best daypacks for hiking

Best Daypack for Hiking in 2017

 When you go hiking, you need to be able to carry everything you need in one convenient, yet comfortable pack. You don't want to be lugging a giant backpack suitable for multi-day use when you are hitting the trail for 4 hours! Nor do you want to be saddled with a pack more suited to a half-hour commute when you are on the side of a mountain. 

Comparison Table:

Daypack

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Our Rating

Osprey Stratos 24 

Top all-round daypack

Osprey Radial 32/34 

Best for capacity

Osprey Talon 33

For larger capacity (overnight) needs

Mardingtop 30 liter 

Good Budget Buy

Black Diamond Spark 

Women only

Gregory Mountain J28 

Good basic backpack

Mengar 35 liter foldable 

Minimalist rucksack

Veevanpro 30 liter

Budget buy, not great quality

Below, you'll find our detailed reviews and a buyer's guide, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

Getting Ready to Hit the Trail

Buyer's Guide: How to Choose the Best Daypack 

Not all backpacks are created equal. Many packs used for trips to the gym, school, or work, simply offer you a place to stash your gear without worrying about comfort. Hiking with these packs is often less than ideal as they do not distribute the weight properly. Using a daypack specifically designed for hiking can make all the difference in your comfort level as you blaze the trail.

best daypack for hiking

Hiking packs are ergonomic

Many rucksacks are designed with the assumption that you’re using them for short periods of time. As such, the design is often more about style than function. Much of the weight in these packs rests on your shoulders, leading to muscle fatigue and soreness. Hiking packs are designed to evenly distribute the weight from your shoulders to your hips, reducing muscle fatigue and letting you focus more on the trail ahead.

Hiking packs are designed to be durable

Daypacks and regular backpacks are intended to withstand the rigors of normal use in the city. These bags are often made of heavy cotton or canvas that only weigh you down as you move. Hiking-specific daypacks are designed to last when exposed to harsh conditions. Most high-quality packs are made of a durable yet lightweight nylon that is also tear-resistant so it can stand up to the abuses on the trail. 

Hiking-specific packs are lightweight

The canvas used on most commuting daypacks is quite heavy, and when it gets wet, the material takes forever to dry out. The material used in hiking daypacks is designed to dry out quickly if it gets wet while also providing a lightweight shell of protection for your gear. 

Hiking daypacks have rigid frames for stability

The best daypacks feature a lightweight rigid frame that helps distribute the weight of your bag over your entire back and down to your hips. The frame also provides an area of ventilation between the pack and your back. This means your back won’t get as sweaty, even if you’re climbing a two-hundred-foot elevation gain as quickly as possible.

best hiking pack

Other Considerations

Look at the capacity of the bag. While you may be tempted to buy a larger pack, remember that bigger is not always better. For most day hikes, a pack with a capacity between 22 and 34 liters will be large enough to accommodate most gear without the pack becoming too cumbersome.

How tall are you? Smaller-framed people will often find smaller packs more comfortable. Although the better packs, such as Osprey, will be adjustable to fit most body-types.

daypack for hiking

Will you be using water bottles or a hydration bladder? Many packs come with a compartment for a water bladder, but some still allow you to rely on water bottles if that's what you prefer. Hydration bladders make carrying a large capacity of water simple while giving you the freedom to take a drink whenever you need, no stopping required.

The pack should also be adjustable to fit your body comfortably. Look for a  pack that has adjustable load lifter straps to reduce strain on your shoulders. The best daypacks also feature adjustable hip straps and sternum straps to keep the pack secure, even on rough or demanding terrain.

Some daypacks come with a built-in rain cover, for others you need to purchase it separately. If the weather turns nasty, you'll be glad you've got a waterproof cover to protect your gear! As an added layer of protection, we use plastic garbage bags or compression sacks inside the pack to ensure gear stays dry.

Versatility

What, other than hiking are you going to use the pack for? Some packs feature a laptop sleeve, though I tend to use the hydration bladder compartment - just switch out the bladder and replace with laptop! 

If you plan to use it for the odd overnight hike, then the 32-34 liter capacity can work well. But larger packs can be cumbersome on short distances or supported treks. 

Meet the Contenders

Here are eight of the best daypacks for hiking on the market, at a variety of price-points.

Osprey Packs Radial 34 Daypack


Key Features:

  • Made from 400Dx200D nylon for lightweight durability
  • Built-in rain cover to keep gear dry
  • Adjustable straps for a custom fit
  • Ventilation panel at back
  • Bag includes a helmet attachment on the front panel, perfect for climbing helmets, bike helmets and other unwieldy items.
  • Main compartment has additional mesh pockets for organization
  • Includes a padded laptop sleeve capable of storing a 15" laptop
  • This pack is best for people looking for an all-purpose pack to serve both on the trail and in the city.
  • Overall, this pack is a great introductory daypack for individuals looking for a budget-friendly option.

What We Like

  • Osprey bags offer durability without added weight, and this bag is no different. The 32 Liter option weighs in at just over 2 pounds, so you’ll be able to focus more on what you carry rather than being weighed down by the pack itself.
  • The rain cover is integrated into the bag, and stores inside the base, so you’ll never have to worry about losing the cover.
  • The bag features easy-to-access pockets, perfect for holding GPS units, cell phones, small electronics, and first aid gear without interfering with the storage in the main compartment.
  • Additional mesh side pockets allow for easy access to water bottles.
  • Available in 32 and 34-liter sizes

What We Don't Like

  • This pack is specifically designed for bike commuting and lacks the option for a hydration bladder.
  • The internal frame is only protected by the thin nylon base of the bag. When you place the pack on the ground, the frame can wear holes through the material.

Mardingtop 30-liter Camping/Travel/Hiking Backpack


Key Features:

  • Exterior mesh side pockets for water bottle storage
  • Daisy chains on front panel for additional attachments
  • Elastic bungees for trekking pole storage
  • Compression straps to keep gear secure while minimizing pack’s profile
  • Adjustable sternum and waist straps for custom fit
  • Mesh shoulder straps and padded back paneling for ventilation and comfort
  • Pouch in main compartment for hydration bladder

What We Like

  • Each Mardingtop pack comes with a 90-day warranty against manufacturer defects.
  • The pack itself is lightweight despite its heavy-duty padding with an overall weight of 1.8 pounds, reducing muscle fatigue on longer treks.
  • Mardintop includes several additional features to make the bag as useful as possible. A safety whistle is attached to the shoulder strap for easy access and an internal key hook keeps your keys from getting lost in the rest of your gear.
  • The 30 liters of storage is divided up into three pockets: one open compartment on the front of the bag, a middle organizational pocket with key hook and slots for pens, credit cards, and tools, and a main compartment with hydration bladder pocket.
  • The pack comes with a rain cover that stores in a small pocket at the bottom of the pack.

What We Don't Like

  • The Mardingtop pack does not have an internal framing system, so the bag’s weight may be less equally distributed between your shoulders and your hips.
  • While the padding does lift the pack off your back slightly, it does not lift the bag off entirely, so your back may get sweaty on strenuous hikes.

Black Diamond Spark Backpack (Women's)


Key Features:

  • Made from 210D ripstop nylon for lightweight durability
  • Main compartment houses sleeve for hydration bladder
  • Adjustable sternum and hip straps for secure fit
  • External loops for trekking pole storage
  • Compression straps to keep gear secure on rough terrain
  • Ergonomically-designed and contoured shoulder straps for all-day comfort
  • Internal aluminum frame for weight distribution
  • This pack is ideal for women looking to get started on longer day hikes or short overnight trips without investing in an expensive backpacking pack.

What We Like

  • 28 liters of storage space makes the bag great for day hikes and short overnight adventures.
  • Shoulder straps and the back of the pack feature padded mesh, providing adequate comfort and breathability.
  • Hip belt also features a small zippered pocket, perfect for holding keys, cell phones, bug spray and anything else you need easy access to as you're hiking

What We Don't Like

  • This pack is sized specifically for women and doesn’t come in a men’s option. Sorry, guys.
  • The Spark is somewhat top-heavy. The base of the bag is narrow, making it difficult to set the bag down without it falling over. Much of the storage sits at the top half of the bag, and can make it feel unbalanced on hikes unless you pack the bag correctly.

Mengar 35-liter Foldable, Water Resistent Daypack


Key Features:

  • 35-liter daypack made of lightweight ripstop nylon for durability
  • Water resistant coating to protect your gear
  • Compression straps to reduce bag's profile while hiking
  • Daypack folds into self-contained pocket for easy storage
  • Heavily padded shoulder straps for comfort
  • Lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects and equipment failure
  • This pack is great for individuals who enjoy hiking while on vacation, but want to leave their main hiking packs at home.

What We Like

  • There’s no denying that this pack is incredibly lightweight and comes in at just 0.85 pounds.
  • Cost - a budget, no-frills daypack
  • Mengar reinforces stitching around zippers, corners, and attachments so that the bag will last for years.
  • The main compartment features a zippered pocket for keys, wallets, and other sensitive items.
  • The pack folds into its own pocket for easy storage making it the perfect pack to take on vacations and out of town adventures.

What We Don't Like

  • This is a minimalist daypack. The shoulder straps do have an additional sternum strap, but the pack lacks a hip belt.
  • There’s no space for a hydration bladder. If you’re a fan of hydrating on the go without having to take your pack off to get a water bottle, this isn’t the pack for you.
  • Compression straps are located right in the middle of the bag and can cause bulging in the bag’s profile.
  • The pack does not include a rain cover. Though the material is water resistant, you’ll want to be careful in heavy rain.
  • Since there is no internal frame, the material does get caught in the zipper occasionally.

Osprey Stratos 24 Daypack


Key Features

  • Compression straps to reduce pack's profile whilst expanding additional attachment options
  • Padded hip-belt with zippered pocket for easy access to keys, wallet and cell phone
  • Sleeping pad straps for short overnight trips
  • 24 liters of storage capacity to carry all the gear you need without being big and bulky
  • Built-in rain cover to keep your gear dry
  • Lifetime warranty against damage
  • This pack is best suited for someone looking for a versatile daypack to use on short treks or minimalist camping adventures.
  • Osprey is a leader in backpack manufacturing and their packs are a premium product.

What We Like

  • The Stratos 24 features padded mesh shoulder straps with an adjustable sternum strap to keep your load stable on uneven and rough terrain. The padded straps are lined with breathable mesh and feature ventilation holes to keep you cool.
  • The pack’s back panel is made of fine mesh and keeps the bulk of the pack from resting on your back as you hike. This is perfect for warm-weather hikes.
  • Main storage compartment includes a sleeve for a hydration bladder and the shoulder straps include stretchy elastic straps to attach the mouthpiece for easy hydration on the go.
  • Different color choices so you don't have to be saddled with the lurid orange!

What We Don't Like

  • The hip belt is heavily padded and does not have any significant ventilation.
  • The ventilation frame eats into the capacity of the main compartment as the frame does have a slight curve to accommodate the natural shape of your back. This can make packing the bag a bit difficult, especially when handling rigid items.
  • The pack generally won't stand upright when you set it on the ground because of the ventilation frame

Osprey Packs Talon 33 Backpack


Key Features:

  • Top-loading pack with single drawstring and removable top pouch
  • Adjustable hip belt with zippered pocket
  • Hydration bladder pocket in main storage compartment
  • Ventilated back for comfort and breathability
  • 33-liter storage capacity for short overnight treks and long day hikes
  • Compression straps to keep gear secure in main storage compartment
  • This pack is ideal for the day hiker who wants to carry enough gear to be prepared for changing weather or short overnight camping trips.

What We Like

  • The Talon 33 pack is available in both men’s and women’s sizes with gender-specific hip belts and shoulder straps to provide comfort.
  • The back panel is adjustable and can accommodate a variety of heights, making the pack perfect for families looking to share a single pack.
  • The pack is incredibly lightweight for its capacity, weighing in a just 1.6 pounds

What We Don't Like

  • Some hikers may find the hip belt too small or too difficult to adjust properly
  • The rain cover is not included and must be purchased separately, increasing the cost
  • The stretchy mesh pockets on the side can get caught on branches and rocks, leading to rips and runs in the material
  • There is a lack of organizational pockets in the pack. The main compartment is a single pocket without any zippered pockets for secure storage.

Gregory Mountain Products J 28 Backpack


Key Features:

  • 30-liter storage capacity, perfect for long day hikes and short overnight trips
  • Ventilated back panel and shoulder straps
  • Large central compartment with mesh pockets for additional storage
  • Compression straps along sides and front of bag to reduce profile
  • Adjustable sternum strap and hip belt
  • Hip belt has zippered pouches on both sides
  • Top-loading main compartment with easy zipper access
  • This pack is great for the serious day hiker who enjoys tackling miles of trails in a day.

What We Like

  • The daypack features a dedicated hydration bladder pouch with a strap to secure the mouthpiece right on the shoulder strap for easy access.
  • Trekking poles can be stored using the attachment straps, though you will need to take the pack off to attach or remove the poles.
  • The pack comes equipped with a rain cover to keep your gear dry in foul weather. 
  • The shoulder straps provide a place to hold your sunglasses, so you won’t have to worry about them getting crushed in the main compartment.

What We Don't Like

  • Like most packs with a ventilated back panel, the bag won’t stay upright when you set it down. You’ll have to lean it against a rock or lay it down on its side to keep it from falling over.
  • Unless you're going to need a good amount of gear for your day's hiking, the 30-liter capacity may seem a bit large.
  • When the pack is not filled, gear shifts around, even when using compression straps.

Veevanpro Internal Frame Hiking Backpack 30L


Key Features:

  • Made of durable and lightweight nylon with an overall pack weight of 2.25 pounds
  • Internal frame to keep pack stable on uneven terrain
  • Adjustable sternum strap and hip belt for ergonomic weight distribution and pack stability
  • Contoured shoulder straps for long-term comfort while carrying heavy loads
  • Padded mesh back panel for comfort and breathability
  • This pack is great for the casual day hiker looking for a versatile pack with a rigid internal frame at an affordable price.

What We Like

  • The main compartment has a sleeve that can accommodate a hydration bladder or a medium-sized laptop, making this pack ideal for individuals who work in the field.
  • Built-in rain cover stows in a small zippered pocket at the base of the bag.
  • The pack can sit upright when you set it on the ground, keeping your back clean and the shoulder straps free of debris when you stop on the trail.
  • The back panel provides lumbar support, so heavy loads sit comfortably on your hips without creating undue stress and strain on your lower back.

What We Don't Like

  • This pack does not have compression straps to keep your gear from shifting inside the pack, despite what the technical specs claim. The compression straps advertised are good for holding trekking poles, but not much else.
  • The quality may be lacking. This is a bargain pack and when it comes to hiking gear, you often get what you pay for. While most of the components are adequate, we're not sure how well they'll hold up over time.

​Conclusion

We believe that the Osprey Stratos 24 is the best daypack for most day hikers searching for a good, all-around pack. The internal frame keeps your gear secure and helps distribute the weight evenly across your back.

The compression straps will keep your items from shifting around on the go while the built-in rain cover will protect your gear during foul weather. Additionally, the pack accommodates a hydration bladder, so you won’t have to stop your trek to stay hydrated.

If you felt you needed a little bit more capacity, without actually needing an overnight backpack​, then you can't go wrong with the Osprey Talon 33. This pack will give you ample room for a few "extras" if you are someone who likes to carry a bit more "stuff".

The other packs all provide adequate storage for the casual day hiker, but Osprey’s reputation for durability, the ventilated back panel, and the adjustable hip belt make the Stratos ideal for beginners and experienced hikers alike.

This is my top choice for supported hikes such as Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp and anything that doesn't require you to carry your overnight sleeping kit.

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