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Any hiking or camping trip is incomplete without a backpack. If you’re heading out for a day or longer and cannot fit all your belongings in your pocket, you need a good, sturdy backpack that won’t let you down.
Also called daypacks, these are versatile bags capable of holding all your belongings. Daypacks are available for different purposes.
They are available for school-going kids, for college goers, for boy scouts, for serious hikers and campers, and for survivalists. But if you’re going on a hiking or camping trip, or putting together a survival kit, you need a daypack meant for the purpose.
You cannot use your boy scout daypack because: a) it will not hold all your belongings, and b) it will sit uncomfortably on your back.
If you’ve had your old backpack for several years it is hard to throw it away because of nostalgic reasons. A backpack often has that sentimental value – kind of like Sam Malone’s Corvette in Cheers! People use it for years and cannot replace it even when it is uncomfortable and not the right fit anymore.
Quality lasts longer
Financial reasons are also often responsible for using the same backpack for several years and for different purposes. A good daypack can often set you back by a few hundred dollars, and that often seems too much to spend for most people.
However, if your backpack is too heavy, fits uncomfortably or does not have the right balance, it can make your hiking trip difficult. A heavy backpack can even make you fall backwards.
Given the variety of daypacks available today, it can be hard to choose the right one for your needs. The importance of the right daypack for hiking cannot be stressed enough. Let’s look at the factors to consider when buying a daypack.
At a Glance: Our Choices for The 10 Best Daypacks
Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each daypack.
How to Choose a Great Daypack For Hiking
There is no end to the varieties of daypacks you can buy today. But when you need a backpack especially for hiking, you need to consider the following factors:
Activity: Yes, you need a backpack for hiking, but hiking doesn’t just involve walking on even ground. Therefore the daypack you choose should be compatible with all the different activities that you intend to do on your hiking trip.
Hiking daypacks usually have several separate compartments for holding all your belongings securely. A hiking daypack also usually has a separate water reservoir, see you don’t need to carry a separate sipper or water bottle.
If you are going to do a lot of climbing on your hiking trip, you should choose a daypack with a slim design. For this reason, you should be looking at climbing backpacks because they have several more features that hiking backpacks don’t.
Aside from a narrow profile, a climbing daypack also has a padded back for comfort and also a frame to center the weight on the hips. Some daypacks also come with features like crampon patches and ice axe loop, while the heavy-duty fabrics prevent damage from abrasion.
Capacity: Daypack capacities vary greatly. They range from just the minimal space to a large volume. To understand the capacity that you need, think about the gear that you plan to carry in the daypack.
How many jackets do you intend to take? Does it have enough space for the bare essentials? Do you need a separate compartment for snacks and water?
When you have the answer to these questions, it will be easy to figure out the daypack capacity that you need. Daypack capacity begins at 10 liters and lower and goes all the way up to 65 liters and more.
Remember, the greater the capacity of the pack, the more weight you have to carry on your back. That is why, daypacks should be just the right capacity for your needs, not more and not less.
Fit: Regardless of the capacity or the type of pack you buy, it should fit you just right. Anything that doesn’t fit right will be uncomfortable and make the trip unpleasant.
The fit or size of the daypack is measured according to the length of your torso (not the height) and the size of your hips. Not only should the pack be of the right length but should also have a snug grip around your hips.
For this reason, buying a daypack from a store is the best option, because you can try on different daypacks until you get the right fit. If you want to buy online, make sure to measure the length of your torso and the size of your hips to be able to get the right fit.
Some packs come with an adjustable torso, so if you are unable to get the right fit, consider one which has an adjustable torso. The size of daypacks varies greatly. Women’s daypacks generally have a smaller torso length.
Features: Backpacks come with several features, depending upon size and price. There are frameless daypacks that have flexible structures and adapt to the shape of the back. However, they aren’t great for carrying heavy loads because of the lack of support. For heavier weights, internal frame backpacks are the best.
They usually have a frame made of plastic or aluminum to support the weight of the pack. These packs are capable of holding more load than frameless packs. Daypacks can have front, bottom, top, or front access.
They also come with a hydration reservoir compartment (reservoirs are sold separately). There are also backpacks available with a hydration reservoir called hydration packs. Some packs also come with insulation to prevent water from freezing.
Now that we have looked at the features to consider when choosing a daypack, let’s discuss the top ten daypacks ideal for hiking.
Top 10 Hiking Daypacks
Osprey Talon 22
If you are looking for the ideal panel loading, day hiking, climbing or biking daypack, then the Osprey Talon 22 backpack is one of the most versatile options you can find.
It has a capacity of 22 liters, perfect for short trips, day hikes, and everyday use. The pack comes with a BioStretch harness as well as a continuous wrap hipbelt.
The harness and the hipbelt are mesh covered and made with die-cut slotted foam. Even when you carry the pack for a long time on the trail, the seamless lumbar to hipbelt body wrap provides extra support. This combination also ensures that the pack remains stable regardless of the weight.
The AirScape backpanel – which has been precision cut and built with accordion spread mesh-covered foam ridges – makes the daypack more breathable and keeps you cool in hot weather.
If you need to climb uphill with the pack on your back, there’s the Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole carry system to balance the load and keep your hands free. Since this is a biking pack, there’s the LidLock for storing your helmet while you’re not riding.
For storage, you have zippered hipbelts, side stretch mesh pockets, a harness pocket, and top-lid storage. The external hydration sleeve in the backpanel makes refilling easier and protects the content of the pack from accidental spills. The Talon 22 is priced $110.
Conclusion on the Osprey Talon 22: Osprey was established in 1974, and offers a lifetime warranty on all their products. At just over $100, this is one of the most versatile and durable daypacks you can ever own.
Camelbak Rim Runner 22 Hydration Pack
Camelbak is based in Petaluma, California, and has been a leading manufacturer of hydration products since 1988.
When it comes to hydration packs, the Rim Runner has an all-round favorite daypack for hikers. If you’re looking for a hydration pack that also offers ample space to carry other essentials, then look no further than the Rim Runner.
After all, it hasn’t been so popular over the years without a reason. The latest update in the design offers a technical and aesthetic pack with a 2.5-liter hydration reservoir.
Aside from that, there’s also a hip belt with cargo pockets for storing keys or snacks, and ample space to hold plenty of day hike gear, such as clothing, lunch, and other essentials.
The minimalistic design of the pack makes sure you don’t have to carry around extra features that are not needed.
The hydration reservoir is the main feature of this daypack because Camelbak specializes in hydration products. The new design of the Rim Runner can hold 20 percent more water and also comes with an ergonomic handle for easier refilling.
The leak-proof on/off valves not only prevent leaks but are also easy to use. Simply flick it close with a thumb and the water won’t leak anymore. The reservoir also has an anti-Microbial HydroGuard Coat, which inhibits the growth of bacteria in the tube.
It’s BPA, BPS, and BPF free. For all the features that it offers, the Rim Runner is surprisingly affordable at only $79.
Conclusion on the Camelbak Rim Runner 22 Hydration Pack: For the perfect combination of hydration and gear, it doesn’t get better than the Rim Runner. It’s ideal for all kinds of short hikes and trips because of the ample space and comfort it offers.
Deuter Speed Lite 20 Athletic Daypack
Looking for a minimalistic hiking daypack that’s lightweight and comfortable and also has ample space?
Deuter has the right fit for you, the Speed Lite 20 Athletic Daypack. The pack combines a light and practical design with plenty of storage space and maximum carrying comfort to deliver the best performance across all terrain.
Deuter has always been known for lightweight designs and the Speedlite 20 is no different. If you want to travel light and fast without sacrificing quality or comfort then the Speedlite 20 is the one for you.
Speedlite is the smallest and lightest of all Deuter backpacks, and is available in three capacities – 12, 16, and 20 liters. Aside from the space to carry all your essential gear, snacks, and hydration, the pack also features an extremely light padded back with ventilated 3D Airmesh to keep you cool and comfortable in any season and terrain.
The V-shape offers freedom of movement, while the compartments and loops are ideal for storing accessories. The pack is also compatible with hydration systems.
Conclusion on the Deuter Speedlite 20: This is a great small backpack for just $75, but you will be disappointed if you plan to carry big heavy items in it. The pack is only designed for short trips or hikes and has only one compartment inside.
Osprey Daylight Plus
|Materials:||210D Nylon Double Diamond Ripstop Accent 410D Nylon Packcloth Bottom 410D Nylon Packcloth|
(+) Small and versatile with plenty of storage space
(+) Separate compartment for hydration and laptop
(+) Breathable mesh back panel
(-) May not attach to packs from other brands
There are times when you feel like you could use a smaller pack along with your large backpack. For instance when you are camping in one place and go on day trips with only a few essentials then the larger pack could be kept at the base and the smaller pack carried along.
If you are on the lookout for such a small and versatile daypack that could easily attach to a larger backpack then the Daylight Plus pack by Deuter is the ideal pick.
This bag is also great to add storage space to any larger backpack. You can carry it to hike up the mountain trail or take it to work or use it to carry food and water.
The main compartment can be accessed with the large zippered panel while the side mesh pockets are meant to hold water bottles and other items and the front pocket with a mesh organizer and key clip are designed for storing small items securely. The capacity of the pack is 20 liters.
Conclusion on the Osprey Daylight Plus: Whether you want to increase storage space in your backpack or want a small daypack for everyday use, the Daylight Plus is your perfect companion. For only $60, this can be used standalone or with other Osprey backpacks.
Even Jack Bauer would be impressed with this!
Gregory Mountain Products Zulu 30
The men’s daypack Zulu 30 is the smallest pack in the series, but comes with superior technology to keep the pack cool and light no matter how long you travel with it.
The CrossFlo DTS Suspension is designed to create a physical space between you and the daypack without hurting the storage capacity. This is done with the help of a tensioned steel wire frame and a wide, stabilized open mesh back panel.
This combination supports the contents of the backpack without coming into contact with your back.
There’s also a harness yoke to transfer the weight of the load to the frame, which becomes stiffer underweight. Because of the space between the back and the pack, there is increased airflow and breathability, improving ventilation in hot weather and trapping heat in cold weather.
There are zippered pockets inside and outside, two water bottle pockets, waist belt pockets, trekking pole attachment points, and integrated raincover.
Conclusion on the Gregory Mountain Products Zulu 30: This is a men’s backpack and is sized just right for a short day trip. With the superior ventilation system and support, carrying this pack around on any hiking trip shouldn’t be too hard. Well, unless you are as pathetic as Mr. Burns was in The Simpsons!
Kelty Redwing 32
(+) Multiple pockets for ample storage space
(+) Spacious and versatile
(-) No space for storing sleeping bag
(-) Limited color options
The Redwing backpack by Kelty is a bestseller, but it’s also quite large at 50 liters. For those who want to use the Redwing but in a smaller size, Kelty has designed the Redwing 32, a downsized version of the original Redwing.
But even though it has a smaller size, it comes with all the features and storage space of the Redwing. Whether you’re hiking the Appalachian trail or traveling around town, this pack is ideal at 32 liters, comfortably holding all your belongings but not feeling heavy.
There’s a full-access U-zipper, allowing the Redwing 32 to be a top-loader as well as a panel loader. There’s a multi-purpose padded sleeve that protects sensitive items while also acting as a hydration sleeve. The water bottle pockets and zippered side pockets provide ample storage space for organization.
The HDPE frame sheet is used to create the tough frame for support while the dynamic airflow back panel and AirMesh shoulder straps and lumbar pad provide adequate ventilation. The waist belt can be folded away when not needed. At $99, this is a small but mighty daypack.
Conclusion on the Kelty Redwing 32: If you’re looking for a quality daypack, the Kelty Redwing 32 is a good choice because it has all the features of the Redwing 50 but in a smaller size. This helps minimize weight and increases carrying comfort.
Osprey Stratos 24
If you’re looking for a panel loading pack for the utmost convenience and organization, then the Osprey Startos 24 is one of the best options. This unisex daypack is ideal for all kinds of hiking trips because of the adjustable torso lengths that offer improved fit and comfort.
For those who want load organization no matter where they travel to, the Stratos 24 is the go-to option because it features panel-loading organization in cold, wet or hot weather, keeping you cool and your pack dry.
Even when it rains, there’s an integrated raincover to protect your pack. Several smart pockets keep all your belongings organized, just the way you want it.
Osprey’s Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment system is present in this daypack too, for quickly attaching and carrying trekking poles. The zippered hipbelt pockets are great for storing snacks and essentials securely, while the hydration sleeve is easily accessible on the go.
Conclusion on the Osprey Stratos 24: This is a good daypack for day hikes and can manage to carry not much besides food, water, extra layers, and trekking poles. It costs $130, and is best used in hot weather because of the good ventilation system.
Marmot Kompressor Plus backpack
The original Kompressor daypack is known for its lightness, and the Kompressor Plus takes the same features and adds a little more space.
This 20-liter pack retains the same amazing features, performance and comfort of the original Kompressor, but also adds a few features of its own, including the front organization pocket, air mesh Shoulder Straps and Back panel for comfort and breathability, trekking pole attachment, hydration sleeve, removable closed-cell foam back sheet, removable webbing waist belt, compression straps, daisy chains, and sternum strap.
The whole pack can be compressed into its own lid.
Conclusion on the Marmot Kompressor Plus backpack: If you don’t need much out of a daypack and want only a minimalistic design, then this pack is a good option under $100.
Camelbak Fourteener 24
Looking for the perfect balance of comfort, weight, and ventilation in a hydration pack? Then the Fourteener 24 Hydration Pack by Camelbak won’t disappoint.
It has all the features of any Camelbak hydration pack, including superior ventilation, framesheet support, large main compartment, stretch overflow front pocket, two stretch side pockets, trekking pole attachment, and four-point compression.
The separate reservoir compartment is ideal for storing your water, the cargo compression holds your cargo firmly and securely, while the hip belt has pockets and open mesh to store essentials and maximize breathability.
Conclusion on the Camelbak Fourteener 24: This is a men’s daypack, delivering sturdy performance for fast and light climbing, hiking, and biking trips. The pack is also great for short travels around town, but not enough for carrying to work.
Gregory Miwok 18
The 18-liter Miwok daypack by Gregory Mountain Products is meant for the fast-and-light hiker. It’s compact, functional, and has a minimalistic design, ideal for carrying food, water, and extra layers.
It hugs your back snugly, and doesn’t let go whether you climb up or down. The BioSync Suspension technology molds the pack to your form, while the expanding front pocket provides extra storage room. Several pockets and compartments for storing all essentials with ease.
Conclusion on the Gregory Miwok 18: Although only of 18 liters, this is a great versatile pack for day trips. It’s comfortable, conforms to the shape of your back, and has ample storage space. At just $99, this one can be used by both men and women.
Your call! Final word
Without the right daypack, your entire trip could turn out to be uncomfortable. Now that you know about the top ten daypacks for hiking, it’s time to throw out the old backpack and invest in a high-quality pack for the best performance.