydration packs, along with the Thule Rail Hip Pack 4L, come with the ReTrakt magnetic hose return system. This innovation uses a slim magnetic system on the hose which means that when you’re done taking a drink, simply release the bite valve and the hose will be pulled back to the backpack or hip strap.

Related articles