10 Best hiking Daypacks of 2018
A solid daypack should be a staple of every outdoor enthusiast's gear collection. Whether you’re hitting the trail for a hike, biking to work, or even hopping on a flight, a great daypack will serve you well for many years.
The most important jobs of a daypack are comfortably carrying essential gear, providing convenient storage spaces, and allowing easy access to water while you hike. But with hundreds of daypacks out there serving up a range of functional differences, it can be hard to determine which one will work best for you.
That’s why we researched and tested dozens of daypacks to create this list of our favorites. These daypacks do an excellent job of balancing comfort, convenience, weight, and cost, so hopefully our hard work will help you in your search for the perfect pack.
For more of our top gear recommendations, have a look through these popular CleverHiker Gear Guide links:
CRITICAL DAYPACK CONSIDERATIONS
ACTIVITY - What will you be using your daypack for? Your primary activity will dictate what features and functions you'll want in a pack. For short day hikes on well-established trails, a lightweight minimalist pack may be all you need. However, if you're a climber, summit bagger, or you like spending long days on the trail, you’ll likely want a pack with more support and capacity for carrying heavier gear.
PRICE - A solid daypack shouldn’t break the bank. That said, if you take care of your pack, it will last for many years and thousands of happy trail miles, so it’s not a bad idea to invest in a high-quality daypack. On this list we recommend a range of choices from budget buys to high-end investments and discuss the pros and cons of each.
WEIGHT - If you've read through our backpacking gear advice, you know that weight is a very important factor when choosing backcountry gear. However, when it comes to choosing a daypack, weight isn’t quite as significant in our opinion. On a day hike, your gear load should be significantly lighter than when backpacking, so choosing a comfortable daypack that weighs a bit more won’t have as much of an impact. There’s no need to go crazy and choose a 5 lb pack, but counting ounces isn’t quite as important for this choice either. When testing daypacks, we always consider what packs deliver the most comfort and functionality, while keeping weight reasonable.
CAPACITY - The capacity of a daypack is measured by the amount of liters it will carry. Generally speaking, most daypacks range from around 10L-35L, but the most popular daypacks usually have a 20-30L capacity. We prefer daypacks with a 20-30L capacity as well, because they offer enough room for a variety of outdoor adventures and give us plenty of space for the 10 day hiking essentials.
ORGANIZATION - Most daypacks have a large top-loading compartment for storing the majority of your gear. In addition, we like daypacks that have additional organization spaces to make compartmentalizing and accessing gear easy. Many daypacks also have a front mesh stash pocket, which we find very convenient for storing gear on the go, like a raincoat, water filter, or hat and gloves.
FRAME - Some ultralight daypacks with lower capacities are frameless, meaning they have little to no structure for carrying weight on your back. This can be a portable style for light loads and quick trips, but frameless packs tend to be a poor choice for longer adventures. In general, we prefer daypacks with a comfortable frame that will allow us to carry a full day’s worth of equipment comfortablely along the trail. That said, minimal frameless packs tend to be affordable, portable, and useful too, so we recommend a variety of frame options below.
BACK PANEL AND VENTILATION - Some daypacks have a suspended mesh back panel design (ex: Salvo 28), which allows for more airflow and ventilation on the trail. Though the difference is usually minimal (your back is still going to get sweaty), many hikers find those types of frames to be more comfortable. Packs with simple back panel designs (ex: Flash 22) usually incorporate foam padding for comfort and add grooves to help with ventilation. Both designs work well in our opinion.
HIP BELT - A hip belt’s primary function is to distribute the weight of your pack to your hips, which helps alleviate strain on your shoulders. In addition, some hip belts have convenient pockets, which provide easy access to items you’ll want readily available on the trial (snacks, sunscreen, lip balm, camera, phone, etc.) Most minimalist daypacks forego hip belts, though some provide simple nylon straps that add a small amount of stability and weight transfer. For full day excursions where we’ll be spending a lot of time on the trail, we generally prefer daypacks with more substantial hip belts.
STERNUM STRAP - Sternum straps, which clip across your chest, are included on almost all daypacks these days. They give you the option to connect your shoulder straps across your chest for a more secure feel. It’s a nice touch when the sternum strap has an elastic section for a little give and the clip has an emergency whistle built in.
HYDRATION COMPATIBILITY - Water bottles and hydration bladders (ex: Platypus Big Zip) are the two most common ways to stay hydrated on the trail. If you prefer drinking from a water bladder, a pack without a hydration port (opening for a water hose) could be a dealbreaker. Almost every daypack on our list has a hydration port and reservoir pockets for water bladder storage. In general, we prefer the ease and convenience of water bottles, but sometimes a water bladder can be nice for day hiking.
WATER BOTTLE HOLSTERS - Hydration is key while hiking, so if you're not using a hydration bladder, your water bottles should always be easy to access from your side pockets. Some minimalist ultralight packs don’t have water bottle pockets (ex: Flash 18), which is far less convenient, in our opinion.
WATERPROOFING - In general, it’s not a good idea to rely on any daypack for water protection. True, your pack will likely shed a light drizzle no problem, but in a downpour water will seep through your backpack’s seams and work its way into your gear. Some daypacks come with pack covers, but they don’t provide full protection and will eventually fail in heavy rain too. That’s why we recommend packing your gear in waterproof stuff sacks or ziploc bags inside your pack. Additionally, you can line the inside of your backpack with a strong trash bag to keep all your stuff dry. The HMG Daybreak is the closest thing we’ve found to a waterproof daypack and do really like the additional weather protection, but we still play it safe with our most important gear.
BEST - It’s important to remember that what’s “best” for us, might not necessarily be best for you. We work very hard to detail the strengths and weaknesses of every item we review with the ultimate goal of putting the decision-making power in your hands. In the end there’s rarely one clear “best” choice, but hopefully we can help you find equipment that will work best for you.
BUYING ONLINE - Check the seller's return policy before you buy, but you can almost always return an unused pack within a certain time frame after purchasing. We recommend buying your top choice, trying it on at home when you get it, and returning/exchanging it if it doesn’t fit quite right.
WEIGHT: 1 lb. 10 oz. / 1 lb. 9 oz.
CAPACITY: 22L / 20L
The Osprey Talon 22 for men and Tempest 20 for women provide an exceptional balance of comfort, convenience, and functionality. Our favorite feature of these packs is how they form to our bodies. With cushy hip belts, padded shoulder straps, and ventilated back panels, the Talon and Tempest ride very comfortably on the trail. These packs have plenty of room for a full day adventure and convenient storage compartments to keep our gear organized nicely. Our biggest complaint with the Talon and Tempest is their helmet clip, which we don’t often use and don’t love the look of, but that’s mostly a style gripe and bikers may find it more useful than we do. Other than that, we think the Talon and Tempest are excellent. If you’re looking for a larger volume daypack with an even cushier frame, the Osprey Stratos 24 is also a solid option.
WEIGHT: 14.5 oz.
The REI Flash 22 series has been a hiking staple for many years and with good reason. This minimalist, ultralight design provides adequate support and comfort for simple day hikes with lightweight loads. It has detachable sternum and hip straps, an ice ax loop, water bottle pockets, and an internal hydration sleeve. The Flash 22 has a variety of convenient storage pockets, which we found to be a nice surprise in such a simple pack design. Though the Flash 22 has a more minimal frame and fewer features than most of the packs on this list, sometimes a simple daypack like this is all we need. This pack also comes in a Flash 18 model, but we prefer the Flash 22 because of its water bottle holsters and top lid pocket.
WEIGHT: 1 lb. 2 oz.
The Deuter Speed Lite 20 is comparable in size, shape, and comfort to the REI Flash 22, but with a bit more padding. It’s a fairly simple pack, but its lightweight, durable design is often all we need on short day hikes with light loads. Like the REI Flash, the Speed Lite comes with a simple nylon hip belt, but it won’t help much with weight transfer and you won’t really need it with a light pack. Overall we like the storage design of the Speed Lite, but we do find the layout of the Flash 22 to be slightly more functional. That said, we think the Speed Lite 20 goes toe to to with the Flash 22 for our favorite small, but highly functional daypacks. If you're looking for more carrying capacity, Deuter also makes this pack in 22 and 26 liter models.
WEIGHT: 2 lb. 3 oz
The Patagonia Nine Trails 28 is a new daypack with a sleek design and straightforward features. We love the style and comfort of the Nine Trails, and it has a lot of storage space for extended day hikes. The wrap-around zipper on this pack makes accessing gear easy and it’s front mesh pocket feels durable and secure. The hip belt on the Nine Trails is comfortable, transfers weight well, and has two slim pockets for snacks and gear. Our chief complaint with the Nine Trails is there are only two small storage pockets besides the main gear compartment, which limits its organizational capabilities. That said, we often use waterproof stuff sacks for gear organization anyway, so this hasn’t been a big deal for us.
WEIGHT: 2 lbs.
CAPACITY: 24 L
The Osprey Stratos 24 has one of the most comfortable frames of any daypack we’ve tested, hands down. It’s stretch-mesh back panel feels super cushy against the back and seamlessly transitions into the hip belt for excellent weight transfer. The Stratos has a solid organizational system too, with a variety of convenient gear storage pockets, two hip belt pockets and water bottle holsters. The vertical front zip pocket on Stratos is unique, but we would prefer a mesh stash pocket instead, like one on the Talon/Tempest. Also the included rain cover is a nice touch, but rain covers tend to fail in extended downpours, so we rarely use them. Drawbacks aside, the Stratos 24 is an exceptionally comfortable daypack built for extended adventures.
WEIGHT: 2 lb. 5 oz.
The recently updated Gregory Salvo 28 day pack is another exceptionally comfortable pack for a full day on the trail. Compared to older models, they've shaved off some ounces while upgrading or adding some features - the most notable being the addition of a mesh stash pocket. Organization is outstanding with two large zippered compartments, two small zippered pockets, and a rear mesh stash pocket. Gregory's Vaperspan Ventilation system on the back panel provides great airflow and a super comfortable weight transfer. The hip pockets are both well-sized and easy to access. Our one complaint is that the water bottle holsters are a little high, making it slightly difficult to excess them. We tested the 28 liter pack, however the Salvo comes in 18, 24, and 28 liters.
WEIGHT: 1 lb. 3 oz.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear makes some of our favorite backpacks and their Daybreak is no exception. Made with Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber), the Daybreak is the closest thing to a waterproof day pack out there. Although the 17L capacity may seem small, there is a large rear pocket and well-sized water bottle holsters, increasing your capacity significantly. It’s got all the features you need in a day pack and we love the clamshell zipper design, which makes accessing your gear a breeze. Because of the high quality and expensive materials, the cost of this pack can be prohibitive and this is it’s biggest downside. However, if you’re looking for a well-constructed, tough-as-nails pack to take on a mountain adventure, this is your guy.
The Osprey Daylite is a great option for when you want something that's more substantial than a minimalist pack, but not as bulky or fully-featured as the Talon or Speed Lite. This pack has a sleek and slender build, a ventilated back panel, water bottle holsters, and is hydration bladder-compatible. It has a hipbelt, however it is not padded nor does it have any hip pockets. This pack is a bit small for longer day hikes, but if you're looking for a small capacity pack for short hikes or around town, this may do the trick.
If you like the Osprey Daylite, but want more carrying capacity, check out the Osprey Daylite Plus. While the two packs share many features, the Daylite Plus can hold 20L and also has a rear stash pocket, which we find very helpful on hikes. The Plus also has a padded hydration sleeve rather than the simple elastic sleeve in the Daylite.
WEIGHT: 2 lb. 10 oz.
Camelbak recently redesigned their classic and popular Fourteener pack and it's quite different from it's previous model. It's most notable change is in the hip belt, which now has a dual wing design with the internal belt providing load transfer and the second belt providing hip pocket storage. The system feels a bit gimmicky, but does provide good additional organization. There are two large clam shell zippers, one for the included hydration bladder and one for access to the main compartment. The back panel has three sections of substantial padding for comfort and ventilation, which may be welcomed on a full day mountain adventure but an overkill for a casual day hike.
For a more affordable CamelBak option, you could also check out the Rim Runner 22.
WEIGHT: 2.4 oz.
The ultralight and minimalist Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil daypack will become your favorite travel companion. It packs down into its own baseball-sized pouch and can easily be thrown into your suitcase or purse. It's weighs only 2.4 ounces, yet is able to carry a capacity of 20L. With no back panel or support, you’ll want to pack your bag intentionally to ensure a comfortable fit. This pack is as minimalist as they come with two-way zipper and no compartments or pockets, but for a quick scramble to the top of a ridge for sunset, this is all you’ll need.
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