Best Hiking Daypack (Buying Guide)
Every outdoor enthusiast, whether you’re a hiker, a mountaineer, or just a general nature lover, needs a reliable daypack to carry their most important gear. A solid day pack can take you all around the world, carrying your stuff for years before showing signs of wear. It’s an essential part of your hiking closet, giving easy access to certain items, or providing easy hydration. There are so many different options when it comes to hiking daypacks, so we’ve put together this guide with the best.
The ideal hiking daypack should balance comfort with convenience, offering enough storage space for all the essentials without becoming a huge backpacking carry-all. Generally, hikers want their daypack to carry food and water, extra clothing layers, emergency supplies, and personal belongings. Daypacks come in a huge range of prices with different features and abilities, so pick the one which is best for your hiking style. Budget-range daypacks are perfectly adequate to carry lighter-weight gear on day hikes, but if you’re carrying expensive equipment such as cameras, you might want a more technically-minded backpack.
What to consider when getting a new daypack
There are literally hundreds of daypacks to choose from, with any small-to-moderate sized backpack an option. Making the right selection mostly depends on your intended use for the daypack, and the expected conditions on your trip. Budget backpacks with a basic design and minimal features are plenty for a quick day hike. On the other hand, hikers with heavier loads, or going long-distance might benefit from a more structured bag. A padded back panel, hip belt, and shoulder straps can make a huge difference to your comfort levels on the trail, but they also affect the price and packability of the daypack.
Daypack capacities range from anywhere between 5 and 40 liters, so if you just need to bring along your packed lunch and raincoat, a smaller capacity bag is ideal. The largest daypacks are ideal for ultralight overnight trips, but in general, a 25-liter bag works for most hikers. At this capacity, your new daypack can carry pretty much everything you need for a day-long hike. 25-liter bags often have plenty of extra pockets and organization too, so you can keep your gear tidy.
Weight is another big consideration, as it always is with hiking hear. Featherweight daypacks weighing less than a pound can pack away into almost nothing, but they offer fewer features of course. Heavier daypacks offer compression straps, padded hip belts, and tons of other super useful additions. It all depends on your expedition style- do you go minimalist, or pack everything but the kitchen sink? Remember, the extra weight is sometimes worth it, and backpacks are a great example of this.
A heavier daypack with padded straps will better distribute your load, so if you carry any weighty equipment then it’s probably worth the bigger bag for your comfort. Less comfortable, but much more packable, lightweight bags are generally cheaper.
Water-resistance is an important element in daypacks as they often hold expensive items such as mobile phones. Some daypacks come with a built-in waterproof rain cover for extra protection, if there’s heavy rain then most daypacks won’t keep your gear completely dry. Certain daypacks are made using fully waterproof materials, however, in these, we can also see an increase in price point. However, there are lots of other ways you can prevent your gear from getting wet, check out how to waterproof a backpack to find out.
There are numerous extra added features that add usability and extra functions to daypacks. Hydration compatible packs have space for a water reservoir, and clip for your straw, so you can stay hydrated without stopping on the trails. Smaller packs, or ones not suited to heavy loads, don’t have this capability. You may need to carry a water bottle externally with these, so keep that detail in mind.
Interior pockets and other organizational details are the final things to look out for in your new daypack. Some hip belts have pockets to keep items close at hand, other daypacks have internal compartments for electronic items. The most minimal and lightweight daypacks eliminate these features, so keep an eye on extra pockets if you need to keep your gear tidy.
Best Hiking Daypack – Overview
1. Osprey Stratos 24
- Internal hydration sleeve accommodates up to a 3L reservoir (sold separately)
The Osprey Stratos is a 24-liter capacity daypack with an integrated rain cover, perfect if your weather forecast is dull. It features a hip belt for extra stability, with zippered pockets for easy access to small items. An internal hydration sleeve means you can drink water on the go, and there’s an attachment for trekking poles on the shoulder strap. If you hike with trekking poles over challenging terrain, sometimes you need a quick and easy way to free up your hands. This feature on the Osprey Stratos 24 is something that really makes it one of the best hiking daypacks.
This daypack is a great choice if you’re carrying heavy loads, as the suspension system is excellent. It’s very comfortable to wear, and plenty of zipped organizational pockets keep your gear tidy. However, the downside to all these features is the additional weight. The Osprey Stratos weighs almost 3 pounds, a hefty amount for a moderate-sized daypack. It’s a luxury option, worth it for serious explorers, but not necessary for a simple day hike.
- Hydration compatible
- Very comfortable
- Lots of pockets
- Trekking pole attachment
- Heavy for a daypack
- Unnecessary for casual hikers
2. Gregory Nano 18
- Full body u-zip: allows for easy loading and unloading from the main pocket when you reach your destination
Gregory Mountain Sports produces consistently reliable hiking gear, like the Nano 18 Hydration Pack. It has an internal hydration sleeve and port, perfect for trail running. Side mesh pockets and a zippered front pocket have quick storage for important items in this light load daypack.
Where the Osprey Stratos was ideal for heavy and bulky loads, the Gregory Nano is perfect for going it light. With an 18 liter capacity, this daypack is ideal for casual hikes and day trips. It lacks the structured frame of sturdier daypacks but weighs only 1lb 2.4oz because of it. If you pack out any camera equipment or similar gear, this daypack isn’t for you. However, if a light lunch and a jacket are all you need when you hit the trails, consider this hydration pack.
- Built-in hydration sleeve
- Not much padding or support
- Not for heavy equipment
3. Teton Sports Oasis 1100
- SATISFY YOUR THIRST FOR ADVENTURE: Lightweight and comfortable; This hydration pack is a terrific companion for all your day-long or overnight hydration needs; Size 1100 Cubic Inches (18 L)
This 18-liter day pack has compression straps, a rare feature on lightweight backpacks. These are great for reducing bounce and making your pack more stable overall, and you can even use them to attach extra gear to your backpack. A sewn-in rain cover will keep your pack dry, and you can’t lose it on the trail. An air mesh back panel allows for airflow to keep you comfortable on summer hikes, so you can wear it for hours without discomfort.
Weighing 2 pounds, it’s a good compromise between padding and packability. This is a great pack for long hikes and trail running, with enough room for the essentials and 2 liters of water, without being bulky and cumbersome. There are several organizational pockets, although we’d love to see one for stashing your valuables. The Teton Sports Oasis 1100 is a more substantial pack than the previous 18-liter option- unless you need something more lightweight, it’s an ideal choice and a comfortable companion for the trails.
- Good for longer hikes and runs
- Good air circulation
- Needs more pockets
- Not a lot of storage room
4. Osprey Talon 22
- Dual-zippered access to main compartment
The Osprey Talon is a common sight on the trails, arguably one of the most popular daypacks. It offers the ideal amount of storage space for a day on the trails and even has a Lidlock helmet attachment for mountain biking. This pack also features Osprey’s trekking pole attachment, as well as a breathable back panel and padded harness.
As a lightweight pack, we love the inclusion of a proper padded hip belt, as this goes a long way to making you stable and comfortable on the trails. This backpack is highly functional, with great useful features all over. The only issue is the thin back panel, which makes this daypack unsuitable for heavy items. If you’re on a long-distance hike or you’re carrying a larger load, the Osprey Stratos is a better choice. However, for more casual hikers, and summer days on the trail, this comfortable daypack does it all.
- Great size for days on the trail
- Light but comfortable
- Thin back panel
- Lightweight loads only
5. Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil 20L Daypack
- Reinforced shoulder straps to reduce bunching up when carrying heavy loads and ergonomically shaped for better fit
This incredibly lightweight daypack weighs just 2.5 oz and packs down into the size of a keyring. There are no pockets or extra features, just a simple 20L main compartment. This daypack has plenty of room for all you need on a day hike or for making the summit. Of course, the minimalist design means a lot of concessions, but this amazing packability makes this bag very useful, and worthy of your consideration.
The shoulder straps are thin, and there’s no hip belt to speak of. This makes the pack uncomfortable if you’re carrying anything that weighs more than a few pounds, or anything irregularly shaped. There’s also a lack of external loops, so you can’t attach any additional gear outside. Although there’s no padding, this back is still quite comfortable to wear and conforms well to your back, convenient for quick trips and short hikes.
- Packs down very small
- No padding
- Can’t carry anything heavy
6. Marmot Kompressor 18L Pack
- LIGHTWEIGHT & PACKABLE DESIGN | Stows away into zippered lid pocket for easy carry; Highly compressible
This ultralight daypack from Marmot is easily packable but has a few more features than the previous option. There’s an extra zipped pocket for storing small items, and compression straps can really help you optimize your load. This back is ideal for bike rides and everyday use as well as short trips to the trail, it’s a really versatile piece of gear. Hydration is no worry, as this bag has a built-in port and hanging clip.
The lightweight design means the Marmot Kompressor has a fairly basic construction, and this means the back panel is not very breathable. Additionally, this daypack lacks a hip belt, so it could make you more unstable. Weighing only 10 ounces, this daypack offers a fair amount of features in a lightweight package, but if you’re hiking in sweatier weather it could feel uncomfortable.
- Light but still functional
- Some zippered pockets
- Built-in hydration port
- Not breathable
- No hip belt
7. CamelBak Fourteener 24 Hydration Pack
- 3-LITER CRUX RESERVOIR Faster flow rate powers longer adventures
If staying hydrated on the trails is a priority for you, then Camelbak is definitely worth considering. They’re known for their hydration systems and water bottles, but Camelbak has also got some great hiking daypacks. A supportive back panel allows for airflow and heavier loads, and there’s an easy attachment for trekking poles when needed. The Camelbak Fourteener has tons of organization pockets, so you’ll never lose your sunglasses or cell phone.
This bag is a great choice for long hikes and full days exploring, apart from just a few issues. Although the bag weighs close to 3lbs, the hip belt lacks padding and can be uncomfortable. You also can’t purchase this pack without the hydration reservoir, but if you need one then we recommend it! For day-long expeditions, this 24-liter pack is a good pick.
- Supportive and breathable back panel
- Good organization
- No padding on the hip belt
- Have to buy hydration pack
8. Eddie Bauer 20L Daypack
- Ultralight, easy to carry and easy to store, this versatile lightweight daypack folds into the smaller front zip pocket for stowing. Durable 200-denier ripstop polyester stands up to the rigors of...
This simple budget backpack weighs 11oz, it’s very packable and a convenient on-the-go option. It’s versatile in use, good for short trips on the trails and daytime hiking. Two mesh side pockets and a few smaller internal pockets let you keep your gear organized, but this bag is missing a zipped inner pocket for valuables. The polyester fabric is water-repellent, but won’t stand up to a downpour.
This daypack is ideal to carry a few items and snacks for your hike, but the thinly padded shoulder straps mean you can’t carry a heavy load. If you need a more substantial backpack, one like the Osprey Stratos offers a padded hip belt and structured support. However, if you need a light and easily packable day bag, this daypack from Eddie Bauer could be an ideal option.
- Several useful pockets
- No heavy items
- Light-duty, not durable
9. The North Face Vault Backpack
- Keep your belongings safe and protected in The North Face® Vault adventure daypack!
The North Face is a well-trusted brand, you can rely on their backpacks to be high-quality and durable. This 27-liter daypack is perfect for adventures on the trails, while stylish enough to use around town too. This durable backpack weighs 1.8 pounds, it’s padded and comfortable so the weight is ideal. The North Face Vault won’t stand up to a thunderstorm, but light showers will be no problem for this degree of water-resistance.
This hiking bag includes a laptop sleeve, which isn’t a common feature in backcountry gear. However, if you need your tech on the trails, this backpack has the features for you. The hip belt is missing from this pack, with a chest strap to help distribute weight instead. It’s a comfortable choice to carry for long periods, with good padding and ventilation on the back panel.
- Reliable brand
- Stylish design
- Comfortable for all-day wear
- Laptop sleeve
- No hip belt
- Less hike-specific features (no trekking pole attachment)
So, which hiking daypack works best for you? If you’re trail running or like to go, lightweight, a smaller and easily packable bag is the right option. For whole-day expeditions, try a larger and more structures backpack, with more padding for all-day comfort. We’ve selected the best all-round backpack as out winner, offering a good compromise between weight and function.
Our top pick for the best hiking daypacks is the Osprey Talon 22. This lightweight backpack is only 1.4lbs, but it packs a lot of features and functionality into a small package. The capacity of 22 liters is ideal for days out on the trail, this bag can carry everything you need. The main compartment can hold your lunch and extra layers, while 7 additional exterior pockets offer loads of organization room for small gadgets and snacks.
We especially love the two pockets on the cushioned hip belt, perfect for your cell phone or a small camera, all while keeping your pack comfortable and stable. There’s room for a 3-liter hydration pack, and clips and attachments so you can drink water on the go. Trekking pole attachments, extra equipment loops, and many more features make the Osprey Talon our best hiking daypack. The back panel is slightly thinner than some other options, and the capacity isn’t enough for larger gear, but this backpack offers a great compromise all while keeping it lightweight.
Bonus tip: Check out this awesome video on how to back your daypack for a day hike!