The length of the impulse response is typically related to the frequency resolution of the channel transfer function. As a rule of thumb: the more detail there is in the frequency response, the longer the impulse response will be.
In practice there are a few things you can do: If you have full access to a similar, you can simply measure it with a very long impulse response measurement. Than you can truncate the impulse response and see what happens to the transfer function. The truncation will create errors and this way you can dial in the impulse response length to the point where the error is still tolerable.
You can also use physical knowledge about the channel. For example an audio amplifier has only a few electronic components, all of which are specifically designed to create a flat transfer function with little phase distortion. A handful of samples is fine for that. On the other hand look at a loudspeaker in a room: the sound bounces around with multiple reflections until it finally dies off. In this case you would need many thousands of samples (not practical at all).
Many systems have bandpass or high pass characteristic: all acoustic systems are high pass because air can't transmit DC sound. Most communication systems are band pass since the information needs to stay away from the extreme edges of the band. In these case often the length of the impulse response is determined by the high pass roll off, i.e. the frequency and steepness of the high pass.