Standing up shifts blood to dependent parts of the body, and blood vessels in the leg become filled. The orthostatic blood volume accumulation in the small vessels is relatively unknown, although these may contribute significantly. We hypothesized that in healthy humans exposed to the upright posture, volume accumulation in small blood vessels contributes significantly to the total fluid volume accumulated in the legs. Considering that near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) tracks postural blood volume changes within the small blood vessels of the lower leg, we evaluated the NIRS-determined changes in oxygenated ($Δ$[O2Hb]), deoxygenated ($Δ$[HHb]) and total haemoglobin tissue concentration ($Δ$[tHb]) and in total leg volume by strain-gauge plethysmography during 70 deg head-up tilt (HUT; n= 7). In a second experiment, spatial and temporal reproducibility were evaluated with three NIRS probes applied on two separate days (n= 8). In response to HUT, an initially fast increase in [O2Hb] was followed by a gradual decline, while [HHb] increased continuously. The increase in [tHb] during HUT was closely related to the increase in total leg volume (r2= 0.95 ± 0.03). After tilt back, [O2Hb] declined below and [HHb] remained above baseline, whereas all NIRS signals gradually returned to baseline. Spatial heterogeneity was observed, and for two probes [tHb] was highly correlated between days (r2= 0.92 ± 0.09 and 0.91 ± 0.12), but less for the third probe (r2= 0.44 ± 0.36). The results suggest a non-linear accumulation of blood volume in the small vessels of the leg, with an initial fast phase followed by a more gradual increase at least partly contributing to the relocation of fluid during orthostatic stress. © 2012 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2012 The Physiological Society.