What is the Difference Between A Daypack and a Frame Backpack?
In general, daypacks are made for day hikes, runs, and climbs. These backpacks are lightweight and have a lower weight capacity than other packs, from 10-15 pounds. Daypacks usually do not have frames and have soft backs.
Further Reading On Hiking
If you are new to hiking then check out our hiking for beginners! Consider carefully what to pack for a day hike on your next adventure but don’t forget to pack the 10 hiking essentials along with the rest of your hiking gear.
If none of our selected backpacks below fits your particular needs then check out our other reviews on:
Frame backpacks have aluminum or plastic frames either internally or externally. These packs were created for longer trips and can hold much more weight, more than 15 pounds. The frame helps to transfer the weight of the backpack so that it can be carried easily and without injury.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Daypack?
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, snacks, camera, a first aid kit, and other emergency supplies. We have found that most hikers prefer daypacks with a capacity of around 25 liters.
Fit & Weight
This is majorly important as an ill-fitting backpack can ruin any hike. Your fun day will quickly turn into torture. You do not want a backpack that is too heavy or that will fit uncomfortably. With a good backpack, most of the weight should fall on your waist, not your shoulders. Some features to look for are padded shoulder straps, ventilated back, and large hip belts. Remember that features can seem to make your life easier, but they also add weight. For a closer look on how to fit your daypack, keep reading!
Panel Loader Vs. Top Loader
With panel loading daypacks, a U-shaped zipper is used to access the main compartment. The panel folds down like a flap when the daypack is completely opened. This type of opening makes it easier to organize and load. It also makes it easier to find things you have packed when you need them.
Top loading daypacks are usually lighter than panel loaders and have a more simplistic design. These packs are often closed with a drawstring, making them easy to overpack if need be. Often these packs have side compression straps which help to stabilize a bigger load. However, it can be a hassle to retrieve something from your pack if you need it.
There are a few daypacks that offer both a panel loading and top loading option if you prefer.
Nowadays, there are tons of cool and helpful features that you can find on daypacks. Here are a few of the most useful ones:
- Ventilation: This feature keeps air flowing to your back and reduces sweating.
- Hydration Sleeve: Most daypacks will have a sleeve where you can place a water reservoir and a hose portal for easy hydration.
- Rain Cover: If the forecast call for rain, you will not want to be without a rain cover while on your hike. Water can seep into your pack through zippers and seams. A rain cover will prevent leakage and keep your gear dry.
- Gear Attachment Points: These are the spots where you can attach gear to the outside of your pack. Some common gear attachment points include a daisy chain, trekking pole lash points, and other gear loops.
- Pockets: Along with the main compartment, daypacks can have a number of internal and external pockets. This can include front pockets, hip pockets (perfect for small things you want to reach quickly), and elasticized side pockets (ideal for water bottles). Pockets help you to stay organized and easily find the things you need to.
- Hip Belt: Hip belts vary from backpack to backpack, some broad and cushy and others thin. 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, you may even consider a pack with a removable hip belt.
- Frame: Some high capacity daypacks contain internal frames made out of plastic or metal. If you need extra support on your hike, look for a pack with a frame.
How to Size and Fit Your Pack
Once you have chosen your perfect pack, the most important step is to make sure it fits correctly. For the highest level of comfort, most of the pack’s weight should be sitting on or close to your hips. Most daypacks only come in one size, but it is still important to take into consideration.
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 lower than your iliac crest. This measurement is less important as most hip belts can be adjusted to fit a variety of sizes.
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.
First, buckle and tighten your hip belt. Make sure that it hits your hips comfortably. 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 which take the pressure off your shoulders and holds the pack to your back. These straps are located near your shoulders. Additionally, some daypacks have a sternum strap which must also be adjusted. They can be moved up and down the shoulder straps in order to find a comfortable position across your chest. This strap is designed to pull the shoulder straps inward for more comfort. Now you are packed, adjusted, and ready to hit the trail!
Osprey Stratos 36Osprey Packs Stratos 36 Backpack, Black, M/l, Medium/Large
- Stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment
- Integrated rain cover
- Internal hydration reservoir sleeve
- Dual side stretch mesh pockets
- Front panel storage pocket
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.
- The Airspeed™ Suspension system combines a lightweight alloy frame with tensioned mesh panel to provide stability and support when carrying heavy loads.
- Dual entry points to main pack; internal sleeve and hydration pack 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.
- 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.
- One of the heavier backpacks in this category
- Lack of waterproof sleeping bag compartmentBottom-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 DaypackSaleOsprey Packs Talon 22 Men’s Hiking Backpack
- Dual-zippered panel access to main compartment
- Stow-On-The-Go trekking pole attachment
- LidLock helmet attachment
- External hydration sleeve
- Two zippered hipbelt pockets
The Osprey 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 Osprey Talon performs well across the board, particularly excelling in comfort thanks to it’s fully adjustable back that fits to your size in combination with new AirScape™ accordion foam backpanel 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.
- Lightweight Osprey AirScape™ back panel with moulded foam ridges covered in an airy mesh to provide excellent ventilation.
- Adjustable torso allows pack to conform to the size of the users back.
- Hydration compartment stores bladder (sold seperately).
- Stretchy front 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
- Comfortable and well ventilated
- Separate hydration pouch compartment
- Lots of storage options
- Side mesh pocket design could be improvedBottom-Line: A great comforable pack for multiple activity useage, built from dependable materials with plenty of storage options.
Deuter Speed Lite 20
Best Lightweight DaypackDeuter Speed Lite 20 Athletic Daypack, Black
- NEW STREAMLINED DESIGN – For fast-paced endurance sports, alpine day hikes,…
- ULTRALIGHT – The Lite Backsystem is the lightest, most minimalistic back…
- ERGONOMIC & ADJUSTABLE – Flexible Delrin U-frame stabilizes and distributes…
- TRAIL UTILITY – Specialized compartments for your hydration system,…
- FAIR WEAR & BUILT TO LAST – Deuter is a leader in the Fair Wear Foundation,…
The Deuter Speed Lite 20 hiking backpack is perfect for daily hikers with a lot of gear. It has plenty of storage options including areas for extra clothes, backpacks, 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 pouches for trail mix and other snacks, this pack is great for any range of hiking.
- 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 mesh pockets.
- Compression straps double as attachment points for hiking poles, ice axes or even skis!
- Lightweight at only 1 lb 2 oz
- Multiple compartments
- Innovative compression straps/buckles
- Super comfortable
- Thin unpadded waist beltBottom-Line: The perfect pack all around. It provides flexibility, comfort, and many storage options, as well as breathability, which is a must have for any hike.
Osprey DayLiteOsprey Packs Daylite Plus Daypack, Black
- Large panel loading main compartment provides accessibility to inside…
- Dual stretch mesh side pockets provide additional storage options
- The multi-function interior sleeve can be used for either a reservoir,…
- Mesh-covered die-cut foam back panel provides both comfort and ventilation.
- Front panel shove-it pocket is great for stashing a light rain shell and…
The Osprey Daylite 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, it only weighs 1 pound and has a very lightweight frame.
- 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 pocket with key clip.
- Storable mesh shoulder strap with integrated handle.
- Interior sleeve dedicated to hydration pack (or tablet).
- Back panel is mesh covered with slotted foam to help keep your back cool.
- Very lightweight yet durable.
- Quite comfortable and easily adjustable
- Simple design
- Can be attached to Osprey “AddOn” series backpacks.
- 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 you’re going to be trail hiking or travelling with ease. 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 Flash 18
Best Budget Daypack
The affordable price and its unique shape makes the REI Flash 18 a popular backpack among new hikers. It comes with 1 storage 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.
- 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
- Extremely Lightweight and minimalist design
- Hydration pouch and axe loop for added functionality
- Super reasonable price (cheapest in our review)
- Thin straps making it less comfortable than other options
- As a top loader, difficult to access items at the base of the packBottom-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
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 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.
- Included rain cover stores in it’s 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 (hydration pack sold separately).
- Waistband can be removed, and replaced with the REI 2 Trail waistband (sold separately).
- Reasonable quality and comfort for an affordable price
- Large sidepockets
- 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 24Gregory Mountain Products Miwok 24 Liter Men’s Daypack, Storm Black, One Size
- BIOSYNC SUSPENSION: BioSync Suspension technology keeps the pack moving…
- AMPLE STORAGE TO ORGANIZE YOUR TRIP: Expandable stretch front pocket with…
- HYDRATION COMPATIBLE: Hydration sleeve with external access. Shoulder strap…
- SAFETY LIGHT ATTACHMENT & EASY ACCESS TO IMPORTANT GEAR: Low-profile safety…
- IDEAL USES: Day Hiking, Camping, Cycling, Commuting – WEIGHT: 1.9 lbs. -…
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.
- 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 pockets for water bottles.
- Mesh suspension system provides comfort and ventilation.
- Lots of attachment features
- The expandable front pocket for bulkier items
- The added features and suspension system add some weight
- One of the few bags not to have a hydration pocketBottom-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
The rugged looking Patagonia Ascensionist 25 hiking pack 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 main from a durable Ripstop nylon material and has a top zippered lid for easy access. It is ultralight and is perfect for any hike.
- Lightweight, bomber, tear- and abrasion-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
- Daisy chain and ice pick attachments on back for multi uses
- Streamlined shape makes it great for climbing
- Light weight
- Not as easy accessability as some of the panel loader designs
- Not set up for hydration.
- Top closure makes rope carry trickyBottom-Line: This great looking pack 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.