Best Day-Hiking Backpacks & How To Choose

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Article Categories: Gear | Hiking Tips
Article Tags: Backpacks | Hiking Gear

There are so many great day-hiking backpacks out there that it can be really difficult to know which one is best for you. After all, there are lots of different types of backpacks that advertise themselves as good for hiking– but there are many you wouldn’t want to take them on even a simple half-day hike!

In this article, we’re going to be talking specifically about backpacks for day-hiking. We have a guide to all of the different types of backpacks available here, so if you want more information on different types of backpacks, that’s the best place to start. For our guide to the best day-hiking backpacks, we’re going to share our top picks at three different price points and show you how they stack up to each other.

 

Best Day-Hiking Backpacks: What To Look For

The most important consideration for any backpack purchase is size. No matter how well the bag is made or how good the additional features are, if the bag can’t fit what you need it to carry, it’s not a good bag for you.

 

Backpack Size Chart

Duration of Hike Recommended Backpack Capacity
Half-Day Hike (<4 hours) 20 liters or less
Full-Day Hike (>4 hours) 20-40 liters
1-3 Night Hike 40-50 liters
3-5 Night Hike 50-70 liters
5+ Night Hike 80-110+ liters

 

All of the packs that we are recommending are for half-day or full-day hikes, and some of the larger ones could be used for a short overnight hike if you pack light. For day hiking, our team prefers to go after slightly large packs, as the very small amount of extra weight is worth the extra versatility of the bag for most outings.

 

Backpack Materials

Most backpacks today are made out of ripstop nylon or other high-quality synthetic material. These materials are lightweight, water resistant, and extremely durable.

It is important to pay attention to whether or not your bag is truly waterproof, or just water resistant. Sometimes manufacturers will claim that their backpacks are waterproof when in fact they are only water resistant. There is a difference! A water-resistant backpack will repel water but not keep it out entirely in the event of heavy rain or accidentally dropping your pack into a stream or lake.

If you want more information on waterproof ratings and what they mean, we have a complete guide to that here. For this article, we’ve made sure to note whether each bag is waterproof or water resistant.

 

Backpack Design and Features for Day-Hiking

Day-hiking is a much different activity than thru-hiking or backpacking. You may take a daypack with you on longer hikes, but it won’t be your main bag.

Daypack Backpacking Backpack
Size 20-50 liters 40-110+ liters
Support
  • Usually don’t have a frame
  • Sometimes a waist belt (recommended)
  • Limited padding
  • Internal or external frame
  • Waist belt
  • Chest straps
  • Padding
Features
  • Optional waterproofing
  • 1-2 large compartments
  • Extra pockets
  • Hydration sleeves
  • Limited gear attachment points
  • Everything a daypack might have, plus
  • Extra gear attachment points
  • Pockets
  • Extra storage options

 

Best Day-Hiking Backpacks Under $100

These entry-level bags might not have all the bells and whistles of a more expensive bag– but you might not need all those additional features! These bags make great accessory bags to take on longer hikes or backpacking trips or are great for your day-hiking needs. If you’d like more great budget bag options, check our guide to the best budget backpacks.

 

REI Co-Op Flash 22

REI Co-op Flash 22If you want a lightweight, well-designed bag with room for your essential gear, and you’re working on a tight budget, the REI Co-Op Flash 22 is for you. This 22-liter bag fits most adults and weighs in at less than a pound.

  • Size: 22 liters
  • Empty Weight: 14 oz.
  • Key Features: Frameless, padded mesh shoulder straps and back pad, Packmod bungee strap for gear attachment, tool loop on bottom of pack, hydration system hanger, waist strap
  • MSRP: $59.95
  • Pros: This is the least expensive bag on our list, but you wouldn’t know that from handling it. It is lightweight but uses high-quality materials and was recently re-designed to have a more secure top closure.
  • Cons: Not the most durable, and is underbuilt for carrying a full load. The light weight of this pack means that there have been some comfort options sacrificed as well.

 

Osprey Daylite Plus

REI Co-op Flash 22Osprey’s Daylite family of packs is versatile and adaptable to a wide range of situations. The Daylite Plus is a 20-liter pack that fits comfortably on most adults and is perfect for your day-hiking needs.

  • Size: 20 liters
  • Empty Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz.
  • Key Features: Hip strap, large main compartment, hydration sleeve, PWC-free water resistant coating, mesh water bottle side pockets, front pocket with organizational divider and key clip
  • MSRP: $75
  • Pros: This lightweight bag is built to Osprey’s high quality standards, which means that it is very durable and will last a long time. This pack attaches to lots of other Osprey packs, meaning that it can be used as added storage on longer hikes.
  • Cons: This bag is best for lighter loads, as the minimal shoulder padding can get uncomfortable with heavier gear.

 

Patagonia Refugio

Patagonia Refugio Daypack 26LThe Patagonia Refugio is a classic mid-sized backpack that’s built to Patagonia’s demanding standards for durability and efficiency. It is one of the most sustainable backpacks on this list– it is manufactured using environmentally friendly materials, and recycled fabric, and is sewn and manufactured under fair trade practices.

  • Size: 26 liters
  • Empty Weight: 1 lb. 10 oz.
  • Key Features: Dual inner compartments, mesh side pockets for water bottles, chest strap, recycled polyester treated with durable water repellent, inner organizational pockets, interior hydration system hanger
  • MSRP: $99
  • Pros: Lots of padding and ventilation make this bag comfortable to carry, and it can easily double as a bag to take your laptop and other necessities to work with you.
  • Cons: No waist straps. This bag doesn’t have the highest carry weight, so don’t expect it to work as a 1-3 night bag.

 

Best Day-Hiking Backpacks Between $100 and $175

These packs are a step up from the entry-level packs and have more features, and are often designed with more comfort in mind.

 

Osprey Talon 22/Osprey Tempest 20

Osprey Talon 22 PackThe Talon and the Tempest are the male and female versions of the same backpack, with the Tempest sized to fit a smaller frame. These backpacks come in two sizes within their range and are loaded with features that make them a great choice for the active day-hiker. This is a high quality bag packed into a small size, making it a great option for fast day hiking in tougher terrain.

  • Size: 18 liters for the XS/S Talon to 22 liters for the L/XL Tempest
  • Empty Weight: 1 lb. 12.5 oz. for the XS/S Tempest to 2 lbs. 0.64 oz for the L/XL Talon
  • Key Features: Six pockets plus main compartment, bungee panel front storage, bike helmet storage attachment, trekking pole, and ice axe stow-and-go attachments, 100% recycled nylon, water-resistant
  • MSRP: $150
  • Pros: Padded hip belt provides support, separate hydration pocket makes using a hydration bladder easy, lots of stowing attachments for gear
  • Cons: Internal frame makes these bags less flexible, which isn’t always desirable for certain activities; side pockets are noticeably small.

 

Gregory Miwok 24

Gregory Miwok 24The Gregory Miwok 24 is a backpack that works for most people due to its adjustable torso length and dynamic suspension. This backpack has a simple, elegant design that focuses on ease of access and movement for your hiking essentials.

  • Size: 24 liters
  • Empty Weight: 1 lb. 13.6 oz.
  • Key Features: Hydration bladder clip, hip belt, trekking pole attachments, sunglasses stowage strap on shoulder, 5 external pockets, dynamic suspension system
  • MSRP: $129.95
  • Pros: This bag is lightweight, supportive, and comfortable to carry. The features are easy to use and the pockets are easily accessible.
  • Cons: The water bottle pockets are a little tricky to access, but the hydration sleeve means you might not even need to bring too many extra water bottles.

 

Wy’East Ultralight Daypack

Wy'east DaypackDon’t be fooled by this pack’s simplicity– its streamlined look hides lots of smart design choices that make this bag your next best purchase. It has some interesting features you don’t see on other packs, including dual shoulder strap pockets for your keys and small, easily-lost items.

  • Size: 30 liters (up to 34 with collar extended)
  • Empty Weight: 1 lb 4 oz
  • Key Features: Hydration sleeve, deep side pockets, large shoulder strap pockets, removable hip belt, removable EVA back panel, ergonomic shoulder straps to evenly distribute weight.
  • MSRP: $120
  • Pros: We really love the extra-deep water bottle pockets– it’s a design choice that makes a huge difference. Same with the expandable collar that adds an extra 4 liters of storage if you need a little more.
  • Cons: Bigger than necessary for short hikes, and the wide shoulder straps don’t always sit well on narrow torsos.

 

Best Day-Hiking Backpacks Over $175

These packs are some of the highest quality and feature-forward day-hiking backpacks on the market. We love these bags because they have so much to offer and are so versatile. These bags are also all super durable and will last for many seasons on the trail.

 

Osprey Stratos 24/Osprey Sirrus 24

Osprey Sirrus 24 Pack

Osprey Sirrus 24 Pack

This pair of packs is the same pack in a men’s (Stratos) and women’s (Sirrus) design. These packs have the most complicated frame of any on our list, and it pays off in comfort and support.

  • Size: 24 liters
  • Empty Weight: 2 lbs 12 oz.
  • Key Features: Hydration bladder sleeve, recycled materials, integrated rain cover, storage straps for trekking poles and other equipment, aluminum frame with one peripheral hoop, ventilated back panel, and suspension system for comfort, padded hip belt with pockets,
  • MSRP: $175
  • Pros: This pack is extremely supportive and comfortable, very durable, and well organized. It’s perfect for any day trip, or even a short overnight hike (if you can it your gear in a 24l).
  • Cons: This pack is a little on the heavy side for its size, and the zippered front pocket can be a little difficult to get into while it’s on your back. We wish this pack was a 30 L.

 

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak

DAYBREAK ULTRALIGHT DAYPACKIf you want a truly waterproof daypack, look no further. The Daybreak bag is a powerhouse for the day-hiker– there’s enough room for the essentials and the organization you need to easily access them.

  • Size: 17 liters
  • Empty Weight: 1 lb. 4 oz.
  • Key Features: Waterproof, ultra-light, lots of gear storage and organization options, additional 6 liters of capacity in the exterior compartments
  • MSRP: $229
  • Pros: This bag is truly waterproof, but still maintains a lightweight. It is very durable and has incredible gear storage options.
  • Cons: The capacity is only 17 liters; it’s quite expensive for such a small bag.

 

Ortlieb Atrack CR Urban

ATRACK CRThe newest successor to the Ortlieb Atrack bags, this fully waterproof daypack is the perfect bag if you’re hiking in a rainy environment.

  • Size: 25 liters
  • Empty Weight: 2 lbs. 14 oz.
  • Key Features: Waterproof, hydration system hanger, 4 zippered inside pockets, adjustable back panel for different heights, padded hip belt, 2 outside mesh pockets, gear stowing straps,
  • MSRP: $269.95
  • Pros: Not just waterproof, this bag is completely submersible. With a hermetic seal for the drinking tube exit and 100% waterproof zippers and nylon, you could go swimming with this bag and come out with dry gear.
  • Cons: This bag can be hard to find, as it isn’t commonly carried by online retailers. Ortlieb has lots of dealers in the US, though, and they have a local distributor finder on their website. It is also quite expensive.

 

Osprey Kamber 30/Kresta 30

Osprey Kamber 30These two packs are the same pack in a men’s (Kamber) and women’s (Kresta) design. This pack made our list because of it’s extreme versatility. While it is expensive compared to other daypacks, it has tons of features that make it an amazing day hiking bag, it is large enough for long winter days, and has all of the backcountry skiing features you’d look for in a bag. Therefore, this is our top daybag choice or backcountry skiing.

  • Size: 30 liters
  • Empty Weight: 3 lbs 5 oz.
  • Key Features: Hydration bladder sleeve, recycled materials, google compartment, helmet strap, ice ax strap, ski/splitboard straps, padded hip belt with pockets, and more.
  • MSRP: $210
  • Pros: Extremely supportive and comfortable, very well organized, and perfect for backcountry outings and skiers.
  • Cons: This pack is a little on the heavy side with due to all of the features.

 

Best Day-Hiking Backpacks By Size

As we said in the beginning, size is an extremely important concern when choosing a backpack for day-hiking. Here’s how the packs we chose compare to each other by size.

Size in Liters Backpacks In Range
Less than 20 Hyperlight Mountain Gear Daybreak (17), Osprey Tempest 20 XS-S (18)
20-22 Osprey Daylite Plus (20), Osprey Tempest 20 M-L (20), Osprey Talon 22 S-M (20), Osprey Talon 22 L-XL (22), REI Co-Op Flash 22 (22),
23-25 Gregory Miwok 24 (24), Osprey Stratus 24 (24), Osprey Sirrus 24 (24), Orglieb Atrack CR Urban (25)
26-30 Patagonia Refugio (26)
30+ Wy’East Ultralight (30-34), Osprey Kamber 30 (30), Osprey Kresta 30 (30)

 

So what do you think? Are you ready to try your next favorite day-hiking pack? Any one of these selections is a great option to take out on the trail.

Max DesMarais
Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about