Having a great daypack is essential for your adventures. It allows you to easily organize your belongings, carries water and other essentials, and leaves your hands free to catch our balance on the trail or carry your coffee (or gelato). A great pack should be comfortable, have room to fit what you need, and be easy to use. Having a great look doesn’t hurt either. We’ve put together a list of our favorite daypacks based on overall design, comfortability, capacity, protection, and any unique extras they might have.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 8 hrs of research
Water and weatherproof
Comfortable to wear
- Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30
- SOG Ninja
- Osprey Talon 22
- Fjallraven High Coast Trail 26L
- Oxa Ultralight Foldable
- Earth Pak Waterproof 35L
- Deuter Speed Lite 20
- Marmot Kompressor Plus
- Unigear Hydration
- Oricsson Unisex
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30
Water and weatherproof
Comfortable to wear
Slightly larger than most daypacks
Colors may be different than the photos
If your day trip includes adventures that could bring you in contact with rain, unknown terrain, or photo opportunities, this is a great bag to have with you. Featuring a great design and multiple color options, everyone can find a style that suits their style.Read more
While we found the Scrambler to be a bit on the large size for use as a daypack, the padded and wide set shoulder straps, and the even distribution of weight between the upper and lower back, as well as the breathable mesh along the lower back for added circulation, and an adjustable sternum strap all added up to a very comfortable pack to wear. The suspension system of the backpack helps it to comfortably conform to the shape of your back. This particular daypack has a fairly straightforward design with a large central pocket that can be sealed away, small zippered pockets for essentials, and deep side pockets for bottles of water. It’s easy to access everything you need.
Designed to be able to fit just about everything you could need during a day of adventure outside, the capacity of this particular daypack is one of the largest we’ve seen in quite some time. As the name suggests, this is a 30L bag. The unfolded size of the bag is 11 by 22 by 10 inches, so it’s possible to fit quite a few things, or a few larger things with ease.
The largest compartment of the Scrambler features OutDry watertight construction that offers decent protection from the elements. If this particular daypack is closed up properly, it is designed to let no water in or out. You must be careful with the top compartment, as it is not water-resistant. In addition, the tough 600D HardWear 18 Tarp 18 TPU Poly Composite material is resistant to tears and punctures, so your things won’t come out of the bag until you want them to. And finally, the airtight design will not only keep out water, but dirt, and dust as well. This particular daypack also includes a hydration sleeve, as well as loops for carrying extra tools for whatever adventure you are seeking. This bag features side compression straps to make the bag smaller and to keep all of your belongings in place. It is available in four different colors and comes from a reputable brand.
2. SOG Ninja
Great capacity for such a small package
Included water compartment – just need to add the bladder or water bottle
Very comfortable to wear
Not as much protection from the elements as we would like
This daily backpack won our third place based on its compact and versatile nature. It has numerous secure pockets that are easily accessible and roomy enough to fit exactly what you need.Read more
This particular daypack offers a lightweight and easy way to carry just about everything you need for a day hike, and then some. The daypack is Molle equipped, which allows the user to add other storage compartments as needed through Velcro fasteners located along the front of the daypack itself. However, this Molle system also has the drawback of attracting leaves, twigs, and burrs when hiking through the forest as the Velcro material will stick to things if it remains uncovered.
This daypack is small enough to fit in the higher portion of your back. The wide and padded shoulder straps keep it from sliding too far down the back. In addition, a well placed chest strap and buckle help you to evenly spread the weight through the entire torso.
The interior portions of this third example of the best daypacks offer a roomy main compartment as well as a number of smaller ones. You can easily fit a change or two of clothes, extra shoes, a map, and compass, plus a snack or two in the main compartment and smaller items in one of the many side area.
This bag features a hydration compartment and hydration hose line that will fit most water bottles and hydration bladders located in the main compartment. Thankfully, it also has drainage holes that can be used when a spill occurs to quickly drain the inner compartment. This daypack does offer some protection against rips and tears, as well as a moderate amount of water resistance, making it well suited for hunting and traveling through wilderness areas.
3. Osprey Talon 22
External hydration sleeve
Great back panel ventilation
This lightweight and comfortable entry to our list has an exceptional back panel ventilation for keeping cool on the trail, a customizable fit, and plenty of space to carry all your gear on the trail. This is a crowd favorite that keeps getting better every year.Read more
The design is sleek and simple, allowing you to keep your pack close to you and not weighing you down. The customizable fit ensures that this back will work for almost anyone and the ventilation system will keep you cool and dry. The breathable and padded shoulder straps and back panel are what really make this pack great. The adjustable torso length and shoulder straps ensure the load is spread well across your hips. Combined with a sternum strap, this pack should feel comfortable on your back even with heavier loads.
Despite it’s appearance, this backpack/daypack has quite a bit of room in it’s main compartment. There is also a stretch front pocket, stretch mesh side pockets, two zippered hip belt pockets, and plenty of places to attach other gear outside, including a Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment that makes storing your poles a breeze.
The Talon is water resistant but would need a rain cover for serious downpours. The nylon material stands up to average wear and tear on the trail. The extras on this bag are extensive. An external hydration pocket holds a 3 liter reservoir, an LED light attachment point, a sternum strap with emergency whistle, stretch front pockets, and of course the amazing back panel ventilation.
4. Fjallraven High Coast Trail 26L
Good weight distribution
Simple and stylish design
Included rain cover
Waist strap should have a little more padding
Colors may not be the same as photos
The Fjallraven High Coast Trail 26L is a sleek and versatile bag that offers a great amount of storage, an overall comfortable design, and is very durable. This bag can be used for city life, travel, and hiking all in the same day.Read more
While we would have liked to see more padding on the (detachable) waist strap, overall this daypack is a true joy to wear. The weight is evenly distributed over the whole of the back, and the shoulder straps are well padded and set far enough apart to allow for even the broadest of shoulders to move comfortably. Plus the mesh backing allows for superior airflow on your back when you need it most. This bag is said to be frameless, but there is actually a piece in the back of the bag to help it keep its shape. The overall design of this bag is very sleek. It is versatile enough to be worn in almost any situation. If you plan on traveling, the bag has compression straps and will easily fit under the seat in front of you. There are two expandable side pockets and a couple of zippered pockets, but more organization overall would have been preferable. The bag itself weighs about 2.5-pounds.
This bag boasts 26L of space, including a removable 15” laptop sleeve. This bag is a great size for city life, travel, and outdoor activities. If you plan to take the bag hiking, you can remove the laptop sleeve and replace it with a hydration reservoir.
We love the versatility of this bag and its simple design. It is made from a recycled polyester and organic cotton blend, which Fjallraven has named G-1,000 Eco Fabric. This fabric is very durable, resists abrasions, and water-resistant.
Although this bag is water-resistant and durable, if you find yourself stuck in a downpour you will want to use the included rain cover to protect your items.
5. Oxa Ultralight Foldable
Offers water and tear resistance
Eight different compartments for easy organizing
Lack of waist strap
This lightweight and durable backpack is perfect for those times when you feel the need to go exploring, but you don’t want to take a whole lot with you.Read more
This daypack was found to be fairly durable, lightweight, and flexible when it came to carrying the many different items that are typically brought on daytime adventures. While the shoulder straps are padded, we felt that the addition of breathable material on the back, as well as the addition of a padded waist strap, would have enhanced the comfort level of this bag. As it is, it is still fairly comfortable if adjusted to fit the wearer correctly.
A total of eight different compartments make organizing your equipment and stuff relatively easy, and the 30-liter capacity means that it can fit more than enough for a quick adventure around the campgrounds.
The nylon material offers moderate protection from the weather or tears, although it is not foolproof. This daypack has the ability to easily fold down into a smaller carrying pack for easy transportation.
6. Earth Pak Waterproof 35L
True waterproof protection
Overall design not comfortable for larger people
If you’re one of those hikers that firmly believe that it’s better to have it with you and not need it, than to need it and not have it, the Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack 35L Heavy Duty Roll-Top Closure may just be what you’re looking for.Read more
While we adore the immense capacity and the waterproof design, this daypack falls a bit short when it comes to comfort. When completely full, the bag puts a pretty good strain on the upper back instead of allowing the weight to be evenly distributed across the whole of the torso.
The vented back area, padded shoulder straps, and the chest brace add to the overall comfort, but there are a few things that could make this daypack a bit of a bother for some people. For example, the shoulder straps themselves are a little too close together for our taste and may be too close together for someone with broad shoulders or a larger body. Also, depending on the amount of weight stored in the daypack, the lack of a waist belt puts more strain on your upper back and shoulders than necessary.
The capacity is where this daypack really shines. If there is anything you need for a day hike, heck anything you want to bring, chances are you can fit it in this bag. The main compartment is huge and deep. A person could literally fit an entire weeks worth of clothes, a good number of snacks, a number of electronic devices, and still have enough room for a few novels for light reading around the evening campfire. It’s amazing how much you can fit within 35 liters of room
Like the Sarki daypack that took first place, this Earth Pak is designed to be truly waterproof, so it’s at home in the river, lake, or out in the rain. If used correctly, the 500D PVC dry bag features will protect your valuables in any type of weather.
This particular daypack also includes a submersible and waterproof phone case so that you won’t have to leave your phone at home when you enjoy an outdoor adventure or two.
7. Deuter Speed Lite 20
Very comfortable to wear
Efficient design – there is no wasted space
Not completely waterproof
Waist strap isn’t padded
The Deuter Speed Lite 20 Backpack offers an efficient way to carry exactly what you need into the wilderness in a comfortable way. The low weight and simplicity of this pack make it perfect for hiking or traveling.Read more
Overall this bag is designed for shorter day treks. The padded shoulder straps, relatively smaller size, and the sternum strap allow for comfort while you move around. While we would prefer that the waist strap have some padding, it still serves the purpose of helping to distribute the overall weight of the bag more evenly.
This seemingly simple design is versatile and innovative. The pack has plenty of pockets including a top pocket for small items like keys, a front stretch pocket for stashing things on the trail, good size side pockets for water bottles, a water bladder pocket, as well as attachment loops outside. The tapered shape and compression straps make this a small pack that can hold its own out on the trail.
While it might look small, this pack can hold a surprising amount of stuff. The compression straps could be used to secure hiking poles or even skis on the back or they can cinch down the whole back to about the size of a hydration pack. There are also four gear attachment loops that can hold extra gear.
The 210D ripstop nylon material allows the Speed Lite to take a beating while on the trail. The PU coating helps to keep your items dry even with the thin material. This small bag can definitely withstand the elements you'll find on your adventures. While the pack itself surprisingly holds a ton of gear, the external straps and compartments help when you need to add bulkier items along the way.
8. Marmot Kompressor Plus
Packable for travel
The Marmot Kompressor Plus is an inexpensive and lightweight option. Is is highly compressible, making it great to cinch down a fully loaded pack or completely pack down into its own top pocket for easy packing while traveling. The shoulder straps and back panel provide plenty of support when out on the trail.Read more
This daypack is clearly designed with the traveler in mind, whether they are moving by vehicle or by foot. The lightweight materials offer some protection from the weather and tears, and the smaller size is ideal for use in airplanes, cars and trains. The ability to pack into itself is a major plus when wanting to pack in a larger bag. This bag is very lightweight at only 370g. It's ideal for fast and light hikers The Arimesh shoulder straps and back panel are comfortable though not outstanding for breathability or ventilation. As long as the pack isn’t overfilled, the person wearing it shouldn’t have too much of a problem.
This lightweight daypack is only designed to handle 18 liters of material, but the compression straps help to cinch down the bulk. This is a great option for travel because you can compress your essentials to fit under an airplane seat.
The Kompressor has a hydration pocket, sternum strap, internal key attachment clip, daisy chain, and trekking pole attachment. As we've mentioned, the pack can be completely packed down into itself for ease of packing for travel. However, this lightweight daypack doesn't have the most durable material. We don’t reccomend this bag for strenuous hikes through rough terrain, or in environments where rain or water may be an issue.
9. Unigear Hydration
Houses a 2-liter hydration bladder
Very comfortable to wear
Somewhat limited capacity
Lightweight and easy to carry, this backpack doubles as a way to carry a few things along the trail and as a source of drinking water. No need to take the canteen with this one.Read more
The overall design is one that lends itself to efficiency. This is definitely not a pack for those who like to take everything with them but the kitchen sink. However, if you prefer to only take the essentials – food, water, compass and a map, this daypack will easily fit your needs. This daypack is clearly designed with the hiker in mind, with wide set and padded shoulder straps, a bracing center buckle that goes across your chest, and a padded waist belt to help you evenly distribute the weight of the pack across your entire body.
While most of the inner capacity is taken up by the hydration bladder, there is still ample room for the little things that a hiker might need during a day trip. These things can include a map or two, a compass, a notebook for drawing, or a snack for the group.
While this daypack can’t claim to be waterproof, it is lightweight and splash resistant. The rip-stop nylon material and heavy duty stitching also offers protection from rips and tears.
The main extra in this particular backpack may not be considered one, since it helps one of the main purposes of it. The two-liter hydration bladder fits snugly in the main compartment and is designed to keep your water source cool and refreshing no matter where your hike takes you.
10. Oricsson Unisex
Small and lightweight
Offers tear and water resistance
Capacity not as great as advertised
The Oricsson Unisex backpack offers a great balance between convenience, capacity, and protection.Read more
Reminiscent of the old school book bag, this daypack features quite a few compartments, both zippered and not that provide for quite a few places to store smaller, more compact items. It’s lightweight, relatively easy to carry, and versatile. This daypack is surprisingly lightweight and easy to wear for those short jaunts around the campsite or for an afternoon leisurely stroll. The shoulder straps are adequately padded, although we would have liked to see them spaced a little further apart. In addition, the lack of a waist strap was missed a little bit.
Although the bag is rated for 35 liters of capacity, we found that the numerous different compartments made it difficult to fit many things in it beyond the bare essentials used on a day hike. While it’s perfect for a small excursion, we wouldn’t suggest using it for a longer one where you need to bring a decent amount of equipment.
This daypack is made with a rip-stop nylon material that is tear and water resistant, although the zippers can be overwhelmed in a heavy downpour. This daypack also provides a smaller water-resistant pouch for storing smaller items.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When you’re out moving around outside, either for work or play, the last thing you want is to have a daypack that is uncomfortable to wear. If it doesn’t sit right on your body, it can lead to muscle strain, fatigue, and just overall unpleasant feelings.
In order to be comfortable, a daypack needs to have certain characteristics. First, it needs to be able to distribute the weight evenly across where you’re carrying it- most likely your back and shoulders. The second characteristic is that it needs to allow for proper ventilation around your back. Without these two characteristics, a daypack can quickly become awkward and uncomfortable.
Fortunately, the daypacks presented in this list fit those two criteria beautifully. Some do so by having wider shoulder straps, or a mesh material at the base of the back to allow for easier air flow, still, others have a combination of the two.
Everyone is different, and will often feel that different things should be taken on a day-long hike. Things such as food, water, a compass, and a knife are probably considered essential by most everyone, but there are other possibilities as well. Some will choose to bring an extra pair of shoes, a change of clothes, or even a two-way radio to keep in touch with the base camp. All those things can really add up when it comes to carrying it on a hike.
So in addition to distributing the weight evenly, a quality daypack must have enough room to hold what you need, depending on your situation. While each of the day packs on this list has varying dimensions and capacities, all of them had adequate capacity for the essentials used during a day trip around the woods– and some have even more.
Of course, one of the most critical features of the best day packs on the market today is their overall design. Some that we considered for this list had wonderful material, great capacity, but the way that they were put together just didn’t make any sense. For example, we saw a number of day packs where the only thing preventing the contents from spilling out during a climb uphill were a flimsy flap or ones that were designed to hold a huge hydration pack, but not much else.
A daypack that is well designed takes into account not only the quality of the material and the workmanship of putting it together correctly but also anticipates the needs of the hiker. Zippers should be reinforced or at least strong enough to withstand the rigors of outdoor trekking. The material should be tough enough to take a few drops and scrapes against the trees, etc. A hiker should be able to access things such as a compass, water, or a map easily and quickly while wearing a quality daypack.
While we did not completely agree with all the design choices made by the day packs on this list, for the most part, we agreed with the logic behind them. And who knows? Maybe what we saw as a design flaw, others would see as a benefit.
Additionally, one of the main jobs performed by the best day packs is to protect your things. This protection can either take the form of protection from the weather, from human mishaps and even animals. Most daypacks do this by providing rip-stop or rip-resistant materials, weatherproofing, or the ability to add weatherproofing. Second, quality hardware and fasteners help to keep things from spilling out unintentionally.
Thankfully, the daypacks presented here are more than capable of keeping your treasure items safe, and allowing you quick and easy access to them when the need arises.
And finally, it’s the little things that can make a big difference. You’d be amazed at how much a chest strap can help in the distribution of weight, or a hydration pack can be a source of welcomed relief. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a sleeve for a water bottle on the side of the daypack that makes it the best choice for you.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Depending on the weather/terrain and length of your trip, you'll need a different sized pack. Typically, 20L is great for a half day hike in warm weather. If you will be traveling in the snow, a 35L pack may be better so that you can carry all of your winter gear with you.
Again, depending on what exactly you will be doing, shape is an important factor to consider. If you will be climbing, you may prefer a narrow backpack. If you are running, you will want a waist strap to keep the pack in place and easy access to your water bottle. If the daypack will be used on campus, you may prefer a stylish pack with more organization.
Other Factors to Consider
There are a number of different types of day packs available, and some are specialized for different types of environments or uses. Other daypacks are more generalized in their design.
If you see yourself going on more treks into the deserts, for example, a daypack that features the ability to hold a hydration pack might be a good choice. If you see yourself spending a great deal of time on the water, a truly waterproof dry day pack would probably be essential to you.
Each person is different, and during a hike, they may have different things that they need to bring. Some prefer a more minimal approach, only taking a few items with them such as a compass, a canteen, a few snacks, and a knife.
Those type of hikers would probably do well with a daypack that is a bit smaller and lighter to carry. Others often carry much more when they go on a day hike, believing that it’s better to have an item with them if it becomes needed. For those people, having a larger daypack or one with multiple compartments might be better suited to their needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What you decide to carry in your daypack depends on a number of factors including your personal preferences, how long you expect the hike to be, and how strenuous the hike is going to be. For most people, however, there are a few things at a bare minimum that should be included.
First, a source a water or something to drink is a good idea to have around. This can be as simple as a water bottle, a hydration pack, or a canteen might be a great thing to have around. Second, some way to orient yourself or find your bearings is essential just in case you get lost. A compass and a map, or a GPS system would be a benefit as well. Also, most people consider something to cut with another essential part of their day hike adventure, as well as a few snacks.
What you bring also depends on where you’re going. If you’re going to spending a good deal of time near water, an extra change of clothes might be a good idea.
When it comes to choosing a daypack for an outdoor adventure, it pays to take your time and look at the options carefully. While it boils down to personal preference, there are still a few things that you can keep in mind while shopping.
First, it’s best to find one that fits you well. If you plan to carry the daypack on your back as most people do, make sure that you find one that fits comfortably there, and that doesn’t stretch out your shoulder blades too far.
Essentially the daypack shouldn’t pull or tug at you when it’s full, and you should be able to stand, and sit as you normally would with it on. One thing to look at is the distance between the shoulder straps and where they land on your body. When the daypack is on properly, the shoulder straps should land midway between your neck and the edge of your shoulder. Too close to the neck, and you’ll feel a lot of strain in your neck, and too far away might throw your shoulder out of whack.
Second, consider how easy it will be for you to access what you need when the daypack is on your back. Can you reach around and get what you need, or will you have to take the pack off? If you do need to take it off, is that something that you can do quickly? You may need to do so in an emergency situation.
And finally, take into account your personal tastes. What colors do you like? Do you want something with padded shoulders, or perhaps something with a drawstring closure? The choice is really up to you.
When buying a daypack for traveling, there are a few things to consider. First, you need to be able to make sure your material is secure, especially if you have to check your daypack into the luggage while flying. The best way to do this is through a bag with locking zippers, or flaps that can be secured in some other fashion. Also, you should make sure that any security officials, such as TSA officials can easily check the contents if necessary. Therefore having different compartments and a daypack that can organize your belongings will make it a lot easier.
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