the author in a pink shell with a Deuter daypack hiking along a trail
(Photo/Mary Murphy)

The Best Daypacks of 2022

Going on a hike, bike ride, or simply commuting? You’ll need a daypack to carry all your gear (or at the very least, snacks). Check out our review for the best daypacks of 2022.

Daypacks are a simple piece of gear, but it can be tricky to find the right one based on style, fit, and your needs. We’ve broken down the best daypacks into a few different categories to help you choose.

What I love most about all of these best daypacks is their versatility. Grab one when taking your dog on a walk, heading into the office or the classroom, or hitting the mountains for a day hike, bike ride, and more. The trick is to find one that hits these four criteria: comfort, fit, included features, and ideal price.

For review purposes, we considered and tested the best small backpacks that hold between 12 L and 30 L. To choose the best of the best, we ranked each pack on quality, feedback from our testing, the volume of positive reviews across four major retail platforms, and price.

comparing packs in testing
A sampling of daypacks we tested, running from 16 L to 22 L; (photo/Mary Murphy)

We didn’t include lumbar packs in this list. If you’re looking for something really small, check out our article on the best fanny packs. And if you’re looking for a pack with more volume, check out our best backpacking packs. Otherwise, read on for our best daypack selections as well as our daypack buyer’s guide. For help with any hairsplitting decisions, check out our daypack comparison chart.

The Best Daypacks of 2022

Best Overall Daypack: Deuter Speed Lite 16

Deuter Speed Lite 16

This daypack ($69) exceeded our expectations in testing, mainly because of its versatility. It has a lot of simple features — a main compartment, two mesh side pockets, a sternum strap, and an interior hydration bladder (or laptop) sleeve — and each one really delivered.

The main compartment is spacious yet compact (so your items don’t get lost in the void). Plus, the top zippered pocket provides quick access to a wallet or keys, and the pack worked well across a variety of activities.

We took this pack hiking, biking, commuting, and more. Our only quibble rises from the inability to squash the pack into a larger bag for travel, due to the tensioned U frame, though it will pack flat.

We also found the pack to be nice and durable after over a month of testing — no snags or zipper issues, and the nylon and PU-coated exterior held up in unexpected light rain. The 16L size also nicely complements Deuter’s existing 12L, 20L, and 24L daypack sizes.

This pack already has over 60 5-star reviews, with an average rating of over 4.75 stars.

Specs:
  • Material: Double PU-coated 210D polyamide
  • Pockets: 2 external stretch
  • Suspension style: Deuter’s Lite System, a tensioned Derlin U frame
  • Hydration-compatible: Yes, up to 2 L
  • Ideal use: Any and everything
  • Weight: 13 oz.
Pros
  • Versatile
  • Durable
  • Carries weight well
Cons:
  • Frame limits packability for travel

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Deuter

Runner-Up Best Daypack: Osprey Daylite Pack

Osprey Daylite Pack

This pack is not only a popular and trusted option but also comes with a great price tag. The Daylite pack ($60) has a foam back panel, a durable 300-denier recycled polyester exterior, and a large main compartment.

The pack comes in a variety of colors and has thoughtful features like an emergency whistle built into the sternum buckle. It also has compression straps on the side to secure water bottles or extra gear when your pack is on the fuller side. The mesh back panel design is also breathable.

While this 13L pack is on the smaller side, it can pack in more than you think and is plenty big enough to carry an extra layer, water, and a first-aid kit — the minimal day hiking basics. The downside of a streamlined exterior is a paucity of attachment options for things like trekking poles, but for quick jaunts in the hills, you’ll likely forget the need.

Osprey’s classic go-to Daylite Pack has rustled up over 1,400 positive reviews with an average rating of 4.6 stars. If you’re looking for a pack with a few more storage options, the Daylite Plus adds on a front panel zippered slash pocket and a shove-it pocket.

Specs:
  • Material: 300D recycled polyester
  • Pockets: 2 external stretch
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: Yes, up to 3 L
  • Ideal use: Backpacking, travel
  • Weight: 17.4 oz.
Pros:
  • Breathable back panel and straps
  • Plenty of color options
  • Price
Cons:
  • Limited external attachment options

Check Price at REI

Best Budget Daypack: REI Co-op Flash 18

REI Co-op Flash 18

This pack may not have external water bottle pockets, but it’s got just about everything else. The REI Flash 18 pack weighs just 9.5 ounces and has a drawcord top closure, detachable sternum and hip straps, a hydration reservoir compartment, and a zippered side pocket. It’s made with recycled materials and ripstop nylon.

This Flash 18 ($40) offers great quality for the price and is a great “town-to-trail” option. There’s no bulky padding or internal frame, which helps keep the weight down and makes it another fairly packable option.

At 18 L, it isn’t the largest daypack, and our testers reported a need for careful packing in order to avoid an uncomfortable carry. But for the price, it’s hard to beat for a budget pick.

Stuffed away for quick deployment, the Flash 18 makes an excellent day pack for side trips on longer backpacking or travel trips. This pack also has an impressive 4.9-star rating on REI.com.

Specs:
  • Material: Recycled ripstop nylon
  • Pockets: 1 external zippered
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: Yes, up to 3 L
  • Ideal use: Trail to town
  • Weight: 9.5 oz.
Pros:
  • Budget price
  • Packability
Cons:
  • Lower capacity
  • Not much structure

Check Price at REI

Best Commuter Daypack: Cotopaxi Luzon Del Dia Pack

Cotopaxi Luzon Del Dia Pack

This simple and durable no-frills pack is one of our favorites factoring in comfort, price, and style. The Luzon 18L pack ($55) is comfortable to wear when commuting by walking and biking, and it also works as a great travel pack with one main compartment (no loose pockets or sleeves).

Cotopaxi makes the pack with a ripstop nylon shell fabric, a top-loading drawstring compartment, an adjustable sternum strap, and mesh shoulder straps.

On top of all the physical features, each Luzon pack is 100% unique, as they’re made from cuts of repurposed fabric. We like that the pack is on the more slender side but doesn’t get too chunky when carrying a variety of items, which makes it ideal for bopping around the city on the way to work.

In addition to this pack, Cotopaxi uses its scrap fabric to make other gear items (like its Teca windbreaker). While using repurposed fabrics earns the Luzon top marks for sustainability, some purchasers online have noted that the fabric colors they received didn’t quite match what they expected.

Specs:
  • Material: 100% repurposed ripstop nylon
  • Pockets: 1 external zippered
  • Suspension style: Frameless
  • Hydration-compatible: Yes, up to 2 L
  • Ideal use: Travel, commuting
  • Weight: 10.6 oz.
Pros:
  • Sustainable
  • Price
  • Slender profile for commuting
Cons:
  • Fabric colors sometimes aren’t as advertised
  • Requires careful packing

Check Price at REI

Most Technical Daypack: Black Diamond Trail Zip 18

BD Trail Zip 18

In most outdoor pursuits, you want to avoid “danglers,” or items hanging from your body or pack. Loose straps can get caught up in bike chains or chairlifts, and items clipped or swinging from a backpack can throw off your balance. Black Diamond’s newest Trail Zip pack ($80) is a sleek, “everything-is-integrated” option for your technical in-a-day pursuits.

There are no side pockets — instead, store your water in a bladder with hydration hose access. In place of side pockets, there are two sleeves designed to store BD’s Z poles (or any other folding trekking poles that fit), meaning you won’t have to rig them to the pack’s exterior.

The Trail Zip 18 also has an integrated visible headlamp stash pocket. Plus, four connection loops along the back panel attach to larger packs when on longer multiday missions.

It’s super durable and holds a lot more than you think — from extra layers for a friend to your gear for the crag. The pack’s straps are also tailored nicely to fit a variety of body types — not too narrow and not too wide around the shoulders.

If you frequently find yourself without pockets (and you like a pack with lots of them), this probably isn’t the pack for you, as gear retrieval isn’t instant. But if you pack smart and have your system dialed, this pack is a great choice. There’s even a Trail Zip 14 that loses the foam back panel for the ultimate in packability.

Specs:
  • Material: 100D ripstop nylon
  • Pockets: 1 external zippered
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: Yes
  • Ideal use: Scrambling or summit pack
  • Weight: 14.6 oz.
Pros:
  • Streamlined design
  • Suspension system fits many body types
Cons:
  • Limited access

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

Most Packable Daypack: Matador Freerain22 Packable Daypack

Matador Freerain22 Packable Daypack

“Packable” is in the name, and for good reason. We’ve taken this pack snowshoeing, running, hiking, to and from the office, and more. The waterproof exterior and roll-top closure are especially great if you get caught in rainy or snowy weather — all your layers and pack contents will stay dry.

It’s also great for travel or impromptu adventures. Packed down into its tiny pocket sleeve, you can stash this bag just about anywhere. Matador has achieved the near-impossible with this pack — offering storage for 22 L of gear while packing down to just 6×4 inches and weighing only 10.6 ounces.

Newly updated, the Freerain22 now sports high-wear panels of durable Robic ripstop nylon, as well as a number of new attachment options and gear loops. These added features come at a price, adding weight over its predecessor and slightly dulling the pack’s first-class size-to-weight ratio. The packed size, however, continues to impress.

Several of our editors have used the Matador Freerain22 pack ($100), and all had positive feedback. The only con we had was from our female tester: the shape of the wider mesh shoulder straps makes it harder to find the right fit across the chest compared to other packs. Due to this, the straps aren’t as comfortable. Still, its packability won us over.

Specs:
  • Material: 50D ripstop nylon, with 100D Robic wear panels
  • Pockets: 2 external stretch, 1 external zippered
  • Suspension style: Frameless
  • Hydration-compatible: No
  • Ideal use: Travel
  • Weight: 10.6 oz.
Pros:
  • Great packability
  • Waterproof fabric
  • Rugged wear panels
Cons:
  • No foam back panel or frame in a larger volume pack
  • Uncomfortable pack straps

Check Price at Matador UpCheck Price at CampSaver

Best Women’s-Specific Daypack: Osprey Women’s Tempest

tempest 20 women's day pack in dark purple

Osprey’s Tempest 20 ($135), a sister to the Osprey Talon (men’s) pack, won our best pick for women’s-specific pack. This pack has close to a perfect 5-star title across multiple retailer platforms, thanks to features like its breathable back panel, lumbar support and padded hip belt, and accurate (and adjustable!) fit around the torso and hips.

Osprey equipped this women’s pack with a BioStretch hip belt (seamless fabric) and wrapping harness, allowing both to be adjustable. There’s also an adjustable sternum strap to fit different size chests.

On top of the perks of a women’s fit, testers also really like this pack’s stretch mesh pocket on the shoulder strap and good-size hip belt pockets. Trekking pole and bike helmet attachment points (plus other loops and pockets for stashing a variety of gear), as well as an external hydration bladder compartment (works with a 2L or 3L bladder), round out this pack and make it a fantastic do-all option.

You will pay for the feature-richness, as the Tempest 20 was close to the most expensive daypack in our testing. This year, the Tempest also comes in a new size (24 L), if you’re looking for a bit more room. We are in the process of testing, but assume we’ll like it just the same.

Specs:
  • Material: 210D/420D recycled ripstop nylon
  • Pockets: 3 external stretch, 1 external zippered, and 2 hipbelt
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: Yes, up to 3 L
  • Ideal use: Hiking, biking
  • Weight: 31.6 oz.
Pros:
  • Feature-rich
  • Highly adjustable hip belt and harness
  • Multisport ready
Cons:
  • Expensive

Check Price at REI

Best of the Rest

There are hundreds of daypacks out there. While the ones below didn’t win overall, they are still highly rated and great-quality packs. Read more below on why we gave these packs a mention.

Kelty Redwing 22 Daypack

kelty redwing 22L pack in black

Marketed for commuting and travel, the Kelty Redwing 22 is a perfect size pack for a variety of activities. We like ours for commuting to the office but have also used it for hiking and travel. It holds up great in adverse weather and even winter hiking.

The Kelty Redwing 22 ($80) has a large external mesh drop pocket, great for stuffing a layer or storing something lightweight like a pair of sunglasses or a hat. It has two zippered side water bottle pockets (again, versatile and can hold many things).

There’s an internal laptop or tablet sleeve and a good-size zippered pocket on the top of the pack too. Overall, we found it capable of toting lots of different gear, versatile, and comfortable. There isn’t much provided in the way of external attachment options, however, which are given up to achieve a snag-free and city-friendly profile.

A note from our tester: “I used to have an older model Kelty Redtail 27L, which I used frequently but didn’t totally love. The pocket design felt off, and the overall shape didn’t do it for me. However, this Redwing pack blew me away — it’s super functional and a pretty great price point. The enclosed side pockets are also a cool (and still accessible) touch.”

This just goes to show not all packs will be everyone’s favorite, and it’s worthwhile to shop around within a brand’s daypack line.

Specs:
  • Material: 420D polyester
  • Pockets: 3 external zippered, 1 external stretch
  • Suspension style: HDPE framesheet
  • Hydration-compatible: Yes, up to 3 L
  • Ideal use: Commuting, travel
  • Weight: 19 oz.
Pros:
  • Sleek city profile
  • Burly fabric
  • Large stretch pocket
Cons:
  • No external attachment options

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Kelty

The North Face Chimera 18 Backpack — Men’s & Women’s

The North Face Chimera 18 Backpack

The North Face’s Chimera 18 ($99) was also a frontrunner for us in our testing. The Chimera is in the middle of the pack in terms of volume, meaning it’s great for quick dog walks all the way up to 5-hour hikes and runs.

The pack has a cinch compression system, two side water bottle pockets, and mesh stash pockets on the straps. It’s also a good price point for those who want a high-quality pack with lots of on-trail functionality. The large stretch mesh pocket on the front of the pack is especially handy for drying a wet rain jacket.

The Chimera is the only daypack on our list to sport a running-vest style strap system, which expands its surface area and increases weight distribution. Packs with this style of suspension often move with you when running, but can be overwhelmed with increased loads.

Specs:
  • Material: 70D ripstop nylon
  • Pockets: 3 external stretch
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: Yes
  • Ideal use: Running, hiking
  • Weight: 18 oz.
Pros:
  • Running vest-style straps
  • Compression system
Cons:
  • Not made for heavier loads

Check Men’s Price at BackcountryCheck Women’s Price at Amazon

Fjallraven Kanken

Fjallraven Kanken

The undisputed champ of the back-to-school season is Fjallraven’s on-trend Kanken. A favorite among youngsters and college kids alike, the Kanken ($80) comes in a bajillion color combinations — a staggering 57, to be exact.

It’s durable, stylish, and will last through many schoolyard tussles. The Vinylon fabric withstands dirt and repels water. It also has a removable seat cushion, extra pockets for stashing, and is ergonomically designed to prevent back problems.

This pack might come out with you occasionally on the trail, but it isn’t where it excels. With little crossover features for the outdoors, you’ll probably reach for another pack for the dirt paths.

Additionally, the logo on the Kanken is reflective, adding an extra layer of safety for kids who might have to travel at dusk or dawn.

Specs:
  • Material: Vinylon F fabric
  • Pockets: 2 external flat, 1 external zippered
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: No
  • Ideal use: School, city
  • Weight: 10.6 oz.
Pros:
  • Stylish
  • Ergonomic
  • Many color options
Cons:
  • Not many outdoor-focused features

Check Price at REI

 

Mystery Ranch Market Pack

Mystery Ranch Market Bag

Available in two sizes and multiple colors, Mystery Ranch’s Market Pack ($75) is a favorite. We’ve day-hiked, commuted, and grocery shopped with the Market on our back, and it’s outlasted a pile of other packs. The simplicity of a zip-top that you can leave open allows for ease of access and stuff-ability.

Made of textured polyester with YKK zippers and a water-resistant liner of 210-denier high-density nylon, it features the burliness of Mystery Ranch’s mountain line while taking on the slick appearance of a city-worthy pack. And it’s one of the more affordable packs on the list.

Its squared-off corners won’t win you any points on brushy trails, but for tromping the wilderness of your local farmer’s market, you could do little better than the Market Pack.

Specs:
  • Material: Polyester, 210D nylon liner
  • Pockets: 1 external zippered
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: No
  • Ideal use: Farmer’s markets
  • Weight: 17.6 oz.
Pros:
  • Swallows groceries
  • Price
Cons:
  • Clunky profile

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

Decathlon Quechua Nature Hiking Backpack

decathlong quechua backpack

A rival for our best budget option, this pack offers 20 L of storage for just $17. This pack isn’t going to last forever and isn’t waterproof, but it is a great daily knock-around option.

Decathlon made this pack with polyester and polyurethane. And despite the price, the NH100 backpack still has features like adjustable straps and a chest strap. The back panel is a split two-piece foam design, and the straps have a nice amount of cushion for a budget pack.

Purchasers online have noted the shorter lifespan of this pack, so if you don’t hike very often and want something with some versatility for off-trail adventures, or need something as an emergency backup, check out this option.

Specs:
  • Material: Polyester
  • Pockets: 2 external stretch, 1 external zippered
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: No
  • Ideal use: Occasional use
  • Weight: 16 oz.
Pros:
  • Price
  • Comfortable back panel and straps
Cons:
  • Poor durability

Check Price at DecathlonCheck Price at Amazon

Gregory Citro and Juno 30L Hydration Packs

Gregory Citro and Juno 30L Hydration Packs

This pack is another popular option for day trips, whether you’re running, hiking, or biking. The Gregory Citro (men’s) and Juno (women’s fit) 30L packs ($160) focus on hydration design and ease of access to gear.

This pack made it on our list because Gregory has tons of iterations of hydration packs, but this one stood out in our testing. It’s compact and has great features like a ventilated back panel and magnetic bite valve attachment for properly storing that hydration hose out of the way.

Daypacks that prioritize hydration will often need to contend with added water weight, but the Citro and Juno do it with style. An ActiveFlex harness keeps the load close to your back, and is one of the most supportive in our review.

Gregory’s Citro and Juno packs also come in a larger 24L size.

Specs:
  • Material: 210D/420D ripstop nylon
  • Pockets: 3 external stretch, 1 external zippered, 2 hipbelt
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: Yes, up to 2 L
  • Ideal use: All around
  • Weight: 33.4 oz.
Pros:
  • Lots of external storage
  • Hydration-friendly
Cons:
  • Heavier for a day pack
  • Price

Check Men’s Price at REICheck Women’s Price at Amazon

Osprey Talon 22

Osprey Talon 22

Osprey’s Talon 22 is pricey at $135, but its durability and lightweight might be worth it — this pack has over 670 positive reviews with an average rating of 4.6 stars. Consumers rave about this pack’s nearly perfect fit and performance across a variety of terrain. Its volume is also on the upper end, with a capacity to store 22 L of gear.

We added this pack to the list because of its lightweight construction, an abundance of pockets (including the harness strap stash pocket), and high volume of reviews. In our own testing, we found the hype to be real, highly valuing the fine-tuned suspension system and various attachment options. This does, however, mean the pack has put on a few ounces compared to other, more svelte models.

You should definitely consider this pack if you’re looking for something more sport-specific like biking or climbing — the pack has a helmet attachment point as well as a trekking pole and ice loop attachments.

There’s also a dizzying number of different volumes available in the Talon line, from a fast and light 11 L to an ultralight, overnight-ready 44 L.

Specs:
  • Material: 210D/420D recycled ripstop nylon
  • Pockets: 3 external stretch, 1 external zippered, and 2 hipbelt
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: Yes
  • Ideal use: Multisport days
  • Weight: 32 oz.
Pros:
  • Many attachment features
  • Cushy suspension system
Cons:
  • On the heavier end

Check Price at REI

Arc’teryx Granville 16 Backpack

Arc'teryx Granville 16 zip backpack

You’re probably wondering why a 16L pack that’s $180 made it on our list. Arc’teryx designed and streamlined the Granville 16 for urban-to-outdoor travel.

The pack is also one of the few we’ve seen that can stand up to really harsh weather — it’s made of the same laminated, waterproof construction and taped seams as Arc’teryx’s high-end mountaineering packs, as well as a watertight zipper on the main compartment, so it’s really durable.

The interior has a padded laptop sleeve and a zippered organizer pocket with a key clip. It’s also really packable.

This is definitely a nice pack that offers lots of versatility for shorter daily pursuits, but it’s pricey. If you’re looking for a similar-sized daypack with a lower price point, check out the Arc’teryx Index 15, for a cool $50.

Specs:
  • Material: 420D ripstop nylon
  • Pockets: 1 external zippered
  • Suspension style: Frameless foam back panel
  • Hydration-compatible: No
  • Ideal use: City, commuting
  • Weight: 26 oz.
Pros:
  • Burly pack fabric
  • Padded laptop sleeve
  • Waterproof zippers
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Limited torso size options

Check Price at REI

Daypack Comparison Chart

Daypack Price Material Pockets Hydration Compatible Weight
Deuter Speed Lite 16 $69 Double PU-coated 210D polyamide 2 Ext. Stretch Yes, 2L 13.1 oz.
Osprey Daylite Pack $60 300D recycled polyester 2 Ext. Stretch Yes, 3L 1 lb. 1 oz.
REI Co-op Flash 18 $40 Recycled nylon 1 Ext. Zippered Yes, 3L 9.5 oz.
Cotopaxi Luzon Del Dia Pack $60 100% repurposed ripstop nylon 1 Ext. Zippered Yes, 2L 10.6 oz.
Black Diamond Trail Zip 18 $80 100D ripstop nylon 1 Ext. Zippered Yes 14.6 oz.
Matador Freerain22 Packable Daypack $100 50D ripstop nylon, with 70D Robic wear panels 2  Ext. Stretch, 1 Int. Zippered No 10.6 oz.
Osprey Women’s Tempest $135 210D/420D recycled ripstop nylon 2 Ext. Stretch, 1 Ext. Zippered, 2 Hipbelt Yes, 3L 1 lb. 15 oz.
Kelty Redwing 22 Daypack $80 420D polyester 3 Ext. Zippered, 1 Ext. Stretch Yes, 3L 1 lb. 3 oz.
The North Face Chimera 18 Backpack $99 70D ripstop nylon 3 Ext. Stretch Yes 1 lb. 2 oz.
Fjallraven Kanken $80 Vinylon F fabric 2 Ext. Flat, 1 Ext. Zippered No 10.6 oz.
Mystery Ranch Market Pack $75 Polyester, 210D nylon liner 1 Ext. Zippered No 1 lb. 1 oz.
Decathlon Quechua Nature Hiking Backpack $17 Polyester 2 Ext. Stretch, 1 Ext. Zippered. No 1 lb.
Gregory Citro & Juno 30L Hydration Packs $140 210D/420D ripstop nylon 3 Ext. Stretch, 1 Ext. zippered, 2 Hipbelt Yes, 2L 2 lbs. 1 oz.
Osprey Talon 22 $135 210D/420D recycled ripstop nylon 3 Ext. Stretch, 1 Ext. zippered, 2 Hipbelt Yes 2 lbs.
Arc’teryx Granville 16 Backpack
$180 420D ripstop nylon 1 Ext. Zippered No 1 lb. 10 oz.

Why You Should Trust Us

Our GearJunkie testers are a multisport bunch who take every opportunity to sneak out for the types of brief adventures that daypacks shine in. And, we’ve put our heads together here to drum up the best daypacks on the market in 2022.

Nick Belcaster is a Washington-based trail hound who knows well the “get-it-while-you-can” aspect of adventuring in what is sometimes known as the Pacific North Wet. His exploits range from car-to-car alpine adventures in North Cascades National Park to ripping around on mountain bikes just outside of town, and in doing so he’s cultivated a taste for what makes a daypack the one.

The beauty of a daypack is in its absolute versatility, and we’ve used ours to tackle everything from single track to toting the laptop into the urban jungle. For this list, we looked at daypacks across the spectrum — from packable and travel-friendly rucksacks to full-featured hiking and riding packs — and sent them out for proving on bite-size adventures across the country.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Daypack

Whether you’re choosing a pack to take you from work to the mountains or a daypack that can fill one specific use, let’s break down the best way to choose the right daypack for you.

Pack Size

One of the most important items on the trail is your pack — it’s how you’ll carry all your gear and support yourself on the trail. For this review, we included daypacks from 12 L to 30 L, but that’s a huge range.

Consider what gear you’ll want to carry: the basics like water, a first-aid kit, wind/rain layer, snacks, glasses, and a cellphone. You might also carry extras like your kids’ layers, a doggie bowl, sun hat or sunscreen, camera, trekking poles, and water reservoir.

5 different sized and colored daypacks leaning against an oak tree trailside
Different-sized daypacks in testing on the trails; (photo/Mary Murphy)

You’ll only have space for the essential items with an 11-13L pack, but these are usually a little more versatile for daily use. This is a good size if you’re commuting or going on a shorter hike or bike ride.

Meanwhile, a daypack around 20-30 L allows you to bring more water for longer trips in hotter environments or extra food and heavier layers if it’s spring or fall.

Larger packs also have better and more features if you’re traveling in alpine terrain — like headlamp pockets, trekking pole sleeves, ice axe loops, a hip belt, and a helmet compartment or exterior stretch pocket. Packs of this size are also better for quick overnights and multi-activity trips like hiking and climbing or short-term travel.

Apart from the volume, or carrying capacity, of a pack, there’s also pack sizing for your body. Daypacks are usually one size, as they’re meant to be adjustable and versatile yet streamlined. We had multiple testers of different body types try on these daypacks for comparison.

Any good daypack will have adjustable straps that help with fit. And even though they are daypacks, many have sternum straps or hip belts as well.

If a pack does come in multiple sizes (usually S/M or M/L size ranges or plus or tall sizes), make sure to check the brand’s size chart. Measure your torso or back length and find a pack that will fit your size and height. Things to look for: packs with sternum straps or a removable hip strap.

Frame Styles and Straps

Because the loads they carry are often lighter, daypacks don’t benefit greatly from the complicated frames of larger backpacking packs. More often, foam sheets are employed to provide some rigidity to the back panel and better distribute the weight.

Packs like the Gregory Citro and the Osprey Talon 22 or Tempest offer the greatest amount of support while remaining frameless. Some packs will also make their foam frame sheets removable, offering a cushioned seat on the go.

A frameless pack will have an upper comfortable limit when it comes to weight, and will need to be packed with care to avoid being poked in the back with your kit. We try to stay below 15 pounds maximum when saddling up a daypack for an extended jaunt.

The addition of a minimal frame can greatly increase the carrying capacity of a daypack, such as the tensioned Derlin U frame of the Deuter Speed Lite 16, but when you’re hauling the lightweight loads associated with day trips, it often isn’t a necessity.

Shoulder straps also play an important role in providing support for a day on the trail. These are typically available in three flavors: J-style straps are the original, S-style straps accommodate those with large chests, and running-vest style straps are preferred for light loads and active movement. Look for shoulder straps that provide a good amount of cushioning foam and fit your torso appropriately.

Typically a requirement on backpacking packs, hip belts on daypacks can afford to be less supportive due to the lighter loads they carry. The most minimal style features simple webbing belts, and can even be removable, like on the Black Diamond Trail Zip 18.

More supportive hip belts incorporate spacer mesh and foam to disperse the weight across the hips. If you’re looking to tack on the miles or just want a more cushioned ride, springing for a full-featured hip belt is well worth it.

Materials

Daypacks don’t often see the abuses of larger bags, and are commonly constructed of lighter fabrics to minimize weight and cut down on bulk. All of the daypacks on our list are tried and tested, and they’ll work for most outdoor activities.

That being said, if you want a pack to put through the paces year after year, consider one with a higher-denier material (like tight-weaved polyamide, polyester, or ripstop nylon). Deniers from 100 to 200 are a great sign a pack will be durable in the long run.

The material of the back panel in particular can be the difference between smooth sailing and a sweaty back. Daypacks that use spacer mesh and die-cut foam patterns in their back panels will breathe much better than their flat back counterparts.

Back Panels

Most daypacks will rely on some type of foam and mesh to provide cushioning on your back, as well as promote airflow and breathability. In the pursuit of cutting ounces, daypacks on the ultralight side of the spectrum may exclude this altogether, meaning that perspiration can’t escape as easily.

The upside to this is that these packs compress down impressively, meaning they disappear into luggage or a larger pack.

Because daypacks often lack the bones of a frame to support weight, cushioned back panel design helps to shore up the structure and provides additional support, while keeping the weight close to your back.

A spacer mesh or segmented back panel will keep air moving and hopefully your shirt dry. We were impressed by the ventilation provided by the Deuter Speed Lite 16, as well as the Osprey Talon 22 and Tempest daypacks.

Features, Pockets, and Closures

a red daypack with a first aid kit, layer, water bottle, and wallet visible
A pack with enough room for the 10 essentials; (photo/Mary Murphy)

What features does the pack offer? Look for how many pockets the pack has or if it has internal pockets or compartments. These features are great to have when it comes to organizing your gear. Is there an exterior pocket? Are there side pockets?

Things to look for: My first thought when I examine a new pack in testing is to look for where I’ll store my water source, whether that’s a reservoir or bottle. Also, check to make sure the pack’s internal sleeve will fit your reservoir (which can run anywhere between 0.75 L and 3 L).

The second thing I check is the back panel. Almost all the packs that made it on our list have ventilated mesh or breathable back panels — this is a really great feature for almost all adventures.

The closure style of a day pack can have a big impact on how quickly accessible it is. Main compartments that open with a drawstring are a snap to pop open and closed, but aren’t the most secure.

Roll-tops, like the Matador Freerain22 Packable Daypack, offer the best protection from the elements, but can be slow to unravel on opening. Zippered closures are seen on the more feature-rich daypacks, and can even be watertight, but will need to be cared for more, as grit and sand can damage their sliders and cause them to split if neglected.

Sport-specific features, like a bike helmet lashing system or an ice axe loop, will often dictate the best usage style for your daypack. It’s often worth considering what you’ll be using your daypack for the most and purchasing a dedicated pack, or one that is feature-rich and can be used for many different outings.

Hydration Compatibility

the author wearing a GearJunkie t-shirt, reaching for her hydration tube
(Photo/Rudy Campos)

Keeping your water accessible is the best way to ensure your thirst is quenched, and H2O systems like the Platypus BigZip EVO or Osprey Hydraulics Reservoirs make an excellent pairing with a daypack for extended trips. Many daypacks provide for hydration compatibility, though not all, so choose based on your expected usage.

Hydration-oriented packs will have separate compartments for bladders, sometimes with insulated sleeves or hooks for securing a bladder, and routing for a hydration tube. Some packs, like Gregory’s H20 Series, have magnetic or quick clip attachments for easy sippin’ on the go. Hydration tube ports allow for drinking tubes to exit the interior of the pack.

You’ll want to check the sizing of your daypack with the size of your bladder. For example, a large 3L bladder might not fit in a 16L pack. See what the brand recommends and check the sizing.

It’s also worth mentioning that water can be one of the heaviest things you carry in a daypack, and choosing a pack with a more robust suspension system to accommodate it will keep your back happy. A pack without a frame like the Cotopaxi Luzon Del Dia Pack isn’t likely to haul a full 3 L of water nearly as well as one with a more robustly supportive frame.

Waterproofness

Do you live in a climate where there’s lots of rain? Are you looking for a daypack that’s more durable and can stand up to travel and use in different places? Check the waterproofing on the pack.

Look for a DWR coating, polyamide, or PU abrasion resistance coating (these packs will be more durable), taped seams, roll-top closures, and waterproof or sealed zippers. Daypacks that incorporate a number of these features, like the Matador Freerain 22 Packable Daypack, will have a high level of waterproofness and keep afternoon storms at bay.

You can also employ a pack cover or liner to keep items like an insulated jacket or electronics dry for when you need them most.

Don’t forget to check the quality of the zippers and zipper pulls as well as the overall construction of the pack. Also, check the material on the pack bottom for durability.

Women’s-Specific Daypacks

Women are built differently than men. Women’s packs tend to have a shorter torso length, narrower shoulder width straps, and different hip measurements to reflect that. For some, having a women’s pack makes all the difference.

Unfortunately, many smaller volume daypacks are often only available in one unisex size, which means you’ll get less of a customized fit. Larger volume daypacks tend to see increased loads, and some on the market will be offered in a Small/Medium, Medium/Large sizing, or include a women’s-specific model.

Be sure to check to see if a brand offers a pack series in men’s/women’s-specific, and see which measurements or size offerings will best fit you. The pack we zeroed in on as the best women’s-specific was the Osprey Women’s Tempest.

Value

Daypacks run the gamut in terms of cost, from budget-minded sacks to high-end bags for in-a-day adventures. The best bang-for-your-buck daypack we’ve encountered has been the REI Co-op Flash 18.

A good rule to follow is the broader your horizons, the more you’re likely to spend. Additional features add up quickly, and the daypack that can do it all certainly comes with a price tag. More budget-minded options will also likely have a limited lifespan, so treat them with care.

FAQ

What Is the Best Daypack?

The best daypack is hard to define because the sizing will vary based on your needs. Some days, I’ll reach for my 16L Deuter. On other days, I might need a 24-30L pack depending on the activity.

That being said, the Deuter Speed Lites, Cotopaxi Luzon, and Osprey Talon/Tempest packs were some top staff favorites.

What Is the Difference Between a Backpack and a Daypack?

Simply, size. A daypack is meant to comfortably carry all of the essentials you might need on a daily outing and are typically between 12 and 30L. A backpack will have additional space to accommodate all of the equipment needed for an overnight trip or a more technical outing like rock climbing.

What Size Pack Is Good for Day Hiking?

As we mentioned in the intro, you’ll want a 15-30L daypack for hiking. Any larger, and it will be a heavier load to carry; any smaller, and you won’t have room for the 10 essentials. Based on experience and what’s on the market, 20-24L packs tend to be the most popular choice.

What Should Be in a Daypack for Hiking?

Great question — we’ve got an article on this exact topic, with a handy, comprehensive list you can even print out!

But you can expect to always start with the basics: extra layers or a rain layer (depending on the season), water, food, a small first-aid kit, and sun protection.

What Should I Look for When Buying a Hiking Daypack?

For the daypack itself, look for durable — maybe even water-resistant — fabric, a breathable back panel, straps or loops for securing gear, and a good mix of internal and external pockets.

Other features that are great to have on a daypack are a hip belt, sternum strap, key clip, hydration sleeve, and attachment points for trekking poles.

Now that you have all the tools you need to choose the right pack, get out there and enjoy the outdoors!


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