From short day hikes and summit scrambles to all-day adventures into the backcountry, you’ll want the right pack for the job. Most people carry water and food, a layering piece and rain shell, and a few other accessories like a first-aid kit or headlamp. And the longer you’ll be on the trail, the more comfort, capacity, and features come into play. Below we break down the best daypacks of 2024, from simple and inexpensive models for casual hikes to more comfortable and feature-packed options for longer excursions. For more information, check out our detailed buying advice and comparison table after the picks. Finally, while the guide below covers both men’s and women’s styles, we’ve also compiled a separate round-up of the best women’s daypacks.

Editor’s note: We updated our daypacks guide on April 24, 2024, to add the latest Arc’teryx Aerios 35 and REI Trail 40, both of which were updated recently, along with Osprey’s Sportlite 25 as our favorite plus-size pack. We also included a breakdown of our testing practices and swept the guide to ensure all prices, colorways, and write-ups are current at the time of publishing.

Our Team's Daypack Picks

Best Overall Daypack

1. Osprey Talon 22 ($160)

Osprey Talon 22Weight: 1 lb. 14.6 oz.
Capacities: 11, 22, 26, 33, 36, 44L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: A comfortable, well-built, and versatile daypack.
What we don’t: For heavy loads, the Osprey Stratos below offers more padding and support.

If you’re looking for one daypack that can do it all, Osprey’s Talon 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, the Talon has a real hipbelt with light cushioning, which is more comfortable than the simple webbing you get with more streamlined packs, along with a thoughtfully designed mesh backpanel. The pack also has functional organization, a nice stretchiness to it, ample attachment points for trekking poles, a helmet, and a bike light, and it is made in two sizes to dial in the fit. For day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Talon 22 is an excellent choice.

While the Talon is Osprey’s best all-rounder, the more expensive Stratos collection below offers even more padding and carrying comfort. The latter has a more substantial hipbelt along with a suspended mesh backpanel for superior support and ventilation (it’s built more like a backpacking pack than a daypack). On the flip side, the Talon is lighter at under 2 pounds, but its thinner backpanel means you can sometimes feel the contents of your bag on your back, particularly if loaded down. In the end, the Stratos gets the edge for heavy loads and long days on the trail (the 36L we have listed is even serviceable for light overnights), but the Talon is lighter, cheaper, and more than enough daypack for most people and uses. Osprey also offers the popular design in a couple of new variations: the more technical Talon Pro and running vest-inspired Talon Velocity (both of which come in women’s versions, too)... Read in-depth review
See the Osprey Talon 22  See the Women's Osprey Tempest 20


Best Budget/Lightweight Daypack

2. REI Co-op Flash 22 ($60)

REI Co-op Flash 22 daypackWeight: 14 oz.
Capacities: 18, 22L
Hipbelt: Webbing
What we like: Lightweight, well made, and cheap.
What we don’t: Underbuilt for shuttling a full load.

REI Co-op’s Flash line of daypacks has been a mainstay among hikers, travelers, and those on a budget for years, and the latest Flash 22 is more competitive than ever. Simplicity wins out here: The Flash 22 is frameless by design, meaning it lacks the rigidity of other daypacks but manages to keep weight extremely low at just 14 ounces (and even less if you take out the back pad or sternum strap). You don’t get a cushy hipbelt or shoulder straps, but the padded mesh along the back and shoulders does a good job at keeping you comfortable when carrying lighter loads. Perhaps most importantly, the Flash costs just $60, is well built overall, and has enough capacity for all-day outings on the trail (provided you pack relatively light).

As we touched on above, the latest Flash 22 is a nice upgrade over past versions of the pack. For starters, it utilizes more environmentally friendly materials, including recycled and bluesign-approved nylon. The top lid also now includes two buckles rather than one for snugging things down, and the Packmod bungee can be moved up or down to customize gear attachments. Finally, we love the hidden zippered pocket next to the backpanel—it’s a really handy place to store small valuables like a phone and wallet. But some downsides remain: The Flash 22 isn't a standout in comfort or support for shuttling a heavy load over long distances, materials are on the thinner end for rough use, and it’s only sold in one size. But if you can keep weight to a minimum, the Flash 22 is a great way to go fast and light on a budget. For an even lighter and more streamlined version, check out REI’s $10-cheaper Flash 18... Read in-depth review
See the REI Co-op Flash 22


Most Comfortable Daypack for Heavy Loads 

3. Osprey Stratos 36 ($220)

Osprey Stratos 36 daypack_0Weight: 3 lb. 4.5 oz.
Capacities: 24, 34, 36, 44L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Extremely comfortable, loaded with features, and can pull double duty for light overnights.
What we don’t: Heavy for the capacity and no longer offered in multiple sizes.

If you prioritize comfort or plan on hauling a heavy load, the Osprey Stratos 36 is one of the most feature-rich daypacks on this list. Its full metal frame and substantial hipbelt put the weight comfortably on your hips, and a large mesh panel ventilates extremely well and conforms nicely to your back. In addition, organization is excellent—we particularly like the two hipbelt pockets and zippered side panel access to the main compartment, and there’s even a sleeping bag compartment and pad straps for embarking on minimalist overnights. Add a built-in rain cover, and the Stratos checks off everything you’ll need in a daypack—and more.

Osprey revamped the Stratos and women’s Sirrus collections a few seasons back, and we think most of the updates were positive. In addition to using more eco-friendly materials, the latest packs got a boost in breathability with minor changes to the backpanel design. Osprey did do away with the multiple sizing options, although the ladder-like system at the back is a decent substitute and allows you to quickly adjust the torso length by up to 4 inches. The primary downsides are still weight and price: The Stratos 36 checks in at over 3 pounds (it’s even heavier than many backpacking packs) and is expensive for the capacity at $220. In the end, those wanting a premium, luxurious pack will appreciate the support and build quality of the Stratos, but for something simpler and more packable from Osprey, see the equally popular Talon above. Alternatively, the 24-liter Stratos retains a lot of what we love about the larger versions—including great comfort and organization—at a lower weight (2 lb. 12.4 oz.) and price ($180).
See the Osprey Stratos 36  See the Women's Osprey Sirrus 36


Best Hydration Pack for Hiking

4. Osprey Skarab 30 ($150)

Osprey Skarab 30 hydration daypack (green)Weight: 2 lb. 0.2 oz.
Capacities: 18, 22, 30L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Great mix of storage, convenience, and comfort with an included hydration system.
What we don’t: Small hipbelt pockets, only sold in one size, and many hikers already own a reservoir.

Most modern daypacks come with dedicated storage for a water reservoir, but Osprey’s Skarab 30 (and women’s Skimmer 28) provides a functional all-in-one option for those who want to purchase their pack and bladder together. In testing the Skarab, we were especially impressed by its comfort and convenience, including a spacious main compartment with a large bucket-style opening, nicely cushioned yet low-profile suspension system, and convenient organizational layout. For reference, the included 2.5-liter Hydraulics LT reservoir is a $46 investment on its own, making the Skarab a really good value for those who don’t already own a bladder. Added up, it’s another high-quality and well-appointed design from one of the best pack manufacturers around.

The Osprey Skarab 30 tops our hydration pack round-up for this year, but it’s not without downsides. First, the hipbelt pockets are noticeably small and couldn’t accommodate our standard-sized iPhone. Second, both the Skarab and women’s Skimmer are only offered in a single torso size, which will make it harder for some to dial in fit. But these are relatively small complaints for an otherwise well-equipped and highly comfortable daypack, and the included reservoir is just the cherry on top. For a boost in support and ventilation, Osprey’s $220 Manta 34 (and women’s Mira 32) includes the same 2.5-liter reservoir, although it’s noticeably heavier and more complex than the Skarab and too overbuilt for most.
See the Osprey Skarab 30  See the Women's Osprey Skimmer 28


Best Pack for Fast-and-Light Mountain Missions

5. Black Diamond Distance 15 ($180)

Black Diamond Distance 15 running daypackWeight: 12.7 oz.
Capacities: 4, 8, 15, 22L
Hipbelt: None
What we like: Light, streamlined, and allows convenient access to the essentials.
What we don’t: Limited load support and no hipbelt.

Traditional daypacks like the Talon and Stratos above are great for moderate day hikes, but Black Diamond’s running-inspired Distance 15 is purpose-built for mountain athletes focused on traveling fast and light. The hybrid pack/vest design checks in at a scant 12.7 ounces but easily accommodates a day’s worth of supplies (it can even fit a streamlined climbing helmet). Storage is another highlight: The zippered chest pocket, trekking pole sleeves, ice axe holders, side compression straps, and multiple chest pockets allow you to conveniently access the essentials without removing the pack from your back. And with its body-hugging shape (improved with the latest version), the Distance makes it easy to move quickly and efficiently with a day’s worth of gear.

To be clear, however, the Black Diamond Distance isn’t for everyone. The pack is reasonably durable with UHMWPE (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) ripstop body fabrics, but you'll need to be careful around sharp rocks or equipment and avoid overpacking (we had a shoulder strap detach almost entirely after carrying too much weight). It also rides a bit low on the back and can feel heavy at the end of a long day, and the lack of hipbelt only exacerbates the issue. Importantly, the revamped Distance now comes in three sizes for both men and women, which is an improvement over the outgoing unisex pack. All told, traditional day hikers will likely want more support, but the Black Diamond is a lightweight and thoughtfully built option for those looking for a step up from a running vest. And it’s now made in a 22-liter model, which tacks on a considerable 7 liters and a large stretch woven pocket at the front.
See the Black Diamond Distance 15  See the Women's BD Distance 15


Best Daypack for On-the-Go Storage

6. Arc’teryx Aerios 35 ($250)

Arc'teryx Aerios 35 daypackWeight: 2 lb. 8.9 oz.
Capacities: 18, 35L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Excellent on-the-go storage with a supportive and body-hugging fit.
What we don’t: Very expensive and we wish Arc’teryx offered the pack in a mid-range capacity.

Arc’teryx is known for making high-quality gear for ambitious adventures, and much of that expertise has trickled down to their hiking-focused Aerios pack. We’re big fans of the fastpacking-inspired design, which merges the capacity and support of a backpack with the on-the-go storage of a running vest. On the front, you get two stretchy mesh pockets (great for storing soft flasks) in addition to more secure zippered storage on both shoulder straps. The rest of the pack offers equally convenient organization, including side dump pockets, a front stash pocket, and multiple places to securely stow valuables and accessories. Plus, suspension is excellent, pairing a vest-like fit at the chest with a rigid foam backpanel and supportive hipbelt. It all adds up to a very practical and skillfully built design, especially for hikers who prioritize speed and distance.

Arc’teryx recently overhauled the Aerios collection, and we have mixed feelings about the changes. Our biggest gripe is that they trimmed the collection from three capacities (15, 30, and 45L) to just two (18 and 35L), in addition to doing away with the women's version. In our opinion, packs in the 20- to 30-liter range are the most versatile option for many. Arc’teryx also streamlined the hipbelt, including eliminating one of the pockets, and both price and weight went up as a result of the increased capacity. On the flip side, the latest Aerios 35 features a more weather-ready roll-top closure (the Aerios 30 had a traditional zippered opening) that allows you to snug down a half-full load or expand storage by up to 10 liters on gear-intensive days or minimalist overnights. The technical appearance of the vest-like upper may still be a deterrent for some—the Aerios doesn’t wear particularly well on casual adventures—but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more suitable and well-built option for fast-moving trail days when you’re eating and drinking on the go. 
See the Arc'teryx Aerios 35


Best Extended-Size Daypack

7. Osprey Sportlite 25 EF ($125)

Osprey Sportlite 25 Extended Fit daypackWeight: 1 lb. 11.9 oz.
Capacity: 25L (standard fit available in 15, 20, 25, and 30L)
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: A relatively streamlined but capable option that fits a wide range of body types. 
What we don’t: Only the 25L version is offered in extended sizes; less multi-sport-ready than the Talon above.

Hikers come in all shapes and sizes, and we’re happy to see leading brands like Osprey and Gregory rising to the challenge with a growing lineup of options for those who are outside of straight sizing. Osprey’s Sportlite is a particular standout with a just-right capacity and feature set for most day hikers. Highlights include a well-padded hipbelt and shoulder straps that nicely distribute a full load, Osprey’s smartly designed AirScape backpanel that keeps air flowing, and a reasonable 1-pound-11.9-ounce weight (for the M/L size). The storage layout is also thoughtfully executed, including dual hipbelt pockets (one zippered and one stretch mesh), a front shove-it pocket, a zippered accessory stash with smaller mesh pockets for divvying up valuables, Nalgene-friendly side pockets, and ample straps for securing gear externally.

Osprey took an intentional approach with their Extended Fit offerings. Compared to the standard Sportlite, the EF version boasts a longer sternum strap and shoulder straps, along with a larger waistbelt (it fits up to 70-in. hips) and repositioned hipbelt pockets for easier access while on the move. It’s worth noting that the top-ranked Talon 22 (and women's Tempest 20) also comes in an Extended Fit version and is the more multi-sport-ready option with Osprey’s LidLock bike helmet attachment system and an ice axe loop, although the Sportlite is lighter by 7.5 ounces and 3 liters bigger to boot. As we mentioned above, Gregory has also been expanding their plus-size offerings of late, including 18- and 22-liter versions of the Nano H2O below that the brand claims are comparable to 2X to 6X in apparel sizing. In the end, we like the Sportlite for its versatile capacity and well-rounded feature set, but all are quality options designed to fit a wider range of body types.
See the Osprey Sportlite 25 EF


Best of the Rest

8. Osprey Daylite Plus ($75)

Osprey Daylite Plus daypackWeight: 1 lb. 4.6 oz.
Capacities: 13, 20L
Hipbelt: Webbing
What we like: Osprey quality and 20 liters of capacity at a good price.
What we don’t: Limited support and only sold in one size.

Osprey’s Talon and Stratos above get the lion’s share of the attention, but the Daylite Plus is another viable option that comes in significantly cheaper. This simple daypack weighs just 1 pound 4.6 ounces, has a respectable 20-liter capacity and good padding for carrying lighter loads, and boasts the kind of quality build that Osprey in known for. In terms of best uses, we’ve found that the Daylite Plus is a great match for short to moderate days on the trail or as a companion pack for travel—it’s designed to attach to the outside of a number of Osprey’s larger travel bags, including the popular Farpoint (and women’s Fairview) series.

The most obvious drawbacks to the Osprey Daylite Plus are the lack of support and sizing options (the one-size-fits-all design can accommodate 15- to 22-in. torso lengths and 25- to 50-in. waists). As we noted above, the shoulder straps are thinly cushioned and will get the job done for minimalists, but those planning to stuff in a full day’s worth of gear—including a shell, insulation, food, water, and other necessities—will quickly notice the drop in comfort. The waist belt is also made of simple webbing, which again is serviceable for brief outings but falls short as the miles add up. But as a streamlined grab-and-go option that can also be worn for travel and around-town use, the Daylite Plus (and smaller 13-liter Daylite) is undeniably a great value from one of the most reputable pack manufacturers in the business... Read in-depth review
See the Osprey Daylite Plus


9. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak ($229)

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak packWeight: 1 lb. 4.9 oz.
Capacity: 17L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Ultralight, weather-ready, and comfortable.
What we don’t: Very pricey and limited back ventilation.

Maine-based Hyperlite Mountain Gear makes some of our favorite ultralight backpacking packs. Their top daypack, the Daybreak, shares the same core ingredients: A Dyneema construction (technically, Dyneema Composite Hybrid—DCH for short) that’s highly weather-resistant and incredibly strong for its weight, simple yet functional organization, and a clean design that looks great. On paper, the 17-liter capacity in the main compartment seems small, but the large front pocket and two side pockets add a significant amount of functional storage. For serious day hikes in rough conditions, the Daybreak is hard to beat.

At $229, the Daybreak is the second-priciest bag on our list (behind Arc’teryx’s $250 Aerios 35 above) despite only having a modest 17-liter capacity. As we noted, the external pockets do add another 6 liters of storage, but those looking for a cavernous main compartment might prefer Hyperlite’s 22-liter Elevate, which is a few ounces lighter and boasts a more weather-ready roll-top closure for $20 more. However, after testing the Elevate in Patagonia recently, we came away underwhelmed with its organization: The main compartment is bereft of pockets, there’s no sleeve for stashing a hydration bladder or laptop, and the front shove-it space lacks the stretch needed to accommodate bulkier items like extra layers. In our opinion, the Daybreak is the more complete and versatile design. In fact, many people (ourselves included) even use it on the daily, which makes it easier to swallow the high price tag... Read in-depth review
See the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak


10. REI Co-op Traverse 32 ($159)

REI Co-op Traverse 32 daypackWeight: 2 lb. 9 oz.
Capacities: 32, 60L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Durable materials, three size options, and a good all-around value.
What we don’t: Overbuilt and too many features for most day hikes.

The second REI pack to make our list is the Traverse 32, which is a shrunken-down variation of their popular 60-liter backpacking pack. In a strong departure from the minimalist Flash 22 above, the focus here is on durability and organization: The Traverse is solidly built with a steel frame and hardwearing fabrics (bonus: They’re recycled and bluesign-approved), and you get ample exterior pockets, a handy side-access zipper to the main compartment, and lash points for stowing gear and valuables. The Traverse also features REI’s functional Packmod system, which allows you to customize the compression strap layout to tailor it to the size and shape of your load. Finally, as we’ve come to expect from the brand, the Traverse is a good all-around value for what you get at $159.

That said, not everyone will benefit from the Traverse’s unapologetically burly and complex build. Weight is pretty reasonable for the capacity at 2 pounds 9 ounces, but the thicker fabrics and raised foam padding on the backpanel give the pack a fairly clunky feel (they also translate to subpar breathability). For most easy to moderate day hikes, we would prefer shaving considerable heft and bulk with a design like Osprey’s Talon above. That said, the Traverse has its appeal for ambitious all-day treks and light overnights, and the three size options mean that most hikers should be able to find a good fit. For a bigger but slightly less technical design, check out REI’s Trail 40 below.
See the REI Co-op Traverse 32  See the Women's REI Traverse 32


11. Deuter Speed Lite 25 ($120)

Deuter Speed Lite 25 daypackWeight: 1 lb. 9 oz.
Capacities: 13, 17, 21, 25, 30L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Competitive mix of weight, comfort, and features.
What we don’t: We were a little disappointed by the storage layout and hipbelt padding.

Deuter’s Speed Lite has been a mainstay in the daypack market for years and underwent a big overhaul fairly recently. Thankfully, Deuter retained a lot of what we loved about the previous versions: The 25-liter pack here is an ideal size for most day hikes (the prior-generation model was 24L), is both comfortable and breathable, and comes with a ton of features including trekking pole holders, daisy chains, side compression straps, and hydration reservoir compatibility. And despite being a little bigger than the Talon 22 above, the latest Speed Lite is around 5 ounces lighter and $30 cheaper, making it a good overall value for the capacity. A final bonus: The new pack uses recycled, bluesign-approved fabrics and a PFC-free DWR coating, which only add to the all-around appeal.

That said, we don’t love all of the changes that Deuter made. Our main complaints have to do with the vest-like pockets on the shoulder straps, which proved to be less practical than anticipated due to their flat and narrow shape—they’re too small to fit more than a couple snacks and were even a tight squeeze for kids’ sunglasses. To be sure, we love when packs prioritize easy on-the-go-access, but the Speed Lite’s design falls noticeably short of competitors like the Arc’teryx Aerios 35 above and Black Diamond Pursuit 15 below. The single hipbelt pocket is also on the small side, and both the belt and shoulder straps are minimally padded and lack the cushy, premium feel that you get with the Ospreys above. All in all, we wish the details were a little better sorted, but the Speed Lite remains a comfortable and nicely appointed day hiking design at a good price—and Deuter does offer a “CV” version that forgoes the vest-like storage but is otherwise largely identical.
See the Deuter Speed Lite 25  See the Women's Deuter Speed Lite 23 SL


12. Gregory Zulu 30 ($170)

Gregory Zulu 30 hiking daypackWeight: 3 lb. 0.6 oz.
Capacities: 30, 45, 55, 65L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Well-rounded high-capacity design that's a legitimate competitor to Osprey’s Stratos above.
What we don’t: Heavy; not as overnight-friendly as the Stratos.

Gregory goes head-to-head with Osprey in the daypack and backpacking pack markets, and their Zulu 30 is a serious competitor to the popular Stratos above. In short, the Zulu has all the trimmings we’d expect of a premium day-hiking design, including the brand’s FreeFloat dynamic suspension system and mesh backpanel for great all-around comfort and breathability. Further, you get well-thought-out organization, easy access to the main compartment via a large U-shaped opening, and three handy stretch mesh pockets on the exterior. We also love the adjustability at the torso, which can be moved up or down 3.5 inches. Finally, the Gregory is built to last with robust materials throughout and reinforced panels along the bottom.

The Zulu comes in a range of capacities up to 65 liters, but the 30-liter version here is our favorite day hiking option with its sleek bucket-style opening and streamlined shape (the larger capacities feature a floating lid). That said, it’s particularly heavy for a day pack, and the aforementioned Stratos 36 offers more versatility for overnights: On top of the additional 6 liters of capacity, you get a more featured storage layout, including a zippered front panel and dedicated sleeping bag compartment with a floating liner. On the flip side, while the Stratos line comes in a 24-liter version, the Zulu collection doesn’t include any options in the 20-liter range for day hikers who like to stick to the basics. But if 30 liters is your sweet spot, there’s no denying the Zulu’s impressive comfort, ventilation, and feature set.
See the Gregory Zulu 30  See the Women's Gregory Jade 28


13. REI Co-op Trail 40 ($149)

REI Co-op Trail 40 daypack_0Weight: 2 lb. 14 oz.
Capacities: 25, 40L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Massive interior, excellent organization, and included rain cover at a great price.
What we don’t: One of the heaviest packs here and overkill for most day hikes. 

We’ve used quite a few REI daypacks over the years and consider them a solid value for their feature set. Along with the Flash and Traverse packs above, the Trail 40 is an excellent example: For $149, you get outstanding organization with a generous 40-liter main compartment (the largest daypack to make our list), ample exterior pockets and lash points, great touches like trekking pole attachments and an included rain cover, and specific men’s and women’s designs. The pack is also nicely built with durable materials that are recycled and bluesign-approved, along with plush cushioning along the backpanel, hipbelt, and shoulders. And we love the U-shaped opening that extends down the sides, which allows you to access the bottom of the main compartment without having to pull out everything on top. Taken together, it’s a whole lot of bang for your buck. 

As we mentioned, the REI Trail 40 is the largest option here, which has its pros and cons. On the bright side, you should have no trouble stashing a full day’s worth of gear, including extra layers and plenty of water and snacks. It also crosses over nicely for travel and can even pull double duty for light overnights (provided you pack strategically). On the flip side, the Trail 40 checks in at a fairly hefty 2 pounds 14 ounces (for the L-XL size), making it one of the heaviest packs on our list (behind the Osprey Stratos 36 and Gregory Zulu 30, both of which exceed 3 lb.). It also lacks structure and is fairly floppy when fully unzipped, especially if the lid is weighed down with gear. But if you plan to carry a lot and don’t mind the weight penalty, the Trail 40 stands out as a highly versatile and affordable option for day hikes, commuting, minimalist overnights, or as a carry-on while traveling. REI also makes a smaller 25-liter version for $100, although the basic webbing hipbelt detracts from support. 
See the REI Co-op Trail 40  See the Women's REI Trail 40


14. Black Diamond Pursuit 15 ($150)

Black Diamond Pursuit 15 hiking daypackWeight: 1 lb. 9.6 oz.
Capacities: 15, 30L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Vest-like on-the-go storage meets pack-like support and carrying comfort.
What we don’t: No accessory zip pocket; build quality isn’t on par with the Arc’teryx Aerios.

We’re big fans of the Distance 15 (above) for mountain running objectives, but it's an undeniably minimalist design that doesn’t offer much support for heavy loads. So when Black Diamond released the Pursuit series earlier this year, it caught our immediate attention. Available in 15- and 30-liter capacities for both men and women, the Pursuit merges the on-the-go storage and body-hugging fit of the Distance with traditional daypack features, including a padded hipbelt, U-zip access to the main compartment, and a stretch-woven front pocket. Added up, it’s a modern vest/pack option that offers convenient access to the essentials without compromising on carrying comfort or support.

The Pursuit falls into the same category as the Arc’teryx Aerios above, but the two packs are distinct in a few key ways. Comparing the smallest capacities (the Aerios 18 and Pursuit 15), the Pursuit costs $30 less and boasts a larger front pocket for stashing a jacket or separating wet items. However, the Aerios is a little bigger and lighter (by 3L and 5.6 oz., respectively), features more zippered storage, boasts a handy bungee system for securing extra gear, and offers improved durability with robust Cordura nylon covering most of the pack body (the BD’s stretch-woven front pocket strikes us as more susceptible to tears over time). In the end, both packs have their merits, and the 15-liter version of the Pursuit is especially enticing for weight-conscious day hikers who like to add scrambling and running into the mix.
See the Black Diamond Pursuit 15  See the Women's BD Pursuit 15


15. Matador Beast28 ($150)

Matador Beast28 daypackWeight: 1 lb. 8 oz.
Capacities: 18, 28L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Impressively tough and light for the capacity.
What we don’t: Overly technical for some.

Boulder, Colorado-based Matador is an upstart on the rise and has quickly made a name for themselves in the travel market with a nice selection of light but dependable packs and duffels. Their daypack lineup follows suit, including the popular Beast28 here. What immediately stands out is the Beast’s competitive 1-pound-8-ounce weight, which is impressively light for the capacity and undercuts more traditional (and smaller) models like the Osprey Talon 22 (1 lb. 14.6 oz.), Deuter Speed Lite 25 (1 lb. 9 oz.), and others above. It also packs down remarkably small for stashing in a duffel for travel—Matador includes a handy compression sack for storage, and both the hipbelt and sternum strap can be removed to streamline your kit even further. Finally, while many ultralight packs compromise on durability, the Beast is noticeably well built with a tough (210D) Robic nylon build, water-resistant YKK zippers, and a UTS coating for waterproofing and tear resistance. 

In addition to being impressively light and durable for the size, the Matador Beast28 is also surprisingly comfortable for a UL design. The backpanel, shoulder straps, and hipbelt are all nicely cushioned with EVA foam, and the flexible steel frame adds a good dose of support while keeping weight in check (it also helps with compressing the pack down for storage). That said, the Beast has a fairly technical appearance that doesn’t wear particularly well around town and is only offered in a single black colorway. Exterior storage is also a little lacking, including just three pockets on the outside—for the same price, Osprey’s Talon 22 above boats seven exterior pockets. But if you don’t mind stuffing most of your gear in the main compartment, the Beast28 stands out as a high-quality UL option for fast-moving day hikes and short mountain missions. For an even lighter option from Matador, their $125 Freerain28 checks in at just 12.3 ounces and boasts a waterproof main compartment with a roll-top closure but has less padding overall. 
See the Matador Beast28


16. Gregory Nano 22 H2O ($90)

Gregory Nano 22 H2OWeight: 1 lb. 2 oz.
Capacities: 18, 22L
Hipbelt: Webbing
What we like: Included 3L water reservoir makes it a standout value.
What we don’t: Less comfortable and feature-rich than the Osprey Skarab above.

Gregory has been in the pack business for decades, and we’re consistently impressed with the build quality and comfort of their products. The Nano H2O hydration pack is no exception and has a hiking-focused build that comes with Gregory’s in-house 3D Hydro reservoir system. There’s a lot to like here: The Nano is lightweight, sleek, and very competitively priced at just $90 (the included reservoir costs $45 alone). You can spend up for Gregory’s Inertia 24 hydration pack, which comes with nice touches like a lightly padded hipbelt, more supportive foam backpanel, and more generous storage layout, but we love the value of the Nano line.

Compared with the Osprey Skarab 30 hydration pack above, the Gregory Nano H2O is a little smaller but includes a larger 3-liter reservoir (the Skarab’s is 2.5L) and costs a considerable $60 less. Where the Skarab gets the clear edge is carrying abilities with a stiffer, more supportive backpanel. It also has good padding and pockets on the hipbelt along with a more form-fitting design. But for shorter hikes with lighter loads, the Nano H2O is a great alternative for less money. For a more feature-rich hydration option from Gregory with excellent carrying comfort, check out their premium Citro 24. And for those who already own a hydration bladder, Gregory also offers a version of the Nano sans reservoir, which features a slightly different design and comes in 14, 16, 18, 20, 24, and 30-liter capacities.
See the Gregory Nano 22 H2O


17. Cotopaxi Batac 16L ($65)

Cotopaxi Batac 16L daypack_0Weight: 11 oz.
Capacities: 16, 24L
Hipbelt: None
What we like: Light and eye-catching design with a strong focus on sustainability.
What we don’t: Limited usefulness on anything but short and casual hikes.

Salt Lake City-based Cotopaxi is a brand on the rise, combining sustainable production practices with fun, vibrant designs for casual outdoor-goers. Their Batac 16L daypack slots in as a budget-friendly and feathery option for minimalists and short day-hiking objectives. For reference, it’s the lightest option on our list at a scant 11 ounces (undercutting the Flash 22 above by 3 oz.) and has a streamlined, body-hugging shape that keeps the pack close to your back. Storage is also surprisingly good for how small and light the pack is, including a vertical front zippered pocket, two mesh water bottle pockets, exterior attachment loops, and an internal sleeve for a reservoir or laptop. Added up, it’s a sleek, good-looking option at a very affordable price point and can easily pull double duty for commuting and travel. 

That said, the performance drawbacks are enough to push the Batac toward the end of our rankings. Despite the functional storage layout, the design still is decidedly basic with a frameless build, no hipbelt, and minimal padding along the shoulder straps. For reference, REI’s similarly sized Flash 18 costs $15 less, weighs 9.5 ounces, and boasts a basic webbing hipbelt for a little added support, while their $60 Flash 22 above is noticeably more comfortable and feature-rich. On the flip side, the Cotopaxi wins out in styling with its bright, multi-colored design and is made from 100% repurposed fabrics—two of the brand’s hallmarks. Given the light and sleek build, it’s also a viable follower pack for multi-pitch climbs. The lack of support and cushioning are undeniably limiting, but it’s a thoughtfully built option at a good value for shorter adventures and summit scrambles. For a simpler option from Cotopaxi, check out their popular Luzon 18L
See the Cotopaxi Batac 16L


18. Mystery Ranch Coulee 30 ($189)

Mystery Ranch Coulee 30 hiking daypackWeight: 2 lb. 11.2 oz.
Capacities: 20, 30, 40, 50L
Hipbelt: Cushioned
What we like: Unique zipper design allows easy access and has a lot of appeal for travel.
What we don’t: Not as featured as the Stratos above.

Mystery Ranch is a cottage brand out of Bozeman, Montana, with a solid reputation among hunters and serious mountain athletes. For the casual day-hiking crowd, their Coulee 30 stands out as an impressively durable and functional option. Right away, you’ll notice that this pack looks a little different than the competition: With a unique, Y-shaped opening at the front, the Coulee opens wide and allows quick and easy access to the main compartment. From day hiking to international travel, the 3-zipper system has a lot of appeal, and the rest of the design and storage layout are equally well executed.

With a well-built harness and hipbelt and capacities that run as large as 50 liters, the Coulee is a viable competitor to the Osprey’s Stratos above. The Stratos offers a more traditional floating-lid design, integrated rain cover, and additional storage options, but the Coulee is a considerable $31 cheaper and comes in two sizes for both men and women (the Osprey is only available in one size). All told, there’s a lot to like about the unique Coulee, and with revitalized colorways and a sleek exterior, the newest version is also a great crossover option for everyday use. And if you like the zipper design but are looking for something a little different, check out Mystery Ranch’s Gallagator, Scree, and Catalyst collections.
See the Mystery Ranch Coulee 30  See the Women's Coulee 30


19. Free Range Equipment Canvas ($139)

Free Range Equipment Canvas daypack_0Weight: 1 lb.
Capacities: 25L
Hipbelt: Webbing
What we like: A durable canvas pack with your pick of mountain artwork; handmade in the USA.
What we don’t: Pricey and not ideal for performance use.

Most of the packs here are fairly technical in nature, but Free Range Equipment (FRE) offers something a little different. A small company run out of a garage in Bend, Oregon, FRE works with artists to create each of their classic Canvas Series packs. Their list of collaborators is ever-growing, and at the time of publishing, you can choose from 20 different designs, including everything from the Tetons and Mt. Hood to an idyllic cabin scene. The Canvas pack is basic—you get 25 liters of space, a small internal stash pocket, and two zippered pockets on the lid—but it gets the job done for day hikes or your daily commute (a laptop easily fits inside). 

Free Range Equipment’s Canvas packs aren’t trying to match the performance chops of the Ospreys and Deuters above, but their rugged fabric will hold up to years of use and abuse (we’ve used ours almost daily for three years with no durability concerns). Keep in mind that you don’t get features like a padded waistbelt, reservoir sleeve, or numerous storage options, and the Canvas pack only comes in one size. But let’s be honest: The aesthetics and versatility are the biggest selling points of this pack, and it wins out in both departments. We should note that FRE also makes Canvas fanny packs, which feature their own unique artwork and are less of an investment at $59.
See the Free Range Equipment Canvas


Daypack Comparison Table

Daypack Price Weight Capacities Hipbelt Frame Pockets
Osprey Talon 22 $160 1 lb. 14.6 oz. 11, 22, 26, 33, 36, 44L Cushioned Backpanel 7 exterior
REI Co-op Flash 22 $60 14 oz. 18, 22L Webbing None 3 exterior
Osprey Stratos 36 $220 3 lb. 4.5 oz. 24, 34, 36, 44L Cushioned Alloy frame 7 exterior
Osprey Skarab 30 $150 2 lb. 0.2 oz. 18, 22, 30L Cushioned Framesheet 5 exterior
Black Diamond Distance 15 $180 12.7 oz. 4, 8, 15, 22L None None 7 exterior
Arc’teryx Aerios 35 $250 2 lb. 8.9 oz. 18, 35L Cushioned Framesheet 7 exterior
Osprey Sportlite 25 EF $125 1 lb. 11.9 oz. 25L Cushioned Backpanel 7 exterior
Osprey Daylite Plus $75 1 lb. 4.6 oz. 13, 20L Webbing Backpanel 5 exterior
Hyperlite Daybreak $229 1 lb. 4.9 oz. 17L Cushioned None 3 exterior
REI Co-op Traverse 32 $159 2 lb. 9 oz. 32, 60L Cushioned Steel frame 6 exterior
Deuter Speed Lite 25 $120 1 lb. 9 oz. 13, 17, 21, 25, 30L Cushioned U-frame 6 exterior
Gregory Zulu 30 $170 3 lb. 0.6 oz. 30, 45, 55, 65L Cushioned Steel frame 4 exterior
REI Co-op Trail 40 $149 2 lb. 14 oz. 25, 40L Cushioned Steel frame 7 exterior
Black Diamond Pursuit 15 $150 1 lb. 9.6 oz. 15, 30L Cushioned Backpanel 7 exterior
Matador Beast28 $150 1 lb. 8 oz. 18, 28L Cushioned Steel frame 3 exterior
Gregory Nano 22 H2O $90 1 lb. 2 oz. 18, 22L Webbing None 3 exterior
Cotopaxi Batac 16L $65 11 oz. 16, 24L None None 3 exterior
Mystery Ranch Coulee 30 $189 2 lb. 11.2 oz. 20, 30, 40, 50L Cushioned Framesheet 7 exterior
Free Range Canvas $139 1 lb. 25L Webbing Backpanel 1 exterior

About Our Testing Process

Hiking reviews comprise a large portion of the Switchback Travel site, and for good reason: With minimal gear required—primary necessities are a quality pair of shoes and daypack—hiking has a relatively low barrier to entry compared to other outdoor activities. Former editor-in-chief and avid outdoorsman John Ellings put together our initial lineup of 12 daypacks in 2015. Based in the Pacific Northwest, John is no stranger to rugged trails and rough weather. Managing editor Sarah Nelson began contributing to the guide in 2020. Formerly a full-time vanlifer, Sarah has logged hundreds of miles throughout the Mountain West and continues to put daypacks to the test along the shores of Lake Tahoe (where she’s currently based) and beyond. 

Our current lineup of 19 daypacks is the result of continued on-trail testing, along with feedback from our contributors and the online hiking community. When we test daypacks, we prioritize comfortable and supportive padding, breathable backpanel designs, and practical storage layouts that can fit all the essentials. We also take into account considerations like weather resistance, ease of access, and overall capacity. We know hikers’ needs vary greatly, which is why we’ve included a relatively wide variety of options above, from streamlined designs for fast-and-light missions to fully featured packs for gear-intensive days and even minimalist overnights. As we continue testing new and noteworthy daypacks, we’ll update the list above to reflect our current favorites.

Daypack (testing Hyperlite Elevate 22 in Patagonia)
Testing the Hyperlite Elevate 22 on a day hike in Chilean Patagonia | Credit: Jason Hummel

Daypack Buying Advice

Types of Daypacks

With hundreds of daypacks on the market, choosing the right one is largely dependent on what you intend to use it for. Do you need a daypack to approach an alpine climbing zone, or to explore an urban area on vacation? Do you need to strap on crampons or an ice axe, or do you just want a comfortable way to haul water and some extra layers?

Daypacks lineup (REI%2C Hyperlite%2C and Osprey options)
Daypack capacity and design can vary widely from basic to feature-rich | Credit: David Wilkinson

For the casual user that doesn’t need much support for hauling a heavy load, the more affordable options on this list will do just fine. Budget-friendly packs like the $60 REI Co-op Flash 22 have a more basic suspension design (or none at all) and a less customizable fit, but do great for heading to class or a quick hike in the woods. If you’re planning on going after some serious miles or need to carry a decent load, you’ll appreciate the added structure and padded backpanel, hipbelt, and shoulder straps found in the options starting around $100 (we cover this in more detail in the "Carrying Comfort" section below). Finally, many of today’s top daypacks can pull double duty for casual use.

Daypack (REI Flash 22 suspension system)
The REI Flash 22's basic suspension system is fine for shuttling light loads | Credit: Brian McCurdy

What's the Ideal Size (Capacity)?

Capacities for daypacks vary widely. You’ll see them offered anywhere from as small as 5 liters all the way up to 40 or more. For those who only need to fit a compressible rain jacket and a lunch, you can get away with one of those small packs. But most of us need a bit more space to throw in a few more essentials. The options above range from 15 to 40 liters, with the largest ones being better served for commuters, gear-heavy adventures like winter hikes, or ultralight overnights. We’ve found that approximately 25 liters is a real sweet spot for an all-around daypack that can handle anything from local summits to full-day hikes. At that size, organization also improves from more basic models, with a variety of zippered pockets to divvy up your gear. Below are some basic guidelines for capacity:

  • Short day hikes: 10-20 liters
  • Summit packs: 18-24 liters
  • Average day hikes and everyday use: 20-30 liters
  • Long day hikes and ultralight overnights: 30-40 liters
Hiking daypacks (group hiking along riverbed)
A daypack between 20 to 30 liters is a sweet spot for most hikers | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Weight: Fully Featured vs. Minimalist

A quick look at our comparison table above reveals a wide range of pack weights from a scant 9 ounces to over 3 pounds. On the heavy end is the fully featured Osprey Stratos 36, which comes with lots of zippered pockets and a suspension and hipbelt to rival a backpacking pack. At the other end of the spectrum, the REI Flash 22, Osprey Daylite Plus, Cotopaxi Batac, and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak are minimalist packs with much less in the way of structure or features but weigh about 1 pound or less. Black Diamond’s Distance 15 is another impressively light option at just 12.7 ounces, but it’s a much more specialized design with a streamlined storage layout and no hipbelt.

Day hiking in Fisher Towers (daypacks)
Minimalist daypacks are great for carrying a lightweight load | Credit: Brian McCurdy

When evaluating pack weight, keep comfort and storage in mind. A fully featured pack will include padding on your back and real straps on your shoulders and waist to help distribute weight. If you’ll be carrying a lot, this will be your most comfortable option. But if you don’t mind feeling some of your gear on your back or won’t be hauling a heavy load (it is only a daypack, after all), the minimalist options on this list usually are cheaper and far more compressible (useful for throwing in a suitcase). In the end, most hikers and travelers will want something that lands in the middle and balances cushioning and weight, like the popular Osprey Talon 22 (1 lb. 14.6 oz.) and Deuter Speed Lite 25 (1 lb. 9 oz.).

Daypack (adjusting sternum strap on Osprey Stratos)
A fully featured pack is a great match for long days, bad weather, or when carrying extra gear | Credit: Jason Hummel

Carrying Comfort: Hipbelt and Shoulder Straps

The amount of padding on the hipbelt and shoulder straps is a great indicator of a pack’s maximum comfort level. Nearly all daypacks for hiking have a hipbelt, but they vary from thin webbing (like the REI Flash series) to cushioned and supportive (Osprey Stratos). If all you need is a pack for short day hikes and don’t plan on carrying more than 10 or so pounds, the thinner webbing is sufficient. If, however, comfort reigns supreme or you plan to haul a lot of weight, we highly recommend a pack with a real hipbelt.

Daypack (cushioned and webbing hipbelt)
A cushioned hipbelt (left) vs. webbing hipbelt | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Keep in mind, thicker designs don’t compress very well and do add some extra weight. And for those planning to use their pack for both the backcountry and casually, it may be beneficial to have a removable hipbelt. We keep ours on for hiking and leave it behind when heading to town or carrying on a flight. One design that has this feature is the Osprey Daylite Plus.

Daypack (waistbelt types)
A cushioned hipbelt is a great choice for heavier loads and longer trail days | Credit: David Wilkinson

Fit and Sizing

In addition to the amount of padding along the shoulder straps and hipbelt, fit plays a large role in overall comfort on the trail. Most importantly, you’ll want to ensure that your pack is the appropriate size for your torso length and that the hipbelt can be tightened to secure snugly around your hips. This is easier to achieve when a pack is offered in multiple sizes, which is one of the reasons we rank the Osprey Talon 22 at the top of our list (it’s available in S/M and L/XL sizes as well as a women’s-specific version). If you’re eyeing a pack that comes in multiple size options, take your torso length by measuring the distance between your C7 vertebrae and midpoint of your iliac crest (we outline the process here). Once you have that number, you can compare it against manufacturer sizing charts to confirm which variation will fit you best.

Daypack (hiking in Patagonia with the Arc'teryx Aerios 30)
We love the close, body-hugging fit of the Arc'teryx Aerios | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Unfortunately, many daypacks on the market only come in one size, including the REI Flash 22, Cotopaxi Batac, Osprey Daylite Plus, Free Range Equipment Canvas, and others from our picks above. It won’t be a dealbreaker for a lot of hikers, but the one-size-fits-most approach does mean you get less of a customized, close fit. And it’s worth noting that you still need to know your torso length for these designs, as manufacturers typically provide length ranges (and some one-size models have smaller ranges than others). Finally, many packs are offered in women’s-specific versions with different measurements than their men’s counterparts (we outline the benefits of choosing a women’s-specific daypack below).

Daypack (Deuter Speed Lite 23 SL in Utah)
Nailing fit is crucial for maximizing comfort on the trail | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Plus and Extended-Size Daypacks
Hikers come in all shapes and sizes, and leading brands like Osprey and Gregory have risen to the occasion with dedicated plus-size versions of some of their core daypacks. From our list above, Osprey offers their Talon 22 and Sportlite 25 in Extended Fit variations that feature larger hipbelts (both packs will fit hips up to 70 in.), extended shoulder straps, repositioned pockets, and longer sternum straps than the standard models. Gregory also offers several plus-size options, including 18- and 22-liter capacities of the Nano H2O above, which the brand states are comparable to 2X to 6X in apparel sizing. Options still are fairly limited for plus-size hikers, but we’re happy to see these brands making a dedicated effort.

Daypack Frames Types

Much like their larger cousins, full-on backpacking packs, higher-capacity daypacks feature a metal or plastic frame. The frame creates a rigid or semi-rigid structure that doesn’t sag under weight (including items that you strap to the outside of the pack), which is great for those who carry extra gear on their all-day excursions. Frame designs vary, but are often a u-shaped, hoop style or a plastic framesheet, both of which define the perimeter of the pack and give it a stiff, rectangular shape.

Osprey Hikelite 26 daypack (tying shoelaces)
A lightweight metal frame offers great structure and load distribution | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Having a frame isn’t always necessary, and very lightweight or small-capacity backpacks like the REI Flash 22 oftentimes go without. For the right person, this isn’t a sacrifice at all. A frame adds weight and complexity, and when you’re not hauling anything more than 10-15 pounds, a frame doesn’t benefit you very much. In addition, a padded backpanel can accomplish a similar goal of isolating you from the contents you’re carrying and defining the shape of the pack. We recommend getting a pack with a frame if you need the extra support or like the defined shape, but again, there are plenty of reasons to avoid one altogether.

Daypack (foam backpanel on REI Flash 22)
The thin (and flimsy) foam backpanel inside the REI Flash 22 | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Backpanel and Ventilation

Typical daypacks will have some foam or mesh built into the backpanel (the area of the pack that comes into contact with your back) and a semi-rigid frame sheet providing structure. Ultralight packs will have either a flexible frame sheet and fabric backpanel for a little structure or no padding at all. The downside of these designs is that the pack can sag and won't protect you as well from bulky items in your pack. On the other hand, ultralight packs compress quite small and can be stowed in a travel pack or backpacking pack for day use.

Daypack backpanels and frames
Most daypacks use airy foam or suspended mesh to provide comfort and ventilation | Credit: Brian McCurdy

A third style is the fully ventilated backpanel. As opposed to either nylon or foam coming into contact with your back, ventilated backpanels are full-length mesh and your best defense against a sweaty back. Osprey has been a leader in ventilated packs, and we particularly like the design of the Osprey Stratos 36. The suspended mesh that contacts the length of your torso encourages airflow without pulling the weight of the pack too far away from your back, which was a problem with some early models. Ventilated designs do eat into the size and dimensions of the main compartment and are more expensive, but it’s worth it for some to keep the back of their shirt dry.

Hiking in hot weather (daypacks)
Ventilated backpanels are especially ideal for hot-weather hiking | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Water Resistance

It’s common for our daypacks to be filled with items like a phone, camera, or down jacket that won’t do well in rain. As such, we put a high priority on water protection. The good news is that most daypacks are relatively water-resistant and can shed light to moderate moisture, but the fabrics and seams will start to give way in a downpour. Some packs come with a built-in rain cover that stows inside the bag (from our list, the Gregory Zulu 30, REI Co-op Traverse 32 and Trail 40, and Osprey Stratos have this feature). Alternatively, you can purchase a separate waterproof cover.

Daypack (Osprey Stratos 24 rain cover)
Pack covers add another line of defense against rain and snow | Credit: Jason Hummel

There are a small number of daypacks on the market made with waterproof materials, including the Hyperlite Daybreak. The Daybreak uses Dyneema fabrics, which are naturally water-resistant, while other packs often use a waterproof nylon and seam sealing along the interior to keep out moisture. However, what most waterproof packs have in common is a price in excess of $200. This high cost of entry is what keeps waterproof packs in limited numbers, but it may be worth it if you need the protection and want something more reliable than a rain cover.

Daypack (Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak in Peru)
The Hyperlite Daybreak's Dyneema build is impressively water-resistant | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Hydration Compatibility

A hydration-compatible pack is defined as having some way to store a hydration reservoir, including popular models like the CamelBak Crux or Platypus Big Zip Evo. Most traditional daypacks, like the Osprey Stratos, have a clip along the top of the interior of the bag and enough space to accommodate a 3-liter reservoir. And smaller packs like the Cotopaxi Batac 16L are best suited for a smaller-capacity reservoir (up to 2 liters), not only for space reasons but also total weight.

Daypack (REI Co-op Flash 22 reservoir clip)
The reservoir clip inside REI's Flash | Credit: Brian McCurdy

With the exception of ultralight options, most hydration-compatible packs have a sleeve to slide in and hold the hydration reservoirs. It’s a simple process: Attach the bladder to the top clip and insert into the sleeve. The hose can then be routed through an opening in the top of the pack. And if you don't already own a reservoir, choosing a hydration daypack like the Osprey Skarab 30 gets you a solid pack as well as a reputable 2.5-liter Hydraulics LT system (which is made by hydration leader HydraPak). For a full list of our top picks in this category, see our article on the best hydration packs.

Daypack (taking reservoir out of Osprey Skimmer 28)
Osprey's Skarab 30 and women's Skinner 28 come with a quality 2.5-liter reservoir | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Pockets and Organization

If you like to have a defined space for and easy access to smaller items, look for a pack with a number of interior and exterior pockets. We like hipbelt pockets for things you want close at hand, an exterior pocket along the top lid for small items like a headlamp or multi-tool, and a large, open main compartment for our gear. For school or daily use, additional exterior pockets with a key clip are always handy.

Daypack (Osprey Stratos hipbelt pocket)
Hipbelt pockets are great for quick access to small items | Credit: Jason Hummel

One of our favorite pack features is a large exterior mesh pocket along the front of the pack known as a “shove-it” pocket. This expandable space is great for items you may need quick access to like a rain jacket or snack. In addition, you can throw wet items into this outer pocket to avoid ruining the contents of your main compartment. Minimalist designs omit many organization features—sometimes including the shove-it pocket—so keep an eye out for the number of internal and external pockets if those are important to you.

Daypack (Hyperlite Daybreak shove-it pocket)
Shove-it pockets are useful for wet or dirty items | Credit: David Wilkinson

Running Vest-Inspired Pockets
We’d be remiss not to touch on running vest-inspired storage, which is a rapidly growing trend among daypacks. From our list above, the Arc’teryx Aerios 35, Deuter Speed Lite 25, and Black Diamond Pursuit 15 all boast front pockets on the shoulder straps (similar to running vests) that allow for easy on-the-go access to snacks and other small necessities. We’re generally big fans of this type of storage, although some designs are better executed than others. For example, the Speed Lite’s pockets are prohibitively small and narrow and can’t accommodate anything more than a couple snacks, while both the Aerios and Pursuit can swallow a smartphone. Regardless of which option you choose, the front pockets do add a bit of a technical slant (these packs aren’t the best for crossing over for casual use), but serious day hikers will likely find the added convenience worth that trade-off.

Daypack (Deuter Speed Lite front storage)
The Deuter Speed Lite's front pockets are too small for a phone but work for snack and keys | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Closure Systems and Access

All daypacks that made our list have access to the main compartment through the top of the pack, but the closure systems vary. Roll-top lids and drawcord systems are popular on minimalist packs, while fully featured bags typically use zippers. Roll-top lids and zippers are the most secure for protecting what’s inside your pack, but a well-made drawcord system like the REI Co-op Flash 22 is simple, lightweight, and very easy to use. One advantage that a roll-top pack has over the other options is compressibility: You can change the interior volume of the pack with the number of times you fold the lid.

Daypack (opening Black Diamond Distance 22)
Drawcord closures allow for quick access to the main compartment | Credit: Jason Hummel

All three closure systems above are associated with a top-loading pack, which as the name would indicate, opens at the top of the bag. In addition, there are a few packs that made our list that are considered panel loaders. That means that the lid to the main compartment can be zipped open and pulled back like a suitcase, which allows for easy access to contents at both the top and bottom of the bag. The downside is extra weight and expense (and zippers can break and fail over time), but a number of our favorite medium- to large-capacity packs have this feature.

Daypack (Gregory Miwok broken zipper)
A clamshell opening makes it easy to access the bottom of the pack, but zippers can be a point of failure | Credit: Brian McCurdy


Our impact on the environment has never been of greater concern, and we appreciate that many leading gear companies are stepping up with more sustainable production practices. The use of recycled fabrics has grown substantially in the past few years, with brands like REI Co-op, Osprey, Gregory, and Deuter prioritizing these materials. Cotopaxi is another leader in this realm, and all of their Del Día packs (including the Batac above) are made with repurposed fabrics. We're also seeing a lot more PFAS/PFC-free durable water repellent (DWR) finishes on daypacks, which eliminate the use per- or polyfluorinated chemicals (these “forever chemicals” have been linked to a range of environmental and health issues). With many states stepping up to ban the sale of items that include PFCs, the outdoor industry is seeking better solutions for water- and stain-resistant finishes (you can read more about Patagonia’s take on the issue here).

Daypack (closeup of Cotopaxi logo)
Cotopaxi's Del Día packs, including the Batac 16L, are made with repurposed fabrics | Credit: Jason Hummel

Benefits of Choosing a Women’s-Specific Daypack

Women’s daypacks are not, as they may appear, just a colorful version of a men’s or unisex pack. There are real design differences with tangible benefits that deserve mentioning. The advantages include a torso fit that is often a better size than the sometimes large and bulky unisex models, and shoulder straps and hipbelts have been designed specifically for women. Men with shorter torsos often get a better fit with a women’s-specific model as well.

Women's-specific daypacks (by lake in Patagonia)
Testing the women's REI Trail and Osprey Tempest (left & right) and unisex Osprey Hikelite (center) | Credit: Brian McCurdy

Typically, if you’ll be using the pack for pretty serious day hikes, it’s well worth opting for a high-end women’s model like Gregory's Jade 28, Deuter's Speed Lite 23 SL, and Osprey's Sirrus 36, Tempest 20, and Skimmer 28 we’ve listed above. The more tuned fit makes for a more comfortable carrying experience. For casual use, such as travel or when you’re packing light, it’s not as big a deal. Something like the unisex REI Flash 22 should work just fine. For a complete look at the market, check out our article on the best women's hiking daypacks.
Back to Our Top Daypack Picks  Back to Our Daypack Comparison Table

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