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Backpack for Short 1-2 night Trips

I am brand new to the concept of backpacking. I have done quite a bit of camping in the past, but never more than a few miles from the car. I am looking for advice on the right pack to get me started. At this point, I'm looking for something that is an appropriate size for shorter trips (a night or two, maybe three?). I realize that going into a store to try them on is probably my best option, but I'm looking for any pointers regarding what to look for!

6 Replies

good fit is the most important thing! other than that, everything else is really up to personal taste. pack volume depends on how large you are and what kind of weather you'll be prepared for, but a 60L pack is a good all-around volume for most people and a wide range of gear. the difference between a 1-2 night trip and a 3-week trip is honestly not that much as far as pack volume goes; your base volume of gear isn't going to change, you'll just have more consumables to pack in on longer trips.

how do you like to organize your pack? different shape packs are good for different kinds of gear organization; do you want one big main pocket that everything gets stuffed into, or would you like a couple different pockets and divisions to sort between things you'll need during the day and things you'll need in camp at night? do you like to attach stuff to the outside of your pack? of course, those questions are hard to answer until you get a few backpacking trips under your belt and really sort out how you like to do things, so go with your gut when you're trying on packs and just accept that the first few trips will be clunky and awkward!

i lucked out in that the first pack i bought myself was a great fit for the organization system i've worked out over the years, and after living out of that pack for months and months worth of trips, i know where everything is and exactly how all my gear fits into it. but i also started out knowing that i'm the sort of person who likes lots of little pockets, and designating each pocket for a particular purpose, so having a pack that fit my body and also my ideas about storage was really important to me.


Well.. everyone is different is the thing.

You can look at the volume of the gear and supplies you're going to bring, and use that as a starting point. Some people eat more, or they love certain luxuries. Others need a bulkier sleeping bag, or they have a fancy ultralight tent. Bringing your compressed gear and inflated ziploc-style bags in to the store in a duffle to test out pack volumes and shapes can be a great tactic. (Maybe not the best plan when it's super busy, though. 😉 )

I'm personally a very ultralight type. I just have the lightest suspended-mesh back frame I could fall in love with, as the suspension was the most important factor for me. I strap things down on the outside as needed, and it handles any weekend I can throw at it.


Depends on how much gear you will bring and how much weight.

If you need a bear cannister for where you will go backpacking, then forsure you will need a pack that is 50-60 liters (depends on the size of your bear cannister).

Do you have a tent?  Is so how much does it weigh.  Get your core gear of sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, stove and cooking stuff, figure out how much clothing you will need. You will want a water purification system or iodine.  Maybe firstaid kit.  Those items will help guide you as to the size of the pack you want.  A heavier pack will probably have you lean to one with better suspension.

That being said, I use the Osprey Exos 58 and it has never failed me. Great combination of volume and lightweight



@pnw_anna When I first started out backpacking I was doing 1-2 nights and I used a 55 L pack.

I thought that was the perfect size for all my stuff.. including dog food and extra water for him.

But like everyone else said, depends on what you're wanting to bring!

Happy adventuring! 

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.

If you are going solo or with someone is another consideration. If you are solo and not using a tent, a smaller pack might be feasable, but if you are packing a tent, stove, food, water pump, clothes, and the various other little items, a 50-60 L pack will serve you well for 1-X nights and give you the most versatility. The most important thing I have experienced is having the pack fitted at your local REI, a well fitted pack makes everything better. 


@tristanofalls& @ibexdoc gave some great answers here! The amount of gear you plan to bring on a trip will greatly impact the capacity of the backpack you purchase. If you have a heavier tent or simply love camp luxuries like chairs and bulky snacks (I love these!) then you will end up needing a larger pack volume. I highly suggest a compression sack for your sleeping bag if you don’t already use one. This will save you some extra space in your new backpack! We have an Expert Advice article called How to Choose a Backpack with some great information on what which backpacks are suitable based on the length of your trip. Happy Hiking!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.