Can a hiking bag be too big?

So I’m looking to start my hiking hobby and I’m stuck at the most important parts - the backpack and the tent. This is about the backpack.
After lots and lots and lots of reading, online searching, more reading etc. I decided that Osprey is the brand I will support.
Now my question is about the size…I am not going to do 5 day hikes initially, but max 2 night hikes (carrying tent).
Is it fine to buy a 70 liter backpack and only filling a portion of it or is the design that you have to fill it with a certain weight or portion to work effectively? The are some 70 liter options 2nd hand, but otherwise I thought of buying a 60l Aether AG with daypack with will be about R 1k more expensive than 2nd hand. Please help me pull the trigger.

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Osprey packs are amazing, but I would buy the pack last. Get all your stuff, put it in a box then work out the litres.

You also need to see what kind of backpacker you are, if you are there for the hiking and the journey go lighter and smaller. If you are there to camp in less than accessible places, a larger pack will suit you better. I would lean towards smaller and dial in my gear if it doesn’t fit.


Echo that. It’s quite crucial. And build your gear to suit the climate and environments you expect to experience.

And that.

I would say though, in general, 55 to 70L is a good range to be in. Most good packs are very light so a little extra room at 200/odd grams more won’t hurt you.

But also very very important is to actually try on many packs. Go to retailers, fill them with stuff to about 12kg (it’s a good testing weight) and feel them out. This way you’ll also see what you’re paying for, or not. On this note I was once looking at an Osprey with that AG suspension system but found I disliked it…was mushy on my back, like a dead baboon. Reviews will only take you so far. Your body won’t lie.

You can half fill. No problem. Stuff might just sag or sink down tho. You can also just stuff yr sleeping bag or tent in loose 'n free to take up space. A good pack will compress too. Not a real worry.

And lastly, take your time, beware of eager salesman and I would advise you work a bit extra into yr thinking, meaning…if you only expect to do happy valley camping now you may well develop a taste for mountains and wilderness, in which case you may need sturdier kit, thus shopping again. So, as I said 55-70L should do. I’d aim at 60. Remember too a little extra space means you can carry someone else’s (wife/child) gear should you need to in case of injury.

And last of lastly…lightweight gear is amazing, but not so tough. My one mate’s Osprey Exos is already showing worrying signs of wear, after just two Berg hikes.

Ehem. But to answer yr post. Yes a bag can be too big. I own a 92L behemoth, my aptly named Gorilla, and I’m not sure who owns who…:grin:

Oh and, the problem with big packs is to remain disciplined in what you bring, extra space means “oh let me take this useless but lovely idea along”. I don’t. But it’s an easy trap to tumble into.


You should try the Volt, Rook and Kestrel 58 too. Good packs. All Osprey.

My advice would be to go for the bigger one. Sounds like you are planning more wilderness type hikes if you need a tent as well and a tent takes a lot of space. With the tent also comes the mattress and cooking system. That very quickly takes up space unless you want to go very minimalistic. Add to that the fact that if you are planning 2-day wilderness hikes then the average 5 day hike isn’t a far push from there. And for a 5-day hike with tent I generally use a 70L pack and have found 60L packs quite a squeeze. But depends on what you prefer, Carl is definitely correct when he says that you can easily pack extra. But it is sometimes nice to have some dessert and wine out in the mountain.


Danger with big bags is the urge to fill them :sweat_smile: Which you regret while going uphill. 40-50L has been a good size personally, can’t imagine using anything bigger than 60L unless you were out for weeks or a pack full of bulky winter gear.

You can get away with a lot less stuff than you realise and your back will thank you :grimacing:



Having done numerous multiday hikes with a 26 litre, and having completed three different Drakensberg Grand Traverses with a 33 litre pack - I often forget that people normally carry 60+litre packs for multiday hikes!


I have the Osprey Aether AG 60 and have used it for anything from 2-6 days in the mountains. Its great for a single nighter also - you can leave the top lid at home and pull the compression straps tight if its not too full.

For the record i prefer my 60L instead of the 40L pack i also have. Yes the 40L is 1kg lighter, but the 60 is more comfy.

The only difference between the 60 and 70L Aether is the width. The 60 is narrower and the height is the same.

Remember to take the advice from the people on this forum with a pinch of salt, as most of them are very experienced and hence have fine-tuned their setups according to their own needs.

But if you are starting out and want to carry a tent, and dont have all the latest gear yet, my advice would be to get the 60 or 70L Aether, depending on the price.

I work as a guide on multiday hikes and the Ospey Aether is the most popular, by far. There are lighter options though. I would also look at Gregory, for example the Zulu 55.


Seeing as you’re a family man taking your clan on jaunts that should greatly inform your choice.

There are two extreme poles- one being hyperlight on end and then 40kg of wors and dry-ice on the other. As a beginner I’d say take the moderate approach.

I will add though to broaden yr search a little at first. Gregory do make excellent packs, Stout 65 for example, or the excellent Baltoro. Check out Vaude and Mammut at Mountain Mail Order.

Packs are so good these days it’s hard to go wrong.

Not all of us hike without a pot and stove or only sleep in caves :joy:


Pure gold, thnx for all the advice and tips! It is very clear what I must do. Buy a big pack and a smaller pack! I will be carrying my families stuff and the full tent, pots, stove REALLY appeals to me so I will get the 2nd hand bigger bag. Then I’ll start shopping for a smaller one, looking at the Gregory packs.
I wish I could go test some of them, but there is no stock available anywhere! Nevermind in physical stores, even online it is really tough to find stock of backpacks or tents.
Really appreciate all the advice and tips.
Our first real overnight trip is Grootvadersbosch in October. Will do a couple of dry runs close by and will be asking for tips on that as well. Awesome forum.

Gregory does make some amazing packs. The Stout 65 is just a joy to hike with, ample space and can compress nicely if needed. Also sturdy. Not to confuse you on brands though since Osprey’s are great too :slight_smile:
My thought, if you can, perfect to have a smaller and larger bag, after you’ve figured out what type of overnighting you’ll do and I guess what type of backpacker you are :slight_smile: My extra packs have also come in handy for buddies that want to join but don’t necessarily always have the gear and sometime you might need lots of stuff and sometime you might want to go super light.

Once you’re into it, this site is cool to get an idea of when you start “over packing” also great to see (once things are on a list) what you need or don’t need… might also just be good for my OCD:

Enjoy Boosmansbos’ hike!


“Sometime you might need
Sometime you might want”



Yup, totally agree and that is why I bought a 60 litre instead of a 70 litre backpack for the Otter Trail I did in May.
But that extra 10l storage would have been perfect to pack my pillow in if I had the space.

I support the 50/55l side of packs! Been happy with my LowAlpine 55l on up to 6days unsupported wilderness hikes - not even having to dangle anything out side. Osprey are cool, and cheap - just try one out first fully packed in a store and “play” hiking, e.g. look UP and see if the top pocket design of Osprey is not bugging you. If not then Osprey is your pack!

Yeah I don’t see how you would need bigger. For Otter we had people bring 30L to 60L and all packs were full, so if you have the space, you will use it.

One thing to add. Might sound silly but don’t overpack a small bag. They’re only meant to carry a certain weight and after that it becomes hellishly uncomfortable. The bigger bags are a lot more comfortable with heavier weights. :blush:


Too true, Susan!

If you are young, get a comfortable backpack, and carry any and all luxuries you want. As you get older you start dumping the luxuries, weigh everything. I still use the same backpack I used 40 years ago, but do not use the strapon side pockets any more, I also do not carry my paraffin stove anymore. My pack empty is more than 2kg and for a 5 day fishriver hike about 15kg. Whatever you buy make sure it is comfortable.

Anyone on here used a Granite Gear rucksack? I’ve been feeling out the Granite Gear Blaze yes the brown is particularly ugly - but I can only find it online not any shops to try it on it.
I’ve also found out you need to be particularly observant with the Osprey Aetger rucksacks if you want lightweight as some are actually heavy.