Some people prefer hiking light. There are numerous benefits. The obvious is that you will conserve energy while moving faster. Most people take more stuff than they actually need when traveling, backpacking, or hiking. I find that taking less with me helps to keep well organized. Take a look at our complete hiking packing list and add or subtract what you like or feel is necessary. A small hiking backpack or daypack is a key item to own and delivers a lot of value over a long period of time. This is our list of the best hiking daypacks that you can buy right now.
What is a daypack for hiking?
A daypack or hiking daypack is a small backpack. A size intended to contain all your key clothing items safety gear, first aid kit, and other hiking gear that you would want to take with you on a short-term hike.
What is the difference between a daypack and a backpack?
A daypack is a term used to describe a simple and small backpack.
A backpack can be any size. Large or small.
What size (how big) should your daypack be?
A daypack for hiking should hold up to 30 liters in volume and 30 lbs in weight.
How should a daypack fit?
Your hiking daypack should fit snug to your body. However, be careful to not fit your pack too tightly. This could cause chafing or discomfort once you get moving.
Put your pack on over both shoulders. Clip together the hip and sternum belts. Slowly pull and tighten all straps until the pack fits firmly to your torso.
Some daypacks can be adjusted vertically, also known as torso adjustability. Slide the shoulder straps up or down and reattach the velcro that keeps the straps in place.
What should you take in your hiking daypack?
If you are hiking for the day you should bring some essential items to stay safe and comfortable. These items are known as the “Ten Essentials” and include:
- Navigation (maps, compass, GPS device)
- Extra clothing (layers and hiking shirts)
- Food and snacks
- Water (and container)
- Sun protection (and sunglasses)
- First aid kit
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Shelter (tent for an overnight, multi-day, or backpacking trip)
What else should you carry in your hiking daypack? Check out our hiking gear list.
How to pack a daypack for hiking
The main goal when packing your backpack is to use all available space.
Pack and push items tightly into spaces where they fit best.
Also, try to anticipate what items you will need most often and pack them in the most accessible locations.
Here are some additional packing tips to consider:
- Fold (or roll) all clothes into compact shapes
- Fill corner space with small items (like socks)
- Pack least used items at the bottom of the pack
- Put snacks, sunscreen, and navigation devices in easy access pockets
- Store keys and valuables in zippered pockets
- Use Ziploc bags to enclose liquids
- If there is potential for wet weather keep your rain gear near the top
- Get a small waterproof bag to keep objects that are vulnerable to precipitation
What features should you look for in a hiking daypack?
The daypacks you will find at REI or your local outdoors will have different features. Some features are very helpful, will keep you comfortable, and will conserve energy while hiking.
My brand new hiking daypack is so comfortable I barely feel it on my back. It is almost like I am carrying air. Want to know what I decided was the best hiking daypack? I will reveal the brand and model below.
The best features you should look for in a daypack:
- Capacity: Volume and weight
- Ventilation: Look for a mesh back panel
- Quality and significant padding in key locations (straps, back)
- Raincover: Keep your pack dry in the event of a sudden shower
- Ergonomic shaping: Look for straps that curve with your body shape
- Internal frame
- Hipbelt pockets to hold commonly used items
- Side mesh pockets for easy stashing
- Dual zippers on main compartment (easy access)
- Additional compartments with zippered access
- Compression straps
- Built-in loops, hooks, fasteners
- Trekking pole attachment
- Internal hydration reservoir sleeve
- Integrated emergency whistle
- Hip and sternum belts
- Durable design
What is the best daypack for hiking?
After many visits to REI, speaking with their experts, thoroughly examining the best hiking daypack options, and checking out the websites of all the top brands, we found a couple of clear winners that stand out. Read on for the best day hiking backpack options that you can get right now.
Our Top Pick: Osprey Stratos 24 (for men) and Osprey Sirrus 24 (for women)
Osprey packs deliver top quality. The designs are well thought out and the construction is noticeably superior to the competition.
Osprey offers all the best features you need and the packs are incredibly comfortable.
I purchased the Osprey Stratos 24 for myself. My first hike was an enlightening experience. The ergonomic design is unmatched. This pack is so comfortable I could barely feel it on my body over the course of a demanding four-hour hike. It felt like I was carrying air.
Osprey backpacks are more expensive. However, I just waited for an REI sale. These sales come up fairly often so wait and take advantage of them.
Why is this pack the best hiking daypack?
- Superior quality
- Durable construction
- Comfort: The fit hugs your body like a glove
- Adjustable torso length
- Airspeed suspension: Incredible (back) ventilation and comfort for hot days
- Seamless hipbelt: Helps to carry weight comfortably plus has handy pockets
- Includes rain cover
- No questions guarantee
What is the best budget hiking daypack?
If you have a smaller budget and can’t afford the Osprey daypacks, we recommend the REI Co-op Trail 25 Pack.
The REI Trail 25 has many of the same features as the Osprey packs. The main difference is that the straps are not as padded and are not constructed in an ergonomic shape. Also, the ventilation is not as effective since the mesh padding touches your back. This pack also lacks a padded hip belt. However, it is great value priced at about $80 compared to the $130 price tag of the Osprey Stratos 24 and Sirrus 24 backpacks.
The Trail 25 pack is great for shorter hikes. If you are planning on doing more demanding hikes for a full day or even overnight the Osprey Stratos 24 and Sirrus 24 are the better options.
There you have it, our complete review on the best hiking daypacks. As new models are released we will update and add to this current list.