Are Hiking Backpacks Carry On Appropriate: What You Need to Know

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Whether you’re flying across the world to go on your next big adventure or you simply want to use your favorite backpack as your carry on, you might be wondering and asking, "Are hiking backpacks carry on appropriate?"

With continually changing rules when it comes to carry-on bag allowances and sizes, it can be hard to know if your hiking backpack is OK to bring with you on the plane or if it needs to be registered as check-in luggage.

Hence, the exact answer to this question will depend on your hiking backpack and which airline you are flying with, but we can help guide you to the right answer.

Are Hiking Backpacks Carry On Appropriate

Different Airline, Different Rules

While the general guidelines we’ll be providing should give you a great base idea of what size of hiking backpack you can carry on your flight, it is important to remember that every airline has their own rules and regulations. This means that depending on your ticket type, plane type, or airline, you may have more or less space than we outline in this article.

For the final ruling about your bag, it is also good to check your ticket details and find out whether or not your hiking backpack will fit based on those standards.

General Size Guidelines

Now that we have covered the issue of slight variances that you may find between different airline policies, let’s talk more generally about what size hiking backpack is appropriate to try to bring onto a plane as a carry-on bag.

The limit on hiking backpack sizes that will fit into an overhead compartment is 45 liters. This will also depend on whether or not the bag is flexible but keeping it under 45L is a great idea.

When it comes to specific dimensions, most airlines and planes allow for carry-on bags that are up to 22 by 14 by 9 inches. If your bag fits into these measurements, you’ll likely be good to keep it on board with you.

Flexibility Matters

We already briefly mentioned this, but it is important to consider whether or not your bag is flexible when you are determining which hiking backpack to use as your carry on.

If the airline should ask you to confirm that your bag will fit into their carry-on size guidelines, showing that you can shove the sides in so that it fits is a key way to prove it. If your bag is not flexible or it has a rigid frame inside, you will not be able to do this.

For that reason, you should only use a hiking backpack that has a frame if it is smaller than the airline’s given size requirements. Otherwise, you may not be able to take the bag on board.

Flexibility Matters

Remember the Rules

Even if your bag is going to fit in the overhead compartment, you need to remember a few additional rules about carry-on bags to ensure that your bag makes it to your flight with you.

First, you cannot have any full-sized liquids in your bag. Your hiking backpack will be required to follow the same guidelines that any carry-on going through security needs to pass. Be sure to limit your liquids in this way appropriately.

This means that the 3-1-1 rule for liquids (3.4 oz bottles or less put into a one-quart-sized bag per one passenger) applies. If you follow this rule for your liquids, you’ll be good to go through security.

Second, you cannot carry any weapons or certain types of electronics in your carry-on bag. If you check your hiking backpack, the rules are a little bit different, but it’s important that you make sure that you do not have any knives or similar items in your carry-on hiking backpack.

Some “Okay” Items

This list is constantly changing, so be sure to double check the most recent TSA rule before you follow this advice.

That being said, there are some items that many people believe they cannot bring on board, but they actually can! Some fire starters, such as safe matches and flint, can be packed without issues. There are even some types of tools that you can bring on board without having to remove them or check them into a check-in bag.

Ultimately, what you can and cannot bring onto the plane will be up to security's discretion, but you do not need to assume that all of your tools can’t come along. Many of them can make the trip just fine!

Stay Organized

Are hiking backpacks carry on luggage approved? Yes, as long as you have the right backpack and know how to pack it.

The key to making sure that your bag makes it on the plane with you is to stay organized. Be sure to check the guidelines for each leg of your journey (not just one) before you commit to a certain size of a backpack. With a little bit of background research, your hiking backpack can become the perfect travel backpack.

  • Updated June 10, 2020
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 10 comments
Boby - February 19, 2019

Exactly what I was thinking about…haven’t been hiking for years and vacation time is coming soon!
I and a couple of friends were just talking about doing this.
I definitely needed a reminder of the Do’s and Don’ts where hiking is being concerned.
Excellent tips, I totally forgot that the different airlines have different requirements, so I’ll keep that in mind.
Thanks a lot for sharing this post, I feel much more prepared now.

    Asen - February 19, 2019

    Hey Boby,

    I am glad you find my tips useful. Make sure to keep those things in mind when travelling.See you around! 🙂

Alexandra Wollein - February 19, 2019

I do need to get a smaller backpack for my travels as I only have a large one and it would not be allowed on the plane. I have noticed that it can be tricky to find a good one, at cheap price in the right size. Thank you for the advice you are offering. I now need to read your post about hiking with bad knees.

    Asen - February 19, 2019

    Hey Alex,

    You are most welcome. By the way, in case you re wondering about which backpack to buy, check out the best hiking backpacks of 2019. I am sure you will find something in there.

Glessa Mae - February 19, 2019

Nice article. I do love backpacks though I am not a backpacker. I love it because it is convenient and it is safer to bring rather than shoulder bags. I also don’t want to bring a lot of stuff when I am travelling because I want less hassles. I like durable backpacks that are made up of light materials and waterproof backpack is a plus. I’ll remember your tips to read the airline’s flight guidelines on what I can bring inside the plane before I travel. All the best! Glessa

    Asen - February 19, 2019

    Hi Glessa,

    Thanks for being around. If you like lightweight backpacks, then check out this article as well.

SkyPath - February 19, 2019

This will definitely help me! you give me so much information about how to carry on my hiking backpacks, if I go to hiking or my friends go to hiking, I will show this great article to them! Thank you for the great article!

    Asen - February 19, 2019


    Always happy to help! Happy hiking! 🙂

Ann - February 19, 2019

I’ve often wondered about this and to be on the safe side always check my backpack in to avoid any possible nightmares on the plane. Your info on liquids is useful too as that’s the other major consideration.

    Asen - February 19, 2019

    Hey Ann,

    Thank you for commenting. Most of the people tend to forget about the liquids. That’s why I dcided to mention it. It’s indeed an important consideration.


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