Best Day-Hiking Backpack for 2021

Looking for the best hiking daypack? Our comprehensive guide to backpacks for day hiking includes something for everyone, from budget buys right through to performance packs for those who like to travel fast and light.

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Best Day-Pack for Hiking

Osprey Talon 22

Osprey Packs Talon 22 Men's Hiking Backpack, Medium/Large, Black

The Osprey Talon 22 wins our vote as the best hiking daypack on the market today.

This Talon 22 is the ideal daypack for any hiker. It’s ultralight, as comfortable as backpacks are made, rugged enough to deal with a bit of rough treatment on the trail, and takes practicality and convenience to a whole new level. 

The Talon 22 comes in two different sizes and uses a unisex design that maximizes comfort for both male and female users. It’s also available in a variety of different colors and is full adjustable at both the shoulders and the waist.

But what makes the Talon such a standout compared to its peers?

Well, while not designed for carrying heavy loads, the Talon is so comfortable that it’s the kind of pack that you’re liable to forget about once it’s on your back, no matter how much poundage you’re carrying.

The ventilated back paneling lets your back breathe and reduces sweat, while the padded shoulder straps and mesh-covered foam ridges in the back provide plenty of cushioning.

The Talon is a winner in terms of added features, too. It has multiple interior compartments in which you can store and organize all of your necessary gear, zippered pouches on the waistband, a Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment system, and an external hydration sleeve that keeps your pack’s content’s safe from spills.

Bottom line: A super-comfortable, ultralight, and practical pack that takes user convenience to a whole new level. 

The Best Backpacks For Day Hiking

Looking for the best day-hike backpack?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • Why you need a daypack for hiking
    • What you should consider when buying.a small hiking backpack
    • Hiking backpack reviews of the best daypacks for hiking on the market
    • Our unbiased recommendation on the best hiking backpack for one-day trips

A great backpack for day hikes is a piece of kit that every hiker needs to have, whether you’re a peak bagger, all-day adventurer, or a mere Sunday stroller. 

But, of the hundreds of daypacks out there, which one is the best for your backcountry MO?

We set off on a search for the one daypack that would rule them all, and in this post deliver the results by introducing you to the top 8 options on the market in 2021 in addition to our winner of the title of this year’s best day-hiking daypack.

  • Osprey Stratos 36
  • Osprey Talon 22
  • Deuter Speed Lite 20
  • Osprey DayLite
  • REI Co-op Flash 22
  • REI Trail 25
  • Gregory Miwok 24
  • Patagonia Ascensionist 25L

What Is a Hiking Day Pack?

In general, daypacks are made for single-day hikes, trail running, scrambling, and even multi-pitch climbing. These backpacks are lightweight, low-volume, and have a lower weight capacity than other packs, usually ranging from 10-15 pounds. 

Daypacks are also usually frameless packs, meaning they do not have an internal frame, but instead rely on the pack’s contents for rigidity.

What Should I Look For In A Daypack for Hiking?

The best hiking backpacks for single-day adventures need to do several things well. Here are few factors to consider when choosing the best daypack backpack for you: 

Capacity

The size of daypacks can vary greatly, anywhere from 5 liters to 40 liters. Selecting the proper capacity for your backpack is all dependent on what you plan to use it for and what you need to put in it.

Most daypacks have the capacity to hold all the basics: water bottles, snacks, camera, a first aid kit, and other emergency supplies. However, if you plan on hiking in variable conditions or for longer than an hour or so, we highly recommend opting for a 20 to 25-liter model. This will give you all the space needed for extra layers, waterproofs, and other essentials. 

Fit 

An ill-fitting backpack can ruin any hike, causing chafing at your shoulders and hips and causing great discomfort in your upper and lower back. 

With a well-fitted backpack, most of the weight should fall on your waist, not your shoulders. To this end, when buying you should look for fully adjustable shoulder and waist straps and, if you have a particularly long or short torso, pay close attention to the length of the back panel when buying. 

For more on how to fit a backpack, read on! 

Comfort

While how comfortable any pack is will largely depend on fitting, there are a few features that can vastly enhance any pack’s comfort levels. 

The most important of these are padded shoulder straps, ventilated back panels, and large padded hip belts. These features can help to boost ventilation and cushion the weight of your load, but it’s worth remembering that they also add weight. As such, they are rarely included in ultralight day-packs.

Panel Loader Vs. Top Loader

With panel-loading daypacks, a U-shaped zipper is used to access the main compartment from the front or side of the pack. The panel folds down like a flap when the daypack is completely opened, making it much easier to load and access gear. 

Top-loading daypacks are more common than panel loaders and usually weigh a fraction less. They use a simplistic design that combines a drawstring closure in the top of the pack with a buckle-attachment hood. 

While it’s often easier to squeeze extra items into these packs, locating gear inside them can be a hassle, often requiring you to empty them entirely to find whatever you’re looking for. 

Unsure which to choose? Don’t fret. Some of the best day packs out there use both types of closure, thereby providing you with the best of both worlds. 

Features

Several non-standard features can greatly enhance any pack’s practicality and convenience. Here are a few of the most useful ones:

  • Ventilation: This feature keeps air flowing to your back and reduces sweating. Most commonly takes the form of a mesh suspension system and molded back panels with grooves that permit airflow between your back and the material of the pack.
  • Hydration Sleeve: Most, but not all, daypacks will have a hydration sleeve where you can place a water reservoir and a hose portal for easy, on-the-go hydration.
  • Rain Cover: This handy addition usually stows into an integrated pocket in the bottom of the pack, thus saving you the trouble of buying one of your own or those that will ensue if the heavens open on the one day that you leave it at home. 
  • Gear Attachment Points: These handy additions let you attach extra gear to the outside of your pack. Some common gear attachment points include a daisy chain, hiking pole lash points, and ice-axe loops. 
  • Pockets: Along with the main compartment, daypacks can have a number of internal and external pockets that can help you stay organized. These include front pockets, exterior pockets and quick-access hip-belt pockets (perfect for smaller items you want to reach quickly), and elasticized side water-bottle pockets. 
  • Padded Hip Belt: Hip belts vary from backpack to backpack. If comfort is important to you or you plan on hauling a lot of stuff, consider a wider hip belt with more padding and support. If you are heading out on a short hike or usually carry lighter loads, however,, you may want to consider a pack with a removable hip belt.
  • Frame: Some higher-capacity daypacks use internal frames made out of plastic or various types of metal. If you need extra support on your hike or are carrying a heavier load, a pack with a frame will probably be more comfortable.

How To Size And Fit Your Pack

When choosing your pack, the most important step is to make sure it fits correctly, with most of the pack’s weight sitting on or close to your hips. Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1. Measure Your Torso Length

Using a measuring tape, and possibly a buddy, measure the length from the C7 vertebrae at the base of your neck to the center point of your spine between the tops of your hip bones. This spot is called the iliac crest, and it is where you will be carrying most of your pack’s weight. Compare this measurement to the measurements listed with each product.

Step 2. Measure Your Hip Belt Size

Your hip belt size is based on the circumference of your hips. Use your tape measure and wrap it around your waist approximately one inch below your iliac crest. This measurement is less important as most hip belts can be adjusted to fit a variety of sizes, but it’s worth checking before you buy.

Step 3. Adjusting Your Pack

Once you have found your perfect daypack and checked the measurements, you must adjust it to ensure the best fit. 

Start by loosening all of the straps and placing the daypack on your back. Next, buckle and tighten your hip belt, making sure that it sits comfortably on your hips. Next, adjust the shoulder straps. The straps should hold the pack close to your body, but not bear any of the weight.

Some daypacks have load lifters that take the pressure off your shoulders and hold the pack to your back. These straps are located near your shoulders and are a handy feature to have if you plan on carrying heavier loads.

Most daypacks also have an adjustable sternum strap that is designed to pull the shoulder straps inward for more comfort. 

In most cases, especially with women’s-specific packs, these can be moved up and down the shoulder straps in order to find a comfortable position across your chest. If you have a larger chest, however, it’s worth checking that this strap can be shifted up and down before buying. 

Now you are packed, adjusted, and ready to hit the trail!

The Best Day-Hiking Backpack: Our Top 8 Picks Reviewed

Osprey Stratos 36

Osprey Stratos 36 Men's Hiking Backpack, Black, Medium/Large

The Osprey Stratos 36 offers maximum ventilation and with breathable mesh and comfort foam for everyday use. The pack has a wide range of storage including room for a sleeping bag, hiking poles, rain packs, snacks and other small items, as well as ice picks for snowier regions.

This external frame pack comes in two different sizes: small/medium which can fit 34 liters and medium/large which can fit 36 liters. Made from Ripstop nylon and aluminum, it is a highly durable backpack making it the perfect gear for the average hiker.

Key Features

  • The Airspeed™ Suspension system combines a lightweight alloy frame with tensioned mesh panel to provide stability and support if you need to carry heavy loads.
  • Dual entry points to main pack; internal sleeve and hydration reservoir holder (not included).
  • Ergonomic shoulder and hip straps with ErgoPull™ closure with molded waffle foam at contact points for breathability.
  • Lots of “extras” – lower sleeping-bag compartment, integrated raincover, Stow-on-the-Go trekking-pole attachment point and single ice axe attachment loop and handle clip.

Osprey Stratos 36 Review

  • PROs

    • A variety of features including trekking pole attachments
    • Comes with a hydration pouch area, offers 6 plus compartments
    • Includes a rain cover
    • Possibly the most comfortable bag in the review
    • Capacity makes it suitable for long and short hikes
  • CONs

    • One of the heavier hiking daypacks in this category

Bottom-Line: For the average hiker this is the perfect pack made from high-grade materials and offers a wide range of storage as well as comfortability.

Osprey Talon 22

Best Overall

Osprey Packs Talon 22 Men's Hiking Backpack, Medium/Large, Black

The Talon 22 is a super light hiking unisex pack is perfect for the avid outdoorsman/woman. With increased durability and breathability as well as extra storage it is the ideal necessity for any hiker.

The Talon performs well across the board, particularly excelling in comfort thanks to its fully adjustable back that fits to your size in combination with the new AirScape™ accordion foam back panel and lumbar-hip-belt that helps to distribute the load evenly over the hips whilst allowing excellent ventilation.

It is positively stacked with awesome features from the Stow-on-the-Go™ trekking pole attachment, LidLock™ bike helmet attachment, single ice-axe attachment, and InsideOut™ compression straps.

Key Features

  • Lightweight Osprey AirScape™ back panel with moulded foam ridges covered in an airy mesh to provide excellent ventilation.
  • Adjustable torso allows daypack to conform to the size of the users back.
  • Hydration compartment stores bladder (sold separately).
  • Stretchy pocket for easy access/storage of regularly used gear such as helmets, cameras or jackets.
  • Panel-loading main compartment holds lunch, an extra layer of clothes and tools
  • PROs

    • Comfortable and well ventilated
    • Separate hydration pouch compartment
    • Adjustable
    • Lots of storage options
    • Ideal for short day hikes and mountain biking
  • CONs

    • Mesh side pockets design could be improved

Bottom-Line: A great comfortable pack for multiple activity usage, built from dependable materials with plenty of storage options. Our pick as the best daypack for hiking.

Deuter Speed Lite 24

Best Lightweight Daypack

Deuter Speed Lite 20 Black One Size

The Deuter Speed Lite 24 hiking daypack is perfect for daily hikers with a lot of gear. It has plenty of storage options including areas for extra clothes, hats and gloves, and hydration packs.

With a total weight over under 1 pound, adding any extra weight will not be strenuous due to its convenient removable internal frame. Its shoulder straps are made from a breathable fabric and are fully adjustable.

With a unique shape perfect for faster-paced hikers with side pockets for trail mix and other snacks, this pack is great for any range of hiking.

Key Features

  • Removable, lightweight plastic frame helps strengthen the pack and distribute the weight.
  • Padded breathable mesh back panel and contoured shoulder straps.
  • Hydration compatible design (reservoir sold separately ).
  • Unique V-shaped pack body aids in positioning weight more ergonomically.
  • 4 Compartments plus external stretch mesh pockets.
  • Straps double as attachment points for hiking poles, ice axes or even skis!

Deuter Speed Lite Review

  • PROs

    • Lightweight at only 1 lb 2 oz
    • Multiple compartments
    • Ventilated back panel
    • Exterior zippered pockets on the top of the pack
    • Super comfortable
  • CONs

    • Thin, unpadded waist belt

Bottom-Line: A great daypack all around. It provides flexibility, comfort, and many storage options, as well as breathability, which is a must-have for any hike. Our best hiking day pack for those who like to travel lightweight

Osprey DayLite Plus

Osprey Packs Daylite Plus Daypack, Black

The Osprey Daylite Plus combines simplicity, comfort, and durability. Combined with mesh and nylon makes it the perfect hiking pack for hotter days as well harsher winters with its durability. Although it only comes in one size, and doesn’t have many extra features like it’s competitors, it only weighs 1 pound and has a very lightweight frame.

Key Features

  • Roomy main compartment with panel load access making it easy to locate your gear.
  • Added capacity when attached to other Osprey packs and travel bags.
  • Mesh organizer on the front stash pocket with key clip.
  • Storable mesh shoulder strap with integrated handle.
  • Interior hydration sleeve.
  • Back panel is mesh covered with slotted foam to help keep your back cool.

Osprey Daylite Review

  • PROs

    • Very lightweight yet durable.
    • Quite comfortable and easily adjustable
    • Simple design
    • Can be attached to Osprey “AddOn” series backpacks.
  • CONs

    • Small capacity for standard day pack.
    • Narrow unpadded waist strap.
    • No external gear loops.
    • Bladder sleeve doesn’t hold it’s shape.

Bottom-Line: A simple, breathable and light pack makes it easy to pack everything you need for hiking or day trips. However, with it’s smaller pack volume and lack of features it lacks some versatility and is not as well suited to longer hikes or trips where you may need an assortment of equipment.

REI Co-op Flash 22

Best Budget Daypack

REI Flash 18 Product Image

The affordable price and its unique shape makes the REI Flash 22 a popular backpack among new hikers. It comes with 1 main compartment with plenty of room for a hydration pack or tablet. With comfort foam inserts and detachable straps, it has plenty of customizable carrying options.

It also comes with many size pockets for smaller gear and an axe loop. Another interesting feature this backpack offers are its whistle buckles for emergency situations.

Key Features

  • Lightly padded back panel, which can be slipped out as a seating pad.
  • Sternum belt buckle doubles as a safety whistle
  • Lightly padded stretch-mesh shoulder straps are breathable and comfy
  • Internal sleeve and port for hydration bladder (not included).
  • Pack exterior has a zippered pocket and daisy chain with ice axe loop
  • PROs

    • Extremely Lightweight and minimalist design
    • Hydration pouch and axe loop for added functionality
    • Super reasonable price (cheapest in our review)
  • CONs

    • Thin straps making it less comfortable than other options
    • As a top loader, difficult to access items at the base of the pack

Bottom-Line: This pack is perfect for hikers who don’t pack much. It only has one compartment for storage and only comes in one size option. It is also not available with frame option which leaves it with unfavorable support. However, it does come with many handy features such as an axe loop and adjustable straps. Overall out of all the best hiking daypacks, this one wins our award for budget pick.

REI Trail 25

rei trail 25

With over 5 compartments, 25 liters of space, mesh side storage, and pole straps you can pack over a day’s worth of gear for your camping needs into the REI Trail 25. Waist Belts can be removed or used with an REI Co-op Trail 2 waist pack.

The backpack weighs only over 1 pound and is made from Nylon for added durability. Specially designed for men, it fits a torso of 17 to 19 inches and a waist of 28 to 44 inches.

Key Features

  • Included rain cover stores in its own zip pocket.
  • The U shaped panel allows easy access to gear and can be opened fully.
  • Padded and mesh-covered straps for comfort and ventilation.
  • Is hydration pack ready, with special internal pouch
  • Waistband can be removed, and replaced with the REI 2 Trail waistband (sold separately).
  • PROs

    • Reasonable quality and comfort for an affordable price
    • Large mesh pocket on either side
  • CONs

    • Pack doesn’t lie flat against users back if it only partly full.
    • Hydration tube has nowhere to clip onto.

Bottom-Line: A great backpack for hiking essentials while not adding any unnecessary bulk or weight.

Gregory Miwok 24

Gregory Mountain Products Miwok 18 Liter Men's Daypack , Vivid Red

The Gregory Miwok 24 is an excellent internal hiking pack with maximum storage space while keeping its lightweight profile. It includes space for a hydration pack as well as adjustable straps.

Externally there are sunglass loops and waist strap pockets for snacks on the go. It is made of a durable Ripstop nylon and an HDPE frame sheet. All storage is available from the top with internal gear storage organization.

Key Features

  • BioSync Active Trail Suspension adds comfort and shock absorption without adding significant weight.
  • Expandable front pocket for storing bulkier items such as bike helmets or jackets.
  • Multiple stashing points such as bike lights, sunglasses and trekking poles.
  • Dual mesh side water bottle pockets.
  • PROs

    • Mesh suspension system provides comfort and ventilation.
    • Lots of attachment features
    • The expandable front pocket for bulkier items
  • CONs

    • The added features and suspension system add some weight
    • One of the few bags not to have a hydration pocket

Bottom-Line: This bag offers great storage and comfort options for longer hiking treks. It allows a lot of space for gear and is very durable.

Patagonia Ascensionist 25L

PATAGONIA Ascensionist 25L Backpack, Blue

The rugged-looking Patagonia Ascensionist 25 ultralight daypack offers a large storage option with plenty of attachments for other gear via daisy chains on the back. It can fit hikers with a 16 to 20-inch torso and a 28 to 42-inch waist. It is made from a durable nylon material and has a top zippered lid for easy access. It is ultralight and is perfect for any hike.

Key Features

  • Lightweight, bomber, tear- and water-resistant nylon ripstop
  • Asymmetrical spindrift collar opens wide for easy packing; drawcord simultaneously cinches collar and closes lid for a secure seal.
  • Daisy chains on front and side panels for lashing additional gear
  • Zippered pocket on lid for easy access to small items
  • PROs

    • Daisy chain and ice pick attachments on back for multi uses
    • Streamlined shape makes it great for climbing
    • Light weight
  • CONs

    • Not as easy accessibility as some of the panel loader designs
    • Not set up for hydration.
    • Top closure makes rope carry tricky

Bottom-Line: This great-looking backpack doesn’t sabotage looks for storage. With over 25 liters of available space and daisy chains for other gear, this is a great climbing/summit bag.

Last update on 2021-07-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Brian has been an avid hiker and backpacker since he was a small kid, often being taken out into the wilderness on trips with his father. His dad knew everything about nature and the wilderness (or at least that's how it seemed to a ten year old Brian).

After high school, he went to university to read for both a BS and MS in Geology (primarily so he could spend his time outside rather than in a classroom). He's now hiked, camped, skied, backpacked or mapped on five continents (still need to bag Antartica) & 30 of the US states.