Finding the best daypack or hiking bag can be quite a challenge. To help you make sense of all the technologies and materials used, we’ve put the nine most popular daypacks of the year to the test. The North Face’s Borealis 28L bag won the title of the best backpack for a day hike in 2021. Its sturdiness, pockets and storage capacity make it a favourite among our customers. Browse our shopping guide to find the best bag for your next day hike, camping trip and more.
What is a daypack?
Daypacks are the smallest units of the backpack family. They usually have a capacity of around 15 to 30 litres, and are built to carry 9 to 11 kilograms.
If you think of travel luggage, daypacks are like the carry-on bags, while overnight backpacks are like the check-in bags. Unlike overnight packs, there is no internal frame. However, some still have back support features.
The Top Daypacks Reviewed
Best All-Around Daypack
If you're looking for the perfect backpack for a day-long adventure, the Borealis 28L bag from The North Face is versatile enough for any occasion. It has a front storage pocket and a fleece-lined pocket for glasses. Its reflective details will also keep you visible in the evening. The North Face products are made from top quality materials to withstand wear and tear over the years.
This backpack is not too big, and its size is ideal for short hikes. The waist belt is removable and distributes the weight evenly over your hips. Its new harness provides improved comfort.
Whether it's for hiking on the trails or for heading out on your daily commute, this highly versatile bag is our best choice for adventure in 2021. It is designed for everyone, but there is also a version specially adapted for women.
Best Backpack for Runners
Do you want a lightweight bag that won't slow you down on bike rides, short hikes or your daily commute? The Trailblazer 20 (20 L; 10 L) from Salomon is a good small-scale backpack, specially designed for runners.
It has a sleek style that compliments any outfit. Its side mesh pockets are stretchy and versatile. The bag can hold a hydration bladder and other essentials.
The padded back system, belt and shoulder strap are comfortable and the zippered pockets keep you organized. Reflective prints on the shoulder straps and waistband make you visible in the dark. It's the perfect backpack for sports enthusiasts and trail runners!
- Lightweight & comfortable
- Sleek design
- Not padded enough for a laptop
Best Daypack for Hiking
For all those who love hiking but are slowed down by back pain, the Mammut Lithium Zip backpack offers excellent support. Part of the famous Mammut range of backpacks, it has a ventilated back panel and distributes the load over the waist belt.
The Lithium back panel is adjustable. Its integrated rain cover makes it even more versatile than the competition, and its large front pocket offers easy access to your essentials.
Finally, it has attachments for hiking poles and for attaching a bike helmet. For the price, this is an excellent hiking bag, and it's compatible with a hydration pack.
- Supportive back design
- Comes with an integrated rain cover
- Extendible outer pocket
- Some felt initially that the shoulder straps were uncomfortable, but changes have been made to the newest version
Best Packable Daypack
If you’re someone looking for a multi-function bag, the Arc’teryx Index 15 Backpack is a perfect fit. It comes equipped with a top-loading main compartment, which you can pack with clothes, a camera, and other gear. The eight external loops also allow you to carry various items outside of the pack.
The bag is also sturdy enough to hold a laptop, so it’s great for work. Besides the usual side straps, there are also top and bottom grab handles.
The compact design makes it a great hiking daypack, travel bag, and work bag. For its price, you can’t go wrong with this versatile daypack.
- Compact, small design
- Water-resistant material
- External loops for holding extra gear
- One of the most affordable bags
- Not as sturdy for hiking
Best Daypack for Travel
The Thule Subterra daypack is an excellent choice for anyone who likes to keep things organized. It has enough pockets to store all your essentials for a day of adventure and two spacious compartments.
Travellers will really appreciate the organization on the inside pocket, where you can store all your essentials and more. It offers solid protection for your laptop with the SafeEdge panel, as well as a PowerPocket for storing wires and chargers.
- Lots of organised compartments
- Padded laptop pouch
- Perfect for the train or the plane
Best Sling Daypack
The low profile, ergonomically efficient Patagonia Atom Sling Bag 8L is made for urban adventurers and minimalist hikers.
The unique teardrop shape differentiates it from other daypacks. This bag is made of recycled materials, so it’s eco-friendly and sustainable. By rotating the single strap design, you can easily access your items. This makes the sling bag excellent for theft-prevention when moving through busy streets.
- Great for carrying small items
- Padded sleeve for carrying a tablet
- Key clip for carrying keys
- Not as spacious as similarly sized bags
Best Lightweight Daypack
Are you looking for a compatible daypack that can fit in your pocket? The Black Diamond Cirrus 9 Backpack compresses into a pouch the size of an egg. It’s built from super-light fabric, which makes it great for when you’re on the go.
According to Black Diamond, it’s also the lightest bag on the market, weighing just one ounce! Though there isn’t much back support, there are nifty Splice Adjust shoulder straps. This helps the bag adjust to your height.
- Convenient to carry for extra storage
- Adjustable shoulder straps
- Compacts down to the size of a golf ball
- Not much back support
Best Ergonomic Daypack
Inspired by military rucksacks, there’s nothing that looks quite as cool as the Mystery Ranch Urban Assault Backpack 18L. Besides its unique aesthetics, it’s also extremely functional.
The three-way zip design allows you to access your clothes, water, and other items conveniently. It functions like a mini backpacking pack that zips open down the middle. It also comes with a built-in laptop and tablet sleeves, which protect your essentials.
- Rugged retro design
- 3-ZIP easy access
- Plenty of internal zippered pockets
- Sternum strap attachments not so streamlined
Best Fully Waterproof Daypack
This waterproof daypack is an essential for all water sports activities. Take it canoeing, paddle boarding, kayaking and on all your other nautical adventures. All in all, the Skylake 18 waterproof backpack is a good choice for anyone with a good set of sea legs.
The bag is made from 100% waterproof material with a sealed closure. The base of the bag allows it to stand upright, even on a board or at the bottom of a canoe. Practical and easily accessible thanks to its top opening, it is an excellent daypack for adventures on the river.
- PVC-free materials have a low environmental impact
- Dry seal roll-top closure
- 100% waterproof to keep your valuables dry
- A bit large to fit in a kayak
What to look for in a Daypack
Size and Volume
At the beginning of this article, we stated that daypacks generally range from capacities of 15L to 35L. The smaller-sized packs will typically be sufficient for half-day hikes. You only need enough space to store extra water, food, and other essentials.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to use your daypack for all-day hikes, you might want a bigger bag. Something in the 30L range is excellent for longer trips, as well as people with families.
If you’re planning to use your daypacks for work or travel, look for one with a padded inner sleeve for your laptop or tablet. For your water reservoir, you can store it in the mesh side pockets or other designated areas in the daypack.
Most daypacks also have a main compartment with an organizer panel for separating gear. If you need easy access to essentials like your phone, look for a pack with small outer pockets.
In this list, some daypacks have back support mechanisms, while others are more basic. Consider your intended use of the bag and personal needs to find the right one for you.
The shoulder straps can determine how comfortable the bag feels when you’re carrying it. Some popular strap shapes are contoured, straight, or bridged. Contoured or curved straps can fit more naturally to your body. These S-shaped straps are preferred to straight ones when hiking or trekking.
The hip belt is designed to take the weight off your shoulders. It can be a godsend when hiking long distances. If you’ve never used a hip belt before, you’ll notice the difference when wearing one.
Like hip belts, sternum straps are also designed to disperse the weight of the daypack. They keep your shoulders from getting sore and keep the shoulder straps secure.
The amount of ventilation will largely depend on the material of the straps. Some use air mesh or mesh lining, which can make the bag feel more comfortable on your skin. You want to find a balance between thickness and comfort.
Bringing enough water is one of the most critical parts of any adventure. Some bags can hold water bottles on the mesh side pockets.
Others fit bladders or flasks in the inside pockets. You should assess the amount of time you’ll be outside to determine how much water storage you need.
Many bags are made out of Ripstop or Cordura nylon fabric, which is both lightweight and durable. This material is made for everyday use and made to last. You may also see daypacks made with polyester, EVA foam, mesh, and other materials.
Be sure to find a bag with material that fits your needs in terms of water-resistance and durability.
Unlike a golfing or snowboarding bag, daypacks are incredibly versatile. You can use them for travelling, hiking, or carrying your laptop to the office. This versatility is part of what makes a daypack a smart purchase.
FAQs for Daypacks
What is the difference between a daypack and a backpack?
Technically, a daypack is a type of backpack since it has shoulder straps. However, not every pack is a daypack. Daypacks are unique because they can usually compress down into a small bag.
Since there’s no internal frame, they usually have less back support than a regular backpack. This lack of structure makes daypacks more lightweight than standard packs.
What should I look for in a one-day hiking backpack?
You should choose a one-day hiking backpack based on the features you need. For short hikes where you only carry the basics, around 15-20 litres is good. For longer trips, about 30 litres hits the sweet spot. For a full day in the backcountry, 35 litres or more may be necessary.
Aside from the volume, look for hip and sternum straps to help distribute the weight. A padded hip belt could also make the hike more comfortable.
What goes in a day pack?
Don’t forget water, snacks, extra clothes for changing weather, and a map. See our Hiking Essentials Guide for a full packing list.
After reading our extensive guide on the best daypack for 2021, we hope we’ve led you to a more educated buying decision. Daypacks are lightweight, convenient bags to accompany you on hikes, bike rides, and even daily commutes.
Browse our large selection of daypacks to find the right one for your next big adventure!