From epic days on the mountain to running errands around town or hopping an international flight, the right day pack will keep you organized, geared up, and happy.
As a multi-sport athlete, I need a pack that can easily transition from a casual day hike to an extreme 24-hour training mission. Add in the storage and organization needs of being a mom and regularly traveling overseas, and it becomes obvious I expect a lot from my day pack. It needs to be useful in more than one situation, durable, and comfortable.
How to Choose the Right Day Pack
Choosing a day pack can be surprisingly daunting. There are so many to pick from, all with different features. Instead of getting overwhelmed, I try to answer the following questions before I head out on my search for the best day pack.
- What do I need it for?
- Will I be using it in the city?
- Does it need to transport my laptop and other expensive gadgets?
- Do I want it to stand out and be easy to find? Or do I want it to blend in?
- Does it need a hydration sleeve?
- Is this a commuting pack, a day hike pack, an everyday “purse,” or all three?
- Does it need to be waterproof?
After several months of testing, I’ve found five awesome packs that are the answer to one or many of the above questions. So here they are: My favorite day packs.
Best Adventure Day Packs
Cotopaxi Tarak 20 L Climbing Pack: $49.95 on sale (MSRP: $79.95)
For those looking to hike or multi-pitch climb, or those who need an everyday light and fun pack, the Tarak is the way to go. Along with Cotopaxi’s iconic brightly colored, repurposed fabric comes configurable compression and lash points, a hydration sleeve, a zippered front and lid pocket, and a removable waist belt.
This simple no-frills design is perfect for everyday mini adventures with my kiddo, run/climb missions with my husband at Smith Rock, and day hikes with friends. It is quite easily the most used backpack in the house, as it is so functional and colorful. And it stands out, so it never gets lost in the mix.
Pacsafe Venture Safe X22 : $129.95
If you are in the market for a pack that can go on adventures with you and keep your valuables safe, look no further than Pacsafe’s VentureSafe X22 Anti-Theft Adventure Backpack. It’s all its name suggests and more.
As someone who comes from a smaller town, I am always a little on edge when traveling through big cities and unfamiliar places on buses, planes, and trains. Carrying this pack puts me at ease.
Along with all the features a normal day hiking pack has, this one comes with extra perks. These include an exomesh slash guard in the shoulder straps, RFID-blocking pockets and material, security hooks, and special zip clips that make pickpocketing a nonissue. The VentureSafe also has a padded laptop sleeve so you can carry your mobile office with you. And on top of all that, it can keep everything dry with the included rainfly.
Osprey Daylite Pack: $50
When it comes to packs, Osprey is an industry leader for good reason. The Daylite Pack’s fit and design are both comfortable and functional. While not the newest in its series, the Daylite has been a longtime favorite of mine. It seamlessly attaches to many of the Osprey backpacking and travel packs and has accompanied me on many overseas adventures. It is a simple design with a hydration sleeve, one mesh pocket, and two side mesh pockets for water bottles. I personally love these kinds of packs, as I only bring the essentials and never lose anything.
Hyperlite Summit Pack: $190
When my husband tells me we’re going on a training mission, I know that’s code for: ”Be prepared to get wet, be out well past dark, and pack extra food.” For these excursions, I always bring my Hyperlite Summit Pack. It’s a simple design but has proven unbreakable and up for anything. This pack has never let me down on countless day trips that have turned into 24-hour missions.
Because it is made with Dyneema Composite Fabrics, it’s not only durable but light – 13.12 ounces – and waterproof. This pack has also recently become my first choice for biking to the grocery store when the weather looks iffy. Even if you don’t consider yourself an extreme adventurer, I recommend this pack. It’s simple, ultra light, and impressively tough.
Gobi Gear Free Spirit Pack: $49.99
The Free Spirit pack by Gobi Gear is amazing for mothers, climbers, hikers, travelers, and commuters who love to go ultra light and be organized. At 14 ounces with a 30-liter capacity, this pack can be used for many different day trips. It is my go-to pack for kid adventures, as I can fit everything my son needs plus my gear for a mini outing.
Plus, it’s also an amazing traveling pack. It can easily double as a carry-on or get stuffed inside your luggage when you don’t need it. I recently used it on a three-week trip through Europe with my family. It held up fantastically and was perfect for all of our day trips. While not waterproof, the many organizing pockets, mesh side pockets, padded shoulder straps, hydration sleeve, and hip pouches offer everything you could need in a super light package.
If you’re looking to get outside with the kids, check this out: