How Much Can You Fit in a 20L Backpack? 

 June 9, 2023

By  Diane Wuthrich

Twenty liters is one of the most common backpack capacities. But determining exactly how big it is and what it can fit will vary based on what you use the backpack for. So how much can fit in a 20L backpack?

A 20L backpack can store a variety of belongings for different purposes. For school, it can fit a laptop, two average binders, small notebooks, a sweater, and a water bottle. It can also fit enough clothes for light packers going on 2-3 day trips, and enough gear for trekkers going on day hikes.  

Read on below to learn more about what can fit inside a 20L backpack.

How Much Can You Pack Into a 20L Backpack?

Before you invest in a backpack, it’s important to know that it can fit belongings intended for its purpose. Twenty-liter backpacks are among the most popular capacities used for a wide range of functions such as school, work, travel, and day hikes.

There are many excellent 20L backpacks out there that cater to all lifestyles. To make your shopping easier, we've added some product recommendations into each category.

Here’s what you can fit in a 20L backpack for various scenarios:


A 20L backpack for school is ideal for students who don’t need to carry several heavy, large textbooks or binders. In addition, it can fit:

  • 13- or 15-inch laptop, depending on the height of the backpack (it should be at least 2 inches taller than your laptop)
  • 5 notebooks or 2 textbooks
  • 2 average sized binders
  • Pencil or tech case no larger than 8 x 5 inches
  • Water bottle
  • Small snack packs

Our recommendation: Everest 20L Backpack: The Everest 20L Backpack is popular among college students. It can fit up to a 15-inch laptop while its spacious main compartment can accommodate folders, small notebooks, and 1 or 2 textbooks. The side mesh pockets can fit two water bottles while the front pocket organizer can help you store smaller essentials such as a calculator, pens, wallet, and chargers.


A 20L work backpack is ideal for professionals who have to commute yet want a compact pack for everyday item. It can fit:

  • 13- or 15-inch laptop
  • Paperwork
  • Tablet
  • Sweater
  • Packed lunch
  • Water bottle
  • Tech accessories such as cables and chargers

Our Recommendation: Chrome Industries 20L Urban Ex 2.0 Rolltop Backpack: Commuting to and from work with all your belongings is made more convenient thanks to the Chrome Industries 20L Urban Ex 2.0 Rolltop. The waterproof construction will ensure all its contents stay dry, including your 15-inch laptop. Strategic compartments and thoughtful features such as reflective attachment loops, a yoke, and lined interiors make this the ideal 20L bag for busy professionals.


A 20L travel backpack can be used for up to 3 days of clothing, as well as a small toiletry bag. It is ideal for light packers or short-term travel, and can fit:

  • Small toiletry case (10 x 6 x 3 inches)
  • Packing cubes for compressing clothes, which contain:
    • Undergarments
    • 1 sweater or 2 pairs of jeans
    • 4 t-shirts

Our Recommendation: Oakley Peasy Backpack: Simple, elegant, and perfect for light travelers, the Oakley Peasy Backpack ticks all the boxes. It’s designed with a padded laptop compartment and spacious main compartment for several travel cubes. The front pocket is ideal for storing your passport, travel documents, wallet, and maps too.


Twenty-liter hiking backpacks are best suited for trips that are a few hours to a full day in duration. It will be enough to carry everything you need outdoors for the day, such as:

  • Snacks and lunch
  • Two liters of water
  • Small first-aid kit
  • Waterproof jacket or light puff jacket
  • Head lamp

Our Recommendation: Osprey Daylite Plus Backpack: It’s easy to see why the Osprey Daylite Plus Backpack is popular for day hikes. This sleek and compact hiking backpack has a large panel loading main compartment that lets you easily access your food and gear for the day. It’s equipped with a multipurpose interior sleeve that can be used for either a tablet or hydration reservoir.

Keep your smaller items organized in the front panel pocket. It also comes with stretch mesh pockets on each side for storing water bottles or extra gear, which hikers appreciate.


You might be surprised at how much a 20L backpack can hold. It’s one of the most versatile backpack capacities that can be used in a number of ways.

About the author

Diane is our head writer and researcher for our backpack informational content. Her everyday carry is a Herschel.

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