Travel backpacks come in a wide range of sizes, and the choices can be overwhelming. Here at Her Packing List, we love to pack light and avoid checking luggage.
So what’s the perfect size for packing what you need and still traveling with only a carry on?
While you can certainly travel with even less, a 40L travel backpack just might be the perfect size. Please keep in mind that flying airlines with tight carry-on weight restrictions might call for a smaller travel backpack.
Why 40L is the perfect size for a travel backpack
A 40L backpack falls into the middle zone, making it not too big and not too small. It’s perfect for many reasons.
- The measurements fall within the carry-on restrictions of most airlines.
- It will hold plenty of stuff without tempting you to pack too many unnecessary extras.
- The compact size will help reduce the amount of space you have for heavier items.
- It’s small enough to manage and provide you with good range of motion.
- You won’t feel overly restricted in what you can bring on your trip.
How to choose the right 40L travel backpack
You’re going to be wearing this on your back and spending a lot of time with it, so you want to make sure you get the right one. Here are some things to consider when shopping for your new backpack:
- Decide if you prefer top loading or panel loading.
- Check the dimensions to make sure they work with your airline’s carry-on restrictions.
- Make sure there are enough pockets for your needs.
- Look for a rain cover.
- Adjust the straps, including the waist strap, to make sure it fits comfortably.
>>For a more in depth look, check out our ultimate female guide to picking a backpack here.
How much can you fit in a 40L backpack?
Here’s what I fit in my 40L backpack on my most recent trip:
- 9 t-shirts
- 1 cute top
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 2 pair of pants (plus I wore a pair of jeans on travel days)
- 4 pairs of socks
- 10 pairs of underwear
- 2 bras
- 1 pair of shoes (clunky wedges)
- 1 bag of travel-sized liquid toiletries
- Make-up, deodorant, razor, hairbrush, prescription medication
- Laptop, charger, external hard drive
The only things I didn’t have inside the backpack were my rain jacket, which I either wore or had strapped to the outside of the bag, and my DSLR was in a separate camera bag as my personal item. Plus sneakers and the clothes on my back.
I easily could’ve cut back on the number of shirts. I wore each shirt twice without washing it. The only reason I had a cute top, one of the pairs of pants, and the clunky shoes is that I had to dress up for a show. Clearly I need better travel shoes!
Also, I pack lots of underwear because it means I can go longer without doing laundry. If you don’t mind doing laundry more often or you don’t mind washing underwear in the sink, definitely pack fewer pairs. I traveled for 18 days and did laundry once.
Osprey Fairview 40L
REI Trail 40L
Osprey Farpoint 40L
REI Lookout 40L
North Face Terra 40L
$139 – $165
Osprey Kyte 36L
Gregory Jade 38L
Kelty Redwing 44L
Osprey Talon 44L
Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45L
>>Check out all our female backpack reviews all in one place.
What size travel backpack do you have? Do you think 40L is the perfect backpack size for females?