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Best Daypacks for Hiking: 13 Perfect Packs in 2021

Hikers carrying daypacks on rocks
 

A great daypack for hiking should be comfortable, easy to use, durable and have enough space to carry everything you need. Simple right? Well, not always. Predictably there are a whole load of other things to consider too like whether it can hold a hydration reservoir, or if it you want it to have good ventilation. Perhaps you need it for other things and not just hiking, or maybe you just don’t know what you want!

Fear not happy hikers. We’ve put together a sparkling list of the best daypacks for hiking that you can get your hands on. So whether you’re after a full-featured, mega-ventilated, super comfy hiking bag, or an everyday, simple but stylish workhorse, we’ve got you covered.

This quick overview of the best daypacks for hiking gives you a basic idea of which bags are leading the way in the hiking world, with more detailed info on each bag show later in the article. But if you really want to understand what to look for in an excellent daypack then skip down to the section on what to look for in a daypack for hiking.

Summary of the best daypacks in 2021

Disclaimer: We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

ProductFeaturesCapacityWeightCost
Jack Wolfskin Ecoloader 24 PackRain cover, great entry options24 litres870g (1.9lbs)$$$
Gregory Arrio 24Rain cover, versatile, good in warm weather24 litres760g (1.76lbs)$$$
Matador Freerain 22 Waterproof BackpackWaterproof, super lightweight and packable22 litres300g (10.6oz)$$$
Deuter Speed Lite 20Lightweight, versatile20 litres
530g (1.2lb)$$
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry BackpackWaterproof, climbing specific features30 litres770g (1.7lbs)$$$
Lowe Alpine Aeon 27Full-featured, comfortable and versatile27 litres850g (1.87lbs)
$$$
Deuter Trail Pro 30 SLWomen's fit, very comfortable, good for overnighters30 litres1390g (3lbs)$$$$
Osprey Talon 22Great all-rounder, very comfortable22 litres810g (1.8lb)$$
Osprey Stratos 26Super comfortable, great ventilation in hot weather26 litres
1260g (2.8lb)$$$
REI Flash 22Lightweight, great value, adaptable to everyday life22 litres411g (0.9lb)$
Arc’teryx Brize 25Stylish, high quality, good for everyday life too25 litres905g (2lb)$$$$
Thule Capstone 32Full-featured, good for overnighters32 litres1560g (3.5lb)$$$$
Kelty Redtail 27Good value, lots of storage options27 litres700g (1.5lb)$$
Marmot Kompressor PlusVery lightweight, packable20 litres370g (0.8lb)$

FAQs when choosing the best daypack for hiking

What is a day pack for hiking?
A daypack for hiking is backpack or rucksack that is large enough to carry everything you need when out hiking for a whole day, but not so big that you’ll have lots of extra room inside it. It should be lightweight — you don’t want to carry extra weight if you don’t have to. It should also be very comfortable to carry and not move around too much when you are hiking.
What is a daypack vs backpack?
A daypack is the same thing as a backpack. But it is a type of backpack that is designed specifically for single day use. Many people refer to larger packs that are designed to carry enough gear/clothing for multi-day trips — either hiking or travelling — backpacks. If you’re looking for a larger pack than the daypacks featured here then take a look at our guide to backpacks for trekking and multi-day hikes.
How do I choose a backpack for a day hike?

First up, look for a pack that holds no more than 30 litres of gear, less if possible. Then you need to figure out where and when you will be hiking the most, and what features are important to you. Then you should try a bunch on with weight in them to ensure that the one you choose is mega comfortable and stable on your back.

Take a read of our buying guide for more information on what to look for in a great daypack for hiking.

Where should a backpack fit on your back?
Fully loaded daypacks should fit in the same way that a larger backpack should fit: snug to the body with most of the weight loaded onto the hips. Check out this video on how to fit a backpack for more info.
What is the best daypack for travelling?

Much like daypacks for hiking, the best daypack for travelling should feel comfortable to carry and with good storage features. That said, there’s no need for excessive padding, a hip belt or technical support features. It also doesn’t need to be huge and you’ll want to access it’s contents easily. So opt for something simple, lightweight and streamlined.

The best daypacks for travelling on our list are the Deuter Speed Lite 20, the REI Flash 22 and the Marmot Kompressor Plus.

What is a good size daypack?

The capacity of the best daypacks are between 20 and 30 litres. However, this depends on the time of year you are hiking (winter means you’ll need to carry more stuff) and also the duration of your day hikes (longer hikes means more food and layers etc). Some people will need something larger — up to 40 litres — whilst others will only need something between 10 and 20 litres.

For a better idea of what size daypack is best for you read the section on the size/capacity of the best daypacks.

What is the best lightweight daypack?

The best lightweight daypack on our list is the Deuter Speed Lite 20 which weighs only 530g (1.2lb). There are daypacks that weight less (the REI Flash 22 and the Marmot Kompressor Plus), however, they lack the comfort and support offered by the Speed Lite.

For something with a greater carry capacity, the Lowe Alpine Aeon 27 is a superb lightweight option. It has lots of storage features, plus a supportive and comfortable back panel and hip belt. It weighs only 850g (1.87lbs).

Which daypack is most waterproof?
The only waterproof daypack on our list is the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry. However, the Vaude Core has an internal, removeable drybag. There are also four options our list that come with a rain cover. These are the Deuter Trail Pro, the Mammut Crea Tour, the Osprey Stratos and the Thule Capstone.
Which is the best daypack for overnight hikes?
The daypacks with the largest capacity will be the most suited to overnight hikes. However, this is dependent on carrying very lightweight and minimalist gear. The best options for this are the Thule Capstone, the Vaude Core and the Deuter Trail.
Which is the best daypack for winter hiking?
With a waterproof outer fabric, large 30 litre capacity and with options to carry winter climbing gear, the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry is the best option for winter hiking on our list. The Vaude Core is highly suited to wet and wintery conditions. And the Deuter Trail Pro is also an excellent option that is durable, stable, spacious and highly comfortable.

The best daypacks for hiking

Jack Wolfskin Ecoloader 24 Pack

Jack Wolfskin Ecoloader 24 Pack

Eco-conscious: Made from algae BLOOM and recycled plastic bottle

New in 2020, the innovative and rather aesthetic design of the Jack Wolfskin Ecoloader 24 Pack is another great option if you’re looking for an eco-friendly daypack. As well as all the synthetic components of the backpack being made of 100% recycled plastic bottles (18 per pack!), the shoulder straps and back padding are made from BLOOM algae!

From a practical point of view, the opening system of the Ecoloader is surprisingly usable and an excellent feature if you’re constantly in and out of your backpack. The four-way zip provides easy access to the gear in your bag, whether it’s crammed at the bottom or sitting at the top. You can also open the zip all the way up to view the whole of its contents. Plus, there’s a small zippered pocket for your phone and keys, a hydration sleeve in the main compartment and a zippered pocket at the base of the bag which contains a waterproof rain cover.

This lightweight daypack won’t win any prizes in terms of comfort and support. However, it’s comfortable enough for day hikes, assuming you’re not carrying a very heavy load. And the sternum strap and removable waist belt help to stabilise the bag.

Notable features:

  • Four-way zippered opening
  • Hydration sleeve
  • Zippered side security pocket
  • Removable rain cover
  • Four-way zippered opening
  • Sternum strap and removable waist belt

Cons: Not super comfortable when carrying heavy loads
Verdict: A great looking and highly practical daypack for those who delve in and out of their pack lots! It’s also eco-friendly.

Find the latest price at:
Alpine Trek | Jack Wolfskin | Amazon


gregory arrio 24 backpack

Gregory Packs Arrio 24

Eco-conscious: 40% post-consumer recycled polyester with PFC-free DWR

The Gregory Packs Arrio 24 is a streamlined daypack that is as well suited to a day on the trail as it is to biking adventures or around town. It boasts an excellent ventilation panel that makes it ideal for summer escapes. Plus, you can be sure to stay well hydrated as it can store both a large water bottle in the side mesh pocket as well as a hydration reservoir in the internal sleeve.

It lacks the padding around the back panel that other daypacks offer and as a result, smaller people may find that the bottom corners of the frame dig in slightly. However, the shoulder straps are well padded and comfortable, as is the overall fit and feel of the bag.

The Arrio is a unisex daypack which makes it versatile for most people. Ladies, it’s worth trying it on before you commit to buying, as the sternum strap adjustability may sit a little low over the chest.

I really love the zippered side and front pockets, unusual for a daypack. They offer security and lots of options for organising your gear.

Notable features:

  • Hydration compatible
  • Sternum strap
  • Removable waist strap
  • Zippered front pocket
  • Zippered side pocket with key clip
  • Mesh side pocket
  • Zippered top pocket
  • Zippered internal lid pocket
  • Rain cover
  • Compression straps
  • Trekking pole holder

Cons: The base of the frame can dig in if you are a small person. The sternum strap sits a little low on the chest for ladies.
Verdict: A highly versatile daypack for summer hiking, biking and adventuring, with lots of features yet a streamlined design.

Find the latest price at:
Gregory Packs | Backcountry


Matador backpack

Matador Freerain 22 Waterproof Backpack

Weighing in at a featherweight 300g (10.6oz), the Matador Freerain 22 Waterproof Backpack is the lightest daypack on our list, closely followed by the Marmot Kompressor. It also packs down into a pocket-sized package (3.75 x 5.75in / 9.5 x 14.6cm), making it one of the best daypacks on our list for traveling. Just shove it in your big pack or suitcase when not in use and you’re good to go, wherever that may be!

But low weight and packability aren’t all that this versatile daypack has got going for it. It also has a fully waterproof main compartment that can endure a full dunking in water making it ideal for biking and hiking in wet conditions, as well as SUP and canoe trips. There are also good pocket options as well as external gear loops for carrying extra, if needed.

The main downside is the lack of padding on the shoulder straps and back panel. So be sure not to overload it and place soft items closest to your back.

Notable features:

  • Mesh side pockets
  • Compression straps
  • Gear loops
  • Zippered roll top entry
  • Sternum strap
  • Removable hip belt
  • Load lifters

Cons: No padded straps or back panel.
Verdict: A super versatile, mega lightweight, highly packable and waterproof backpack with some useful features for day hikes and biking in wet conditions.

Find the latest price at:
Matador


Deuter SpeedLite 20 Daypack

Deuter Speed Lite 20

Despite its seemingly simple design, the Speedlite 20 is a deceptively versatile daypack for hiking and adventures. And although the capacity is only 20 litres, this is a big little bag that holds a surprisingly good amount of stuff. The innovative compression strap system can be used to secure skis and trekking poles on the back of the pack or it can cinch the whole bag down to little more than the size of a hydration pack. There are also four small gear attachment loops that can be used to attach a helmet (attachment sold separately), or you can rig up your own storage solutions if you need to carry extra gear like ropes etc.

Where the Speedlight lacks in organisation pockets, it makes up for it with its easy to use design and the spacious main compartment that provides plenty of room to pack everything you need . It is ideal for those wanting to keep things skipping along quickly on a big day in the mountains.

The 210D ripstop nylon does a great job at making sure the Speedlite will stand up to the rough and tumble of life on the trail, and although the Marmot Kompressor is over 150g lighter, its 70D nylon will struggle to compete when it comes to durability.

Other notable features:

  • Main access through top zipper
  • Sternum strap
  • Internal key attachment clip
  • Lightweight, removable waist strap
  • Front mesh pocket with access from both sides
  • Two side mesh pockets
  • Hydration pocket can hold a 3 litre reservoir
  • Hydration port
  • Padded back panel

Cons: Lacks pockets for storage, no rain cover
Verdict: Read our full and in depth review of this simple, durable, versatile and lightweight daypack.

Find the latest price on:
Alpine Trek | REI | Backcountry


Mountain Hardwear Outdry Scrambler 30

>Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry

This 30 litre Scrambler Outdry Backpack by Mountain Hardwear is the only waterproof daypack on our list. This is a bit of a game changer when hiking in changeable conditions. It is also one of the larger packs making it the best daypack for winter hikes when you need to carry more fuel, extra layers and specialist winter hiking gear.

Although a superb option for big day hikes in cold weather, the Scrambler lacks some of the comfort and ventilation offered by other daypacks like the Mammut Crea Tour. However, with plenty of features specifically designed with more adventurous hikers in mind, this super robust daypack is named the Scrambler for good reason. The highly durable 400D HD Nylon Plain Weave means that it can really take a battering on the rock, or on the trail. Plus the extra layer of 600D HardWear Tarp 18 TPU Poly Composite fabric covering the top pocket keeps your valuables VERY safe and dry.

Some nice climbing and scrambling specific features include a rope attachment strap over the main compartment, reinforced gear loops on the sides of the pack and trekking pole or ice axe attachment loops.

Other notable features:

  • Hydration sleeve
  • Side pockets
  • Zippered external top pocket
  • Stowable waist belt straps
  • Compression straps
  • Integrated whistle on sternum strap

Cons: Not as comfortable as other packs
Verdict: For more information read our full review of the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry Backpack.

Find the latest price at:
Mountain Hardwear | Amazon | Alpine Trek | Backcountry


Lowe Alpine Aeon 27

Lowe Alpine Aeon 27

New to their 2018 range, Lowe Alpine claim that the Aeon 27  is their greatest creation yet. And we’re inclined to agree. It’s comfortable, versatile and relatively lightweight for such a high capacity and full-featured daypack. The pack has some super useful features that make it very much home on climbing, scrambling and biking adventures, as well as for big days hiking. It has a ton of pockets making it highly appealing for the organised hikers out there! And we love the stretchy mesh side and front pockets that hold loads more than you might initially think. The pack also features a MultiLock tool carrier system that is similar to the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler. This carriers hiking poles, helmets, ice tools and extra layers with ease. It may lack the support and ventilation offered by trampoline-style back panel designs, but it makes up for it with a very sturdy and well ventilated hip belt (with pockets!) and a comfortable fit.

Other notable features:

  • Main access through top zipper
  • Sternum strap with integrated whistle
  • Internal key attachment clip
  • Mesh side pockets
  • Cargo storage pocket
  • Two small zippered top pockets
  • Padded hip belt with zippered pockets
  • Hydration sleeve with hose loops on the shoulder straps
  • Compression straps

Cons: No waterproof cover
Verdict: For more information read our full review of the Lowe Alpine Aeon 27.

Find the latest price at:
Alpine Trek | Amazon | Cotswold Outdoor


Deuter Trail Pro 30

Deuter Trail Pro 30 SL

This may be one of the heaviest daypacks on our list, but the Deuter Trail Pro 30 SL is also one of the most comfortable. Specifically designed for women, by women, the SL version of the Trail Pro offers an exceptionally well constructed daypack that molds to the body. The highly padded AirContact back panel provides a ton of comfort and reasonable airflow too. Plus the narrow cut, high sternum strap and shaped shoulder straps contribute to all day comfort and stability, even when fully loaded.

Big enough to hold everything you need for an overnighter, and strong enough to deal with that extra weight, too, this spacious and full-featured backpack is also well-suited to winter hiking and touring when extra gear is needed. The 30 litre capacity is a little on the large side for summer hikes unless you are carrying gear, food, water and clothing for more than one person. Additionally, the good selection of pockets and storage options makes this one versatile daypack for multiple adventures.

Other notable features:

  • Hydration sleeve and port
  • Stretch side pockets
  • Zippered top pocket with key attachment
  • Removable rain cover
  • Compression straps
  • Pole attachment points
  • Huge from pocket
  • Padded waist belt with zippered pockets

Cons: A little overkill for short summer day hikes.
Verdict: For more information read our full review of the Deuter Trail Pro 30 SL.

Find the latest price on:
Alpine Trek | REI


Osprey Talon 22 Daypack for hiking

Osprey Talon 22

New to Ospreys already impressive selection of excellent backpacks, the Talon 22 is one of the best daypacks for hiking on the market right now. And it’s not just hitting the trail that this brilliantly designed bag is great for: there is an ice axe loop, should you find yourself chilling out at altitude, and an incredibly useful LidLock attachment to store your bicycle helmet.

Osprey have taken some of the best features of the Escapist, adapted them to be ideal for hikers, and added a bunch more features too. The Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment is one such feature that allows you to store your poles without having to de-bag each time you want to put them away.

The AirScape accordion foam backpanel is also an excellent development that combines with a seamless lumbar-to-hip belt body wrap to increase air flow. Combined with an adjustable torso length, this system adds to the overall comfort of the bag by ensuring that the load is spread well across the hips

Other notable features:

  • Main access through top zip
  • External hydration pocket that holds a 3 litre reservoir
  • Internal key attachment clip
  • LED light attachment point
  • Stretch front pocket
  • Sternum strap with emergency whistle
  • Stretch mesh side pockets with InsideOut™ compression
  • Twin zippered hip belt pockets
  • Stretch pocket on harness

Cons: No Rain cover
Verdict: An excellent, lightweight and great value all-rounder daypack that is super comfortable and easy to use.

Find the latest price on:
Osprey | Alpine Trek | REI


Osprey Packs Stratos 26

Osprey Stratos 26

Although the heaviest bag of its size in this review, the Stratos is worth its weight in gold for those hiking in hot conditions and wanting to carry heavy loads. The exceptional levels of ventilation provided by the AirSpeed mesh backsystem and the seamless back panel to hipbelt design (similar to the Talon) makes the Stratos a firm favourite amongst summer hikers who don’t want to compromise on comfort.

This years updated version of the Stratos includes a large front storage pocket with easy access via a vertical zip. And like the Talon, there is a Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment that stores your poles underneath your arm when you don’t need them.

The integrated and detachable raincover is a highly appealing feature that is missing from almost of the bags in this review other than the Thule. And the overall durability of the bag is everything to be expected in an Osprey pack.

Other notable features:

  • Main access through top lid
  • External hydration pocket that holds a 3 litre reservoir
  • Internal key attachment clip
  • Sternum strap with emergency whistle
  • Adjustable torso length
  • External hydration pocket
  • Side compression straps
  • Single ice axe loop
  • Twin zippered hip belt pockets
  • Under lid zipped mesh pocket

Cons: The side mesh pockets are small, and the ventilated back panel encroaches on the internal space.
Verdict: An excellent quality and highly comfortable daypack for hiking in hot conditions.

Find the latest price on:
Osprey | Alpine Trek


REI Flash 22 daypack

REI Flash 22

The ever-popular REI Flash 22 is a no frills lightweight bag that is ideal for the minimalist hiker. The lack of frame and lightweight nylon construction makes it one of the lightest bags in this review at only 411g. Despite its apparent flimsiness, it still manages to provide just enough padding on the shoulder straps and back panel to be comfortable on big day hikes.

What stands out about this simple daypack is its usability in everyday life. Yes, it performs brilliantly as a daypack for hiking with all the necessary features needed, but it’s not so technical that is overkill as a work bag, or commuter bag. A nice feature is the ability to detach both the waistbelt and sternum strap making it even more suited to a variety of scenarios.

The side mesh pockets are huge and can easily carry a Nalgene bottle in each one if you decide not to use a hydration reservoir. And to top it off, this is the cheapest bag in this review offering really excellent value to those who prefer something simple versatile pack vs full-featured technical daypacks.

Other notable features:

  • Main access through top lid
  • External hydration pocket that holds a 3 litre reservoir
  • Hydration port
  • Tool loops on top and bottom of pack can be tucked away when not needed
  • Zippered lid pocket
  • Zippered pocket on front

Cons: Lacks ventilation and no rain cover
Verdict: A superb value, simple and lightweight daypack for hiking and everyday use.

Find the latest price at:
REI


Arcteryx Brize 25 daypack

Arc’teryx Brize 25

Like Osprey, Arc’teryx are renowned for their high quality and well designed backpacks. And the Brize 25 is no different. It offers some great features for hikers and, like the REI Flash, is also highly adaptable to everyday use off the trail – thanks to it’s stylish and streamlined design, amongst other things.

Although over twice as heavy as the Flash, it still only weighs 905g. That extra weight provides stability and comfort that is comparable to the Speedlite. The back panel features Aeroform thermoformed, hydrophobic padding to enhance air flow, and the lightweight hip belt is removable when not needed.

There are some simple and discrete features: the dual daisy chains on the front of the pack, and the SwiftClip bungee straps to secure trekking poles or tools.

What lets this all-round great bag down slightly is the price. It is up there with the most expensive bags in this review. And although you are buying into Arc’teryx quality, better ventilation and a padded hip belt would be welcome additions for the price.

Other notable features:

  • Main access through top zip
  • Sternum strap
  • Hydroport™ drink tube passage with internal clip to keep bladder suspended
  • Hydration bladder compatible
  • Internal security pocket
  • Side pockets can carry 1L bottles or trekking poles
  • Zippered top pocket with key clip
  • Four compression straps – two on each side
  • Secures single ice or mountaineering tool

Cons: Expensive, average ventilation, no rain cover
Verdict: A stylish and well designed hiking daypack that is highly transferable to everyday uses.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry


Thule Capstone 32 daypack

Thule Capstone 32

Although the heaviest daypack in this review, the Capstone is also the largest with a capacity of 32 litres. New to the Thule line of hiking daypacks, this is an exceptionally well designed bag with loads of innovative features. Together these make it highly suited to big days out in the mountains, or fast and light overnighters.

Thule really have thought of everything. Small details like the button hole webbing on the front of the pack to secure gear. And the simple VersaClick pole holder on the customisable hip belt (compatible with other interchangeable VersaClick accessories (not included)). The small side mesh pockets are also angled nicely to provide easy access when wearing the bag. And the front stretch shove-it pocket can hold extra layers or a jacket.

Like the Stratos, there is an integrated removable rain cover, and further moisture reduction is gained from the highly breathable and ventilated tensioned mesh back panel.

Other notable features:

  • Main access through top zip
  • Sternum strap
  • Single large hipbelt pocket
  • Zippered top pocket
  • MicroAdjust Suspension system lets you adjust your torso length
  • Rear hiking pole and ice axe attachments can be stowed when not in use

Cons: Heavy and pricey
Verdict: An innovative, super comfortable and full-featured pack for big day hikes and overnighters.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry | Alpine Trek


Kelty Redtail 27 daypack

Kelty Redtail 27

The Kelty Redtail is an excellent value daypack that provides loads of storage options for time on the trail or around town. It is comparable to the Speedlite in weight, price, and comfort, but with more storage options and 7 extra litres of storage capacity.

Like the Speedlite, the Redtail won’t win any prizes when it comes to ventilation. That said, the padded shoulder straps and Hex Mesh back panel certainly do a great job at providing good levels of comfort when fully loaded.

The panel loading main pocket is a really nice feature that allows you to fit in larger items and easily see and access your gear. And the front zippered pocket has lots of internal mesh organisation pockets.

Other notable features:

  • Main access through top zip
  • Sternum strap
  • Internal key attachment clip
  • Hydration pocket
  • Hydration port
  • Side compression straps
  • Top stash pocket
  • Angled stretch side pockets

Cons: no rain cover, average ventilation
Verdict: A very good value daypack with lots of storage options for time on the trail or around town.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


Marmot Kompressor Plus daypack

Marmot Kompressor Plus

At only 370g, the Marmot Kompressor Plus is the second lightest daypack, behind the Matador Freerain. Like the REI Flash, this simple and lightweight design is ideal for fast and light hikers. It is also well suited to carrying lighter loads in everyday scenarios.

A hugely appealing feature of the Kompressor Plus is its ability to completely pack down into its own top pocket. This can be done once the internal foam back sheet is removed from the hydration pocket. Its highly compressible nature makes it ideal for travelling or backpacking, and the compression straps also help to keep the pack cinched down and stable when loaded.

As with the other lightweight daypacks, the Kompressor Plus isn’t designed to excel at breathability and ventilation. However, the Airmesh shoulder straps and back panel provide ample comfort when loaded.

Other notable features:

  • Main access through top lid
  • Sternum strap
  • Internal key attachment clip
  • Hydration pocket
  • Hydration port
  • Daisy chain
  • Trekking pole attachment
  • Removable waist belt

Cons: Not as durable as other bags due to the thin (70D) material
Verdict: A super lightweight and packable daypack that is ideal for travelers and backpackers

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Alpine Trek | Backcountry


What to look for in a great daypack for hiking

As with almost any bit of outdoor gear, many of the reasons for choosing one excellently rated daypack over another, comes down to how, where and when it will be used. There’s no point spending a fortune on something you plan on using for the odd hike here and there when there are plenty of great value daypacks available, like the REI Flash, that will perform perfectly well without breaking the bank.

So before we get into the details of what to look for, take a moment to consider a few things:

  • How far will you be hiking?
  • What conditions will you be hiking in? (Rainy, snowy, hot etc)
  • Do you like to keep your stuff well organised?
  • Will you want to use your daypack for more than just hiking?
  • Do you hike with trekking poles?
  • How important is comfort to you?
  • Do you sweat lots, even in cooler weather?

If you know the answer to most of these questions, then it will make choosing the best bag for you much easier. So with those things in mind, here’s a little more info on what to look for in the best daypacks for hiking.

Size/capacity

The capacity of most daypacks for hiking range from around 10-40 litres. This is a pretty big range, and the size you choose really depends on what sort of hiking you are doing. Here’s a rough guide to what the different sizes are best suited to:

10-20 litre daypacks

Best use: Short day hikes
Your main consideration on short day hikes is having enough room to carry your water, food and an extra layer or jacket. Anything above 20 litres is overkill for a short day hike and it’s likely that you’ll just end up filling it with stuff you don’t really need.
Also great for: sightseeing

20-30 litre daypacks

Best use: Full day hikes in the summer
A big day of summer hiking will require you to carry plenty of water and/or a filtration device, more food than for a short day, and often an extra layer for the cool of the morning and evening.
Also great for: Everyday use and short hikes in the winter

30-40 litre daypacks

Best use: Full day hikes in the winter
A full day out in the backcountry during winter will require you to carry lots more gear than during the summer months: more food, more clothing, a stove, and just as much water despite the cold.
Also great for: Lightweight overnighters in the summer

As always, if money and the environmental implications of excess gear weren’t considerations, we’d all have a selection of daypacks for each different hiking scenario. But they are. So your best bet is to go for something that will be most suited to what you do the most of. And if you’re not sure, then go for something that is around 25-30 litres. This will cover your carrying needs in almost all hiking scenarios, and will be ideal for lots of other outdoors sports and everyday use too.
Deuter backpack on walker

Weight

Generally speaking, the greater the capacity of your daypack, the heavier it will be. And the heavier it is, the more work you have to do to lug it with you for miles on end. So ideally, getting something lightweight should be considered, especially if you like to hike fast. However, the heavier packs like the Thule Capstone 32 are usually heavier for a reason. They feature padded waist belts, an internal frame, a comfortable and ventilated back panel, and more pockets and storage options. So before you go dismissing anything that weighs over 1kg, you’ll need to consider these things and how important they are to you.

Comfort

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a daypack is how comfortable it is for you. If you’re only doing short hikes and not hauling too much gear then you can get away without it feeling like you’re wrapped in cotton wool. But for longer hikes, choosing something comfortable is key. The following things will increase comfort levels in most daypacks:

  • Waist belt

    This should be more than just a strap and should be fully padded and adjustable. Ideally it should also be breathable to prevent excess sweating.

  • Back panel

    Look for something with padding around the lumbar area, and trampoline-style suspension to let lots of air flow between you and the back of the bag.

  • Shoulder straps

    These should be padded and breathable, and ideally have load lifters – straps that connect to the top of the pack to draw the bag into the body. This prevents excess movement of the bag and helps keep the weight close to you putting less stress on your back, shoulders and neck.

  • Sternum strap

    Most daypacks for hiking have an adjustable sternum strap that can be tightened to minimise movement and increase stability. Ladies, make sure you are able to fit the strap high enough on your chest to be comfortable whilst still being useful.

  • Torso length adjustment

    Some bags like the Osprey Talon and Stratos allow you to adjust the height of the shoulder straps to fit your torso more specifically.

Durability

This is a tough one to quantify, especially when it comes to buying bags that are new on the market that won’t have been tested for years like older bags. Ideally your daypack should last you a good five years of regular use, or more if you are willing to get it repaired as it starts to get tired.

Generally speaking, the more you spend on your bag the better the quality and durability are likely to be. But that’s not always the case. So look for bags made with ripstop nylon or similar, with a high denier (D) rating.


Features of the best daypacks for storage and ease

When you’re not enjoying wearing your daypack in all its padded comfort, you’ll be using the hell out of all those cool features. For some people, having a ton of pockets is a disaster and they work much better just throwing everything in one compartment and hitting the trail. However, if you like to keep things in order and know where things are, choose a bag with lots of storage options like the Camelbak Franconia. Everyone has their own preference when it comes to the usability of a bag, but there are a few things that without a doubt make life much easier when using your bag. These include:

  • Hydration pocket on daypack

    Hydration reservoir pocket

    Usually a separate sleeve within the main compartment of the bag (although the Osprey hydration pockets are accessed externally). These often include a clip or loop at the top of the pocket to hold the reservoir in place.

  • H2O Port

    Hydration port

    If the bag has an internal hydration pocket then it will also need a port that allows the hose of the reservoir to feed out of the bag and onto the shoulder strap.

  • Hose attachment on daypack

    Hydration hose clip

    Having a hose just dangling around at your shoulder can be really annoying, so a good bag should have a loop or clip that holds the hose in place when not in use. The Camelbak Franconia takes this a step further with a magnetised system.

  • Carry handle on backpack

    Top handle

    This is an non-essential feature but is very useful when picking up your pack, or hanging it up when not in use.

  • Zipper ties on the best daypack for hiking

    Zipper ties

    Having zipper ties that you can actually grab hold of easily is a small but important thing to look for, especially if you are hiking in cold conditions and wearing gloves.

  • Rain cover on backpack

    Waterproof cover

    Many daypacks don’t come with their own waterproof cover and have to be bought separately. So it can be a real bonus to have one integrated into your backpack. The Osprey Stratos and Thule Capstone both have rain covers.

  • top pocket of daypack

    Top pockets

    Usually fairly small but really useful to organise things that you need to access easily like keys, phone, map, snacks etc.

  • Internal pockets of bag

    Front pocket

    This is either zippered and often with internal mesh pockets like the Kelty Redtail, or a stretch stash pocket that you can stuff extra layers into easily, like the Talon or Speedlite.

  • Hipbelt pocket of daypack

    Hip belt pockets

    These are great for accessing snacks or your phone without having to take your pack off.

  • Side pocket of daypack

    External side pockets

    Usually made of stretchy mesh, these should hold a bottle and ideally should be accessed without having to take your bag off. Some are angled smartly to make this easier.

  • Compression straps on the best daypack for hiking

    Compression straps

    These are great to cinch down your pack if it isn’t full to prevent too much movement. They are also great for attaching extra gear to the outside of your pack.

  • Gear loops on daypack

    Gear loops

    Having a few extra loops or daisy chains can be really useful for carry extra gear like helmets or ropes etc.

  • Trekking pole loop

    Trekking pole loops

    Most good daypacks for hiking will have loops specially designed to hold trekking poles. These are located either on the back of the pack, or on the hip belt, like the Thule and Osprey packs.


Yep, there really are a load of great options to choose from in this wonderful selection of the best daypacks for hiking. With such varied designs and features in each one, at least one of these excellent bags will (hopefully) be exactly what you are looking for.

Happy hiking!

About the author

author-joey

Joey Holmes is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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