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:


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.

CAPACITY: 22L

The REI Flash 22 series has been a hiking staple for many years and with good reason. This affordable, ultralight pack provides adequate support and comfort for simple day hikes with lightweight loads. If you're going on a demanding full day adventure, you may want a pack with a more substantial hip belt and carrying capacity, but we often find that a small pack like the Flash 22 is all we really need. This pack has a variety of convenient storage pockets, easy to reach water bottle holsters, and enough structure to feel comfortable against our backs. The Flash 22 does come with a simple, removable nylon strap hip belt, but we rarely find ourselves using it. This pack also comes in a Flash 18 model, but we prefer the Flash 22 because of its water bottle and top lid pockets.


WEIGHT: 1 lb. 2 oz.

CAPACITY: 20L

The Deuter Speed Lite 20 is comparable in size, shape, and comfort to the REI Flash 22, but with a bit more padding and durability. It’s a fairly simple pack, but its lightweight design is often all we need on short day hikes with light loads. Like the REI Flash, the Speed Lite comes with a simple, removable nylon hip belt, but we rarely find ourselves using it. Overall, we like the storage design of the Speed Lite with it’s large main compartment opening, but we wish its front stash pocket was slightly easier to access. We think the Speed Lite 20 goes toe-to-toe with the Flash 22 for the best small daypack design. If you're looking for more carrying capacity, Deuter also makes this pack in 22 and 26 liter models.


WEIGHT: 2 lb. 3 oz

CAPACITY: 28L

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 its limited organizational capabilities for a pack of its size, with only two small pockets besides the main compartment. That said, we often use waterproof stuff sacks for gear organization, so that hasn’t been a big deal for us. The Nine Trails comes in a variety of sizes, but our favorite is the 28L model.  


Osprey Stratos 24 & Sirrus 24

WEIGHT: 2 lbs.

CAPACITY: 24 L

The Osprey Stratos 24 for men and Sirrus 24 for women have some of the most comfortable frames of any daypacks we’ve tested, hands down. Their stretch-mesh back panels feel cushy against the back and seamlessly transition into their hip belts for excellent weight transfer. These packs have a solid organizational system too, with a variety of convenient gear storage pockets, two hip belt pockets and easy to access water bottle holsters. The vertical front zip pockets on the Stratos and Sirrus are unique, but we would prefer a mesh stash pocket instead, like on the Talon and Tempest. Also, the included rain covers are a nice touch, but rain covers tend to fail in extended downpours, so we rarely use them. Minor drawbacks aside, the Stratos 24 and Sirrus 24 are exceptionally comfortable daypacks built for extended adventures.


WEIGHT: 2 lb. 5 oz.

CAPACITY: 28L

The recently updated Gregory Salvo 28 for men and Sula 28 for women are comfortable packs with great pockets for gear storage. They have plenty of carrying capacity for a long day on the trail and their frames feel secure against the back. Organization is outstanding on these packs with two large zippered compartments, two small zippered pockets, and a convenient front mesh stash pocket. The hip pockets are well-sized, but the water bottle holsters a run a little high, making them slightly difficult to access while hiking. Overall we prefer the organization of this pack over it’s close competitor, the Stratos 24, but the latter wins out in comfort. The Salvo is also available in 18L and 24L sizes (Sula 18L and 24L for women).


WEIGHT: 1 lb. 3 oz.

CAPACITY: 17L

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak is a tough, ultralight daypack built for a full day on the trail. Though not fully waterproof, the Daybreak is the most weather-resistant pack on this list, shedding moderate precipitation with ease. The Daybreak is constructed with a unique fabric (Dyneema Composite Fabric), which is ultralight and durable, but also makes it one of the most expensive packs on this list. Though listed at only 17L, the Daybreak feels roomier than that, and its convenient front pocket adds a lot of space. The hip belt on the Daybreak feels secure (though it doesn’t have pockets) and can be tucked away when not in use, which is one of our favorite features. The water bottle holsters are well-sized and easy to access while hiking. Though the cost of this pack will be prohibitive for some, the Daybreak is a well-constructed, tough-as-nails, ultralight daypack.


WEIGHT: 1lb.

CAPACITY: 13L

The Osprey Daylite is a simple, sleek, and affordable daypack that has similar features to the REI Flash 22, and Deuter Speed Lite 20, but with slightly less capacity. The Daylite is a great option for short trips while carrying light loads. Similar to the Flash and Speed Lite, the Daylite has a simple, removable nylon hip belt which we rarely use. Hydration bladder users will find the external hydration sleeve on the Daylite convenient. This pack is a bit small for full day adventures, but for short hikes it’s often all we really need to carry our gear comfortably. Osprey also makes the slightly larger 20L Daylite Plus, but we’re not big fans of it’s front stash pocket design.


Camelbak Fourteener 24

WEIGHT: 2 lb. 10 oz.

CAPACITY: 24L

The Camelbak Fourteener 24 daypack is a great choice for hydration bladder users, and it’s the only pack on this list with a hydration system included. The Fourteener has a unique hip belt design which feels very comfortable and secure, but has strange asymmetrical storage pockets. One side has a large hip belt pocket and small water bottle holster, and the other side has two open mesh stash pockets. The Fourteener has a lot of storage compartments and we like how wide it’s main zipper opens, making gear easy to access. The heavily padded frame of the Fourteener allows for back ventilation, but we find it to be slightly less comfortable than some of the packs listed above. Overall, we think the unique design of the Fourteener is excellent for water bladder users and has a variety of convenient storage compartments. The Fourteener also comes in a slightly smaller 20L model.


WEIGHT: 2.4 oz.

CAPACITY: 20L

The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil daypack is a different type of backpack than the others on this list. The Ultra-Sil is essentially a nylon stuff sack with a zipper, two shoulder straps, and a shape that nicely conforms to the back. This simple design isn’t great for long days on the trail, but is convenient for quick backcountry jaunts. We also like how lightweight and compressible the Ultra-Sil is, which makes it easy to throw in a larger suitcase or backpack when we’re heading out on longer trips. The Ultra-Sil only has one pocket and no frame, so packing it carefully is a must (for example, place a padded insulation layer against your back for comfort). When all you need is a simple pack for a quick scramble, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil is a nice solution.

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.

MORE INFORMATION

If you enjoyed this article, you'll probably like our other gear lists as well. Here are some popular resources from the CleverHiker Gear Guide.

 

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