The best hiking daypacks are functional, fit well, and durable. They have to be because they’re your home away from home, carrying all of your essentials, including outdoor gear, food, water, and survival gear.
Many daypacks are also good for multiple sports, including mountain biking, climbing, skiing, or snowboarding. You can also use them for commuting or travel.
Backpack vs. Daypack
Novice hikers may be wondering, “What is a daypack, and how does it differ from a backpack?” and rightfully so, because the distinction can be confusing.
A daypack is a type of hiking backpack, but not all backpacks are daypacks. When we look at the differences between a daypack vs. a backpack, the main thing we learn is that a daypack is a backpack only made for day hikes, while a hiking backpack can be used for longer multi-day hiking trips.
Because daypacks are geared toward day hikes, they are more lightweight and have a smaller capacity than hiking backpacks.
Some daypacks are simple, and others are more full-featured like backpacks and can include hydration compatibility and loops for hiking or climbing gear.
What is the Best Backpack for Hiking
Do you need to carry lots of water? Is the weather quite variable, and you need to be able to adapt on the fly with lots of layers? This article breaks down the main features to look for in a hiking daypack and reviews the top packs on the market. Let’s get started.
Osprey Talon 33 Men’s Hiking Backpack
If you’re looking for one daypack that can do it all, Osprey’s is your best bet. At 22 liters (and made in larger versions up to 44 liters for those who need more capacity), it hits an ideal balance of comfort and features.
Notably, it has a real hip belt with light cushioning, which is more comfortable than the simple webbing you get with more streamlined packs, along with a thoughtfully designed mesh back panel.
The pack also has functional organization, a nice stretchiness to it, great attachment points including trekking poles, a helmet, an ice ax, and two sizes to dial in the fit. For day hikes, travel, and everyday use, this daypack 22 is an excellent choice.
While this daypack is Osprey’s best all-rounder, the more expensive Stratos below offers even more padding and carrying comfort.
The latter has a more substantial hip belt along with a suspended mesh back panel for superior support and ventilation (it’s built more like a backpacking pack than a daypack).
On the flip side, this daypack is lighter at under 2 pounds, but its thinner back panel means that you can sometimes feel the contents of your bag on your back, particularly if loaded down.
- It’s a men’s hiking backpack for day hikes, overnight trips, and general travel use.
- Available in two men’s sizes: Small/Medium and Medium/Large.
- Good riddance, airport drama. You can use this compact bag as carry-on luggage.
- Features lightweight without sacrificing comfort and technical performance.
- Super breathable to keep you cool in hot climates.
- This robust and durable backpack comes with a lifetime warranty.
- It’s compact.
- A versatile backpack.
- The hip belt is outstanding.
- You can adjust the torso length.
- There are so many external pockets.
- Not suitable for all airlines.
- It doesn’t include a rain cover.
- It doesn’t come with a water reservoir.
Osprey Stratos 24 Men’s Hiking Backpack
Its full metal frame and substantial hip belt put the weight comfortably on your hips, and a large mesh panel ventilates extremely well and conforms nicely to your back.
In addition, the organization is excellent—we particularly like the two hip belt pockets and sizeable zippered access to the main compartment. Add a built-in rain cover, and the Stratos checks off everything you’ll need in a daypack.
The primary downsides of the Stratos are weight and price. The sturdy construction pushes the pack to nearly 3 pounds (many backpacking packs weigh less), and the Osprey can’t stuff down like a frameless bag. It’s also fairly expensive at $140 considering the relatively modest 24-liter capacity.
- It’s exceptional comfort, breathability, and ventilation.
- Rain cover.
- Adjustable torso length.
- Hydration is compatible.
- Zippered hip belt pockets
- Internal hydration reservoir sleeve
- Dual-zippered panel access to the main compartment
- Sizeable top panel zippered slash pocket
- Impressive AirSpeed ventilation and suspension system
- Multiple pockets
- Awesome load distribution
- Tight hip belt pockets
Kelty Redwing 32 Backpack
The price of the Redwing is also impressive for what the pack offers. The padding on the shoulder straps and back panel is comfortable but may not breathe, and other packs on the list.
This pack is a workhorse and will keep you very well organized if you remember where everything went. With all of the pockets and the extremely reasonable price, the Kelty Redwing earned our Best Daypack for the Highly Organized designation.
- Big enough, but not too big
- Lots of pockets
- Stowable hip belt
- Semi-rigid back panel insert
- Dual-purpose laptop/bladder sleeve
- No true frame, backpack uses HDPE
Gregory Mountain Products Miwok 24 Liter Men’s Daypack
The Miwok is minimalist and built well. There are intelligent pockets, and the harness system has been constructed to breathe and move well with the user.
There is no solid frame in the pack, which does cause problems with the pack when it is set down. A few great additions help the pack stand out, such as the glasses holder and plastic hydration hose holder on the shoulder straps.
The Gregory Miwok 24 is also offered in a female-specific variant as the Gregory Maya 22. Overall, Gregory Miwok is our pick for Runner Up for Best Daypack.
This pack is lightweight and adjustable so that you can find the perfect fit for your shape and size. With an extensive range of functional pockets throughout, you shouldn’t go short of storage space.
This is a nice all-around pack. It’s both functional for the trail but easily fits the multiple purpose label and will work great on a bike ride or just trekking across town. Its efficient size also means it’s ideal for an easy stowaway while traveling on any train, plane, or automobile.
- Fleece-lined media pocket
- Side mesh pockets
- Two zip waistbelt pockets
- Adjustable sternum strap
- Internal mesh organizer pockets
- Moisture-wicking Aero-mesh back panel, shoulder straps, and waistbelt
- Expandable front stretch mesh pocket with three-point compression system
- Lightweight and comfortable adjustable fit with good capacity
- Perfect for multi-purpose outdoor use, e.g., day hiking, running, cycling, city daybreak, etc.
- Lots of functional pockets, including a fleece-lined media pocket which is perfect for protecting your phone while out on the trail
- A 3-liter hydration bladder holder is ideal for a day hike
- It may not be great for a very tall person
CamelBak Fourteener 26 Hiking Hydration Pack
The Fourteener 26 Hydration Pack by CamelBak is the ideal pack for any of your all-day adventures. Not only is the Fourteener comfortable, but it’s also stable and is the perfect size for all the necessities. The Fourteener is designed to keep you hydrated, organized, and comfortable.
This design serves multiple purposes by creating support with the inner belt while the outer belt wraps around the pack creating compression.
The outer hip belt also includes additional storage. With an included hydration reservoir and extra space for even more water, the Fourteener is our Best Hydration Daypack if needed.
Unfortunately, the weight and bulky design need improvement for this Camelbak pack to become a true contender, especially for its price.
- Adjustable sternum strap for a custom fit
- Dual wing belt with cargo transfers weight
- Trekking pole attachment
- Essentials organization pocket
- Side stretch water bottle pocket
- All-day comfort
- Breathable and great for hot climates
- Incredible pockets and organization throughout
- It fits men and women and is highly adjustable
Osprey Packs Talon 22 Men’s Hiking Backpack
The Talon is well built, will carry everything you need for a day on the trail, and even has some specially built accessories for cycling.
It’s a well-rounded multi-sport option, and its price point is quite reasonable. It does lack overall comfort, but it is lightweight and built to last.
The Tempest 20 offered by Osprey is the female equivalent of the Talon 22. The only difference is a harness system made to fit a female figure more comfortably.
- Zipper closure
- Dual-zippered access to the main compartment
- Two zippered hip belt pockets and LidLock helmet attachment
- External hydration sleeve accommodates up to a 3L reservoir
- Stretch mesh pockets on both sides of the pack provide convenient storage for bottles and smaller items.
- Ventilated back panel, hip belt, and shoulder straps
- Attachment points
Buyers Guide for Best Hiking Hydration Backpack
1. Daypack Volume
How big should a daypack be? Most daypacks range in size from 20L up to 35L in volume. The size you need depends on the length of your hikes and how much clothing and gear you need to carry to protect yourself against wind, rain, or snow.
While a lower capacity backpack is sufficient for 1/2-day hikes, we recommend sizing up in the 30L to 35L range for all-day hikes, peak bagging, or hut-to-hut trips that need to carry extra food clothing layers, water, and the 10 Essentials.
2. Adjustable Length
Backpack sizing, like clothing size, is usually the most crucial variable in whether a daypack feels good to wear or not.
Backpacks are sized by torso length, which measures the distance between your hips and the tops of your shoulders.
An adjustable length backpack lets you resize a daypack, so it fits you exactly, like a custom-tailored suit.
It’s a premium feature and very desirable. Fixed length backpacks are sized to fit a range of torso lengths, something like 16″-19″, which can result in a bad fit if your torso length is at the ends of the sizing range.
We recommend that beginner day hikers buy an adjustable length backpack so they can experiment with different torso lengths and dial in a proper fit.
If you hike in hot or humid weather or sweat a lot, consider getting a ventilated backpack that increases airflow behind your back.
It can make a real difference in your comfort level by keeping your back cool and your shirt dry. Backpack ventilation varies widely, though.
Some packs have a mesh-covered cavity that provides extra airflow. These work best. Still, others have air channels that run between the back padding or foam cutouts in the pack frame to encourage airflow.
The weight of a daypack is less important than the weight of a multi-day backpack because you can’t carry as much gear, food, or water.
While it’s always good to carry less weight, don’t compromise on your safety to do so. We recommend that you get a daypack that won’t collapse on itself when packed and rides on your hips and not on your shoulders.
Look for packs that weigh 40 ounces or less. That’s a good weight limit that should still provide you with plenty of choices.
5. Hip Belts
Daypack hip belts vary in the amount of padding they provide. Some daypacks don’t come with hip belts, some come with a thin webbing strap, and others come with lots of padding and pockets.
Simple unpadded hip belts are used to keep a daypack from bouncing against your hips and back when you walk, while hip belts more padding are designed to take the weight off of your shoulders and shift it to your hips. Proper fit is essential when fitting a padded hip belt.
Do you live in a climate where there’s lots of rain? Are you looking for a daypack that’s more durable and can stand up to travel and use in different places? Check the waterproofing on the pack.
Look for a DWR coating, polyamide, or PU abrasion resistance coating (these packs will be more durable), taped seams, and waterproof or sealed zippers.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I choose a hiking backpack?
When choosing the right backpack, the length of your hike is the first thing to consider. For a day hike, a pack between 10 and 25 liters should be enough. You could fit your water bottle and your picnic in this pack, as well as a jacket and sunscreen, to cater to all weather conditions!
2. What is the best size for a day backpack?
21–35 liters: This is the sweet spot for most hiking and travel daypacks. There’s enough capacity to hold food, clothing and some extras, like a camera and a book. 36–50 liters: These larger packs are ideal for trips that require additional clothing and gear, such as climbing, mountaineering, or non-summer hiking.
3. Should I get a 50 or 65-liter pack?
Fifty liters is considered as the sweet spot for backpacking trips up to 2-3 days. Sixty-five liters is sufficient up to 5-6 days, or almost a week if you tend to pack very little.
4. Is Gregory or Osprey better?
Overall, Osprey has more affordable options, and its travel backpacks are some of the best designs you will find when it comes to practicality and comfort. On the other hand, Gregory makes impeccable backpacks that you would be hard-pressed to complain about.
5. Do I need a hydration pack for hiking?
No, nobody needs a hydration pack, but they sure are convenient. Hydration bladders give you easy access to water, so you don’t have to stop every 15-20 minutes for a break. With a handy drinking hose, you’re more likely to stay hydrated over a long hike.
7. What size backpack do I need for a 5-day hike?
Trips of 5 days or more usually call for packs of 70 liters or more. These are also usually the preferred choice for winter treks lasting more than one night. (Larger packs can more comfortably accommodate extra clothing, a warmer sleeping bag, and a 4-season tent, which typically includes additional poles.)
A daypack for hiking can be on the smaller end of the spectrum; anything from 18-25 liters should work just fine. Look for a pack with a hydration reservoir sleeve and hydration hose port.
Hands-free hydration makes it easier to drink water on the move, and staying hydrated is the key to any successful hike.
A loaded backpacking pack should not weigh more than about 20 percent of your body weight. (If you weigh 150 pounds, your pack should not exceed 30 pounds for backpacking.) A loaded day hiking pack should not weigh more than about 10 percent of your body weight.
We hope that our article was helpful to you. Feel free to share with friends and family members. Happy shopping.