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Reviewed by our Gear Geeks:

The Best Daypacks in 2021

Z

Our experts at work

We gave our Gear lovers one job:
Test multiple Daypacks and write reviews of the best.

The result is 10 of the best Daypacks on the market today.

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Hunter Bierce

PSIA Ski Instructor
Hunter Bierce is a PSIA Ski Instructor and multidisciplinary outdoor professional.

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Bradley Axmith

Editor at DIVEIN.com
Vikingship building gear enthusiast and waterworld fanatic.

Whether you’re a hiker, biker, runner, climber, skier, or amateur mycologist, a dependable daypack is a worthwhile investment. Outdoor-rec specific daypacks are designed to handle the stress and wear of the elements and packed with features to help your performance.

A daypack will range in size between 8 and 50 liters, all depending on the activity or purpose, which includes hiking as well as commuting.

It’s better to know the limits of your Jansport, where an Arc’teryx or Gregory pack is the best option.

In our guide at the bottom, we’ll break down the different kinds of packs, common features you may want to prioritize, and how to optimize your choice based on the activity.

Looking for bigger backpacks for hiking or camping? Check out our best hiking packs article.

From the college student to the busy professional, the North Face Jester Backpack was designed for those who value organization, simplicity, and above all, comfort.

It features two main compartments, two mesh water bottle pockets that can double as multi-use pockets, and a front elastic bungee system for external storage.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Dimensions: 20 x10 x 2 inches
  • Capacity: 27.5L
  • Material: 100% Polyester
What we like:
  • Great back support and great at keeping your back dry even after long rides
  • Durable
  • Reflective materials for cyclists
  • Smart pockets to keep items organized
What we don’t like:
  • Smaller than it looks, but it still has plenty of room for everyday use
  • It doesn’t really stand upright
  • The top is smaller than the base, so it can be tricky to fit a bigger object inside

The large compartment has a 15” padded laptop sleeve and enough room for your books. The second compartment comes with a zip, as well as mesh pockets for small items – depending on the color of your Jester, there’s also an iPad sleeve. 

The FlexVent suspension system, which The North Face is known for, features flexible shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel, and a breathable lumbar panel ensuring comfortable and ventilated support.

The Gregory Arrio 30 is the ultimate outdoor adventure pack hiking. At 30 liters of capacity it’ the ideal size for a day on the trails. With a streamlined shape, aerated backplate and amazing features, it’s clear to see that this pack was designed with your comfort in mind. It is definitely one of the most comfortable bags we have tested so far when using it on longer trips.

It also has great storage features that allow you to pack everything you may need and more for a hiking trip in the quality that translates to comfort and longevity.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Best Suited For: Hiking, camping, and outdoor adventures
  • Material: 210D Honeycomb Cryptorip HD Nylon With PFC-free DWR
  • Volume: 30L
  • Weight: 1.8 Pounds
  • Dimensions: 8.6 x 22.4 x 10.6 inches
What we like:
  • The “Freespan” Mesh back panel keeps your back cool during hot summer days.
  • Multiple easy to reach pockets keep you organized all trip long.
  • This pack is extremely lightweight making it easy to carry during hiking trips, and won’t add extra weight to your back.
  • Buckles and zippers (YKK) are the highest quality in its class
  • This bag doesn’t try to be everything for everyone and ergo hits the mark
What we don’t like:
  • It’s so comfortable that we wish it had a better sleeve for a small laptop

The ultra-lightweight Arc’teryx Aerios 30 Backpack is a durable must-have for hiking trips or multi-day hill walks when cutting down weight is paramount. This compact backpack has a large main compartment and an additional front compartment.

When it comes to the comfort of this pack, it’s designed with an adjustable sternum strap and moisture-wicking AeroForm back panel. The padded hip belt enhances the distribution of weight from your back to your hips ensuring you enjoy your hike without discomfort.

Made with abrasion-resistant 210D Cordura, makes this backpack stable, durable and lightweight. Other features we love include the side pockets, elastic front pocket, and an internal pocket with a key clip. It really has a lot of features.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Best Suited For: Hiking, Mountaineering
  • Material: 210D Cordura Nylon 6.6 w/ 6.6 Twisted 200D LCP Grid / 100D Cordura Nylon
  • Volume: 30L
  • Weight: 1.8 pounds
What we like:
  • Even though it’s ultra-lightweight, it’s proven to be incredibly durable
  • The material is highly water-resistant
  • There are many external pockets to store all necessary gear.
  • At 30 liters, it hits a sweet spot for capacity without sacrificing mobility
What we don’t like:
  • There are almost too many pockets, if that’s possible. You can forgot where you put that darn trail bar.

The Arc’teryx Brize 25 is a simple well-designed daypack for hiking. This is definitely a bag made for expert packers since it has a limited amount of pockets for organization. The back panel and straps are reinforced with padded foam to help distribute weight and keep you comfortable. Overall, it’s very durable and can be used as a day pack or a hiking backpack for short trips.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Best Suited For: Traveling, hiking, daypack, or carry-on pack
  • Material: N630p fabric nylon
  • Volume: 25L
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Dimensions: 21.6 x 9.8 x 5.9 inches
What we like:
  • This backpack is still comfortable when you pack it to its full capacity.
  • Its minimalistic exterior makes it suitable for more formal situations or business trips.
  • The material is very durable and will last you for years to come.
  • It's a versatile backpack that can be used for commuting with a small laptop
  • Works well as a trail run pack
What we don’t like:
  • The waist belt is thin and not very supportive. Nor can it be removed
  • When fully loaded it becomes hard to access things at the bottom.

The Patagonia Refugio Backpack is the perfect companion for the urban commute, a weekend away, or any other adventure you may come across in-between.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Dimensions: 19 x 12 x 8 inches
  • Capacity: 28L
  • Material: 600D Nylon
What we like:
  • Great quality
  • Comfortable
  • Water-resistant
  • Even when fully packed it doesn’t feel bulky
What we don’t like:
  • The front vertical pocket was a great idea, but things often fall off when the pocket is open

It features a spacious main compartment with separate places for both a tablet and a laptop, a front vertical storage pocket, as well as another front pocket great for storing cables, accessories, and easy-to-access items. 

In addition, two large elasticated side pockets, breathable mesh on the back for all-day comfort, and a durable water-repellent coating to keep rain and moisture away.

This sleek streamlined pack is the perfect combination of sport and elegance. It brings you the best of both worlds whether you need a professional mini backpack during the week at work or a day trip hiking backpack over the weekend this bag has got you covered.

The Motion Arc 20L will appeal to hikers that demand quality and expect comfort to be foremost on the offing. Trail runners, including orienteering athletes will be satisfied too. Though it’s marketed as a daypack, it works very well as a backpack for work too.

Where to buy:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Best Suited For: Hiking, Day Trips, Everyday use
  • Material: 210 D Ripstop Nylon Melange with PEVR lamination
  • Volume: 20L
  • Dimensions: 20.5 x 12.6 x 8.7 inches
  • Weight: 1.63 pounds
What we like:
  • Hugs the contours of the body comfortably without generating excessive warmth that can lead to sweat.
  • The zippers are easy to open/close zippers
  • Made with high-quality material.
  • The exterior of this backpack is definitely a premium look and by hiding the waist straps it gives it a clean sophisticated look that will appeal to most users.
What we don’t like:
  • The shoulder straps alone with chest buckle don’t prevent the pack from hopping up and down when trail running

When looking for a low-profile backpack that could be used for office as much as for outdoor activities, the one by Mountaintop hits the sweet spot just right. It looks like your typical college/office-friendly backpack but with the features of a hiking pack that make it so versatile. You might think it won’t hold a lot of things, but let us prove you wrong.

This model is able to fit your water bottle, 2 outfits, sunscreen and similar hygiene products, electronic gadgets and a few snacks. Not bad for a 28-liter backpack, right? If you choose the 40-liter one, then you’re in for even more space – the zippered pockets are literally everywhere.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Material: Water-resistant Polyester
  • Frame: Internal
  • Pockets: 5 + main compartment
  • Dimensions: 18.9 x 11.4 x 5.1 inches (28L)
  • Weight: 1 lb. 33 oz (28L)
What we like:
  • Is able to fit a 15.6-inches laptop
  • The Polyester fabric is water-resistant, meaning that a light rainfall won’t cause any damages to the stuff inside your backpack
  • Very affordable
What we don’t like:
  • Not able to hold a lot of things

The straps of the backpack have a breathable mesh fabric incorporated into them, which means that your back won’t be hurting after a long day of hiking trails in the woods. The YKK metal zippers across the entire backpack are easy to unzip regardless of which compartment you need to dive into. Besides, they are water-resistant.

The North Face Borealis backpack is a 28L backpack made with durable and high-quality material that won’t let you down. It features a padded laptop compartment, enough space for an extra set of clothing, a notebook, or anything you might need to tag along with you. It’s well-engineered to store more than your average backpack while also being comfortable and easy to use. This classic backpack offers great performance at a low price tag making it ideal for everyday users on a budget.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Best Suited For: Day Trips, Worktrips, Work pack
  • Material: Cordura® Nylon Ripstop, Polyester Jacquard
  • Volume: 28L
  • Dimensions: 19.75" X 13.25" X 9.75"
  • Weight: 2 Pounds
What we like:
  • Lots of pockets that allow you to keep all your belongings organized.
  • Two mesh side pockets for belongings you need quick access to.
  • The backpack doesn't bulge out when overpacking your backpack.
  • High-quality durable material that can handle a bit of abuse.
What we don’t like:
  • Although the backpack is advertised to hold a 15" laptop it's a very tight fit. It only fits a 13" laptop comfortably.

From the city to the trails and anywhere in between, the Osprey Daylite Travel Daypack is versatile, comfortable, and full of features. Not the classic boxey bag, this backpack has a more rounded profile you’ll be happy to have when treading through dense forests.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Dimensions: 17.73 X 12.21 X 9.85 inches
  • Capacity: 24L
  • Material: 210D Nylon Double Diamond Ripstop
What we like:
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Zippered expansion
What we don’t like:
  • While most backpacks can fit a 15-inch laptop into their sleeves, this one can only fit a 14-inch laptop

The large main compartment has different sections to help you keep things organized. It features a mesh organization panel, a laptop sleeve, a zipper pocket for important items, as well as plenty of room for your daily essentials. 

There are also dual stretch mesh side pockets and side compression straps, a scratch-free pocket for your sunglasses or your phone, and one of the cool features of this backpack is that it can expand from 18L to a total volume of 24L.

This is the OutdoorMaster 50L SMART HIKING/TRAVEL BACKPACK PRO.

Yes, it’s a great, budget daypack to use on a hiking trip, but it can do so much more. If you need a backpack that can be either your school bag or a hiking pack, this one is very promising.

Read the review to see if this travel/hiking backpack is for you.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Best Suited For: Hiking, Traveling, Day Trips, Everyday use
  • Material: Lightweight and durable nylon
  • Volume: 50L
  • Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 8.6 inches
  • Weight: 2.4 pounds
What we like:
  • Works great as a travel pack, for daily use as well as hiking
  • Stationary slots are nice in the secondary compartment
  • Sits on back as well as a trail running pack
  • Doesn’t generate too much heat, so fewer sticky shirt problems
  • Easy to quickly stuff soft clothing and go
What we don’t like:
  • Doesn’t provide too much protection (a consequence of being lightweight)
  • Flimsy without having any contents
  • Laptop sleeve strap too long and gets in the way

Other notable mentions that we’ve not yet reviewed.

Guide to Finding the Best Daypack Backpack

How to Choose a Daypack

Regardless of the pack that you choose or its intended purpose, think about where you fall on the scale of comfort and capacity versus a light-and-fast style of recreation. Do you want to carry as little and move as fast as possible? Or alternately, would you prefer to have all of your bases covered, have extra layers for you and your friends, and maybe an emergency shelter, with a backpack that has the kind of support to carry a little more of a load comfortably?

From there, you can start thinking about the size and purpose of your pack. There’s considerable overlap between what activities a given pack will be suitable for. You don’t need a different bag for every activity, but by that same token, no one pack is going to be perfect for every sport. Your low-profile running backpack won’t have enough room for your extra climbing gear and likely won’t fit over your bulky winter gear while out skiing.

Carrying Capacity

The most notable difference you’ll see between different packs is size. Daypacks can range from anywhere between 10 to 50L, not including additional mesh storage pockets and tie-downs. While there’s no direct correlation, generally speaking, the bigger your pack, the more involved the trip. There’s no reason to carry a massive pack while you’re out for a run on your local trail, and there’s no way to fit everything you need for an overnight in a 10L pack. Basing your decision off of carrying capacity is an easy way to make sure your bag is right for you in terms of style and sport.

Packs under 10L are best for activities like running and road cycling, where you’re moving fast and aren’t worried about carrying emergency supplies (ex. Salomon Active Skin 8). Typically the most you can expect to bring are a few essentials like a lightweight layer, a couple of snacks, and personal items like your phone wallet and keys.

Around the 20L mark, full-day excursions start to become more viable (ex. Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Travel Pack). This pack size is perfect for solid day hikes, backcountry mountain biking, and extended trail runs. This is about the biggest pack that you’ll want for any running. Any larger and weight starts to get unmanageable. Right around 20 liters is good for skiing the resort because you hardly notice it’s there, with enough room for food and water. At this point, you can begin to fit things like first aid kits, enough food to see you through a day of travel, and other essentials.

From 20-35L, you can start to take liberties with what you’re packing. This size is the sweet spot for most hiking packs(ex. Gregory Arrio 30), as you have enough room to cover not only the base essentials for backcountry travel but can also fit things like your camera or a hammock. Bags around this size tend to be a little more sturdily constructed, with padded hip belts and other weight distribution systems to compensate for increasing load size.

Above 35 and up to 50L, you start to move into the realm of actual backpacking packs. Packs in this size range are suitable for technical and gear-intensive adventures like climbs with significant approaches, backcountry skiing, mountaineering, or winter travel where your layers and supplies take up more space (ex. OutdoorMaster 50L Smark Hiking Pack). Plenty of ultralight backpackers will be comfortable in this range for trekking as well.

Daypacks by Activity

If you’re more concerned about optimizing performance for your activity of choice, looking into the pack’s specific features per style is an excellent way to go. Below we’ll dig a little deeper into distinct features to look to per sport, with a little more information about specific features afterward.

Hiking

Picking the perfect day pack for hiking is tricky. Some people will want the lightest possible option, while others value comfort and carrying capacity. Regardless, you’ll want to look primarily at options between 20 and 35L if you’re limiting your excursion to one day (ex. REI Trail 25). Most hikers value features like a hip belt with pockets and a hydration system. For those wearing a pack for an extended period, an internal frame helps with weight distribution. In essence, you want to be comfortable, and the perfect pack is one that lets you keep hiking.

Running

The most critical feature of a running pack is a low-profile design that hugs close to your back and keeps things from bouncing around too much while you’re out and about. Low weight and easy access to water and food are great too. Many running packs have bladder integration, so you don’t have to fuss with water bottles (ex. Osprey Duro 15). Oftentimes running and cycling daypacks use perforated webbing rather than solid straps to regulate body temperature and prevent chafing. Typically you’ll want to keep it at the sub-20L mark, probably closer to 6L unless you’re really out there on a trail run.

Climbing

If you plan on doing a lot of cragging, a 30-40L gear bag is great for hauling your rope, draws, and cams up the trail. Generous hip belts, a rigid internal frame, tie-downs, and daisy chains are great for this style of approach bag; anything that will help you comfortably carry rope and rack on notoriously primitive climber trails (ex. Black Diamond Crag 40). The thicker fabric found on this bag style is also a good call for durability and allows you to use your bag as a ground tarp for your rope in a pinch. When actually in the act of climbing, most people prefer something frameless and lightweight, usually around the 20L mark (ex. Osprey Mutant 22).

Snowsports

When searching for a good ski pack, look for a lot of the same things you would in a larger hiking bag. A good hip belt, pockets for access to snacks and sunscreen, and plenty of internal space for your extra layers, helmet, and safety equipment. Backcountry packs tend to be between 35 and 45L (ex. Patagonia Descentionist 40). Support from a solid frame is reassuring and helps just as much uphill as it does downhill. A dedicated, quick-access pocket for shovel and probe is a must-have, and an external loop for carrying an ice-ax is a huge plus. Other features to look for include a ski carry system and side-panel quick access.

Cycling

Cycling packs tend to be somewhere between the style of a running bag and a smaller hiking day pack. Ideally, they should be close-fitting, limit the bag’s movement while in transit, and have either higher or minimal hip belts that don’t interfere with your ability to crank your pedals. As with a hiking pack, the features most valued in cycling bags are ones that let you keep moving with minimal stops or adjustments. Comfort and quick access to water are chief among these (ex. Dakine Syncline 12L). Most cycling packs will fall somewhere between 5 and 15L.

Features

Daypack Frames

Minimalist packs will often forgo any kind of frame, but those carrying any substantial weight or traveling on trails for a significant amount of time may find a frame to be essential for keeping their back and shoulders feeling good. Frames are usually made of rigid plastic or a lightweight metal like aluminum. The most common for daypacks are plastic removable backplates, with this modular design, you can tailor your bag to your adventure. Weight tolerances and frame preferences will vary from person to person; definitely look toward support as you approach the 20lb mark.

Straps and belts

At the very least, most backpacks have some form of sternum strap to help reduce jostling as you go along your business, as well as an adjustable set of shoulder straps. But across different styles and sports, daypacks will have different kinds of straps and hip belts. Frameless and lightweight options for things like climbing or very short hikes have a hip belt limited to just a piece of webbing, while bags designed to carry weight will have padded straps around the waist to help keep some of the load from hanging off of your back.

For running and cycling, hip belts tend to be a little higher up across the stomach and have a little more flexibility to accommodate the rapid motion. The key is keeping the weight evenly distributed. Regardless of the sport, what you want most is something that can help protect your shoulders and back.

Pockets

In addition to your top access storage, it’s helpful to have some additional pockets regardless of how you plan on using your day pack. Minimalist packs will generally have fewer zippered pockets to help save on weight, but I’ve found that more is more when it comes to this department. Hip belt pockets are helpful for storing snacks and other on-the-go items as you might need, and a good couple of water bottle holders are essential for anyone without a hydration pack. A favorite feature for a daypack is an external mesh quick-access pocket that you can store a rain jacket or extra layer in when the weather is unpredictable.

In addition to external pockets, having internal compartments for your phone or other valuables is always helpful. Some packs go as far as to include entire internal organization systems to keep your gear in line and make it easier to locate essential items on the fly. Dedicated pockets for things like medical supplies or maps are a great way to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything at the trailhead.

Hydration system

Even the best-placed water bottle pocket can be a strain on the shoulders to reach when you’re on the trail. Compatibility with water reservoirs is a really valuable feature that helps you stay hydrated when it matters most. Having a specific place to put the bladder, and in turn, somewhere to run your hose makes it much easier to justify carrying one around with you. Anyone who has had a water bladder suddenly spring a leak will tell you the value of having somewhere specific to keep it protected and your stuff dry.

Ventilated Back Panel

Much more common for larger packs with full frames, a suspended ventilation system is a great way to keep temperature regulated during summer. These mesh backings allow air to flow freely across your back, letting sweat dry and preventing chafing over time.

Bottom/Side Access Panels

Almost every pack you try out will have some kind of top access to access your gear efficiently. Some models have side and bottom access to make it easier to get to a specific area of your pack without having to empty the entire thing. Side access zips are most convenient for any kind of winter travel or when the ground is wet, as it allows you to do some searching without having to set anything down on the snow or mud.

Bottom access panels are a little less valuable. Frequently these are designed to give you a place to store your sleeping bag. If you’re traveling light, a bottom panel can be an excellent way to keep important items that you’ll frequently access a little bit drier in lieu of a rain cover.

Rain Cover/Water Resistance

Although most daypacks have some kind of water-resistant property, it’s never a bad idea to invest in a rain cover for your bag. Nowadays, the materials used for almost every hiking pack are resilient enough to keep light rain and mist from soaking through the fabric but won’t hold up when the rain starts to come down in earnest. Some bags are marketed as entirely waterproof, but that claim is sometimes dubious, and they’re much more expensive than anything else. For a closer look at what’s out there in terms of waterproof packs, take a look at our overview page.

If you can’t swing a rainfly, a trash compactor bag used as an internal liner is a classic workaround. It won’t keep anything stored in the external pockets of your bag dry, but so long as it remains in one piece, anything inside should stay dry without issue.

Women’s Specific Daypacks

While it’s not an absolute dealbreaker, there are some definite benefits to opting for a women’s specific daypack (ex. Arc’teryx Brize 25). They’re designed to fit around the torso and hips more optimally than unisex packs, and the sizing is adjusted to accommodate typically shorter torsos of women. Shorter men may also find they fit a little better than standard models. Ultimately it’s about preference. I’d encourage you to try several fits and styles to find something that works well for you, don’t let labels influence your decision too much because your back will tell you everything you need to know.

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about Daypacks

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    What is the best size for a daypack?

    The best size for a daypack hinges primarily on how you intend on using it. As a whole, daypacks can range anywhere from ~10L running packs up to 45-50L technical bags, with just about every shape and size imaginable between them. For more information about how to choose the best bag for you, take a look at our overview page. Below, we’ll break down the approximate size ranges for daypacks by activity.

    Hiking- 20-35L
    Running- 6-10L
    Climbing- 20-25L
    Snowsports-25-35L
    Cycling- 10-15L

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    How to pack a daypack?

    Regardless of the activity, anytime you venture into the backcountry you want to make sure you have your ten essentials covered: navigation, light source, sun protection, first aid supplies, knife, fire starter, emergency shelter, extra food, extra water, extra clothes. Your interpretation of these supplies will differ depending on what you’re doing, but having all of your survival bases covered is always a good idea. For more on daypacks and how to choose the right one for you, see our overview page.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    What is a daypack for camping?

    A daypack is a small backpack that holds enough equipment and supplies for any outdoor excursion that will take less than a day. Daypacks are a great addition to your camping or backpacking setup because they let you embark on small adventures from your basecamp without having to haul all your equipment with you. Daypacks are also great for climbing, biking, and other shorter activities. For more information on daypacks and how to choose the right one for you, check out our overview page.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    What is the best hiking daypack?

    The best daypack for your hiking needs is going to depend on your style and preferences. In general, daypacks for hiking tend to be somewhere between 20 and 35L, with a little bit of wiggle room on either side. Many daypacks have features like hip belts and hydration systems to optimize your experience. To learn more about the wide variety of daypacks and narrow down your search to the best option for you, take a look at our overview page. Meanwhile, here are a few of our favorites.

    Best Daypacks

Now, we want to hear from you!

What’s your favorite Daypack and why?

Let us know in the comment section below!

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