6 of the Best Packs for Day Hiking


Going hiking for the day? You’re going to need some day hiking essentials. Importantly, you’re also going to need a place to put those day hiking essentials.

Hiking daypacks are designed to carry just enough to get you through a day-long hike without weighing you down. Some are packed with features—from the standard mesh pockets to an internal padded sleeve, a rain cover, and maybe even a hydration bladder—while others offer a more minimalistic design.

Our top pick for overall best hiking daypack is the Osprey Talon 22 (for men) and the Osprey Tempest 20 (for women). If you’re on a budget, reach for the Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Daypack, which offers a large capacity at a fantastic price.

In this guide, you can peruse our top picks for hiking day packs in various categories, get up to speed on what you should be looking for when purchasing a daypack, and read through frequently asked questions before making a decision.

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Top Picks for Best Hiking Daypacks

Best Overall – Osprey Talon 22 and Osprey Tempest 20

Specs:

  • Capacity: 20-22 liters (Talon 22) and 18-20 liters (Tempest 20)
  • Weight: 1 lb 14.6 oz – 2 lbs 3 oz (Talon 22) and 1 lb 12.5 oz – 2 lbs 3 oz (Tempest 20)

Osprey has a great reputation in the hiking gear space, and the Osprey Talon 22 and Osprey Tempest 20 hiking packs for men and women (respectively) are our top picks for best daypacks.

The Osprey Talon 22 and Osprey Tempest 20 offer tons of compartments and storage, such as dual-zippered panel access to the main compartment, stretch-mesh pockets, zippered pockets on the hip belt, adjustable bungee front-panel storage, and more.

These packs also have an external hydration sleeve, trekking pole attachment, ice axe attachment with bungee tie-off, a bike helmet attachment, and even a blinker light attachment (light not included).

Osprey’s packs offer technologies designed for hikers, like an injection-molded AirScape frame sheet, which offers stability, flexibility, and ventilated airflow, as well as a BioStretch harness and hip belt. The packs also offer compression straps to help secure your load.

These well-loved and well-reviewed packs come in a whole array of sizes to fit your torso length and body size, including EF (extended fit) sizing. The Osprey Talon 22 comes in sizes ranging from S/M to EF L/XL, and the Osprey Tempest 20 comes in sizes ranging from XS/S to EF M/L.

Buy the Osprey Talon 22

Buy the Osprey Tempest 20

Best Small Capacity – Cotopaxi Batac 16 L Del Dia Pack

best-packs-for-day-hiking
Image by Cotopaxi

Specs:

  • Capacity: 16 liters
  • Weight: 11 ounces

For light loads and/or anyone who wants a lightweight pack, the Cotopaxi Batac 16 L Del Dia Pack is a perfect choice.

This unstructured daypack offers a zippered main compartment, plus several internal and external pockets to help you organize your gear, including a front vertical zip pocket and two mesh water bottle pockets.

Though made for outdoors, thanks to its durable 75-denier to 210-denier nylon shell, this functional pack will take you from day hikes to the airport and everywhere in between.

Cotopaxi’s packs are colorful and fun, so if you like making a statement on the trails, this is the one for you. Each Batac 16 L Del Dia Pack is one of a kind, each reflecting the creativity of the Cotopaxi employee who created it.

With near-perfect reviews, Cotopaxi Batac users never look back. Though versatile enough for different uses, this is a hiking pack through and through. This one has special features like ultralight mesh shoulder straps and an adjustable chest strap. It does not have a hip strap.

Best Daypack with Hydration – Gregory Citro 24 H20 Hydration Pack and Gregory Juno 24 H20 Hydration Pack

Specs:

  • Capacity: 24 liters (both)
  • Weight: 2 lbs (Citro 24) and 1 lb 15 oz (Juno 24)

With a 3-liter water capacity and a 24-liter gear carrying capacity, Gregory’s Citro 24 H20 Hydration Pack and Juno 24 H20 Hydration Pack (for men and women, respectively) provide on-the-go hydration, thanks to the included 3D Hydro quick-drying, soft-molded reservoir.

The packs feature a magnetic sternum buckle and hose clip for the hydration tube and a Drylock bite valve. ActiveFlex technology keep the Gregory packs breathable across the shoulder harness.

VaporSpan technology goes beyond a ventilated back panel; its “ventilated suspension” features an alloy perimeter frame and moisture-wicking mesh. A padded hip belt features zipper pockets and stretchy mesh pockets for easy access to essentials.

Gregory has thought of everything for these feature-rich daypacks, including a tool attachment point for poles or other gear, a Sunglass QuickStow system on the shoulder harness, a top soft-lined zippered pocket for valuables, and a security pocket with key clip within the main compartment.

These packs even have “comfort-grip” zipper pulls.

Buy the Gregory Citro

Buy the Gregory Juno

Best Ultralight: EQUINOX Parula Ultralite Day Pack

best-packs-for-day-hiking
Image by EQUINOX

Specs:

  • Capacity: 17 liters
  • Weight: 7.4 oz

EQUINOX makes its Parula Ultralite Day Pack in two fabrics: silicone-impregnated ripstop nylon with a mesh back panel, which weighs 7.4 ounces, and a urethane-coated ripstop, which weighs 9.6 ounces.

The Parula Ultralite features an attached hood top, a top zipper pocket, and two mesh pockets on the side for water bottles. It has a waist belt, and each shoulder strap has padding.

Made in the U.S., the EQUINOX Parula Ultralite Day Pack is so light, you’ll barely feel it when it’s on and empty. Don’t expect a ton of structure on a pack this lightweight, though; it doesn’t have an internal frame.

Perfect for day hikes when weight is a top consideration, this pack is functional and light as a feather.

Best Budget – Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Daypack

best-packs-for-day-hiking
Image by Venture Pal

Specs:

  • Capacity: 40 liters
  • Weight: 11.2 ounces

Our budget pick has a lot going for it. The Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Daypack is one of the most lightweight packs on our list at just 11.2 ounces, but it also a larger pack with a 40-liter capacity. At just under $30, this pack is a great option for day hikes.

The Venture Pal 40L doesn’t have a hip strap, but it does have other hiking-friendly features, such as a waterproof wet pocket in the main compartment, two side pockets, breathable mesh shoulder straps, and sternum straps with a whistle buckle.

It’s made from tear-resistant and water-resistant nylon fabric and heavy-duty metal zippers.

Unlike most other packs, this one will fold into its own pocket for easy storage, making it a versatile option for outdoor adventures and more. If you’re looking for an affordable, durable backpack for hiking and beyond, this one has nearly 30,000 reviews on Amazon, and we bet you’ll find it worth the investment.

Best for Kids – REI Co-op Tarn 12

best-packs-for-day-hiking
Image by REI

Specs:

  • Capacity: 12 liters
  • Weight: 12 ounces

The REI Co-op Tarn 12 is designed for kids ages 5-8. It’s light (just 12 ounces) with cushy shoulder straps and a padded back panel that has a built-in airflow channel for ventilation. The hip belt tucks into a hidden pocket for times when your little hiker doesn’t want it on, but it’s there for when they do.

The eco-friendly REI Co-op Tarn 12 features recycled ripstop nylon with a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish to keep it stain-free and dry in light rain.

There’s a large zippered pocket for the main compartment, a front stuff pocket and a zippered front pocket to keep essential items handy and outside of the pack body, and water bottle pockets on the sides.

The REI Co-op Tarn 12 is compatible with a hydration reservoir (which is not included) and features reflective accents for nighttime visibility. REI also offers this pack in a larger size, the REI Co-op Tarn 18, which holds 18 liters and is designed for ages 8-12.

Buyer’s Guide for Best Hiking Day Packs

There are a lot of daypack options, and they can start to look the same after a while. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a daypack.

Capacity/Volume

Depending on how long you’ll be hiking, you may want a daypack with a larger volume to hold more supplies or one with a smaller volume to minimize weight. The adult-sized daypacks on our top-picks list range in capacity from 16-40 liters.

Consider what hiking essentials you plan to bring and choose a capacity that makes sense for you.

Comfort

You want a comfortable pack that fits your body frame if you plan to wear it all day. Comfortable daypacks often have features like adjustable and padded shoulder straps, a sternum strap, a padded hip strap, and a mesh back panel designed to keep air flowing between the pack and your back.

Consider the size and weight of the pack when determining whether it’ll be a good size for your frame. Try it on in a store before buying, if you can, or read user reviews online to see what other people say about how comfortable it is.

Weight

The pack should feel very light when empty to maximize your comfort on the trail. You can’t make water weigh less, and, to some extent, your gear is going to weigh what it weighs. If you’re carrying heavier loads, don’t add unnecessary weight with a heavy pack.

If pack weight is your primary concern, we recommend the ultralight EQUINOX Parula Ultralite Day Pack.

Organization

The best daypacks offer compartments and pockets for things like water bottles and snacks, plus attachment points for gear like trekking poles. For most use cases, it’s helpful to have side pockets for easy access to essentials like water and your cell phone.

Consider how you like to organize your day-hiking supplies and choose a daypack that has the compartments and pockets that’ll get the job done. I find that having two zippered pockets, an internal sleeve, and at least one mesh pocket is very helpful to keep items organized.

You may also prefer choosing a pack that opens a particular way. Some packs have a U-shaped zipper, and some have a roll-top closure with small zippered compartments inside.

Durability and Versatility

Since your pack will be joining you for many hikes in the coming years, pick one that’ll stand the test of time. Look for durable fabrics, reinforced stitching, and water-resistant coatings, which can all indicate that a pack is designed to have a long life lived outdoors in all weather conditions.

If you’re looking for an investment piece, you may also consider the versatility of a daypack. Beyond hiking, could you use the pack for other outdoor adventures, like camping, cycling, climbing, or travel? A versatile pack will offer more bang for your buck.

Hydration Compatibility and Other Features

If you want your pack to be compatible with a hydration system, be sure to keep that in mind as you shop. Some packs are specifically designed to work with a hydration sleeve or reservoir.

You may also want to watch for safety features like reflective strips, whistle buckles, or emergency information pockets in case you ever get injured on the trail.

Budget

Daypacks range in price depending on their size, brand, features, and durability. You can pick up a budget daypack, and it’ll probably work great for short or infrequent day hikes. If you’re a hard-core day hiker, you may want to expand your budget to get something that’ll really enhance your experience on the trails.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best size backpack for a day hike?

For short hikes in good weather, you can get away with a 15-20-liter pack designed for lighter loads. For an all-day hike, particularly one that’s strenuous and/or requires extra gear (or if you’re in inclement weather and may need extra layers of clothes), go for 20-40 liters of capacity.

Backpacking packs hold more capacity, usually 50 liters or more.

Do I need to use all the straps on a hiking backpack?

Compared to traditional backpacks, hiking backpacks have more straps. You may be wondering, do I need all of these straps? It’s up to you, but if you do use them, you’ll probably find they help make wearing the pack more comfortable during long periods of wear.

Besides the adjustable shoulder straps on a daypack, you’ll also typically find a hip belt or waist belt, which helps take some weight off your shoulders. It may also have a chest strap or sternum strap, which provides stability and keeps your shoulder straps snuggly in place.

Some daypacks may have additional straps that you’d find on a backpacking pack, such as compression straps, load lifters, and/or closure straps, in addition to daisy loops, an ice axe loop, and/or trekking pole sleeves or loops.

Are hiking daypacks waterproof?

Most hiking daypacks offer some level of water resistance but are not waterproof. If you might hike in heavy rain, look for a pack with an included rain cover (or purchase a pack cover separately), or use a waterproof stuck sack to keep your gear dry on rainy days.

How do I clean a hiking daypack?

Thankfully, most day packs designed for hiking are made from durable fabrics that can stand up to dirt and the elements. In most cases, you’ll clean your pack by hand washing it with mild soap and water, and then air drying it.

Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for specific care and cleaning instructions, since it’ll vary depending on the pack.

What should I put in my hiking daypack?

If you’ll be hiking all day, particularly in the backcountry, pack the 10 hiking essentials, which include: navigation tools, sun protection, extra clothing, a light source, a first-aid kit, fire supplies, tools and a repair kit, food, water, and shelter.

If you’re doing a short hike on an established trail with cell service and plenty of people around, you may only choose to bring food, water, sun protection, and a map or GPS-enabled device.

What you pack on a day hike is going to depend on the situation, but in general, it’s best to have as many of the 10 essentials as possible, just in case.

Check out our day-hiking pack list for more ideas.

Final Thoughts

From small packs like the colorful Cotopaxi Batac 16 L Del Dia Pack and larger packs like the Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Daypack to technical, fully featured packs like the Gregory Citro 24 and Gregory Juno 24, there is a perfect pack for everyday hiker.

Our top overall pick for best daypack is the Osprey Talon 22 (for men) and the Osprey Tempest 20 (for women). These packs offer dependable quality and all the features most people want and need for day hiking.


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