Best Daypack for Hiking 2019: Buying Guide & Recommendations

When you go hiking, you need to carry everything you need in one convenient, yet comfortable pack. Choosing the best daypack for hiking will mean you’re not lugging a giant backpack suitable for multi-day use when you are hitting the trail for 4 hours.

Quick Look:

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.

hiking everest base camp
Getting Ready to Hit the Trail

Meet the Contenders

Here are eight of the best daypacks for hiking, at a variety of price-points, and with a variety of features:

Osprey Packs Radial 34 Daypack

Key Features:

Osprey Packs Radial 34 Daypack, Lava Red, Small/Medium
  • 400Dx200D nylon for lightweight durability
  • Built-in waterproof cover to keep gear dry
  • Adjustable straps for a custom fit
  • Ventilation panel at back
  • Helmet attachment on the front panel, perfect for climbing helmets, bike helmets and other unwieldy items.
  • Main area has additional mesh pockets for organization
  • Includes a padded laptop sleeve – fits a 15″ laptop
  • Best for people looking for an all-purpose daypack, both on the trail and in the city.
  • Budget-friendly.

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 waterproof cover is integrated into the bag, and stores inside the base, so you’ll never have to worry about losing it.
  • 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 doesn’t have a hydration sleeve.
  • The 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.
VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW AT REI


Mardingtop 25/28/35 liter Camping/Travel/Hiking Backpack

Key Features:

Mardingtop Military Backpack Tactical Molle Backpack Rucksack Bug Out Bag for School Camping Hiking Trekking (Camo Green-2)
  • Exterior mesh side pockets for water bottles
  • 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
  • Can adjust the sternum and waist straps for custom fit
  • Mesh shoulder straps and padded back paneling for ventilation and comfort
  • Pouch in main compartment for hydration reservoir

What We Like

  • Each Mardingtop pack comes with a 90-day warranty against manufacturer defects.
  • The pack itself is lightweight in spite of the heavy-duty padding – weighing just 1.8 pounds, this reduces muscle fatigue on longer treks.
  • Mardingtop includes some additional useful features. A safety whistle is attached to the shoulder 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 area with hydration sleeve.
  • Comes with a cover to protect from rain, stored in a small base pocket.

What We Don’t Like

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


Black Diamond Spark Backpack (Women’s)

Key Features:

Black Diamond Spark Backpack, Merlot, Medium
  • 210D ripstop nylon for lightweight durability
  • Hydration sleeve
  • Adjustable straps – sternum and hips
  • External loops for trekking pole storage
  • Straps to compress gear, keeping it 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 overnighters.

What We Like

  • 28 liters of storage space makes the bag great for day hikes and light overnight adventures.
  • Straps on the shoulders and the back of the pack feature padded mesh, for comfort and breathability.
  • Hip belt also has a small zippered pocket, perfect for holding keys, cell phone, bug spray and small stuff you need easy access to

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 is narrow, making it difficult to set the daypack down without it falling over. Much of the storage sits at the top half, and it can feel unbalanced unless you pack the bag correctly.
VIEW ON AMAZON


Mengar 35-liter Foldable, Water Resistent Daypack

Key Features:

Backpack Daypack,Travel Backpack, Mengar 35L Foldable Water Resistant Packable Backpack Hiking Daypack - Ultralight and Handy & (Blue)
  • 35-liter daypack made of lightweight ripstop nylon for durability
  • Water resistant coating to protect your gear
  • Compression reduces 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 like drinking water 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 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.
VIEW ON AMAZON


Osprey Stratos 24 Daypack

Key Features:

Osprey Packs Stratos 24 Hiking Backpack, Beet Red, o/s, One Size
  • Straps compress the 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 overnight trips
  • 24 liters of storage capacity to carry all the gear you need without being big and bulky
  • Built-in cover to keep your gear dry
  • Lifetime warranty against damage
  • 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 ventilation holes to keep you cool.
  • The 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 hiking.
  • Main storage compartment includes a sleeve for a water bladder, and 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 storage capacity, as the frame has 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.
  • Generally won’t stand upright when you set it on the ground because of the ventilation frame
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Osprey Packs Talon 33 Backpack

Key Features:

Osprey Packs Talon 33 Men's Hiking Backpack
  • Top-loading with single drawstring and removable top pouch
  • Adjustable hip belt with zippered pocket
  • Hydration sleeve
  • Ventilated back for comfort and breathability
  • 33-liter storage capacity for overnight treks and long hikes
  • Straps to compress gear and keep it secure
  • 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.
  • The back panel is adjustable, and can accommodate a variety of heights, making the pack versatile.
  • 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 and a bit difficult to adjust
  • The rain-cover is not included and must be purchased separately
  • Lack of organizational pockets in the pack. The main compartment is a single pocket without any zippered pockets for secure storage.
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Gregory Mountain Products J 30 Backpack

Key Features:

Gregory Mountain Products Zulu 30 Liter Men's Day Hiking Backpack | Day Hikes, Camping, Travel | Ventilated Suspension, Rain Cover Included, Hydration Compatible | Breathable Comfort on the Trail
  • 30-liter storage capacity, perfect for long day hikes and overnight
  • Ventilated panel – back and shoulders
  • 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 long trails in a day.

What We Like

  • 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.
  • Has a rain cover included 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 part of the pack.

What We Don’t Like

  • Like most packs with a ventilated back panel, the bag won’t stay upright when you set it down.
  • 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 full, gear shifts around.
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Veevanpro Internal Frame Hiking Backpack 32L

Key Features:

Veevanpro Internal Frame Hiking Backpack 32L
  • Durable and lightweight nylon with an overall pack weight of 2.25 pounds
  • Frame – internal, to keep pack stable on uneven terrain
  • Sternum strap and hip belt for ergonomic weight distribution and stability
  • Contoured shoulder straps for long-term comfort while carrying heavy loads
  • Padded mesh back panel for comfort and breathability
  • Great for the casual day hiker looking for a versatile pack with a rigid frame at an affordable price.

What We Like

  • Sleeve for 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.
  • The pack can sit upright when you set it on the ground, keeping your back clean and the straps free from 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

  • Doesn’t have compression straps to keep your gear from shifting inside the pack, despite what the technical specs claim. The 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 get what you pay for. While most of the components are adequate, we’re not sure how well they’ll hold up over time.
VIEW ON AMAZON


Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Daypack

Not all daypacks 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 isn’t ideal, as they do not distribute the weight properly. Using a daypack actually designed for hiking can make all the difference to your comfort level as you put in the miles.

Hiking packs are ergonomic

best daypack for hiking
On the way to Everest Base Camp

Many rucksacks are designed to be used for short periods of time, focused more on style than function.

Much of the weight in these packs rests on your shoulders, causing muscle fatigue and soreness.

Hiking daypacks are designed to evenly distribute the pack weight from your shoulders to your hips, reducing fatigue and letting you focus more on the trail ahead.

Day hiking packs are durable

Some rucksacks are intended for normal use in the city, and are often made from cotton or canvas that can be heavy. Not such a problem on your commute, but not great when climbing that peak.

Hiking-specific daypacks are usually made from durable, lightweight nylon which is also tear-resistant, so it can stand up to the abuses of 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 models feature a lightweight rigid frame, helping distribute the weight of your gear over your entire back and down to your hips.

The frame also provides ventilation between the pack and your back. So your back won’t get as sweaty, even if you’re climbing a two-hundred-foot elevation gain as quickly as possible.

well balanced daypack
My Osprey Daypack

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? The better packs, such as Osprey, will be adjustable to fit most body-types.

A rain cover to waterproof a daypack
©Clare @TheHikingAdventure

Will you be using water bottles or a bladder? Many packs come with a compartment for a water bladder, but some have side pockets for water bottles if that’s what you prefer.

Hydration bladders make carrying lots of water easy, while giving you the freedom to take a drink whenever you need, no stopping needed.

The pack should fit your body comfortably. Look for a model 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 load secure, even on rough or demanding terrain.

Some 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 dry bags inside the pack to make sure 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.

​Conclusion

We believe that the Osprey Stratos 24 is the best daypack for most day hikers searching for a good, all-round 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 waterproof cover will protect your gear during foul weather.

It accommodates a hydration bladder, so you won’t have to stop when you want to drink water.

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’re 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 day hiking, and supported treks such as Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp and anything that doesn’t require you to carry your overnight sleeping kit.

Product image credits: © Amazon.com

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