The best hiking daypacks can really enhance your time out on the trail. Getting out on the trails allows us to connect with nature, challenge our limits, and explore the breathtaking landscapes that surround us. Having a poorly fitting backpack can really make for an unenjoyable experience.
A hiking daypack serves as your trusty companion, carrying all the essential items you need for a successful outdoor adventure. It should be lightweight, durable, and equipped with features that enhance your experience on the trail. But with countless options available in the market, choosing the perfect daypack can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve curated a list of the best hiking daypacks to help you make an informed decision.
In this guide, we will explore a range of what we consider to be the best hiking daypacks. We have found these packs to excel in functionality, comfort, organization, and versatility. From reputable outdoor brands to innovative newcomers, we’ve handpicked a selection of packs that have received great reviews and then we put them to the test out on the field.
To make it easier for you we have tried to organize the best hiking daypacks, in categories we believe they excel in.
Best Hiking Daypacks for 2023
For more hiking recommendations, read our other popular hiking gear reviews:
Best Overall Daypack: Osprey Talon 22L & Osprey Tempest 20L
Weight: (men’s) 1lb 14.6oz (women’s) 1lb 15.7oz
Capacity: 20L and 22L
Hip belt: Padded hip belt
- Versatile pack
- great comfort
- various features
- Side pockets run a bit small
- hydration sleeve is snug
The Osprey Talon 22 (men’s) and Tempest 20 (women’s) are both one of the best hiking daypacks for their balanced performance. The Talon and Tempest are both super versatile, durable, comfortable, and have great suspension. These Osprey backpacks excel in various types of day hikes, catering to longer strenuous hikes to short leisurely outings in local state parks. Regardless of the adventure, these packs are well-equipped to handle it all. The carrying capacity is fairly standard for both of these daypacks which works really well for the majority of trips out on trail.
The Tempest is the counterpart to the Talon, basically the same daypack however, more tailored for individuals with smaller torsos. The Tempest provides additional comfort by incorporating a women-specific continuous wrap-around hip belt which strategically distributes weight towards the hips, where most women find their optimal balance of gravity.
One drawback of both the Talon and the Tempest is the size of the pockets. For some reason the side pockets are quite tight which made it difficult for storing bigger water bottles like a Nalgene or Camelbak. Additionally, the built-in shoulder strap pocket has limited capacity and is not able to store a whole lot besides small objects like keys or lip balm. Also, I found the hydration sleeve to also be a bit snug but, I was able to eventually squeeze my bladder into the backpack.
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Best Trail to Town Daypack: Osprey Daylite Plus
Weight: 1lb 4.6oz
Capacity: 13L and 20L
Hip belt: Webbing
- Great for a budget
- excellent variety of colors
- has the basic features
- Limited features
- minimal support
The Osprey Daylite Plus is an excellent alternative to the Talon or Tempest at a significantly lower price point. This straightforward daypack is fairly lightweight with a respectable 20-liter capacity, along with sufficient padding for comfortable carrying of lighter loads. It is particularly well-suited for short to moderate hikes or as a companion pack for travel and it is easy to pack.
However, there are a few notable drawbacks to the Osprey Daylite Plus. First, it lacks comprehensive support and sizing options, as its one-size-fits-all design accommodates torso lengths ranging from 15 to 22 inches and waist sizes from 25 to 50 inches. Additionally, while the shoulder straps provide adequate cushioning for minimalists, those planning to pack a full day’s worth of gear, including a shell, insulation, food, water, and other essentials, may experience a decline in comfort.
The waist belt is constructed with simple webbing, which suffices for short outings but may prove less satisfactory as the miles accumulate. Nevertheless, as a streamlined and convenient option suitable for trail to town, everyday use, and travel the Daylite does offer a great value to performance ratio.
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Best Budget/Lightweight Pack: REI Co op Flash 22L
Capacity: 18L and 22L
Hip belt: Webbing/Mesh
- Great for a budget
- Super lightweight
- Basic features
REI Flash is an excellent lightweight budget daypack for most. It has been recently remodeled and with its new update is lighter and made with more recyclable fabrics. Overall, the Flash 22 is a super light frameless with lots of ability to modify. If you want it to weigh even less, you can remove the back pad or sternum strap and cut some weight.
With the new updates the top lid now features two buckles for enhanced security, and the packmod bungee can be adjusted to customize gear attachments. Additionally, the hidden zippered pocket located next to the back panel is a convenient place to store small valuables like a phone.
But with all the good things the REI Flash does have some downsides. The Flash 22 is not the best at carrying heavy loads due to its relatively thin build and construction. Also, due to its thin build and construction it is not the most durable daypack on the list. However, if you are wanting to pack lighter or need a great budget pack, I would highly recommend the Flash 22.
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Best Packable Daypack: Eddie Bauer Stowaway 20L Pack
Capacity: 20L and 30L
Hip belt: none
- Great for a budget
- basic features
- minimal support
- no hip belt for offloading
The Eddie Bauer Stowaway 20L backpack is a versatile and compact backpack designed for outdoor adventures and everyday use. The Stowaway 20L backpack features a sleek and minimalist design, making it suitable for a variety of settings. Whether you’re hiking through rugged terrain, exploring urban landscapes, or commuting to work or school, this backpack combines style and functionality seamlessly.
One of the standout features of the Stowaway 20L backpack is its lightweight and packable design. Made from high-quality materials, it weighs less than a pound, allowing you to carry it comfortably for long periods. Additionally, the backpack can be folded into its own front pocket, transforming it into a compact pouch for easy storage or travel. This feature makes it convenient for those who want to minimize their luggage or have an additional bag for unexpected needs.
Despite its compact size, the Stowaway 20L backpack offers ample storage space and organization options. The main compartment is spacious enough to hold essentials such as clothing, snacks, and even a small laptop or tablet. The front zippered pocket is ideal for storing small accessories like keys, wallet, or sunglasses. Additionally, there are two side mesh pockets that can hold water bottles or other items you want to keep within reach.
The only downsides with the Stowaway 20L backpack is comfort. Which is a typical con of most packable packs. The Stowaway is made with a thinner cushion and does not have any type of waist belt so all the weight will be placed on the shoulders. Though the pack is rated at 20L capacity I would recommend trying to pack a little lighter for comfort. Otherwise, the Stowaway 20L is an excellent pack for those traveling or planning to do many adventures from trail to town and if you need a bigger option the Stowaway 30L is a great pick.
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Best for Longer Hikes: Osprey Stratos 24L & Sirrus 24L
Weight: (men’s)2 lbs 12.4oz, (women’s) 2lbs 11.7oz
Capacity: 24L , 34L
Hip belt: Padded hip belt
- Excellent suspension
- comfortable pack
- Small side pockets
For those who anticipate carrying heavier loads, we highly recommend the Osprey Stratos (men’s) and the Osprey Sirrus designed specifically for women. These packs feature excellent carrying suspension, with a full metal frame, and hip belt that is comparable to much bigger backpacking packs.
The first thing I really like about the Stratos and Sirrus is how comfortable they are when carrying heavier capacities. The hip belt featured on these packs are so supportive that the weight felt very distributed. Also the organization of these packs are awesome. The main compartment is spacious enough to accommodate all the essentials, making them perfect for those carrying the essentials, more gear, and snacks. Both the Stratos and Sirrus feature mesh back panels that allow the back to ventilate better.
However, I did find a few cons with these hiking daypacks mostly due to the weight and some slight organization faults. The Stratos and Sirrus are the heaviest pack on this list but that is expected with the increased stability and frame of the pack. Another observed con are the side pockets which all seem to be just a bit small for a Nalgene. The hip belt pockets were also just a bit small as well making storage limited to smaller objects like lip balm and keys.
Nonetheless, they both still are excellent daypacks for carrying heavier loads. I can definitely see these packs being helpful for parents, people wanting to picnic and hike, and those just wanting a sturdier comfy daypack.
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Buyers Guide: How to Choose the Best Hiking Daypack
Most daypacks are designed for many purposes and can range in a lot of functions for activities. For example, you may be someone who would be willing to add a little weight to have more comfort on your hikes. Or you could be on the flipside of that and be willing to give up a little on comfort and capacity for a lighter and minimalistic hiking daypack.
When choosing the best hiking daypack for your needs, you need to take in consideration your own personal preferences. In addition, to the activity you will be doing, the capacity, comfort, and fit. Below, we will address common factors we look for when purchasing a hiking backpack.
When determining the capacity for a daypack the first thing to consider is what activity you will be doing with the pack. If you are going to be trail running, you will probably want a smaller pack than if you are going to be day hiking. If you are going to be doing mostly shorter day hikes you will probably want the more traditional capacity compared to if you are going to be doing longer day hikes out on trail.
Daypack capacities can vary significantly, ranging from as small as 5 liters to 40 liters or more. If your needs only entail fitting a compressible rain jacket and a lunch, one of the smaller packs should suffice. However, for most individuals, a bit more space is necessary to accommodate additional essentials. The options mentioned above span from 15 to 40 liters, with the larger capacities being better suited for commuters, gear-intensive adventures such as winter hikes, or ultralight overnight trips. In our experience, a capacity of around 25 liters hits the sweet spot for a versatile daypack capable of handling anything from local summit excursions to full-day hikes. At this size, you can also expect improved organization compared to more basic models, with a variety of zippered pockets to help divide and organize your gear.
Here are some general guidelines regarding capacity:
|Trail running or very short hikes||10L or less|
|Trail running or short day hikes||10L to 20L|
|Average day hikes||18L to 30L|
|Longer day hikes or carrying heavy loads||20L to 40L|
When looking at choosing a pack weight is a fairly important consideration and goes hand in hand with capacity and comfort. If you’ll be carrying a lot of weight, you will most likely want a daypack with a higher amount of capacity and a fair amount of padding on your back, waist, and shoulder to help distribute that weight.
Otherwise, if you won’t be bringing a lot of stuff with you or you are okay with sacrificing a bit of comfort. Then more minimal and lighter weight options will work for you. In general, most people like to find something that balances cushion, weight, and capacity around 18L to 30L or so.
Size and Fit
Apart from the level of padding provided on the shoulder straps and hip belt, the fit of a backpack is crucial for ensuring overall comfort during your outdoor adventures. The most important aspect is to ensure that the pack is the right size for your torso length, allowing for a proper fit.
When it comes to the best fit for a daypack there are two things to consider torso length and hip size. This factor is often overlooked but it is one that totally makes a difference in finding the best daypack. In the past I have worn poorly fitted daypacks and let me tell you having your back hurt and your shoulders rubbed raw on a hike is not a fun way to experience the great outdoors.
When looking at torso length you want to make sure the pack will fit well on your back. I recommend having a partner to help with this measurement because it can be difficult trying to measure your back by yourself. However, it can most definitely be done by yourself if you can’t find someone to help out.
First, you will need a flexible measuring tape, usually this can be found in the sewing section at most stores. Next, locate the C7 vertebra along the back of your neck, this is the bony bump on the back of your neck. Once you have found it, you will end up using this as the top of the torso measurement. Then find your waistline above your hip bones or iliac crest that will be used as the bottom of the measurement.
Most packs have adjustable hip lengths on them, but it is still very important to get a properly fitting pack that will fit fairly snug on the hips. When looking for a pack you want it to rest on the top of your hip bones and not hang on over your butt. When measuring the hip length, you are going to use that flexible measuring tape again and wrap it around your hips to take the circumference.
Frames & Ventilation
The main difference between frameless and framed packs is how the weight is distributed which impacts the comfort and sturdiness. In general, framed packs are going to be a bit sturdier and heavier and for longer hikes where you might have to carry a lot of weight, they will often be a more comfortable choice.
Frameless packs can be very comfortable especially for lighter loads. In addition, frameless packs are more advantageous when it comes to agility and comfort. Also, they tend to be much lighter and less expensive. In general, you probably really don’t need a framed pack unless you are going to be carrying something like 10lbs of equipment or so.
Hip Belts and Shoulder Straps
Hip belts help distribute a portion of the weight from your backpack onto your hips, resulting in a more pleasant shoulder experience. While carrying loads under 10 pounds may not require a hip belt, relieving your shoulders of any weight will be greatly appreciated in the long run.
Having a well-designed shoulder strap can make all the difference between a regular hike and a week of discomfort with tight shoulders post-hike. The thickness and construction of the shoulder strap should correspond to the intended weight capacity of the backpack. If the strap is thin and less cushioned, it is typically designed for loads of 10 pounds or less. On the other hand, a thicker, cushioned, or contoured strap indicates that the pack can handle a slightly heavier weight.
Water Bottles and/or Hydration Sleeves
When choosing a daypack, it is crucial to consider the water storage aspect. Ensure that the pack you choose has the necessary features such as pockets, a hydration sleeve, or internal compartments to accommodate an adequate amount of water for your specific needs.
Ideally, the pockets should be appropriately sized to fit your water bottles. Pockets that are too large can result in bottles shifting around while you walk, whereas pockets that are too small may require you to remove the pack each time you want to take a drink.
If you opt for a hydration bladder system with a tube that extends from the pack to your mouth, ensure that your existing system is compatible with the hydration sleeve of your new pack. Otherwise, you may need to purchase new hydration bladders to ensure compatibility.
Pockets and Organization
Pockets and good organization come in handy when you are trying to store extra items and make it easier to find items in your pack. Imagine how difficult it would be to find an item if you had to store everything in one main compartment.
Certain backpacks feature various internal compartments that aid in organization and accessibility. For instance, the Osprey Talon boasts a useful mesh internal pocket which I found perfect for holding keys, a wallet, or other items that I don’t want to mix with the larger compartment.
These internal pockets serve a distinct purpose beyond carrying water, setting them apart from hydration sleeves. They are designed to keep specific items separate from others, ensuring better organization. On the other hand, external pockets are useful for storing items that may be needed quickly, such as a headlamp or a rain jacket. Having multiple pockets is advantageous as it allows for the separation of dirty or wet items from clean and dry ones.
It’s important to note that while having numerous pockets can be convenient, it also means that more material is used in the construction of the backpack, resulting in added weight. If you prefer a minimalist approach, it is advisable to choose a simpler design that offers fewer pockets such as the Osprey Daylite.
Daypacks can feature various types of closures. Some utilize a simple zipper, similar to regular backpacks, while others opt for a more minimalist approach with a drawstring or alternative closure method. Zippers are effective at keeping the contents of the pack drier compared to drawcords. However, drawcords offer the advantage of quick access and the ability to overstuff the pack if necessary, although you should choose a pack with appropriate capacity.
Among the daypacks I’ve encountered, many use a zipper closure system. The only one I think of that comes to mind in my list would be the smaller REI Co-op Flash 18L which uses a drawstring closure instead. The big con of a drawstring closure is the possibility of the internal items getting wet or some moisture.
It’s important to note that zippers, while effective, add weight to the pack and are mechanical components that may eventually break over time. In contrast, roll-top or drawstring packs might encounter fewer issues in the long run. However, keeping zippers clean and dry can significantly extend their lifespan.
How big should a daypack be for hiking? This depends on how much you plan to carry on your hike. If you plan on carrying more, you might want a bigger daypack. Standardly daypacks are usually about 18L to 30L backpacks.
What is the difference between daypack and hiking? A daypack is a backpack you carry for hiking for about a day or in other words about 8 hours give or take.
Do you need a daypack for hiking? You do not have to use a daypack for hiking. Although I highly recommend having one so you can carry some essentials for hiking. If you are going a really short hike like say a couple miles, I could see someone not needing to carry a backpack and just a water bottle or so.
Why Trust Us?
We are a small independent team that makes it our mission to produce honest reviews. We do not receive any money for reviews and do not accept sponsored reviews which allows us to remain truly unbiased and transparent. All our comments are based on years of research and experience on the field.
In making our list for the best hiking daypacks we spent countless hours searching and reading reviews for the best backpacks. We also used our experience from daypacks we had previously used out on trails. We added 3 new daypacks to our selection, then hit the trails for a true hands-on experience. The daypacks we have tested so far have touched the trails from out in the Northwest, to the desert in Utah, the Ozarks, and made it in the southeast along the Blue Ridge Mountains.
We are always constantly evaluating and in the process of testing hiking daypacks. As we continually wear, evaluate new models, and try emerging brands, we will update our recommendations for the top backpacks. As a product user if you have any suggestions feel free to let us know and we will do our best to test them! We hope you found this list helpful for your next trip.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published April 27, 2022, and has been updated for more accuracy and comprehensiveness.