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How Much Can You Fit in a 20-Inch Suitcase? (Real Example)

Home » Latest content » How Much Can You Fit in a 20-Inch Suitcase? (Real Example)

Let’s start with an example from one of my previous trips to set the bar:

Once I traveled 3 weeks throughout Europe with a 17-inch suitcase-designed backpack (Osprey Daylite 26+6). Totaling 32 liters in volume.

And I’m gonna share with you my exact packing list for that trip as well (including the total weight). But let’s just take a step back first.

Most 20-inch suitcases, also known as carry-on-sized luggage range between 38-45 liters. For some, this would be suitable for a 2-day weekend trip. And for others, it would be more than enough for a 1-year trip across the globe or even a lifetime of traveling.

So the amount you can fit in a 20-inch suitcase depends.

Enormous over-sized backpack
Yes, this will do

The biggest factors I’ve found to determine this are usually:

  • The weather of your destinations
  • The activities you’re gonna participate in
  • Whether you’re planning on working on your trip or not
  • And of course your personal preferences

So let me show you a real-life example from one of my trips, to give you a better idea about what’s possible.

Example: My 17-Inch Luggage Packing List (36 Liters)

I’ve spent countless hours researching for my trips throughout time, including making packing lists.

In the beginning, I used various to-do lists or note apps to make them. But today – not so much.

My to-go packing tool has since then evolved into Google Sheets (Excel), where columns and formulas containing numbers have found their place.

By doing this I know exactly how much my luggage weighs. Not only from the beginning of the trip but also during various situations such as with or without food when hiking. Or after shipping or donating certain items I don’t need anymore on longer trips across different continents.

What I’ve learned from the art of packing over the years is that you can often pack much more than you think, as long as you know how. Both in terms of weight and volume.

And I’m gonna give you all my tips on how to pack as efficiently as possible in a second. But let me first share with you the example of one of my packing lists.

3-Week Eurotrip Packing List During Summer

ItemsWeight (ounces)Weight (grams)
Backpack rain-cover2.8280
Beard trimmer + charger11.46325
Cap (wearing it)00
Card game7.05200
Charger for phone and cableWaist bag**Waist bag**
Compression packs8.82250
Deo (roll-on)2.6575
Earplugs (6 x pcs)0.185
Face masks0.8825
First-aid bag (empty)0.3510
Fleece (wearing it)00
Halloween costume27.87790
Hand sanitizer (50 ml.)Waist bag**Waist bag**
Headset (in-ear)Waist bag**Waist bag**
Hiking shoes19.40550
Ibuprofen tablets0.3510
Iodine + cotton swabs1.7650
iPhone charger1.0630
Jeans (wearing it)00
Lock for hostel lockers4.94140
Lock with long cable3.1790
Lock for backpack zippers (2 x pcs)4.41125
Mosquito spray3.53100
Nail clipper1.2335
Paracetamol tablets0.3510
Perfume (30 ml)4.23120
Shirts – short sleeve (4 x pcs)21.16600
Shorts (2 x pcs)16.93480
Sleeping mask0.3510
Sneakers (wearing it)00
Soap block3.0085
Socks – long (5 x pcs)10.58300
Socks – long (wearing it)00
Socks – short (9 x pcs)6.35180
SunglassesWaist bag**Waist bag**
T-shirts (3 x pcs)15.87450
T-shirt (wearing it)00
Toilet bags (empty – 2 x pcs)8.47240
Toilet paper (1/2 roll)2.1260
Underwear (7 x pcs)19.75560
Underwear (wearing it)00
*Total weight =17.86 lb8,2 kg
*Including backpack weight of 29.63 ounces / 840 grams.

**I’ve excluded items in my waist bag (I’ll go more in-depth on this in a second)

This packing list was made for warmer weather during summer. And one of the activities included a 2-day hike in the Central Balkan National Park in Bulgaria, where we stayed in guesthouses.

If I would have traveled during winter, I’d have needed more space for more clothes.

The Waist Bag Hack

As you might notice the weight has been switched out for “Waist bag” on the above list.

What it’s referring to is my largest waist pack of 4-liter (Fjällräven Ulvö Hip Pack – Large), and it’s super comfortable.

With my backpack, it adds up to 36 liters (4 + 32), which is still within the typical range of 20-inch suitcases (38-45 liters).

(Fjällräven Ulvö Hip Pack - Large
The fanny pack gang starter-kit

I’ve never had any comments on it during checking-in or boarding either, resulting in some “free” volume and weight.

Only once or twice I’ve been told to put it in the overhead department. Which makes it rare.

As seen in the photo, it also allows me to wrap my fleece on it, saving a fair amount of space in the luggage.

Besides that it’s super practical – you don’t even have to wear it around your hips, though no judgment if that’s what you fancy 😉

I should add though, that I’m 6’4″ (194 cm) tall and usually weigh around 210 lbs (95 kg) before Christmas. My point is if you’re shorter, a smaller waist bag is maybe handier as well.

How to Efficiently Save Weight and Volume When Packing

While this is an art itself, I’ve done my fair part of trial and error within this field.

Maybe not enough to dress up an ultra-runner taking that prefers removing clothing labels for maximum efficiency. But enough to only travel with a “personal item” on longer trips (in warmer weather).

The disturbing truth of being a weight-packer

What I refer to as a “personal item” is when you’re traveling with a small bag that theoretically can fit under the front passenger seat.

With that said I’ve never experienced not being allowed to use the overhead department despite not paying for hand luggage (or check-in luggage).

But I’ve heard rumors that airlines are starting to take this more seriously – so don’t take my word for it.

Now that you hopefully got a better idea of how much you can fit in your suitcase, let me recommend another article of mine:

I made this article based on trial and error from literally hundreds of trips.

Everything from traveling with only a personal item as just mentioned. To max out the allowance of checked-in luggage on Muay Thai retreats to Thailand with all my bulky gear and supplements.

So hopefully there’s a thing or two you can benefit from through my experience.

Global Dane

I'm the guy behind Global Dane. Everything I create is purely motivated by a passion for traveling (preferably on a lower-end budget). Join me on my authentic travels on YouTube or here on the website. And if you have something on your mind, don’t hesitate to send me a so-called electronic mail. I’m always up for a chat.

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