Daypacks are essential for both long and short hiking trips. They allow you to carry water bottles or bladders, extra clothes, and any other gear. You can use daypacks for biking trips, SUP adventures, and other outdoor sports.
What is a daypack?
Daypacks are the smallest units of the backpack family. They’re usually 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 a slim, sizeable daypack, The North Face Recon 30L is our best all-around daypack. The front stash pocket and fleece-lined glasses compartment are just two of the many useful storage options. The pack provides plenty of storage, and the reflective details keep you safe at night.
The North Face products can last over ten years, thanks to the high-quality materials, construction and zippers.
This daypack is not too big, so it’s an ideal size for hikes. Also, the removable waist belt keeps your weight evenly distributed while hiking.
Best Runner-Up Daypack
Do you want a pack that won’t weigh you down on short bike rides, day hikes, or other small trips? The Salomon Trailblazer 20 Backpack is a great bag in a small package.
A sleek design with clean lines will complement any outfit. The stretch side pockets make it versatile. It can carry a water reservoir, a small tablet, and other essentials.
The padded back system makes it comfortable for light loads. There are also three zippered pockets for organised packing. The 3D reflective printing on the shoulder strap, belt, and back provide safety as well.
- Lightweight & comfortable
- Sleek design
- Probably too small for a laptop.
Best Daypack for Hiking
Many people love hiking but are slowed by back issues. The supportive features of the Osprey Talon 22 do not disappoint those looking for extra help here. The Airscape accordion back panel is incredible for back protection. Load weight gets dispersed evenly through the lumbar-to-hip belt body wrap.
If you need a more precise fit, the adjustable back length will serve you well. As far as practicalities go, there is a stash pocket on the shoulder straps for your phone, wallet, and other valuables.
Last but not least, the trekking pole and bike helmet attachments make this bag suitable for a variety of outdoor activities.
- Supportive back design
- Adjustable fit
- Outer stretch pocket holds sandals or wet clothes.
- Does not come with an integrated rain cover
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 Osprey Daylite Travel 24L Backpack is a fantastic choice to neatly compartmentalise everything you want to carry with you. There are plenty of pockets and slots, like the panel-loading main compartment and the front organiser pocket.
Travellers will love the hidden interior pocket for passports, credit cards, and other valuables. Extra space always comes in handy, here through a zippered expansion section, which adds 6L of storage space.
- Lots of organised compartments
- Snug-fitting side compression straps
- Zip expansion unit for extra space
- Lack of colour options
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 21L. 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 protects your essentials.
- Rugged retro design
- 3-ZIP easy access
- Plenty of internal zippered pockets
- Sternum strap attachments dig into some users’ biceps
Best Fully Waterproof Daypack
This ultra-dry double bag is essential for canoeing, boating, SUP’ing, and other wet adventures. Overall, the SealLine Discovery Deck Dry Bag 20L is a smart pick for adventurous outdoorsmen and women.
The semi-translucent exteriors allow you to identify your camera, snacks, phone, and other items. It’s made with 100% waterproof material and tight-sealing closures, so you don’t have to worry about leakage. The oval bottom also forms a stable shape that will stand up securely on a boat or raft.
- 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 15L to 35L. The small-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 2020, 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!